Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
6 September 2020
Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.
(Thanks Hae Woo)
As I came back to my office today, 1st September 2020. I thought I must have a clear out. Papers had sat in the same spot for 5 months during lock-down and life had gone on without them, so let’s throw the lot away. But being more towards the “Hoarder” side of life than the “Declutter” side I started to read some of the magazines and saw this testimony in Idea, March/April 2020 edition shared by Gavin Calver, CEO, Evangelical Alliance whilst he and his wife were attending Spring Harvest a few years ago:
Hae Woo is from North Korea. She had been incarcerated for her faith in a labour camp and was one of the bravest and most ‘sold out’ Christians we had ever met … as she explained about starving in North Korea and all that it meant to be a Christian there, even the hardest of hearts in the room couldn’t avoid being deeply moved. As Hae Woo shared what it looked like to plant a church in the labour camp where she was imprisoned, the true cost of following Jesus in her context seemed strikingly real. The church had to be planted in the toilets as this was the only place you could ever realistically gather together in a queue. The congregation would whisper the truths of God, knowing their very lives depended on not getting caught. The church in the labour camp especially loved it when it would rain. This provided the only real opportunity to worship in song without fear of being caught. As the rain lashed down, the Christians would cry out in worship with the kind of unbridled freedom that they were denied the rest of the time. As she drew to a close, she rose to her feet and sang in what was little more than a whisper ‘Amazing Grace’ in her native tongue. There was not a dry eye in the house [the main adult venue at Spring Harvest] as we all realised quite how different it would be to live out our faith were we to instead live in her homeland.
(Thanks Hae Woo)
Reading: Matthew 24:36-25:46
Text: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24:36).
We have repeatedly made the point, following R.T. France’s commentary, that Matt. 24:4-35 covers Jesus’ answer to the first question that the disciples asked Him regarding the destruction of the Temple: “when will this happen?” Now in Matt. 24:36-25:46 Jesus is answering the second part of their question: “What will be the sign of your coming (‘parousia’) and of the end of the age?”
In the first section many ‘time indicators’ were given and each followed on from the other. Here, however, regarding His Second Coming, the emphasis is that no-one knows the time, not even the Son Himself, which doesn’t take away from His divinity but emphasises His humanity, humility, and one of the limitations placed on Him in His earthly ministry. His Second Coming and the end of the age will be unexpected and unpredictable! Jesus illustrates this by referring to:
- Noah and the Flood (Matt 24:37-42)
- the thief who comes in the night (Matt 24:43-44), and
- the faithful and wise servant compared to the wicked servant (Matt 24:45-51).
Jesus further underlines His teaching with three parables:
- “The Ten Virgins” (Matt 25:1-13)
- “The Servants entrusted with their Master’s Wealth” (Matt 25:14-30); and
- “The sheep and the goats” (Matt 25:31-46),
“a majestic depiction of the final judgment … a scene which explains the basis of the final verdict, when the division between the saved and the lost will be irrevocable”
R. T. France
In all Jesus’ teaching here, regarding His Second Coming and the end of the age, the element of surprise and the need to be ready dominate.
The fact that we are in a new section here, is also underlined by a number of other features:
(1) “But about …” – a new subject
The opening words “But about …” (‘peri de’) are used several times in Scripture to take up a new subject e.g. “Now about [‘peri de’] the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.” (1 Cor. 12:1) – here Paul, having just taught them about the Lord’s Supper, introduces a new subject, the gifts of the Spirit (see also 1 Cor. 7:1,25; 8:1; 16:1,12; Matt. 22:31; Acts 21:25; 1 Thess. 4:9; 5:1). So here in Matthew 24:36 Jesus is introducing a new subject, His answer to the disciples second question.
(2) “That day and hour”
Whereas in the first section we frequently see “those days” referred to e.g. Matt. 24:18,22 (x 2), Matt 24:29, referring to those days leading up to the destruction of the temple, in this new section, dealing with His Second Coming and the end of the age, Jesus refers to “that day and hour” (Matt 24:36,42,43,44,50; 25:13). “That day” speaks of the day of His second coming (the ‘parousia’) and was “a recognised term for the day of judgment” (R. T. France).
(3) “Be ready for it to come unexpectedly”
In the first section Jesus spoke of an event(s) whose time within a generation could be predicted: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matt. 24:34) and He gave signs to indicate its nearness: “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matt. 24:15-16). But in this new section where He is answering the disciples second question, He teaches about an event(s) the time of which even He doesn’t know, and He repeatedly stresses the need to be ready because it will come unexpectedly. In contrast to Jesus not knowing the time of His Second Coming, He confidently affirms when Roman Armies will encircle Jerusalem and destroy it: “Truly I tell you this generation will not pass away … Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away” (Matt. 24:24-25).
(4) “The sign of His coming, and of the end of the age”
Rather than referring to His Second Coming (‘parousia’) in the first section, Jesus refers to the coming of the Son of Man as prophesied in Daniel 7:13-14 with no mention of the term ‘parousia’. The only mention of this term in the first section was to highlight that that it will be unlike any other (false) comings in those days (Matt 24:27). In the second section Jesus takes up this term ‘parousia’ (Matt 24:37,39) to indicate that He is now dealing with the second part of the disciples’ question: “what will be the sign of your coming (‘parousia’) and of the end of the age?”
“Since this was the term used in the second part of the disciples’ question, it is clear that that second issue is now being addressed”
“In this [second] section where the ‘parousia’ is explicitly in view there is no mention of any of the attendant circumstances related to the ‘coming of the Son of Man’ found in Daniel 7 and in other texts in Matthew”
(A. I. Wilson)
(5) “About that day or hour no one knows”
We have already noted that in the first section a number of time indicators were given by Jesus:
- “the end is still to come” (Matt 24:6);
- “the beginning of birth-pains” (Matt 24:7);
- “Then” (Matt 24:9);
- “then the end will come” (Matt 24:14);
- “So when you see” (Matt 24:15);
- “then” (Matt 24:16);
- “in those days” (Matt 24:19);
- “those days” x 2 (Matt 24:22);
- “At that time” (Matt 24:23);
- “See I have told you in advance” (Matt 24:25);
- “Immediately after” (Matt 24:29);
- “Then”; “And then”; “when” (Matt 24:30);
- “when”; “it is near, right at the door” (Matt 24:33);
- “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matt 24:34).
Thus in this first section He deals with events in history (historical). However, in this second section He is dealing with the very end of the age (eschatological) which will be sudden and unexpected. We are faced with Jesus stating right at the outset:
- “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt. 24:36);
and He repeatedly emphasises this in His teaching that follows, e.g.
- “they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away” (Matt 24:39);
- “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matt 24:42);
- “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matt 24:44);
- “The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of” (Matt 24:50).
(6) “A day when he does not expect him”
Whereas in the first section we were faced with events, concerning the destruction of the temple, that were going to happen within the generation of Jesus’ contemporaries (Matt 24:34), here, in this second section, concerning His Second Coming and the end of the age, a long time may elapse before it actually takes place:
- “But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, “My master is staying away a long time” (Matt 24:48);
- “The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.” (Matt 25:5);
- “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them” (Matt 25:19).
However, even though it may be a long time before His Second Coming and the end of the age, a balance is brought about by Jesus’ warning of the imminence of His Coming. So, because the time is unknown no-one knows whether it may be near or it may be far and the important matter is that we must all be ready: “The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of” (Matt 24:50).
“It is how God’s people are living now that will be the key to their fate at the end. This message is as relevant to readers two millennia on as it was to Matthew’s readers a generation or two after Jesus spoke these words. Delay and imminence are not in conflict: they are the two sides of the same coin, which is a time which no one knows or can know.”
(7) “All the nations will be gathered before Him”
The first answer was specifically addressed to the people of Judea: “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” In this second section, concerning His Second-Coming, it is addressed to all nations: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matt 25:31-32).
Quote of the Week
“The Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have begun thinking less of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you get neither”
Verse of the Week
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm, let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.1 Corinthians 15:58
Our gracious loving heavenly Father, You are the King of all creation. We worship You for who You are. We praise You for revealing Yourself to such as we are. Thank You that we can see Your mighty hand at work in and through Your creation, that You have revealed Your eternal power and divine nature through what You have made.
We thank You for Your word, the Scriptures and the nation of Israel through whom they first came.
We thank You for Your greatest revelation of all, of that which You have revealed through Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the radiance of Your glory and the exact representation of Your being, who sustains all things through His powerful word. In Him You were pleased to have all Your fulness dwell. Through Him and Your great love You have reconciled us back to Yourself by making peace through His blood shed on the cross.
Heavenly Father, empower us the more by Your Spirit, that we might make known to the nations of the world the gospel, the Good-News that Christ died for sinners, was buried and rose again.
Lord, as Your Second Coming will be sudden and unexpected help us all to be ready. Lord that Your Church may be found doing Your work right until the end of the age and we thank You for Your promise, that You will be with Your Church to the very end of the age, in Jesus Christ, Amen!