In the village of Blockley in Gloucestershire, England, Joanna Southcott, won national attention due to her belief that she would bear the second Messiah, to be named Shiloh. Through the centuries many have harbored such delusions. The Shakers believed that as God came once in the male, Jesus, God would later to earth in the female, Mother Ann Lee. But Jesus is unique. There was only one Messiah prophesied. Only one Messiah came and lived a sinless life. Only one Messiah died a sacrificial death. Only one Messiah rose from the dead. Only one Messiah is coming again. There is no one like the Lord Jesus, and there never will be.
The very name Jesus, at Christmas time reminds us what it is all about. Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our lifework, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with Him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent splendor.
There is coming a time (yet no one knows the day or hour) when God will call all believers to Heaven. We call that moment the Rapture. Revelation tells us one of God’s angels will swing a sickle and gather the believers unto God. Paul writes, We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. One moment we are here and the next moment we are gone!
The New Testament writers speak of Christ’s returning “soon” or “quickly,” with the apparent expectation that he might return in the writers’ own lifetime. The meaning of returning “soon” is that it would happen “at any moment.” It is like my phone- answering machine. The message informs the caller that I am away from my desk but will return “soon.” I use the same message whether I expect to be gone two minutes or two weeks for the very simple reason that I want to encourage the person without revealing exactly how long I will be gone! James Sullivan points out that when it comes to the return of our Lord, “God did not put me on His Time & Place Committee; he put me on His Preparation Committee.”
What about the ones left behind? Think about it. All at once something has happened! Some of your friends who were here this morning are gone. All of the children have disappeared. Everyone is talking about this large number of people that are missing. There is a fear that grips your heart and soul. You are confused and wonder what you should do. Could it possibly be the rapture that you have heard about but never believed?
There is now a voice whispering in your ear that it is too late to have any hope. The little Ball City Baptist Church near the tiny town of Luck, North Carolina, has been closed for years. Young people moved way from the community. The older members died out one by one. But if you passed the church today you would not know that it was no longer operating. The grass is mowed, the windows are washed, the bushes are trimmed. If you looked in a window you would see artificial flowers on the pulpit, a clean floor and everything ready in case the church is ever needed again. It is all done by one 74 year old woman. Her husband was the last deacon of the church. When it closed he decided to keep it up in case it was ever needed again. Since his death his widow has carried on. Barring an unexpected growth in population the church is not likely to re-open. In a way, we do all our Christian work in the same spirit, making sure the church is always ready — and making sure we are always ready — for that day in the future when Jesus comes. But what about the one that isn’t ready?
The best way to prepare for the coming of Christ is never to forget the presence of Christ. There is still hope! But, there are two very important things that you must do and do quickly. If you fail to do these two things, you will be lost for sure. Salvation is an act of faith and at this moment you must act.
First, you must do exactly what every believer who is now missing had to do and that is confess Jesus Christ as Lord of your life. Jesus said, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” God has always offered us His love. That love has been unconditional. But we must accept that love or it is of no value. Whether we accept that love under “normal” conditions or out of fear, the importance is found in accepting that love.
Second, our acceptance of God comes with obedience to God’s will. At the end of time there will be a world leader who will offer us a “mark” which will allow us to buy and sell with great ease. In order to get the mark, we have to sell our souls to the devil. The Christian will refuse the “mark” and will be cut off from commerce. You will give up the “mark” and probably be persecuted and have to flee for your life. You may even lose your life, but you will have gained your soul.
The love and grace of God is far greater than what we can even begin to imagine. The Lord told us not only to wait for him but to watch for him, and he has pronounced a special blessing on those who watch. The difference between waiting and watching is illustrated in a story told of a Scotch fishing village. After days at sea, the skipper of a fishing boat was bringing his craft back home. As the boat neared the shore, the men gazed eagerly toward the dock, where a group of their loved ones were waiting. The skipper, looking through his glass, identified some of the women, saying, “I see Bill’s Mary, and there is Tom’s Margaret, and David’s Anne.” One man was very anxious because his wife was not there. He left the boat with a heavy heart and pressed his steps up the hill, where he saw a light in his cottage. As he opened the door, his wife ran to meet him, saying, “I have been waiting for you!” He replied with a proper rebuke, “Yes, but the other men’s wives were watching for them.”
Come, Lord Jesus, come!