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Ready and Waiting

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Matthew 24:29–51; Mark 13:24–37; Luke 21:25–36

What we anticipate in the future will have a great impact on our present. To look forward to Christ’s return is not to grow lazy and unconcerned but to be diligent in serving the Lord now.


The return of Jesus Christ to Planet Earth is never presented in the Bible as just some interesting fact—simply as something that will happen one day. It is actually presented as an ultimatum that demands not only belief but response. In other words, will you believe that Jesus is coming again? And will you live your life now in light of seeing Him one day?

We are sailing back into Matthew 24, continuing our study of Jesus’ Olivet Discourse. In the first portion of chapter 24, the Lord has outlined the troubling events and conditions on earth during the future tribulation period, following the rapture of the church.

During the seven-year tribulation, millions of people will be saved, including many Jewish people. It is to these future Jewish believers that Jesus is actually speaking here; and I think this is going to be the most read chapter in the New Testament during the tribulation period. Jesus warns them of great persecution, especially after the Antichrist declares himself to be God. 

We pick up now in verse 29 with Jesus speaking:

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

He is saying that after the events He has just described, some culminating signs will appear at the end of the seven-year tribulation period. The cosmic disruption in our solar system—in fact, in the entire universe—all point to the coming of the Lord, whom verse 30 describes as “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Everyone on earth will witness the Lord’s return with His redeemed. And Jesus predicts here that “all the tribes of the earth will mourn.” This mourning reflects their realization that judgment has arrived.

Christ’s return will be accompanied by His gathering of all those who have come to faith during the tribulation period. Jesus says in verse 31, “He [the Son of Man] will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Those who have believed in Christ will enter the kingdom; those who have followed the Antichrist will be sent to await their final judgment.

Now the question on the disciples’ minds is this: When is this going to happen? In verse 32 Jesus introduces a “lesson”—literally a parable—from a fig tree. He says, “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near.”

He then adds, “So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates” (verse 33). “These things” refers to the signs of Christ’s return. When these signs appear, His return will soon follow.

Then in verse 34 Jesus says, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” That future generation that experiences the tribulation and sees these signs will also see Christ’s return in glory and the establishment of His kingdom.[1] Now in case anybody thinks the Lord is just guessing here, He adds in verse 35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

So, with that information, the tribulation believers have an approximate time for Christ’s return. They know the tribulation will last for seven years. However, Jesus says in verse 36, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” That is, God the Father retains the right to pull the trigger, so to speak, on the specific day and hour, a time that only He knows.

Now this verse does not mean that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not entirely omniscient, or all-knowing. This reference tracks back to a Jewish wedding in which the father tells his son, the groom, when to go and get his bride. The son certainly knows the day of his wedding, but he yields to his father the right to look over at him and say “Ok, now is the time.”

What Jesus is emphasizing here is that tribulation believers need to be, first, alert and watching for Him, and, second, faithfully serving Him as they wait. 

To emphasize alertness concerning His coming again, Jesus compares the end of the tribulation to the days of Noah:

“For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (verses 37-39)

Everybody will be going about the daily routines of life during the tribulation. Just like the world of Noah’s day, which was suddenly, unexpectedly overwhelmed by the great flood, the unbelieving world will be caught completely by surprise when the Lord descends to earth to bring holy judgment.

Here is what will happen, Jesus says in verse 40: “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.” And in the next verse, He says, “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.”

This has caused some confusion, because believers of this church age will be raptured, or “taken away.” But the context here is very different. Tribulation believers will be the ones left to enter the millennial kingdom of Christ, and unbelievers will be taken away to judgment. So, Jesus says to those future believers here in verse 42, “Stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” He adds in verse 44, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

And what does it mean to be ready? Well, whether it is the future tribulation believers or us today as we await the rapture of the church, it means to be living in light of His coming—in anticipation of His appearance. And that means faithfully serving Him daily.

That’s the point Jesus makes as He continues:

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.” (verses 45-47)

This is the faithful servant, the one who goes about his life faithfully fulfilling his duties. He is just doing what he has been left here on earth to do: honoring and serving the Lord by serving others, sharing the gospel with friends and neighbors, and being an example of godliness and integrity. And just think, as one author put it, “The faithful servant of Jesus will be rewarded with rank and authority in the kingdom.”[2]

The unbeliever might profess to have faith in Christ, but he really does not believe the Lord is coming back. Verse 49 describes his wickedness and selfishness and abuse of others. Christ’s return is going to reward him with terrifying judgment.

We are not living in the tribulation period, but we should be looking forward to the first phase of Christ’s return, when He comes in the clouds to remove us from the earth at the rapture. This is our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13), and if we are truly convinced that He is coming, we ought to be living in anticipation of it.

Let’s walk with Him now in right living; let’s serve Him now with gladness. And let’s be alert. Jesus Christ’s coming could be just around the corner of human history.

[1] John F. Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come (Moody Press, 1974), 193.

[2] Ed Glasscock, Matthew, Moody Gospel Commentary (Moody Press, 1997), 478.

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