Zero HourBy Nathan Mates
"This world will shortly be coming to an end." That's the phrase uttered many times in the New Testament, and millennial fever is building towards a fever pitch on 1/1/2000. As a side note from a detail-oriented nitpicker, there was no year 0AD, so things don't really start until 1/1/2001-- just to be accurate about this. But, people are fixated on a whole lot of zeroes, instead of (1) learning the facts about our calendar, and (2) they're fixated on the calendar instead of being fixated on Jesus.
Jesus himself made many references to the end of the age, and one common thread comes out: even he doesn't know when that'll be. "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." [Mark 13:32] But, we are exhorted to stay ready for the fateful day and hour that Jesus returns. Like a bomb with a countdown timer heading steadily towards zero, you will not want to be caught unaware when the zero hour is reached.
In a parable about the end of the age, Jesus talked about a subject familiar to his listeners, a Jewish wedding. The groom was to be met by 10 virgins, who'd escort him to the wedding ceremony. In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus says the following:
"At that time [i.e. the end of the age -NM] the kingdom of heaven
will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the
bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The
foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The
wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The
bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and
This is not just a verse taken out of context-- Jesus had said earlier that this would happen to people who did not truly know him: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' [Matthew 7:21-23]
Beyond the Christian "fakers"-- those that acted Christian well enough to fool those around them-- there's also a few references in the Bible to the concept of "losing" salvation. See Revelation 3:5: "He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels." Jesus is speaking here that some people can be erased from his book of life. The conditions for this aren't spelled out too precisely in the Bible at all. There's other references to this blotting out, in Exodus 32:32-33 (those who worshiped the Golden Calf were erased from God's book), Psalm 69:28 (request to blot others out).
Revelation 20:11-15 indicates there's 2 sets of books: 1 for everyone's deeds, and everyone will be judged by them, and a book of life, which is needed to enter Heaven. If there is blotting out of that book of life, as the verse references above seem to indicate, then there is loss of salvation. I'm not totally sure how to balance this against election, except that God wasn't "surprised" and never counted you in the elect to begin with.
For the millions (and perhaps billions) of Christians who've already lived and died before Jesus's return, their zero hour on God's clock wasn't Jesus's return-- it was their own death. Not everyone lives a full life to 70+ years; death may be sudden and unexpected. You must be ready at any time to face Jesus-- are you?
"Being ready" at all times is a nebulous subject, but look at 2 Peter 1:10: "Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall," Going back to what the 'therefore' and 'these things' refer to in verses 5-9, where many fruits of the spirit are the results of election and salvation. So, that's a human-measurable way of checking yourself and others for salvation: "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love." [2 Peter 1:5-7]
This passage continues with this: "For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins." [2 Peter 1:8-9] So, work to ensure that you have the qualities mentioned above in ever-abounding quantities.
In a direct reference to being ready, Jesus himself said "Be on guard! Be alert ! You do not know when that time will come. It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping." [Mark 13:33-36]
Are you a Christian sleeper, snoozer, or the like? Paul said it this way: 'But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."' [Ephesians 5:13-14] Get up, get ready, and don't just look busy because Christ is returning, BE busy for him.