It is a scene that has played out in all of our lives at some point. We enter the classroom and sit down at our desks and prepare for class. The teacher walks in, begins instruction, and announces that there will be a pop quiz on the material assigned previously. Panic sets in: we have not prepared! What are we going to do?
In the classroom setting, sometimes being unprepared was not the end of the world. The grade could be made up in other ways. Perhaps we did not do so well in certain classes; that does not mean that we have failed in life.
On the other hand, what will be our fate if we are not prepared in our spiritual lives? God has established through the Scriptures that all people are on continual notice: the end could come at any time, and therefore people must live in a prepared state. How is this so? What can we do?
There are many who deny that the end will come quickly– they believe that the end will be observable by various signs and that mankind will have many chances to repent before the actual end comes. The Scriptures, however, reveal a different story. The time that mankind has been given to repent is right now (Acts 17:30-31); in fact, the reason why the end has not yet come is so that mankind may have that chance to repent (2 Peter 3:8-9). The end will come “like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
How and when the end would come was a concern of Jesus’ disciples, and they felt compelled to ask Him about it (cf. Matthew 24:3). Jesus does not give them a fixed moment in time, nor does He establish a particular set of events that would take place that would indicate that the end was coming. Instead, He compares that time to the time of Noah and Lot (Matthew 24:37-38, Luke 17:26-30): just as people were going about their daily lives in the times of those men, entirely unconcerned about God, and calamity came upon them, so it will be in the end. Jesus then establishes in a series of parables His essential message: be ready, for you do not know the day or the hour (Matthew 24:42-25:13). In all of these images, we do not see any “second chances” given: the door is shut, and there can be no entrance!
Let us consider Matthew 24:45-51:
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath set over his household, to give them their food in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, that he will set him over all that he hath. But if that evil servant shall say in his heart, ‘My lord tarrieth’; and shall begin to beat his fellow-servants, and shall eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he expecteth not, and in an hour when he knoweth not, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.”
There is a day of judgment coming; we know not when precisely it will be. Nevertheless, we do not have to live in fear of that day: we can live our lives as servants of God daily and therefore have no need to fear, just like the faithful and wise servant. When we were in school, if we did well at always studying when we ought, we would never have need to be worried about the pop quiz. The same is true in our spiritual lives: if we are always striving to obey God, we have no need to worry about His return. Are you prepared? Consider the fate of evil servant: do you want to be where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth? Repent today, and get ready for the Lord’s return!
Ethan R. Longhenry