I am convinced that people everywhere – even atheists and unbelievers - are beginning to sense the clock is about to reach the midnight hour. Are people preoccupied with thoughts of the world coming to some kind of cataclysmic conclusion?
For example, I googled “apocalyptic films” since 2000 and found 128 feature-length movies dealing with the end of time or the end of the world. Some of the titles include: Left Behind, Returned, Right at Your Door, 4:44 Last Day on Earth, After the Dark, The Darkest Hour, The Hunger Games, Oblivion, These Final Hours, This is the End, The World’s End, and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.
Similarly, there is a proliferation of novels about the end times such as William R. Forstchen’s best selling books One Second After and One Year After. In fact, One Second After was cited on the floor of the Congress as a book all Americans should read. It was a book discussed in the corridors of the Pentagon as a truly realistic look at what could happen if a nuclear weapon called an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), lofted by a missile, were detonated in outer space high above the American heartland. An EMP is a weapon with the power to destroy the entire United States in a single act of terrorism, in a single second.
Newt Gringrich, former speaker of the house, commenting on the book said an EMP would set off a huge and crippling shockwave of electricity that would fry electrical circuits from coast to coast, knocking out computers, electrical power and cellphones, debilitating everything from cars to hospitals and killing millions of people.
It is interesting that while movie producers, secular authors, politicians, and military leaders seems to be preoccupied with the end times and potential imminent destruction, the church seems to be oblivious to such things. When is the last time you heard a sermon on the End Times and the Second Coming of Christ?
Jesus said, “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21: 25-28).
John MacArthur declares, “Of the 46 Old Testament prophets, less then ten of them speak of events in Christ’s first coming while 36 of them speak of events connected to His second coming.
“There are a total of 1,527 Old Testament passages referring to the second coming. There are 7,959 verses in the New Testament; and 330 of those or 1 out of 25 refer directly to the second coming of Jesus Christ.”
That is an overwhelming indication that the Bible majors on the second coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it would seem imperative for preachers to address the subject of eschatology, or end times, today.
Jesus told a parable about the wise virgins who had oil in their lamps and the foolish virgins who had no oil and were left behind (Matt. 25:1-14). The wise virgins were praised for being prepared and the virgins with no oil and who were not prepared for the master’s return were called foolish and not permitted into the wedding feast. Then Jesus admonished those who heard the parable by saying, “Be ye therefore ready.”
Years ago when I was a student at Southeastern Seminary Dr. Carroll Trotter was my professor of homiletics, or preaching. As I remember, the first day in class he said, “We are going to study the art of preaching the first six weeks of the semester, but during the last six weeks three of you will be called on to preach a 20-minute sermon each class session and half of your grade will be determined by the organization, content, and delivery of your sermon on that day.”
But the shocker came when he said, “A preacher needs to be prepared to preach, pray or die at the drop of a hat, so you will need to be ready to preach from the first day that we begin to hear your sermons. No one will know ahead of time the class session you will be called upon to preach. You will be called on at random to preach, so you will need to be ready whenever I ask you.”
It was an amazing and tension-filled semester and I felt like I was ready by early October when the first students were called upon to preach. Every day was pure torture as I waited to see if I would be one of the students called upon to preach that day. I tried to be ready every day in October and November. And, as you might imagine, I was one of the last three called upon to preach the final day of the semester, but I think I was ready every day.
Likewise, we must be ready for the Lord’s return. Those who are saved should so live that they will not be ashamed before Christ at His coming. The Bible says, “And now, little children abide in Him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming (I John 2:28). The child of God who is not living right, seeking to win souls, and serving Christ at his post of duty will be ashamed before Christ when He comes.