BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“But let me tell you a wonderful secret God has revealed to us. Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed. It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, the Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies. And then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die. For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die” (1 Cor 15:51-53 NLT).
“I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with these words” (1Thes 4:15-18 NLT).
Jesus is coming back. I’m talking of the rapture that will precede his second coming. This return is the next major thing on the calendar of God for the church. Those who’re saved and washed in the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) – the church both living and dead – shall be caught up with Jesus in the sky to be with him in heaven for seven years receiving their rewards during this period while on earth there will be tribulation (great tribulation).
The second coming of Jesus will be at the end of the tribulation. Jesus shall return with the raptured Christians and they shall reign with Jesus on the earth for one thousand years during which satan will be bound in the bottomless pit so that he won’t deceive the nations until he’s released for a little while to resume his deception of nations (Rev 20:3, 7-8). The devils’ rebellion shall be crushed and the world shall be judged by fire (Isa 66:16). Thereafter God will replace the present heavens and earth with the new heavens and new earth and He shall come to make His throne on the earth and dwell with those who are saved – Christians. It’s actually in the new earth that we shall spend eternity not in heaven but it will be heaven on earth because there will be no sin, sickness, evil, etc. there but righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). Of course, there are other opinions about this based on different interpretations of end-time scriptures.
The message of Jesus’ return has been preached for many years since the time of the early church, yet Jesus has not come! Because of this, many Christians have been wondering whether or not Jesus will still come. Many Christians have become lukewarm – they’re no longer excited about the talk of rapture or preparing for it. Some have even abandoned the faith concluding that the return of Jesus is a creation of some religious bigots.
Delayed return of Jesus
But Jesus actually told us ahead that his coming would be delayed so it shouldn’t be a surprise. In the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus said when the bridegroom delayed in coming, the ten virgins slept off but eventually he came. That is very important (Matt 25:1-13).
To illustrate the Kingdom of God again, Jesus, in Matt 25:14-30, used the story of a man who travelled to a “far country” and gave one of his servants five talents, another servant two talents and yet another servant one talent. In that story, though the man travelled to a far country, he still came back from his journey “after a long time” (verse 19 NLT). It’s long since Jesus ascended to heaven but he’s coming back.
Also in Mark 13:34-37, Jesus used another story to illustrate the Kingdom of God. In that story, a man went on a journey to a “far country”, gave authority to his servants to work and commanded the porter to watch. Verses 35-37 say, “The coming of the Son of Man can be compared with that of a man who left home to go on a trip. He gave each of his employees instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper to watch for his return. So keep a sharp lookout! For you do not know when the homeowner will return — at evening, midnight, early dawn, or late daybreak. Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. What I say to you I say to everyone: Watch for his return!” (NLT) Jesus is coming back.
In all the stories, something was expected of the virgins and the servants while they awaited the bridegroom and their master respectively. The virgins were to watch but they slept off because the bridegroom delayed. The servants given the talents were to do business with it and make profit but not all of them did so.
No fixed date
Mark 13:33 says since you don’t know when the master will come, watch and pray – be on guard, stay alert. In Luke 12:37-40, Jesus, in his teaching, says, “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (NKJV). He might come in the second or third hour or any time he chooses to come. The servants’ responsibility is to watch and open the door immediately their master returns and knocks.
No date has been fixed for his coming. It’s useless preaching a certain date. Such predictions in the past have failed, and will still fail. It is unbiblical. The day of his coming shall come suddenly like a thief in the night – unexpectedly – so be ready (1 Thess 5:2; Matt 24:42-44)
Jesus is coming back; don’t be weary expecting him. “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame” (Rev 16:15 NKJV). He’ll come unexpectedly; be prepared.
At the time of the Lord’s return, people will be relaxed living in false security and will be taken by surprise. The Bible says when people are saying, “‘All is well; everything is peaceful and secure,’ then disaster will fall upon them as suddenly as a woman’s birth pains begin when her child is about to be born. And there will be no escape” (1Thes 5:3-4 NLT). At this time, there is the possibility that many Christians would have fallen asleep just like those ten virgins did when the bridegroom was delayed (Matt 25:5). Are you going to sleep off or you’ll stay awake watching? “So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be sober. Night is the time for sleep and the time when people get drunk. But let us who live in the light think clearly, protected by the body armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God decided to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us” (1Thess 5:6-9 NLT).
How to prepare for the Master’s return
1.Be heavenly minded. 1 Cor 7:31 warns, “Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away” (NLT). It is not enough to be born again; you must ensure you’re not engrossed in the things of this world. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col 3:1-2 NKJV). Those who are heavenly minded live knowing that they have a limited time to spend in this present earth; they know the present earth is not their permanent abode. They’re citizens of heaven, and will become permanent resident of a new earth. They’re conscious not to use their temporary life to forfeit their eternity. One will either spend eternity with God or eternity with the devil. “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power that he will use to conquer everything, everywhere” (Phil 3:20-21 NLT).
2. Be constantly expectant of his return. Don’t be like those who have concluded that Jesus is no more coming back. Such people joke with the truth of the return of the Lord and carelessly live in sin. But they’ll regret doing that when Jesus eventually returns. It will be too late. Jesus is coming back; be prepared (Mark 14:62 Acts 1:10).
3. Be aglow in the spirit; keep your lamp burning. Don’t become lukewarm because of his ‘delay’ in coming. Jesus will spit out of his mouth the lukewarm (Rev 3:16).
Don’t sleep off like the ten virgins (Matt 25:7-8). When all the sleeping ten virgins heard the shout that the bridegroom was coming and they should come out to welcome him, they all prepared their lamps but the five foolish virgins discovered that their lamps were going out. They asked the five wise virgins to give them some of their oil but they turned down their request telling them to go and buy some for themselves because the oil they had would not be enough for all of them. The lesson there is that everybody is responsible for his or her spiritual condition. You’re responsible to keep yourself afire spiritually.
Don’t let the lamp of your spiritual life go out like the lamps of the foolish virgins who had no extra oil to keep their lamps burning. Keep the fire of your faith burning. Without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). But you need both faith and patience as you await his return for surely the promise shall come to pass. “Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord, no matter what happens. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. ‘For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And a righteous person will live by faith. But I will have no pleasure in anyone who turns away.’ But we are not like those who turn their backs on God and seal their fate. We have faith that assures our salvation” (Heb 10:35-39 NLT). The promise of his return is not a fluke.
To man, his return may appear delayed but how can we say that when he has not told anyone the exact date of his return? Only God knows the appointed date. “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows. And since you don’t know when they will happen, stay alert and keep watch” (Mark 13:32-33 NLT). Of course, that doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t or doesn’t know because if the Father knows, Jesus also knows since Jesus (the Son of God) and the Father are one (John 10:30). He said the Father is in him and he is in the Father (John 10:38). He also said he is in the Father (John 14:20). As the Son of man, Jesus might not have known the time but as the Son of God, he certainly knew and knows. None of us or science knows the time of Jesus’ return. All we can do is to prepare.
4. Live a holy life. You must live a holy life. Jesus is coming back for a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish; he is coming for a church that is holy and without fault (Eph 5:27-28). Without holiness no one shall see the Lord (Heb 12:14). As you expect the Master’s return, live soberly, righteously and godly. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14 NKJV).
5. Get busy doing God’s assignment. Occupy till he comes (Luke 19:13). That means you should invest your time and other resources in the affairs of the Kingdom of God especially soul winning and discipleship. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20 NKJV). Serve faithfully. Don’t be lazy; don’t be weary.
Conclusion: If you’re born again, you have been told or reminded what to do to prepare for the Master’s return. The Bible tells us what to do, and this message is a reminder. Failure to act is a sin. “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it” (James 4:17 NLT). You have no excuse. Jesus is coming back. Are you preparing for his return? If you’ve not given your life to Jesus, do so now.
If you’re not born again, I urge you to take the following steps:*Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start to attend a Bible-believing, Bible -teaching church. There you will be taught how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: “0 Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent and confess my sins. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you Jesus for saving me and making me a child of God.”
I believe you’ve said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible believing, Bible teaching church in your area where you will be taught how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things becoming all God wants you to be. I’ll be glad to hear from you. May the Lord be with you.
T.O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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