NOW AND THEN
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
May 13, 2018
35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
— Luke 12:35-48, ESV
Every now and then, during His first advent on earth, our Lord Jesus Christ would take some time to talk about His second coming. The information He provides is never intended to make us so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good. Quite the contrary, the prophetic words of Christ are intended to motivate us in the now, in the present, to be better servants of the King and the kingdom of God.
This is enough for now, but we want to know about then, too. What exactly will happen when Jesus returns to earth for all to see as the Bible promises? According to Jesus, there will be three types of people on earth who will be divided into two camps. One group will get indescribable blessings, while the other one will receive varying degrees of dreadful punishment.
If you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, if you believe that the Messiah has come and lived, died, rose again, and ascended into Heaven, and if you believe He is coming back again with reward and punishment, then there are a few things you should do, right now.
Pinch yourself. Make sure you are awake. “Blessed are those … awake,” Jesus said. Social activists in our day are capitalizing on this metaphor to make a difference now in the arenas of racial and gender equality. Such things are indeed important, but Jesus paints a word picture here with spiritual colors. Awake and awakening are words in scripture and history that speak of the special work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The kingdom of God, now, consists only of those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit. They have been convicted of sin and convinced that Jesus is Lord and Savior. They have been granted repentance and faith and have expressed such toward God. Christ is King, now, and the kingdom of God exists wherever and in whomever Jesus is Lord. Make sure, right now, you are one of the ones “awake” and not just sleep walking in the kingdom of God.
You will know, now, looking at your clothes, or the lack thereof. Jesus said, “Stay dressed,” and in the original language is reads more like “keep your skirt on” (or even more literally, your girdle). This is a commandment for Christian guys and gals to always wear your work cloths, or at least have them ready to put on at a moment’s notice, like a fireman.
There is always work to be done in the kingdom of God, and true Christians reveal themselves by clothing themselves in Christian armor and doing the work. The “master of the house” is the Head of the church, and real servants of the Lord always have their armor on, whether inside or outside of the sacred buildings. In vocation and recreation they are always working and resting in the Lord, and you can identify them the moment you see them by what they are wearing and the fruit they are bearing.
Awakening comes and fruit flows out of those who “keep your lamps burning,” now and always. Light is a key spiritual symbol, too, representing the word of God to a believer and the presence of God within a believer. Those in whom the Holy Spirit resides have spiritual hunger, a hunger that can only be satisfied with the word of God, the Bible. We have it, now, we read it, now, and we obey it, now and always.
There is plenty of action to take, now, as believers in Jesus Christ, but all of our present actions should flow out of a persistent attitude. We should engage in worship and do our work with the mindset that God is watching, now, and Christ could return at any moment. For He is and He can.
There is one more thing about the servants of the Lord, the true Christians, in the now. We are “blessed” and we live in a state of blessing, right now. The word Jesus chose to use here is the same work which kicks off the eight “beatitudes” at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel’s “Sermon on the Mount.” It speaks of a peace greater than prosperity and a joy deeper than happiness. Christians have it, and know it, now. And we will have it and know it in even greater ways, then, when Jesus Christ returns.
These words about now and then are not just an edifying message for saved people, but an evangelistic message for lost people, inside and outside of the membership of the church. Hearken back to my introduction, when I told you there are three types of people in the world which will be divided in the end into two. They are true Christians, false Christians or hypocrites, and other non-Christians who possess and profess no faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. An uneven but eternal fate awaits us all.
The “marriage supper of the Lamb” is a metaphor the Bible uses to describe the second coming of Christ and the reunion all believers of all time will enjoy with Jesus Christ, then, when He comes again. The image is used by Christ in this parable, describing a time in the future when believers’ blessings become exponential, when the most exquisite fellowship will be shared by God with all those whose sins have been atoned for by “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
What a day that will be, then, when Jesus Christ comes again. All “awake” servants will be “blessed,” but those who served on difficult watches seem to be doubly blessed. This could be one of those passages in the Bible that indicate a varying degree of reward among the saved. But we cannot go too far with such suggestions, for Heaven will be glorious for all who are there, then, and all rewards and crowns will ultimately be laid to rest at Jesus’ feet.
But while there may or may not be different degrees of rewards in Heaven, there will definitely be different levels of punishment in Hell. For then, when Christ comes again, He will not only bring the “marriage supper of the Lamb,” but also the “wrath of the Lamb” to earth.
Hell for hypocrites will be like being “cut … in pieces” or a “severe beating.” There will be the pastors and preachers who used the high office in the church to extort money, sex, and other things from their followers. There will be the many souls who walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, then could not be found in the pews during the public worship Almighty God. There will be the millions of professing Christians who cannot genuinely confess faith in Christ and faithfulness to Christ. Theirs will be the severest of the punishment.
What about those other “unfaithful” people who will face Jesus, then, at His second coming? Let me share part of a parable I learned from my old professor, Haddon Robinson. Two men robbed a bank, one wore a mask and the other did not. Both were caught and pled guilty to their crimes before a judge. The one who did not wear the mask appealed for leniency. After all, he wasn’t a hypocrite (a word which means to literally wear a mask), he said. What do you think happened to the two men?
I do not link lenient is a word that will be used in Hell. Even though Jesus declares that unfaithful people who made no pretense of being Christian will “receive a light beating,” it is a beating, still. Nobody wants this, then, so we all better do something about it, now.
Now and Then
Now, God sees us, all of us. He looks upon the world with love, through eyes of grace and mercy, extending a command to all to repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. With eyes more invasive than any Santa Claus, and He knows if we are being obedient, disobedient, or disdainful to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the word of God. God sees whether we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ or rolling in the rags of sin. Now, God sees us, all of us.
Then, we will see God. “Every eye will see Him.” Jesus Christ, in whom “all the fulness of deity dwells in bodily form,” will return to earth. He will not come to save, but to settle all scores. He will reward and He will condemn. The three groups will be separated into two, then one enjoys Heaven and the other endures Hell.
In the last words of the Bible, the Apostle John gave the testimony of a man who was then ready to see Jesus, face to face. “Amen, come Lord Jesus!” Can you say this, now? Are you ready, now? Because it does and it will matter, now and then.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org