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Inescapable Joy and Judgement

1 Thessalonians 5:1-3
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, 'Peace and safety', destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. (NIVUK)

Everybody in God's redeemed family is looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ. Their eager expectation is part of the evidence that they belong to Him. They are brothers and sisters awaiting the joy of meeting their Saviour. But they do not know when it will be. Nor does anybody else, believer or unbeliever. Jesus did not reveal the date of His coming (Matthew 24:36).
However it will happen, suddenly without any warning, and therefore the church needs to be ready (Matthew 24:37-44). He will come like a thief in the night, without warning and with deeply personal consequences for everybody. For the child of God, the gestation of grace will be complete and joy will come as surely as labour pains result in a birth. But for the people who have refused to welcome Christ, His Second Coming will bring the destruction of everything that is precious to them. It will be all the more surprising because they now believe that they have got life under their own control and therefore they are safe. They could not be more wrong.
Salvation and judgement come from the opposite sides of God's hand, but it is the same hand. Until Jesus returns, God is demonstrating His love to everybody, inducing them to trust Him. But on the Final Day, His glory will only be enjoyed by those who repented and received His grace, while those who have trusted in themselves will be gripped with the inevitability of judgement.
These verses from Paul and the words of Jesus leave no room for a popular misconception that Jesus is a nice idea for people who want to believe in Him, but nobody else needs to take any notice. Everybody will be involved on that Day. Nobody will escape the joy or judgement which He will bring. That is why the church needs to get ready; preparing to meet the Lord, and urgently warning the world that it is running out of time and opportunity to submit to Jesus. He has told His people and it is now our responsibility to tell the world; because nobody will escape or delay the Day of His Coming (Malachi 3:2). 2 Peter 3:11 says, "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives". It is time to wake up and repent so that we can get ready (Matthew 25:1-13), and also tell our friends and colleagues to get ready for Jesus (www.crosscheck.org.uk).

God of glory. Thank You that Jesus is going to come back for me and for everybody who has welcomed Him. Forgive me for forgetting my responsibility to be ready for Him, and for failing to tell those I care about, that their eternal future is determined by their response to Jesus. Help me to live a life which will not leave me ashamed when He comes, and show me how to tell my friends how to put their trust in Jesus. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams