How will we know when Judgment Day is near?

The Stevens family was planning a trip over the Thanksgiving weekend to visit relatives in northern Wisconsin. The initial game plan was that everyone in their family would pack for the trip on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, tidy up final packing needs before going to bed on Wednesday night, and basically just roll out of bed on Thursday morning and hit the road. You can probably guess how it really happened.

Tuesday night ended up being packed with piano lessons, dance class, a gymnastics workout and a basketball game. Wednesday afternoon they had to finish last minute laundry, get someone to watch the dog, and look for the luggage still buried in the attic from summer vacation. Wednesday evening they managed to finish the laundry and find the luggage, but they were all tired and figured they could get up early Thursday morning and pack for the trip. That ended up being a stressful disaster of the entire family needing the bathroom at the same time, crossing paths in the kitchen at the same time, and forgetting pillows, CD player batteries, and the fruit salad—not to mention leaving two hours late.

How will we know when Judgement Day is near? “Prepare!” is Jesus’ most revealing answer. Sure, Jesus instructs us about the “signs of the times” that alert us he is coming, as birth pains remind a pregnant mother it’s time to go to the hospital. And these signs have been happening ever since Jesus spoke about them: wars, hurricanes, violence, catastrophes. We hear about them on the news and they rightly remind us that we are only visiting this planet. Our real destiny is eternity. But when?

“No one knows about that day or hour,” Jesus explains (Matthew 24:36).

We all want to be ready for Judgement Day like the Stevens family wanted to be ready for their trip, but our lives are busy too. Are your bags packed for heaven right now or has the busyness of life left you hoping to get at it soon enough? If Jesus returns this afternoon, what would you regret leaving undone, unpacked, or unprepared? The people of Noah’s day knew the flood was coming. Crazy old Noah was building a huge ark in an area of the country that had no large body of water as an emergency alert to everyone that the flood was near, but they didn’t care. They didn’t believe it because they didn’t want to believe it. They were too involved in the busyness of their lives “eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage.” If any of us lets the busyness of life distract our attention from actively watching for Jesus, when Jesus comes we will be left behind for destruction. “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left” (Matthew 24:40,41).

When Jesus comes he will find people involved in everyday activities. The busyness of those activities will have so occupied the lives of some that they don’t expect the unexpected return of Jesus, and it catches them by surprise. Don’t be one of them. Expect the unexpected. Repent of falling asleep in a night of spiritual inactivity and live as a child of the day, watching diligently and actively waiting, preparing for that day, persevering in doing God’s will, and praying that you can help others prepare for the day when Jesus comes.

How will we know when Judgement Day is near? Jesus answers that question, not by putting a date on our calendars, but by filling our days with activities and attention so that we are ready whenever he does return. It could be tomorrow. It could be centuries from now. If he does come tomorrow or three months from now, however, don’t be surprised, saying, “Jesus is here?” Rather expect the unexpected and say, “Jesus is here!”

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