Matthew 24:36-44
Wake Up

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  As of today we entered into Advent Season.  Advent is the time for remembering the end [of time] when Christ will be back again.  In The Apostles' Creed* we confess the following words: "From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead."  Christ is coming as the one who judges both the living and the dead.  This season, which we are passing through and recall that time, is not a preliminary type anticipation to the celebration of Christmas.  It is a time of repentance for us.

2.  The time of the end is coming.  This is important to be aware of.  The end is coming whether we are talking about one's life or this world.  But, when the end time and the second coming of Christ are spoken of in an erroneous manner, it gives way to a mania which ought not to be.  The frenzy often times is caused by [some] predicted notice of when the day of the end is to be.  As it was just six years ago, on October 1992, a great commotion occurred in Korea.  The teaching that Christ would come again in that year on October 28th at midnight had spread all over the country.  At that time, many people quit their jobs and sold off their property and assets for an offering.  If what they did for an offering was based on a love for the Lord and the truth, there might not have been anything wrong with this in some certain sense.  However, it seems that the situation and the circumstances are different when they run with the particular type of behavior that says "we did it because the day of the second coming has become quite clear to us."  After all, Christ did come.  The churches and the clergy which were the center of it were blamed.  What a sad story it is...

3.  It seems a frenzy like that goes back to the time period when the Bible was written.  Please look at verse thirty-six.  "That day and hour no one knows.  Neither the angels nor the Son knows.  Only the Father has that knowledge," (verse thirty-six).  [These] are the words of Christ written here.  In almost the same form they are written in the Gospel of Mark as well.  At the background to what is written like this was probably the event of when the day of Christ's second coming was foretold in the church and it had caused a frenzy.  Christ's message gave a warning against such a development or trend.  Neither the angels nor the Son know the day.  That is, it says even Christ himself "does not know."  You shouldn't get excited claiming a person "knows" what even Christ didn't know.

4.  As far as the end of the century goes, it is a time period in which many different things could be said about the end of time.  For one thing, as we look at the present condition of this world it is true that a lot of things look like "the time is up for the world."  However, because of that very reason we must think clearly and calmly.  We shouldn't make the mistake of being dragged into a senseless frenzied state of mind.  The important thing for us is not making a search into when the day of the end is.  As we read from verse thirty-six to verse forty-four, even from when Christ was talking about the day of the end we understand all the more that he was making an issue of [what they were doing] "now."  Even for us as well, what is important is not "when will the end be?," but how am I living in this time now?

The Same As The Time Of Noah

5.  Now please look from verse thirty-seven to verse forty-one.  "The coming of the Son of man is likened to the time of Noah.  Before the flood came until the day Noah went into the ark, people ate and drank, got married and gave in marriage.  Then the floods rushed in and in no time swept [them all] away not leaving anyone behind.  Even in the case of the coming of the Son of man it will be like this.  At that time, there will be two men in the field and one will be carried away and the other left.  Two women will be working the mill, one will be taken and the other one will be left," (thirty-seven through forty-one).

6.  Genesis chapter six has the text on Noah's flood.  In the beginning section to that narrative it is written like this:  "The land acted depraved before God and was full of sin.  God saw the land.  Look, it is depraved and all those who are flesh have gone the way of depravity in this land," (Genesis 6:11-12).  So, God announced ahead of time to Noah that he would judge the earth and bring the flood.  So, God ordered Noah to prepare and build the ark.

7.  Its size was described as "its length was three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, its height thirty cubits."  One cubit is the length from the human elbow to the [longest] fingertip.  If converted to today's units of measurements this ark would be about one hundred and thirty-five meters in length, about twenty-three meters in width and about fourteen meters in height.  It was an enormous boat.  Why did he command him to build such a large ship?  If we were students in Sunday School we might answer, "So he could put in a lot of animals."  That is probably not off course either.  However, more than anything else the important point was that this great ship indeed was "a sign" for this temporary world.  It meant that the very building and preparing of the huge ark by Noah indeed was a declaration of judgment for this world and was also a call to repentance.

8.  Therefore, we understand that that which was called into question was not the issue of "whether they are depraved or not."  At least I understand that Jesus did not see it that way.  Take another look at Matthew 24:38.  The Lord did not say," Before the flood until the day Noah entered the ark the people were depraved and piled up one evil upon another."  No, instead, the text reads, "Until the day Noah entered the ark, the people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage."  Is eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage so bad?  No, it isn't.  So what's the problem?  The Lord did not make an issue of the very [idea] of depravity or immorality, but he was making an issue of not caring about the judgment of God and indifference towards the call of God [to repent].

9.  Before too long the time will come when our lives will be called into account.  The time is coming when we will be questioned by the Supreme Being.  Eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage in and of themselves are not evil.  They are not being prohibited.  What the Lord was looking for was not mere abstinence.  In order to fulfill various everyday needs it is not sinful at all that we might need to work hard, nor [is it wrong] take great pleasure in the various opportunities we are given.  However, the problem is when they end up becoming everything [to us].  The problem is when "la dolce vita" [the good life], love and marriage, self fulfillment ... those other daily related things alone become one's entire life and when it never even has come into one's perspective the fact that they are moving towards that time ultimately when [their] relationship with God will be called into account.  The problem is they are unconcerned about the time of the end and have made no preparations.

10.  Because they have not made any preparations, the flood brought destruction upon them.  [The Bible] states that it will be the same at the time of the end when Christ comes back at the second coming.  Then, [the scriptures] state that even though it seems like they are doing exactly the same thing in the eyes of the world, people will be decisively divided between those who prepare for the end and those who don't.  The time is coming when it will be made clear whether one was unconcerned and did not care about the judgment of God or if one did care.  This same point is expressed in the phrase "one person will be taken away, the other person will be left behind."

So, Wake Up

11.  Consequently, the Lord gave a stern command.  "So, wake up."  Let's read from verse forty-two to verse forty-four.  "Therefore, wake up; because you do not know on what day the Lord himself will come back.  Discern this carefully.  If the master of the house knew about what time of night the thief was coming, he would wake up and he would not let him break into his house right before his eyes.  Therefore, get yourselves ready; because the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour," (verses forty-two through forty-four).

12.  The important thing is not making a search into what hour the time of the second coming of Christ might be.  It is that we wake up.  What that means, as is clear from what I already mentioned, is nothing but the fact that we keep in mind that we are heading for that time when our relationship with God will ultimately be called into account and that we live in making preparations for it.  Jesus boldly illustrated this in the master [of the house] who preserved his house from the thief.  If he had kept sleeping soundly without any concern for [the thief] and all the while he had been informed that the thief was coming, such a thing would no doubt be downright stupidity.  But, in the story of the thief, that foolishness still comes with a second chance or catch-up time.  The foolishness of not caring about the trial held under God will not come with a recovery period or second chance.  Therefore, all the more we have got to wake up.  [We have got to wake up] because Christ is coming in an hour we do not expect and in a time that will be surprising.  So, the thing [we] need [to do] is to get ready.

13.  To understand a little more specifically what the Lord means, taking a look at other passages of scripture might be helpful.  For instance, when we look at how Paul makes use of this message, we see how the church at that time responded to the Lord's words.

14.  First off, take a look at First Thessalonians 5:6-9.  "Therefore, let's not sleep as other people are, but let's wake up and be on guard in the body.  The sleeping person sleeps at night, the person getting drunk on alcohol gets intoxicated at night.  But, since we belong to the day time let's wear faith and love as a breastplate, let's wear the hope of salvation as a helmet, and let's be on guard in the body; for, God has not condemned us in [his] anger but has ordained that we would take part in the salvation which comes from our Lord Jesus Christ," (First Thessalonians 5:6-9).

15.  This [idea] of waking up is connected to that of being on guard in the body.  The phrase "being on guard in the body or abstaining from the flesh" means "to be sober."  It stands for not getting drunk.  Therefore, the antithesis to this matter of "being on guard in the body" will next be illustrated in the drunkenness of binge drinking.  As far as what expresses the drunkenness of binge drinking, what is the true nature of it in our lives?  At the least the words "truth," "responsibility," and "endurance [in the faith]" are not part of alcoholic behaviors.  Instead, [words] which are connected to [alcoholic behaviors] are "lies," "irresponsibility," and "escape from reality."  In other words, what is being stated here is an escape from reality which was missing forbearance or endurance.  It meant they falsified their reality and turned themselves over to their lusts wanting momentary pleasures and they abandoned a strong enduring and truthful way of living.  That is, this is nothing but a way of living which has lost sight of the fact there is a God and it will not be [some] human who will ultimately judge and try [them].  So, the phrase "let's be on guard in the body" is about not getting drunk like that.  Now, how should we live and be on guard in the body?  How do we live as "sober" persons?  Paul says, "Let's wear faith and love as a breastplate and let's wear the hope of salvation as a helmet ..."  This is how it is possible to live on guard in the body.  In other words, rather than dealing with morality, it really deals with faith much more.  It is necessary that we firmly make as our own the hope of salvation by [our] faith.

16.  Let's take a look at one more passage.  Look at Romans 13:11-14.  "Moreover, you know what kind of hour it is now.  The time has already long come that you ought to wake up from your sleep; for, now even more than when we had entered into the faith, salvation is drawing closer.  The night has grown late, the day is getting close.  Therefore, take off and throw away the works of darkness and dress your body up in the armor of light.  As we walk in the day light hours, won't we walk with dignity?  Cast off drinking parties and drunkenness, debauchery and sensuality, strife and jealousy, and put the Lord Jesus Christ on your bodies.  Do not use the mind for the flesh so as to satisfy one's lusts," (Romans 13:11-14).

17.  Paul is speaking here to those who are sound asleep.  What's more, the people sound asleep are believers.  He says the time has come for them to wake up from their sleep.  Why is that?  It's because the time of salvation, that is, the time of the end is drawing close, even more since the time they entered the faith.  He did not take up the issue of how near it might be.  Even for us that is not the important point.  It is enough if we'd understand just that time doesn't go backwards and absolutely will not start back over.  Today more than yesterday and tomorrow more than today are certainly drawing nearer to the end.  If that's the case, we had best never be fast asleep [spiritually speaking].

18.  Waking up from sleep is to take off and throw away the works of darkness, Paul says.  The works of darkness are works that one can begin doing in darkness but of which one will only be ashamed when they are exposed to the light.  Paul gives specific types of examples of such: Drinking parties and drunkenness, debauchery and sensuality, strife and jealousy.  Paul says to take off and throw away what will only bring shame when exposed to the light.  We should never wear such wretched, mangy, worn-out clothes.  The reason we have our lives is not for wearing such things and staying in the place of darkness.  He says to put the Lord Jesus Christ on our bodies.  It means a new life connected to Jesus Christ.  In this way putting Jesus Christ on the body and walking in the light is indeed nothing other than living [with our spiritual eyes] awakened.

19.  Even as the Lord spoke on the day of the end, he calls into account what kind of thing our "now" is.  And, he commands [us] to "wake up."  By the way, in Matthew's Gospel the command "wake up" only appears four times.  Among two of those times it appears in the scene of [his] prayer in Gethsemane.  The words in Matthew 26:41 are symbolical.  "Wake up and pray so that you do not fall into temptation."  [This scene deals with] the imagery of the disciples who were fast asleep setting aside the Lord's sufferings.  Even more than simply being a depiction of Peter and the others there who were there [with Him], we should see in their image the image of the church superimposed.  The Lord told them and also to the church "Wake up and pray so that you do not fall into temptation."  By forfeiting prayer a person surely cannot live [with their spiritual eyes] awakened.

End Notes:
*The Apostles' Creed:

  The Apostles' Creed, a variation of the earlier 'Roman Creed' (AD 150), was said by Church tradition to have been composed jointly by the Twelve Apostles in Jerusalem. While there is some doubt as to whether each Apostle contributed a distinct element to the teaching, the creed was used by the early church and often divided into doctrinal questions asked to candidates for baptism.  Variations of the Creed appeared in the teachings of Marcellus, Bishop of Ancyra (AD 340), and an early sixth century Gallican Creed. The final form of the Apostles' Creed is found in a church document, "Dicta Abbatis," in AD 750.  Almost 2,000 years later, the Apostles' Creed still reflects the basic doctrine of the Church.


I Believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried
He descended into hell
The third day he rose again from the dead
He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand
Of God the Father Almighty
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church
The communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting
Amen.

 
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