“Messages from the Mountain”
For parents who are raising their children, there is a constant need to teach them many things. One of the most important is to prepare for the future. Words of advice and wisdom are shared about getting an education, the importance of working and what kind of life might be pursued. Sometimes children pay close attention to those words and seek to embrace their parent’s counsel. On the other hand, however, some children choose to go their own way. They turn their back on their parent’s council and refuse to listen or to follow through. Throughout the Bible, our Heavenly Father reveals to us, His children, words of advice and wisdom. He seeks to guide us in the best way to live and to prepare us for an eternal life with Him. We, like our children, have a choice to make. We can go our own way, refusing His counsel, or we can listen closely to His words of wisdom and prepare for an eternal home with Him. In our lesson today, on “Key to the Kingdom,” we will notice some of Jesus' teaching about His second coming. Through a series of parables, or stories, He reminds us of the importance to be prepared when that day arrives; and that will be a tragic day of eternal separation from God for those who are not prepared. On the other hand, it will be a wonderful day of rejoicing for those who are prepared. More than anything else, Jesus wants us to be ready for that day. I trust you will stay tuned for the next few minutes as we study this most important message from Jesus.
Being around little children oftentimes brings about a variety of questions. Oh, it seems they want to know the answer to almost everything, and so they ask questions like, “Why is the sky blue, and why is the grass green?” “Why is it that I need to mind my parents?” and, “Tell me again, why do I need to clean my room?” Well, perhaps the most familiar question is, “When will we get there?” I suppose all of us have heard that one before, haven't we? Yes. Children want to know when they can go to the park and play, when can they go visit their grandparents and when will their favorite show air on television. Well, adults ask questions as well, and one of the most familiar, again, begins with the word when. Jesus’ disciples asked a question of Him in Matthew chapter 24. As He was in the city of Jerusalem just prior to His betrayal, arrest and crucifixion, He wept over what He saw. He saw a group of people there in that city who had refused His messages of love and salvation. They were not interested in making any changes in their life. Preparing for eternity was not a concern, and Jesus wept over that fact. He felt sorry for those people. And as He left the Jerusalem temple that day, His disciples approached Him and they ask a question, in Matthew 24 verse 3: ”Tell us. When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Well, several questions are asked in just that one sentence. Jesus had just told them there was coming a time when not one stone would be left up on another. The temple and the surrounding buildings would all be destroyed, they would be wiped out, and the disciples wanted to know when that would take place. And so Jesus sat down on the mountain and He gave them some answers in regard to those questions. He taught them many things about future events. He shared with them about the destruction that would come to Jerusalem, and most of that is found there in Matthew chapter 24. And indeed, the destruction did come, in AD 70, when the Romans came in and wiped out Jerusalem, and destroyed the temple and everything else associated with that special place. But then the disciples also wanted to know about His second coming and of the end of the age; and, in part, Jesus answered that question, too. Yet, He did not know the full answer. He told them everything He did know, however. He said that the angels in heaven don't know and neither does He, verse 36. But He also said, in verse 42 and verse 44, “Stay awake! For you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Well, the disciples did not get an exact answer to their questions as to when such things would take place, and yet they got much more. They received the urgent message about being ready whenever that day might come. Oh in the world today, many people still ask those same ‘when’ questions, don't they? People want to know the details of Jesus’ return. Some make predictions as to the exact day and time while others write books about it, and they are disappointed when they do not get it right. And yet, Jesus makes it most clear that no one knows when He will return. He doesn't even know, himself. It is the Father, only. Now, Jesus does give us some very clear teachings in regards to what He does know, and in chapter 25 He offers three parables, or three stories. There is one about ten women preparing to meet the bridegroom. One is about three people given one, two and five talents each. And then there is a final story about sheep and goats. In these stories, Jesus spoke about being wise and not foolish, as ten women waited for a marriage feast. He spoke about being a faithful and not an unfaithful servant, as one's master is away. And, He also spoke about who and who would not be accepted into God's kingdom. Now these parables revolved around one primary point: Be prepared for My return. Oh, Jesus did not want people to live their life without giving any kind of thought to His return. And that is why He wept for the people there in the city of Jerusalem, because that is exactly what they were not doing. They were not concerned about Jesus' return. And even though nobody knew the exact day, we know that it was and still is a reality, and it is certain. And so let's notice these three stories. The first one is found in verses 1 through 13, here in the 25th chapter. Five of the ten women had their lamps burning with oil, and had plenty of oil to last a long time. They knew the bridegroom might be delayed, he might not show up for a while, and so they had plenty of oil for their lamps. But the other five, however, did not bring enough oil for their lamps. Sure enough, before the bridegroom showed up, they ran out, and those who did have enough oil were not willing to share with those who did not. And it was not because they were selfish, but rather they did not want to be unprepared themselves, if the bridegroom came unexpectedly. When the five who did not have enough oil went away to buy some more, sure enough, the bridegroom, came. They were not there when he showed up and everybody else went into the house and they celebrated the marriage with a great banquet feast. When those five women got back, they found the door to be shut and locked. And as they continually knocked on the door, the answer from within was, “Truly, I do not know you.” The five ladies left on the outside did not know what to do. For them it was over and they were excluded. But notice the last words there in the story, they're found in verse 13. These are the words of Jesus. He said, “Watch, therefore, for you do not know neither the day nor the hour.” Well, the key word is watch, isn't it? But what does that mean? How are we to watch for the Lord's return? Well, it does not mean that we are to constantly gaze into the sky in hopes of catching a glimpse of His appearing. It does not mean that we continually focus on the second coming of Jesus to the exclusion of everything else, but it means to give thought to future events. It means to consider what will happen at some point down the line. And that was the very thing these five women failed to do. They had their lamps and they had some oil, but it was not sufficient to last for a long time. And so the Bible calls these women foolish. They did not allow for the possibility of a delay. They were unprepared for the bridegroom's arrival. And the same will be true for us if we are unprepared and not ready and anticipating the return of Jesus. Let's take a look at the second story; it is similar, found in verses 14 through 30. In the parable of the talents, the master of the house gave three servants certain amounts of money, or talents. One talent was worth a measure of about $1,000, in today's terms; and so one man received $1000, another man $2000 and then the final man some $5,000. And the master then left with a promise that he would be back, he would return. He entrusted each one of these men with these certain talents and he asked them to use them wisely, to invest them carefully, and then he would get some kind of accounting of that when he did return. Well, the ones that were given the two and the five talents did just that, and when the master returned they had doubled what had originally been given to them and they were praised for their faithful and wise use of what had been entrusted. And the master told them this, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little. I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” However, the one who was entrusted with only one talent buried it in the ground. And in His own words, he told the master when he returned, “I did that because I was afraid. I was afraid that you would judge me harshly and that you would not be considerate of me.” So the master condemned him and took that money away and gave it to the one who now had some ten talents; but for this one talent man, he was rejected. He was left out because he was unfaithful to that which had been entrusted to him; and so, the master threw him out into outer darkness where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. Well, the difference between the first two men and the last man was not a matter of being more gifted or more qualified; the first two men could have been lazy, like that last man, and buried their talent, also. But, they were praised because they acted with faith and they did something good with that which was entrusted to them. And as a result, they received an eternal reward. But not so with that one talent man, He was cast into outer darkness because he was unfaithful with that which was given to him. On the day of Jesus’ return, we too will be asked what we did with the talents and the abilities and the monies entrusted to us. We will be asked if we proved ourselves faithful; or, did we respond with fear instead of with faith in God? Look at the final story. It’s found in verses 31 through 46. Here Jesus describes what it will be like when He returns in all of His glory. He will gather the nations unto himself and He will separate the goats from the sheep, as a shepherd would do. On the right hand will be those who minister to the poor and to the less fortunate. They are the ones who gave food, water, clothes and encouragement to those who were in need; and, their reward will be eternal life. But then they will say, well, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or naked or needing encouragement? And Jesus will say to them, “When you did it to one of the least of these, My brothers, then you did it unto Me.” And then to those on His left hand, He will tell them to depart from Him for they did not welcome strangers nor visit those who were in prison or feed the hungry or clothe the naked. And they, too, were confused as to when they did not do those things. And Jesus will say, “When you did not do them to one of the least of these, My brothers, then you did not do it unto Me.” And they will be sent away into eternal punishment. Now again, the point Jesus makes is the same He made in the first two stories. Those who are prepared for His return will be eternally blessed; but, those who are not prepared for His return will be eternally punished. Now obviously we can not read into this story that our salvation depends upon the work we do here upon this Earth. It depends upon the work which God has already done for us through His son, Jesus Christ. And as we receive that gift of salvation, as we obey and believe in Jesus Christ, then it will make a difference in how we live. As we put our faith in Jesus, as we confess Him as our Savior and as we submit to Him by being clothed with Him in baptism, it will make a difference not only in how we live but it will also make a difference in how we minister to the people that God puts before us. And so we will live as His followers. We will look at that example and we will incorporate that into our daily life. But if we do not accept and understand what Jesus has done for us, then it will not make a difference in our life, and we may be caught unprepared when Jesus returns to gather unto himself all of those who belong to Him. These parables, these three parables in Matthew chapter 25, remind us of a great truth: Be prepared for Jesus' second coming. Be prepared for the Son of Man to come back and to claim all of those who are in the family of God. Yes, we are to be prepared for that time; when, we will stand before the God of this universe and we will give an account of the life we have lived here upon this Earth. And that is something that will be required of each and every person. Oh, life is full of making preparations, isn't it? When we go to school to receive an education, certain things need to be done. Careful thought is to be given to one’s studies. Papers and assignments are to be turned in before the deadline. There are times when one might need to study a test or review some notes or previous lessons. Yes, all kinds of preparations need to be made before one can pass an exam or receive a degree or education. And once that is done, we then seek to secure a job. We prepare a resume. We list our qualities and our capabilities. We contact potential employers. We set appointments for interviews. And all of that is essential and necessary as we get ready both physically and mentally for what lies ahead. The same is true when we take a trip. We do certain things. We plan where we are going and how we will get there. We decide on a time to leave and perhaps even a time to return. Our bags are packed and we leave some instructions with those who stay behind. Yes, taking a trip requires some forethought and some planning. And if preparations need to be made before we take a test, or receive a degree, or secure a job, or before we go on a trip, then certainly it is most important that we prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ. And that is more necessary than anything else we will ever do in our time here upon this Earth. Yes, there is coming a time, whether we know it or not, whether we believe it or not, whether we believe in God or not, there's coming a time when all of us will stand before the God of this universe and our knee will bow and our tongue will confess that indeed Jesus is Christ, to the glory of the Father. And there will be no more opportunities to confess our faith. There will be no more opportunities to demonstrate our faith by helping other people. There will be no more ways to prove ourselves faithful and obedient. There will be no more possibilities of a delay so that we can get things right. Yes, the time is coming, and in fact the time might be soon, when indeed Jesus will return. And for those who are prepared and ready, that's good news. That is something we can anticipate and look forward to, receiving Jesus coming back and bringing us together into the presence of God. Before that time arrives, however, we are to keep in mind the words from Jesus himself, in Matthew 24 verse 44: “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Our future destiny will be in the hands of a just, but a gracious, God; and, what we have or have not done here up on this Earth will determine our destiny. On that day, God's rejection of us will only be because we rejected Him, but our acceptance will only be because of His amazing grace. The real question today is not, “When will Jesus return?” The real question is not, “When will all of these things take place?” The real question is not, “What is the exact time or date of when Jesus will come back?” Rather, the real question is, “Will I be prepared when He does?” If God the Father decided today is the day to send His son, Jesus, back and bring together those who are His, will you be ready for His return? Will you have put your faith and belief and obedience and trust in Jesus Christ, your Lord and Savior? Will you have been submerged in water, submitting to Jesus Christ and putting Him on, recognizing that He is your Savior, the one and only? Nobody can answer that question for you, except yourself. Nobody can answer that question for me, except myself. But yes, there is coming a time when all of us will stand before the Father, before the Throne and we will give an answer, whether we want to or not, as to who Jesus is, and did we know Him here upon this Earth, and are we a part of the family of God? And my prayer for you today is that as you stand before the Judgment Seat of God, Jesus will be standing beside you; and, He will say, “Yes, Father, this one is one of ours. This is one of my brothers and sisters and he is one of Your children; and yes, welcome her into Your heavenly kingdom.” And my prayer also today is that you will be able to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”
The Mount of Olives is the hill facing the old city of Jerusalem, on the eastern side of the Kidron Valley. Its name comes from the olive trees that once grew nearby. According to Jewish tradition, Jesus will appear on this hillside and bring the dead back to life. This is perhaps the most holy of all cemeteries. In the old Testament, the hill is referred to when King David flees the city, in 2nd Samuel 15. King Solomon built altars in various places, dedicating them to false alien gods. Even the prophet Zachariah writes about the Day of Judgment coming from the Mount of Olives. In the New Testament, the Mount of Olives is the site where Jesus taught His disciples the Lord's Prayer. It is also where He wept over the future destruction of the city. Until the 12th century AD the Jews came here to pray, since it has a great view of the Temple Mount. The olive trees still grow in Gethsemane. They are not the ones that were there when Jesus prayed, but they are more than a thousand years old, today. Jesus made many visits to the Mount of Olives, where He considered His role as the Savior of the world. My guess is while He was there He gave some thought to you and to me, as well. He knew there would come a time when we would have the opportunity to hear about Him and to prepare ourselves for the Day of Judgment. I hope we are ready for that day, as we anticipate spending an eternity with Him.
Thank you for joining us for today's broadcast. It was our pleasure to share this message with you, and I trust it provided a spiritual blessing. To be ready and prepared for Jesus’ return is the most important thing any of us could ever do, and I hope you are ready for that day. Now, if you would like to hear this message again, please go to our website: keytothekingdom.com. It is available to download in video, written or audio format. It is absolutely free and we would be more than happy for you to receive it. The other messages on the website are also free and require no commitment. There are many messages to choose from, and I trust you will find those which are of interest. A variety of videos are on the website, as well. Two minute messages, called “Key Moments,” offer practical application of the Bible. One minute devotional thoughts, called “Key Minutes,” offer a short idea or thought for your daily consideration. All of them are designed to assist you in your spiritual growth. Through other media sources, like Roku® Television, Facebook®, and a free phone app, you can view our weekly post. I also encourage you to share them with others. Now, if you would like to contact us by phone, please call the number on the screen. Leave a message and we will be happy to get back with you just as soon as possible. Again, let me say thank you for tuning in to today's broadcast. I hope you will consider joining us again next time on this same channel, as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."