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Well, we come now to the 12th chapter of the gospel of Luke again, moving through these lengthy chapters, being so greatly enriched by the teaching of our Lord Jesus.  And we find ourselves in Luke chapter 12 verses 41 through 48.  It is that paragraph to which we direct our attention this morning.  Let me read it to you because it's good to have it in mind, particularly when it's a parable, as it is, a story that is memorable, easy to hold onto.

Verse 41, Luke 12, "And Peter said, 'Lord, are You addressing this parable to us or to everyone else as well?'  And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward whom his master will put in charge of his servants to give them their rations at the proper time?  Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.  Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.  But if that slave says in his heart, my master will be a long time in coming.  And begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that slave 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 assign him a place with the unbelievers.  And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will shall receive many lashes.  But the one who did not know it and committed deeds worthy of a flogging will receive but few.  And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required.  And to him they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.'"

It's a simple story really, typical of the kinds of stories that Jesus told.  In fact, there are many variations on this same story.  In fact we just looked at one in the very antecedent passage, verses 36 to 38, a very similar story about a master who went away and was at a wedding and was coming back at a time that was not predetermined and his servants needed to be ready.  And when he showed up to give an account for how they had managed his affairs while he was gone.  Here is the very same kind of story.  And as I say, you find them in...elsewhere in Luke and you find them in Mark and you find them in Matthew, very similar stories.  In a world of masters and slaves, this was life.  And in a world that was not so defined by the clock and schedules and predetermined transportation and all of that, it was a little bit unsure as to when things were going to happen and when people were going to come and go.  And masters had to go to do their business and leave their affairs in the hands of servants whom they assumed to be faithful in discharging the responsibility to sustain the life in their care.  This is one of those stories.

There is a master who has servants.  He goes away and puts them in charge and tells them to oversee the distribution of the household commodities to the appropriate usages among the people who were there to feed them, care for them.  And when that master comes back, if he finds a servant who has done exactly what he was told to do, he's going to bless him and he's going to give him more responsibility because he's proven himself.  On the other hand, if he comes back and finds a...a servant who rather than care for the people who were put in his charge and dispense the food and the resources needed has on the other hand abused the people and harmed the people and beaten the people, both men and women, and indulged himself so that he becomes gluttonous and drunk, when the master comes back it's not going to go well for that servant; in fact, pretty dramatic dealing with that servant.  Verse 46 says, "The master will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers."  Pretty severe action, isn't it?

And then there's the possibility that there were some other servants who weren't as blake...blatant or flagrant in their disobedience and they'll receive many lashes.  And then there were some who really didn't know what they were supposed to do and they'll receive a few lashes.  But it's really all about stewardship. It's all about how you handle your opportunity under the master.

Now all of this is built around verse 40, where Jesus says, "You too be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect."  I'm coming back in an hour you do not expect and you need to be ready.  Back in verse 35 He started and gave four little analogies of readiness.  Have your loins girded up.  Get your clothes on.  Be ready to move. That's a picture of readiness.  The second one was, get your lamps lit. Don't be in the dark. Be alert. Be aware. Be watchful.  The third one is, be like servants who don't exactly know when the master is coming back from a wedding feast. And the fourth one is, be like a householder who knows a thief is coming, just doesn't know when, so he's ready all the time.  Those are images of readiness. “You too be ready,” He says in verse 40, “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.”

So we've already been introduced, starting in verse 35, to this great reality of truth that Jesus is coming back.  The Son of Man, messianic title for the Lord Jesus, is coming back, as Daniel 7 says, to take His kingdom, the kingdom the Father will give to Him as the rightful heir to the universe, to the earth and to all its inhabitants.

The final earthly scene in the life of our Lord happened out on the Mount of Olives one day, forty days after His resurrection, when Jesus ascended into heaven.  He was there talking with His followers and all of a sudden He ascended into heaven in the clouds and disappeared.  And according to Acts chapter 1 verses 6 to 11 two angels appeared in human form as men and said, "Why are you gazing into heaven?  This same Jesus who is taken up from you shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven."  The last scene was His going. That's the last earthly scene of our Lord Jesus and it set the stage for the next.  "Just as He went, so He will come," physically, bodily, with clouds and angels.  Jesus is coming back to earth.  And it's not a spiritual coming because His ascension wasn't a spiritual going. It was a real, incarnational, physical, literal ascending.  And that's exactly how He will come and He will come. That is a fact, an expected return, but at an unexpected time.

And so, we are called then to be ready all the time since none of us knows when that will happen.  And even though it's been a couple of thousand years, that might seem like a long time for the church to be waiting for His return, we remember the words of Peter who said, "A day with the Lord is like 1,000 years, and 1,000 years like a day."  The Second Coming of Jesus Christ is a cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith.  It is not minor, it is not unimportant, it is not secondary or tertiary, it is critical. It is a substantial reality in our faith.  In fact, in some ways the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is the most important of events because it's the end of the story, because the Second Coming consummates everything, everything.  To minimize the Second Coming is to minimize everything else because this is the finale, the culmination.  His return consummates the history of the world and the history of redemption and the fulfillment of all God's pledges and promises and covenants and threats and warnings. All blessing and all judgment in its final disposition is connected with the coming of Jesus Christ.  World history seems sometimes to be careening sort of helter-skelter, pell-mell into blackness, sort of uncontrolled.  But that is not the case.  While men's behavior becomes less and less controlled, the very movement of history is under the sovereign control of God, who is moving it inexorably, exactly to the point which He has predetermined, and that is the return of Jesus Christ.

Scripture is very clear on this.  And it's very clear on what's going to happen when Jesus comes.  First, His coming will be launched when He raptures the church, gathers the redeemed church to Himself, glorifies them in their heavenly home and rewards them.  Then He will unleash a time of tribulation on the earth, a horrific time of judgment that will literally alter the universe as we know it as well as bring about horrific destruction and death.  During that time, however, Israel will see the One they have pierced, repent, be saved. A fountain of cleansing will be opened to them.  They will embrace their Messiah and God's promise through Romans chapter 11 of the salvation of Israel will be fulfilled.  There will be then conversion of people from every tongue and tribe and nation at that same time, even while unparalleled judgment is going on in the world.  At the end of that time, the Lord will come, destroy the ungodly of the world, establish His kingdom, take the believers into the glorious 1,000-year kingdom.  He will bind Satan and demons for the duration of that 1,000 years.  And then at the end, let them loose and they will gather unbelievers who have been born during that kingdom and not believed in Christ.  They will gather into a final rebellion. Christ will destroy them all at that rebellion.  All unbelievers will then be from all the ages brought before the Great White Throne Judgment of God and they will be sent into the Lake of Fire in resurrection bodies suited for that suffering forever.  The Lord will then disintegrate the universe as we know it, create a new heaven and a new earth, which becomes the infinitely righteous and perfect dwelling place for the godly in the presence of God forever.

That's how the story ends, and all those components are laid out in Scripture.  I'm not speculating.  I'm not writing Christian fiction.  That is what the Bible says.  So let me sort of sort it out a little bit for you.  When we talk about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, we're talking about the events that necessitate Jesus' coming being brought to their culmination, and their fruition, and their fulfillment, and their realization.

To show you how critical this is on a broad level, let me just take you through a little list.  Jesus must return because the promise of God demands it. The promise of God demands it.  In the Old Testament, Psalm 2, God promised that His Son would come and be King and rule with a rod of iron over the nations of the world.  That has never happened.  In Isaiah, the prophet said that this Son would have the government of the world upon His shoulders.  That has never happened.  Micah chapter 4 speaks of His rule.  Zechariah 14 says He will come and He will come and set His feet on the Mount of Olives and split the mountain and create a valley and a river flowing into the desert.  And from there He will reign and rule in the glory of His kingdom.  In fact, there are hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament of the Messiah that were not fulfilled in His first coming.  Some have estimated 330 prophecies at least of Christ, maybe 100 fulfilled in His first coming, which leaves a couple 100 more to be fulfilled in His Second Coming.

And even the angel Gabriel said to Mary, "He will be great, called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord will give Him the throne of His father David.  He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and His kingdom will have no end."  This is the promise of God, the promise of a great kingdom and the coming of the Messiah to establish it.  The promise of God demands the return of Christ.

Secondly, the claims of Christ Himself demand it.  Jesus repeatedly said that He was coming, that the Son of Man would come.  He says it here.  He says it repeatedly.  You find it in all the gospels, in Matthew, in Mark, in Luke, in John, that He's coming, that He's away for a while preparing a place but He's coming back, that He's coming to take His own, that He's also coming in judgment.  This is His own promise and His own Word is at stake.

Thirdly, the testimony of the Holy Spirit demands it.  The integrity of the Trinity is at issue here, friends.  God promises the coming of Christ.  Christ Himself promises His coming.  And the Holy Spirit promises it through the Scripture.  The Holy Spirit is the One who inspired the prophets to speak of His coming to set up His Kingdom.  The Holy Spirit is the One who inspired Paul.  The Holy Spirit is the One who inspired Peter.  The Holy Spirit is the One who inspired John.  The Holy Spirit is the One who inspired James and Jude and the writer of Hebrews.  And they all refer to the return of Christ to establish His glory.

And so, God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit all promise it and that demands it.  Number four, the future of the church demands it.  The church has been told that we're looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Titus 2:13.  That's what we're looking for.  We're looking for Christ.  First Thessalonians 1:10, "We are waiting for His Son from heaven."  He's gone to prepare a place for us. He'll be back to take us to be with Himself.  In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye we'll be changed and taken into His presence.  “At the trump, at the voice of the archangel, the dead in Christ will rise first and we'll be gathered to meet Him in the air and will ever be with the Lord.”  These are all promises to the church and the future of the church depends on it.  We're told there will be a judgment seat at which we will be rewarded for our service to Christ.  Paul writes of that in 1 Corinthians.  We're told that there will be a marriage supper of the Lamb where we'll sit down and feast with our...with our bridegroom when He takes us to be with Himself. Revelation 19 describes that great event.  The Bridegroom is coming for His bride.  We are pictured in expectation. We are pictured even in the pictures of brides waiting for a bridegroom to come.  And the future of the church demands that the bridegroom come and take His bride to the prepared home that He has made ready for her.

Number five, the corruption of the world demands it.  The last chapter of world history will not be written by Adam and Eve and Satan in the Garden.  The last chapter of world history will not be the curse.  The last chapter will be the coming of the Messiah who is the rightful heir to this world, who has a right to take the title deed to the earth, and He does it in Revelation 5, takes it out of the hand of God on the throne, unrolls the title deed to the earth, breaks the seven seals, sets loose the judgment of the tribulation.  The seven seals followed by the seven trumpets followed by the seven bowls and out of that judgment then He takes over this world and establishes His kingdom and it's a kingdom of peace and righteousness, it's a Kingdom that's completely different.  The desert blossoms like a rose, righteousness pervades the earth and the knowledge of God is everywhere and joy dominates, and Christ rules with a rod of iron and we who are His saints who have been taken to heaven come back to reign with Him and saved Israel receives their promised kingdom.  And the world is a paradise regained.  The corruption of the world is not the last story.  This world will be judged and it will be altered and changed and taken to something like its original Eden.  Christ will come as judge.  He will bring about destruction, devastation and death on the ungodly and establish His righteous kingdom.

And the last chapter of this world will be written by Jesus Christ when He returns and establishes a kingdom of righteousness.  And this world for that final 1,000 years will be as close to what God intended it to be when He created it originally, as close as it can be in its sin-cursed condition.  That won't completely be eliminated because there will still be sin in the kingdom because human beings will go into the kingdom who are saved during the tribulation.  They'll have children who will even reject Christ.  But Christ will rule with a rod of iron and righteousness and truth and holiness will prevail.   So the corruption of the world is not the end of the story.  The corruption of the world demands the last chapter to be written by Christ.

Number six, Jesus must come because the covenant He made with Israel demands it.  The covenant He made with Israel demands it.  Paul reminds us in Romans 11 that all Israel will be saved.  There is coming a time of Israel's salvation.  Israel will be gathered back into the land, Ezekiel says, and they will be the dry bones that come to life.  They will be given life.  They will come back.  They will receive the gospel truth.  They will have their stony heart removed.  They will be given a heart of flesh.  God's Spirit will be put within them.  They will be the recipients of New Covenant salvation.  Zechariah describes it as a fountain of cleansing will be open to them because they look on Him whom they've pierced and mourn for Him as an only Son, and they will be washed from their sins and from their iniquities.  God has promised the salvation of Israel.  He has promised to them that being saved they will then receive the kingdom.  The covenant with Israel demands that Christ come and fulfill His promise.

Number seven, the vindication of Christ Himself demands His return.  Are we to think that the last view the world will ever have of Jesus is Him hanging on a cross, naked in shame?  No unbelievers saw Him after that.  When He rose from the dead He was seen only by those who believed in Him.  There were no appearances to the Romans.  There were no appearances to the Jewish leaders.  There were no appearances to the populace.  The last view the world has of Jesus is hanging on a cross.  But that will not be its last view.  He will be vindicated.  Matthew chapter 24 in very concise and yet very clear and dramatic language explains.  Listen to what Jesus Himself says, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky and the powers of the heavens will be shaken." God turns out all the lights in the universe at the end of the time of the tribulation.  It's a horrific thing.  And in that blackness, it says, "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky."  Not the whole world, by any means, saw Him on the cross.  The whole world is going to see Him next time and they're going to see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.  And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet. They will gather together His elect from the four winds from one end of the sky to the other.  And then it goes on to say He's going to punish the wicked.

That's going to be the final view the world is going to have of Jesus, at least the world prior to His glorious kingdom.  Christ will be vindicated.  This is the testimony in a number of other places in the Scripture, and this is His own testimony, that He is coming to be glorified.  John writes in Revelation 1:7, "Behold, He's coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him."  Everybody is going to see Him, everybody.  The vindication of Christ means He has to come.

Number eight, the judgment of Satan demands His coming.  The ruler of this world will be cast out. The ruler of this world will be destroyed.  The ruler of this world will be finally vanquished, defeated.  He will be bound during the...taken prisoner in a chain, Revelation 20 says, and he will be bound for 1,000 years with this demons, at the end of which he will be loosed for a little while, lead the rebellion at the end of the kingdom, then all of them will be destroyed and sent into the Lake of Fire to be punished forever and ever.  The judgment of Satan demands this.  Satan will not have the last word in human history.

Number nine, the hope of believers demands it.  He already said that.  We live in the hope of the glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are waiting for God's Son from heaven.  This is our hope.  We are groaning along with rest of creation, eager for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to liberate us and to free us from sin and this cursed world. “I consider,” writes Paul, “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  And he calls it the anxious longing, the anxious longing.  We are saved, he says, in hope, we are saved in hope.  And what are we hoping for?  “We groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons and the redemption of our body.”  We want Christ to come because He promises when He comes we're going to get new bodies and be glorified, sinless bodies.  This is our hope.

And number ten, the groaning of the whole creation demands it.  Romans 8, that same section, verses 18 to 22, says the whole creation groans, the whole creation.  It sort of personifies creation as experiencing the pain of the curse and wanting the glorious revealing of the Son of God and the sons of God so that they too can be liberated in the millennial blessing.

God's promise, Christ's promise, the Spirit's promise, the future of the church, the future of the world, the future of Israel, the future of Christ, the future of Satan, the future of believers, and the future of creation itself all demand that Jesus return.  This is not a minor issue. .This is the end of the whole story.  And He is coming.

Now let's go back to the 12th chapter.  Verse 40, we don't know when so the point is “you too be ready for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect,” that you do not expect.  Now this is pretty riveting teaching from our Lord.  And it certainly captures the minds of the listeners.  And in verse 41, Peter, speaking on behalf of the rest, He was the spokesman, I'm certain that this was on everybody's mind and as most often Peter is the spokesman for the group. Peter said, "Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?"  What parable?  Well the parable in the middle of the prior passage, verses 36 to 38, about a master who went away to a wedding feast and left his servants with responsibilities and is coming back at a time they don't know, hoping to find them doing what they should have been doing, prepared for his coming.  And if he finds them that way, he'll gird himself to serve and he'll have them recline at the table, he'll come and wait on them whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third.  If he finds them doing what they're supposed to be doing, they'll be blessed.  But imply...That's a positive parable.  Now He's going to come back, you don't know when He's going to come but oh, if He finds you the way you should be, if He finds you doing what you should be doing, if you finds...if He finds you obedient and faithful, you're going to be blessed.  And then Jesus says, "You better be ready."

Well the implication of that parable is that there's some danger here.  The danger is not being ready.  And immediately, I think, in a very honest sense they all do some heart examination and they come up with this idea, "Who's He talking to?  Is this us?  Are we in danger of not being ready?"  I mean, that's really the issue here.  It's very personal.  Are we the ones that He's talking about or is He talking about all these other people around here?  There was a huge crowd there.  Back to verse 1, so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together, they were stepping on one another.  But out of that crowd, verse 1 says, He was talking to His disciples.  And verse 22 says the same thing, "He said to His disciples," so there's this massive crowd of multiple thousands, if not tens of thousands, but Jesus is really addressing this to His students, His learners.  They were not all apostles among the twelve, nor were they all true believers, but they were all still learning and still open and still listening.  And so Peter sort of says, "Are you talking to the whole crowd here of the curious and all of that, or are...who are You talking to here?  Who is in danger?  Who needs to hear this?"

That's a very important question and it's had some interesting answers.  You say, "Well it doesn't seem that the Lord gives an answer." Well He doesn't give a direct answer.  The answer is in the parable.  He doesn't give Peter a direct answer. He gives him an indirect answer.  It''s in the parable.  And the Lord says this, "Who then is the faithful and sensible steward?"  And we'll stop there.  And then in verse 45 He says, "But if that slave says in his heart, 'My master will be a long time in coming, begins to beat the slaves,'" etc., etc.  You've got two people here...two kinds of people, two groups of people.  You've got the people who are faithful and therefore ready, and the people who are unfaithful and therefore not ready and the first group are going to be blessed and the second group are going to be punished.  Jesus really then doesn't need to answer the question any other way than to say the parable is self-explanatory.  If you're in group two, you're the one who needs to get ready.  If you're in group one, you're the faithful and the sensible, you're ready now.  Some people have suggested that this is about church leaders.  Many commentators have done that.  It's a strange thing.  It's almost like one guy thought of it and everybody else just went down that path.  I wonder...these people weren't church leaders, these are just the apostles. They're not sure what their future leadership responsibility is.  One would question whether they were even concerned about leadership.  This isn't about church leaders.  Other says, "Well they all have to be believers because they're all servants of the master and doesn't that mean that if the master is the Lord, and they’re His servants, they're all believers?"  No, not necessarily because it says in verse 46 that some of these servants of the master are going to be cut in pieces and assigned a place with unbelievers.  Now you don't get thrown in with the unbelievers unless you're one of them.  So we're not talking about some inside thing, we're not talking just about believers.  Everybody is in this somewhere, believers and non-believers.  The believers are pictured by the faithful and the unbelievers are pictured by the unfaithful.  And that becomes self-evident and is the only answer the Lord really needs to give to Peter.  Two categories; that's it, you're in one or the other.

Well somebody would say, "Well, you're pushing the point because how can you be a servant of the master if you're not a believer?"  Oh, listen to me, do you understand that ultimately in this universe every knee will bow to Jesus Christ because every knee must bow to Christ.  Why?  Because you are accountable to God for your life.  You're not a child of God...not all men are child of...or children of God by salvation, but they're all children of God by creation.  They're all children of God by obligation.  They're all children of God by virtue of being under the authority of His law.  You are responsible to God.  Every human being ever born has been given as his life or her life a divine stewardship, everyone.  We are all men...We are among all men accountable to God, we're accountable to Him, to His will, to His honor, to His law, to His Word, to His Son, to His authority, to His gospel, to His judgment. Everyone is.  Nobody is out from that accountability.  In that sense, God is the master of all, the sovereign of all, and the judge of all and all men are accountable to God and to God only.  And no one is excusable.  Romans 1 says we are all accountable to God.  And that which may be known of God is within us so that we are without excuse.  And Romans 2 says we have a conscience and we have the law of God written in our heart and therefore we are all accountable to God for that moral law and that reasoning that leads us back to the primary cause who is God Himself.  We are all accountable.  In that sense, God is the master of all of us.

It's the same sense in which you have Luke 15 the story of the prodigal son. Remember the story of the prodigal son?  There were really two sinful sons, one left and one stayed home.  Everybody agrees that the father in that story is God.  And He had a son who wasted his inheritance, wasted his privileges, wasted his opportunity, and went and lived in this immoral, dissolute, dissipated life until he was destitute, bankrupt and eating pig slop, crawled home and was welcomed.  And that's the picture of God who receives the sinner.  But there was another sinner in the house who never went anywhere.  He was smug, he was self-centered, he was legalistic, self-righteous and he never repented.  And the picture, of course, is the difference between the prostitutes, and the tax collectors, and the publicans, and the riff-raff, and the Pharisees who stayed around God's house but were corrupt, whereas the more sinful people came to their senses and more readily repented.  Both, however, are accountable to the same God, to the same Father for what they do with their...what the Puritans called gospel opportunity, spiritual opportunity.  Every sinner in the world has spiritual opportunity.  You have the knowledge of God built into you and you have the law of God written in your heart.  And if you follow that path, you follow it to the light of Christ.  But if you don't follow it, you're accountable to God, you're without excuse.  This is the stewardship of every person.

The book of Ecclesiastes ends with this statement, "God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden whether it's good or evil."  God holds every person accountable for everything.  And that's the story Jesus is telling them.  By the way, this story is in Matthew 24 verses 45 to 51 and Jesus teaches the same story later on in His life in the great Sermon on the Mount of Olives in which He preaches specifically about His Second Coming.

Let's look at the story just for a moment.  Two parts: number one, the faithful servant, the faithful servant, verses 42 to 44.  "And the Lord said, 'Who then is the faithful and sensible steward whom his master will put in charge of his servants to give them their rations at the proper time?'" This is just an illustration.  One servant might be given one duty. Another servant might be given another duty.  I mean, there might be a whole group of differing duties that servants would be given.  In fact, Jesus loved this kind of motif, this kind of image, so He used it a lot.  And over in Mark 13:33 He says, "Take heed, keep on the alert, you don't know when the appointed time is."  It's like a man away on a journey who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task and even commanding the door keeper to stay on the alert, and that sort of broadens it to say everybody had his own task, everybody had his own stewardship, everybody had his own way to prove himself faithful.  Therefore, He says, "Be on the alert, you don't know when the master of the house is coming, in the evening, midnight, cock crow in the morning, lest he come suddenly, find you asleep, and what I say I say to you all, be on the alert."  Jesus said this again and again and again.  And every person in the world has been given a stewardship, a stewardship of time and talent and opportunity to follow the path of conscience and reason.  Every one of us have been given the blessing of common grace and to one degree or another, an opportunity to follow the path of truth to the knowledge of God.

The faithful are those who have followed that to the truth.  The faithful are those who are ready. They're ready for the rapture, or if they're saved after the rapture, they'll be ready when the Lord comes in judgment to be taken into the kingdom and to escape judgment then.  And even then they...they will see the signs of His coming but they won't know the day or the hour.  We're waiting for a signless event. They still won't know the day or the hour, even though they will see the general signs.  There will be those who will be ready who are ready now.  What does it mean to be ready?  It means if you go back in chapter 12 and look at all that we've already covered, it means you've rejected false teaching and false teachers, you've turned to fearing God instead of fearing men.  You've confessed Christ.  You've put your life in the trustful care of the Holy Spirit.  You're turned away from materialism and the love of money and the love of the world and you've pursued the King and His kingdom of salvation, and you now understand that you must do that with urgency because He may come at any moment.  And those who are ready are here depicted and called the faithful and sensible steward, or servant.  Faithful, pistos, that very important verb meaning believing...the believing and the phronimos, phronimos, a word having to do with thinking, phroneō, the thoughtful, the prudent, the discreet, the wise. “Sensible” is a great translation.  They understand the urgency of this reality.  They understand what matters.  And that faithful steward, when his master comes back, he's going to show him that when he was put in charge of his servants to give them their rations at the proper time, he did exactly what he was told to do.  This particular servant was given the responsibility of general management of the food supply and he had the responsibility to make sure everybody in the family and everybody in the extended family and all the servants in the estate were cared for.  And he is a representative of every human being.  You've been given resources.  You've been given knowledge.  You've been given the law of God in your heart.  You've been given an understanding mind that reasons you back to the the first cause.  You have been given talents and capabilities and gifts.  You can see the creation around you and the handiwork of God.  You have been given opportunities. You have been given spiritual experiences.  You have been exposed to the truth and the gospel.  The question is: What have you done with it?  This is like the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 in which Jesus says some receive one talent, some more, some more.  Not everybody has the same stewardship but we all have enough to be accountable and responsible.  This is again gospel opportunity, opportunity to come to the truth.  And if we turn from it, we are without excuse.  But when the Lord comes back, verse 43 says, "Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.  If he comes back and he finds you ready and you've taken your opportunity and you've responded to it in an appropriate way and you've obeyed the call of the gospel and you have followed the reasoning of your mind to that first cause in the necessity of a God who is a creator and you followed the law of God in your heart to a moral lawgiver and your conscience has reacted in convicting you of sin.  And you have looked for a solution and you've come to the gospel and you're ready for His coming, you're going to be blessed. You're going to be blessed.  In fact, verse 44 says it's going to be magnanimous. Truly I say to you...and “truly I say to you” is sort of like saying, “Wow, this just needs a sort of an introductory phrase, this is so great.”

“He will put him in charge of all His possessions." The Lord will give you His kingdom.  Back in verse 32, "Don't be afraid, little flock, your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom."  Not just part of it, not just pieces out of it, all of it. You get it all. You reign with Christ as a co-regent, as a joint-heir.  You sit on His throne, on His Father's throne.  We will who are raptured in the church come back with the Lord when He sets up His kingdom and reign with Him there and even throughout eternity.  First Corinthians 6 talks about us ruling and reigning.  And in the story, if you came back and you took it in its human sense and you found a servant who would discharge his responsibility to absolutely accurate and faithful degree, you would say, "If I can trust you with that, I'm going to give you more." And you'd give him more.  And that's what eternity is going to be for believers. It's going to be the opening up of everything God has, all the goodness of God in that perfect environment of eternal bliss.

But, that's the faithful. What about the unfaithful?  Look at verse 45, the unfaithful.  "But if that slave says in his heart..."  Here's the other option.  Instead of being faithful and sensible, if that slave says, "My master will be a long time in coming, and because he has no sense of urgency about that, he's just going to do what he wants, he begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and eat and drink and get drunk."  Instead of distributing, he engages in gluttony and drunkenness and he abuses the people that he's been given responsibility to care for.  Instead of feeding them, he beats them and engages himself in self-indulgent abuse and dissipation.  And he says, "Ah, he's going to be a long time in coming, I'm not going to worry about it.  It's not going to happen soon."  So he engages himself in this kind of life with some kind of illusion that somewhere down the road, you know, I'll just kind of slide in there at the end just before he comes.  That's foolish illusion, but it's one that a lot of people entertain.  I want to live my life, I want to sow my wild oats, I want to fulfill my desires, I want to live by my lusts and passions, I don't want to say no to anything that I want, I want to do all that, and just before the end I'll get it all right with God.  You're very deceived if you think... First of all, you don't know how much time you have. You don't know when Jesus is coming. You don't know when you're going to die.  And furthermore, you stay on that path and you're going to find yourself down the path so far, where do you think you're going to find some spark that's going to turn you around?  Because the deeper and deeper you go into sin, the further you are from any deliverance.  There's nothing you're going to find in you if you turn against the truth.  In fact, if you've turned fully against the truth and become an apostate, you couldn't repent, Hebrews 6 says.  Very dangerous way to live your life, especially if you don't know how long you're going to live, especially if you don't know when Jesus is going to come.  And also, that sin builds its own chain link by link by link until you're so inexorably bound by it, there is no turning.  That's the foolish person.

You say, "Well just who might Jesus be talking about here?"  Well anybody really, but particularly this had real application to the Pharisees and the religious leaders, who instead of feeding people fleeced them, who instead of helping people with their needs wouldn't lift a finger to help anybody but indulged themselves endlessly.  Jesus says this is a foolish way to live because if you live...and this is defiant. If you live in this kind of disregard for the commands of God and the call of the gospel, if you live this kind of sinful life, the master, verse 46, will come on a day when that slave doesn't expect it and at an hour he doesn't know.  And what will he do?  He'll cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.  That's dichotomeō, from which we get the word “dichotomy,” to cut in pieces.  Pretty dramatic, wouldn't you say?  That's pretty severe.  You come back and you say to your servant, "You didn't do what I told you to do, I'm hacking you into pieces."  That's a long way from "You're fired!" or "You're lashed."  But that is familiar stuff to them.

First Chronicles chapter 20, these Jews knew about this, this is one of the great Old Testament stories.  In the days of David, in his wars and his captain, Joab, 1 Chronicles 20, "It happened in the spring in the time when kings go out to battle, that Joab led out the army and ravaged the land of the sons of Ammon, came and besieged Rabbah." David stayed at Jerusalem. Joab struck Rabbah and overthrew it.  "And David took the crown of their king from his head, found it to weigh a talent of gold," a veritable fortune, "and there was a precious stone in it, it was placed on David's head."  He had conquered.  "And he brought out the spoil of the city of Rabbah, a very great amount, and he brought out the people who were in that city and cut them with saws and with sharp instruments and with axes," hacked them is a better way.  "And thus David did to all the cities of the sons of Ammon."

That's just unbelievable.  They chopped them up.  This is probably one of the fiercest little incidents in the whole of the Old Testament, meant to be a warning to the enemies of Israel.  This same word is used in Exodus 29:17 of hacking up an animal for sacrifice.  This is the severest judgment.  God is going to come back, the Lord is going to come back in judgment with the greatest severity on the one who knew what his Master wanted done and refused to do it and flagrantly lived in antagonism toward his Master's will.  Verse 47 then says, "There might be another slave who knew his master's will and didn't get ready, or act in accord with his will."  He just...It isn't that he did things the opposite of it, he just didn't get ready.  He just was unprepared and he'll receive many lashes.  Many lashes is less than being hacked to pieces.

And then verse 48 says there's another one who didn't even know what his master wanted.  You know, I mean, maybe he was in the far corners of the field when his master left orders and he didn't know what he was supposed to do and though he committed deeds worthy of a flogging, he'll receive just a few.

And the principle is, from everyone who has been given much, shall much be required and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.  And here we find a very interesting principle, folks.  Truth is dangerous.  Truth is dangerous.  Better to have never known than to have known and rejected.  Better to have never known than to have known, rejected, and rebelled.  Here we are introduced to the possibility, the reality that there are at least three kinds of unfaithful people, three categories of people that are going to face judgment: Some hacked to pieces in the severest judgment; some lashed; some with a few lashes.

Does this teach us that eternal judgment will have degrees of punishment?  The answer is obvious. Jesus is coming and there's only two possibilities.  “Who is this for?” Peter says.  Who needs to be afraid?  Well not the faithful servant, the faithful, sensible servant, he's ready.  And when the Master arrives, he's going to be blessed and he's going to be given the kingdom.  But that servant...that servant who is aggressively disobedient, that servant who is indifferent, that servant who is ignorant, they're going to be punished.  And the more you know, the more dangerous your condition.  That's an important word to those of you who may sit and hear and hear and hear and hear and not respond.  Now next week we're going to talk about that principle, and I'm just going to take you in to those final verses and I want to show you what the principle means from everyone who has been given much, shall much be required.  Those of you who have heard the truth are in such dangerous condition.

William Barclay tells a great story, and I'll close with this.  It's sort of a fable of three apprentice devils who are coming to earth to finish their apprenticeship, kind of a C.S. Lewis story.  And they were talking to Satan and they said, "You know, we want to go down and ruin men." And so Satan said, "Well what's your plan?"  And the first devil said, "I'm going to tell them there's no God."

"That will not delude many," he said, "because they know there's a God."

The second said, "Well I'm going to tell men there's...there's no hell."

Satan said, "You'll deceive few that way, they know there's a punishment for sin."

The third one said, "I'll tell men there's no hurry."

"Go, you have found success."

There is a hurry. He's coming and you don't know when.

Father, again we come to Your Word with open minds and open hearts and always we are filled and now responsible for this truth and for its discharge around us, we are made accountable not only to be ready for the coming of our Lord Jesus but to be doing, as the text says, what You've asked us to do.  And what is that?  To be discharging this stewardship, this gospel stewardship that we have by proclaiming Christ to the ends of the earth.  When You come, we want You to find us doing it.  We want... We don't want You to find us clinging to some past event, or some earlier time in our life when we were serving You, but we want You to come and find us engaged with all our powers and all our might and all our hearts and all our souls in the enterprises of Your glorious kingdom.  And we pray, oh God, for those who are not ready, for those who are living in defiance, those who are living in indifference, and those who just don't know.  We pray that they would all be exposed to the truth and embrace the truth and enter the realm of the blessed by faith in Jesus Christ alone.  Oh Lord, we ask that You would bring these ones to repentance for their sin and trust in Christ to forgive them and wash them and deliver them from judgment and hell.  Father, we pray that You would do a saving work in the hearts of many.  We ask in Christ's glorious name.  Amen.

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