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Reading: Luke cli 21

God € s full purpose with this earth and with man has been long before ordained. The script was written long ages ago and scene by scene it has been played out now for six thousand years. We hold the programme in our hands. The last act € and it will be a short one € is now about to begin. Then, very shortly, the final curtain will come down upon the kingdoms of men.

Christ € s coming cannot be a minute late, a minute overdue; but that it is now due is the assurance and the warning that the words of Jesus give to us in our New Testament reading for today (Luke 21). It is written: € When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son. € On that day, long before decided, the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. Because time is only relevant to mortal life, we are apt to think that God is unconcerned with the passing of days or months. This is not so. The three days and three nights of Christ € s death had been appointed before to the minute, and at that moment the angels came and rolled away the stone for Christ to come forth. At the end of forty days Christ took farewell of his disciples and the angels were there to reassure them that he would appear, would return on the day appointed. It was Paul who declared that God has set apart a day when He will rule the world in righteousness, and to this end was Christ born and for that cause came he into the world.

Now that day is upon us. Let no-dne doubt its nearness. The fulness of the time has again arrived.

We would like to reflect, by way of exhortation, on the actual moment of his coming and on our personal involvement, what it will mean to you and to me. There are a number of clearly stated facts upon which we can base our thoughts, and some of these are in the chapter for today. The first difficulty is to appreciate the reality of that moment, of his bodily return, of the visible appearance to us of the angels that will attend him. It is at that moment that all our probations will end, in an instant, We will be made aware of the passing nature of everything that up to that moment has seemed so permanent: our present lives, our relationships, our marriages, our homes, our business affairs, family life, ecclesial life, every possession of every kind. Just as Lot was taken out of Sodom, even more suddenly shall we be taken by angelic power to Christ, just ourselves as separate individuals, each made aware that the Master has come and calls for us, for you, for me.

All present worries, all anxieties, all pain, all problems will then cease. The former things are to pass away.

Another fact that is emphasized by both parable and by plain speaking is that no time will he allowed for any wrongs to be righted, any bad habits to be broken, any good habits to be formed, any talents to be used. As we are at the moment of his coming, so shall we be in the moment of judgment. It will be for each one of us a moment of absolute truth. Nothing will be hid from the eyes of our Judge. It is written that he is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. The foolish virgins will learn, to their eternal cost, that there is for them time no longer. The several verses that refer specifically to the judgment provide more facts. It is a personal judgment, not a group one. An accounting will be called for from each of us. How our talents € and we all have talents € have been used, or abused, what services we have rendered to Christ (that is, to our brethren and sisters) or what services we have withheld.

Whenever Christ has referred to his coming again € and he did so often € he added other facts and always warnings, He foresaw that some would be found so indifferent regarding his coming, as to its nearness, that they would be continuing to beat their fellow-servants with harsh words, with an absence of love, right up to the last moment. Others would be caught up in the love of material possessions and fail to see that they were but stewards of what had been committed to them. Can we imagine having feelings of regret that we are called to leave what we value and prize so highly? This state of affairs we have no difficulty in seeing in the ecclesial world about us.

Yet another fact, and thank God for it, is the emphasis that mercy will rejoice over judgment. Christ will know that we have done what we could, that in all our weakness and wretchedness we tried. Our faith would never have removed mountains or even little hills, yet it was strong enough for us to accept trials. Our faith was strong enough to shape characters, to exhibit fruits of the spirit where the lusts of the flesh would come uppermost. The whole object of Christ € s life of suffering, as is commemorated in these emblems of his death, was that we should be forgiven sinners. For that cause came he preaching, healing, teaching. He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, among whom we number ourselves, and that moment of truth in judgment will declare it.

Yet further details are given of the immediate bestowal of spirit nature and the raising of every accepted saint to the full status of children of God. Paul describes at length this change of nature.

So with this in mind let us come back to our immediate present, the coming moment of the return of Jesus. The time of the day or night is immaterial. That will differ according to the country the responsible living and dead are in. The presence of the angel of Deity will force home the reality of what is happening. Some try to speculate as to the consternation, the bewilderment of our neighbours, those we leave behind, when we are taken. This is completely immaterial. We know our young children will be in the Divine care and protection; it is written that voices such as theirs will be heard as they are playing happily in the streets of Jerusalem. But for each one of us, as for every saint, no thought will be given to anything save the account we have to render. The angel will hasten us away to the seat of judgment, and all that matters so much to us now, that absorbs our energies, our concentration, will matter no more. The words € God willing € will then have their final application. Our next awareness will be in the presence of Christ, in front of him. If our sins € please listen carefully € if our sins are forgiven at the moment of his coming, then acceptance will follow as a matter of course. If absence of repentance, if a continuance of wilful disobedience has prevented forgiveness, then only the exercise of additional mercy can eternally save us.

The parable teaches us the futility of excuses. € Lord, when saw we thee hungry. . . naked . . and did not minister to thee? € All around us are examples. Only the spiritually blind must fail to see them. With this realization, is it possible for any root of bitterness to remain that might hinder our prayers and our acceptance to Deity? God forbid. May none of us be so incredibly stupid as to fail to see the essential nature of our probation. Much emphasis is placed by Christ upon love and upon compassion. He expects to see it in practice among us. € With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. €

The generation alive at the moment of his coming, that is, our generation, is to be subjected to especial perils, and all these arise, not from outside, as in the past, but from the lusts of our flesh, and they are a denial of the fruits of the Spirit. The object of probation is to effect change from hour to hour as that moment of his coming is prepared for. There is urgency in those words, € Him that is filthy, let him be filthy still. € No time then for forgiveness to clean. No time then for repentance. So each passing minute and hour is of urgent importance. It is obvious that Christ abominates spiritual laziness, the putting off of the act of repentance. Repentance is more than words, more than intentions. There is action in the words of Christ.

there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar € € go and be reconciled, then come and pray to God for forgiveness. The onus to perform repentance to good works is upon every brother and every sister. It is this that leaves us forgiven and accepted.

So we look again at ourselves in that moment of awareness that Christ is here. Will the angel who reveals himself as our informant that Christ is here be the one who has followed and overruled each hour of our probation? It would seem appropriate. The quiet authority of Almighty Power: € Be not afraid. Come. € In the days of his mortality Christ was very critical of those who failed to see the prior claim of God € s affairs. The response then was voluntary. Right at the start his own mother and Joseph failed to appreciate it. They thought they had precedence. But nothing took the place of the claims of his Father: € Wist ye not that I must be about my Father € s business? € Later there were those who put other matters first. € Let me first go and bury my father. € € Let me first go € and do this or do that. They had a choice and many turned away. The majority want to live giving priority to their own affairs, neglecting the call of the gospel for the more obvious and, to them, seemingly more pressing claims of present living, worldly ambitions. Then there will be no turning back, no excuse accepted to delay answering the summons. We will not be allowed a minute to put right something we have put off doing. No family tie, no business demands or home necessities or ecclesial duties will be able to delay for a second the response to that command: € Come. €

As we sit here this morning, and as we go away to our homes, to our meals, making the essential movements for the continuance of our living, the things of which we have been speaking will seem unreal, fanciful. They are not. They are the only real things in our lives. They are both factual and imminent, but so difficult to appreciate and to imagine, so weak is our faith and our spiritual sight.

So as this present existence ends, as it will, so will begin the new events of the judgment and the kingdom. Just as Christ looked upon Peter, and as he looked with pity and with compassion upon so many as he went about doing good, so it will be with eternal strength, with abundance of mercy, that he will look upon each one of his brethren and sisters. € You did what you could. € Surrounded by the angelic hosts, nothing will interrupt the moments of judgment; no hurry, no impatience € except with those who argue and rant, € Have I not preached in thy name? € € Didn € t I hold office twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years? € But with all the affection and Divine love he will look on those who only want mercy and forgiveness. € Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. € The meek, the humble, the fearful, the contrite in heart, it is to those € to us € that the hands of Christ will be stretched out. The happy angels will draw us among themselves, He will then € see of the travail of his soul, and be (very) satisfied. € It was for these, for such as you and me, that he was stricken and afflicted. These were those whose burden of sins he had borne: those stripes he had suffered for our healing.

This is the message of these emblems every week.

So separately, yet together, in that moment of judgment, the fellowship of the children of the family of God will be made up. Many, many sons and daughters will be brought to glory. The affairs, the trappings, of the present order will not come into mind. Each saint will step forward into eternity with bodies and minds perfected by the Spirit of Deity. Each saint will experience € and there will be no moment like it- € that unforgettable moment with inexpressible happiness as their vile bodies are changed and fashioned like unto his glorious body. No more weakness. This is yet another fact of Divine revelation.

While it is true that it is as an individual that we shall be judged and rewarded, from that moment on it will be as one of the Divine family with whom we shall share eternity that we shall live and work. Loneliness will be impossible. There will always be the happy association of those similarly redeemed. For thousands of years many have lain in their graves because God had decreed that they without us should not be made perfect. And now the promise of Pentecost is realized, such an outpouring of Spirit power as never before. The immediate work of Christ and his saints is before them. The itinerary is set out in prophecy: the Jewish nation to be saved, the Middle East stabilized, David € s throne re-established, the law to go forth from Zion, the apostasy to be destroyed for all time, nations compelled to submit, the whole earth brought under Divine control, filled with His glory. € This honour have all his saints. €

In making all things new, the former things will have passed away. As Christ spoke those words to his disciples, and as they looked across at the beauty of the temple, much of this would have been in his mind. He was to be taken by wicked hands shortly and crucified. This was the way of redemption for himself and for his brethren and sisters. It was the joy set before him, however, that was the reality. The short months of pain and suffering, the agony of the cross, were bearable because he saw so clearly the purpose of his Father, and it was this that he sought to convey to his listening disciples, and, through the generations, to us.

We must not remain impressed by the apparent stability of huge stones. They will be thrown down € they were € and we are to keep our hearts and eyes fixed on his coming again. They were not to become too involved in present life, and to us the exhortation is even stronger. They had so little to become involved in. We have so much. Their lives were so simple € avoiding persecution; ours are so complicated. Their days went by at a walking pace, with time to think; our days go by in a jet age, with calendars marked a year ahead with appointments and arrangements. So to us comes the warning: € Take heed, watch, pray, prepare. € We see the things of which he spoke all visible about us, Some, indeed, have become history. For many years now the sign of the fig tree has proclaimed its message. The power of the working classes has developed and today the sea and the waves are roaring to the fullest extent possible. The stability of past generations has gone and it has been replaced by fear and perplexity. We look up, and as we do we see an eager Messiah ready and poised, prepared to return and take his kingdom.

Truly, just a little while, a very little while, and € he that shall come, will come. € Let our hearts combine in the prayer: € Even so, come € please € Lord Jesus. € : € C. Parks