Let’s say you and I are best friends. And let’s say that one night I have a dream in which a brightly shining being tells me that sometime in the next year your house will burn to the ground—your house, not mine. The brightly shining one doesn’t provide me with any information about the cause of this fire, nor does he give me any idea about the date it will happen. All he says is that it will happen within the next 12 months.
So I have a question for you: Would you want me to inform you about what this brightly shining being told me? Would you want me to tell you that your house was sure to burn to the ground sometime in the next year?
I’ve asked this question of a number of individuals over the past several years, and most people say, yes, they would want to know, but a few have told me no. So what’s your response?
You obviously can’t give me your response unless you send me a letter or an email, neither of which I expect you to do (please don’t flood my inbox!), so I’ll just give you my response: I would want you to inform me about your dream. Why? Because if I knew that sometime in the next 12 months my house would burn to the ground, I’d start preparing now! I’d rent a storage unit and move my most valuable possessions into it, and I’d make sure that my most valuable and critical documents were stored where they’d be easily accessible.
In fact, I’m rather stunned by the people who tell me they would not want to know that their house was sure to burn to the ground in the next 12 months. Why would anyone in his or her right mind not want to know so they could prepare?
You know, of course, that I never had such a dream, but it does illustrate an important spiritual truth: a terrible crisis lies ahead of us in the world, and you and I need to be prepared for it before it happens.
the coming global crisis
The prophet Daniel warned us about this crisis 3,500 years ago. Speaking about events at the very end of the world, he said, “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then” (Daniel 12:1; emphasis added).
And Jesus echoed Daniel’s words in His instruction to His disciples about signs of His coming and the end of the world. One of the things He told them was that “then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.
“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive” (Matthew 24:21, 22; emphasis added).
Reflect for a moment on what Jesus said: the coming time of distress will be so terrible that if God doesn’t intervene to stop it, the human race will become the next extinct species! No wonder Jesus told us ahead of time—so we can prepare for the crisis.
Both Daniel and Jesus also made it clear that this time of terrible crisis will immediately precede His return to our world—what Christians call “the Second Coming.” And that will be the worst crisis of all.
Fortunately, Jesus didn’t just warn us. He also gave three parables in Matthew 25 that tell us how to prepare for the crisis and His second coming that will immediately follow. However, Jesus’ advice wasn’t about how to accumulate enough stocks and bonds to survive the crisis, nor is it about how much gold to store up. His advice was about the spiritual preparation we need to be making right now! So read on.
You’ll find Jesus’ first parable in the first 13 verses of Matthew 25. It’s about ten young women who’ve been invited to a wedding banquet. Apparently, back then, young women who attended an evening wedding banquet were supposed to bring along oil lamps to help light up the banquet room. However, the bridegroom was several hours late, and the girls got drowsy and fell asleep. Several hours later, they were jolted awake by a shout, “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”
The girls got up, dusted off their robes, and picked up their oil lamps. Unfortunately, five of them had failed to bring extra oil, and their lamps were about to go out, so they had to hurry off to buy more oil. But while they were gone, the bridal party entered the banquet hall, and the door was shut. When they returned, the girls knocked on the door and asked to be let in, but the Lord replied, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.”
In this parable, the oil represents the Holy Spirit, which Jesus said is the only Agent who can transform our lives through the process of conversion, or the new birth, so that we are prepared for eternal life. Without the Holy Spirit in our minds and hearts, when we’re confronted with severe trials, we will give up our faith in Jesus. And when Jesus comes back to take us home to His heavenly wedding banquet, those who don’t have the Holy Spirit will be shut out from entering into His eternal kingdom.
The lesson from this is that you and I need to be spending time with Jesus each day, learning about Him and His way of life through daily Bible study and prayer. If we wait until the final crisis hits the world, we will very likely abandon our faith, and when Jesus comes, we will be unprepared to enter His kingdom and spend eternity with Him.
So don’t wait until the crisis hits to prepare for it. Prepare yourself spiritually with a regular, consistent devotional life.
the ten talents
You’ll find Jesus’ next parable in Matthew 25:14–30. It’s about a rich man who took a long journey, and he entrusted three of his servants with the responsibility of managing his wealth while he was away. The Bible says that he gave one servant five talents, another two, and another one. A talent weighed about 75 pounds, so in precious metals, that would be a lot of money!
The story doesn’t tell us what these servants did during the rich man’s absence. The next thing we read about is the rich man’s return. And he was extremely pleased that the man who had received five talents—about 375 pounds of precious metal—had invested the money and doubled it! The master promoted him “Well done, good and faithful servant!” he said. “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (verse 21). The two-talent man had also doubled his master’s money, and the master gave him the same commendation.
But the one-talent man came with his head bowed and said, “I was afraid and went out and hid your [talent] in the ground” (verse 25), and he gave the master back his talent.
The master was furious. “You wicked, lazy servant!” he exclaimed. “You should have put my money on deposit with the bankers so that when I returned, I would have received it back with interest” (verse 26).
Over the years since Jesus told this parable, the word talent has come to mean the special abilities that God has given to each person. Some people are especially good at science and medicine, and they become scientists and doctors. Others are especially good at teaching, and they work as instructors of young people from elementary school through college and university. Other people are good at working with engines, and they work as auto mechanics.
At first glance, the lesson in this may not seems all that spiritual, but it is. Jesus’ point is that, whatever you’re especially gifted at doing—whether you’re a doctor, a teacher, a mechanic, or some other profession or vocation—it’s very important that you give it your very best effort. Don’t just be half-hearted about your work. Don’t do just enough to get by. Seek to excel!
And this doesn’t apply only to your job. If you’re volunteering, do your very best. As a parent, do your very best to bring up children who will make their own valuable contribution to the world around them. If you’re a church member, don’t just warm the pew each Sabbath. Pitch in and help with the church’s various projects—and be sure to share the financial load as well.
Don’t wait until the crisis hits to prepare for it. Give your family, church, and society your best effort now!
the sheep and the goats
Jesus’ final parable, in Matthew 25:31–46, is about two kinds of people He will meet when He comes again. He classified them as sheep and goats. And, like the master who returned from a long trip, Jesus had words of commendation for the sheep and words of condemnation for the goats.
To the sheep, He will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. . . . For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (verses 35, 36).
The sheep are surprised! They ask Jesus when they did all these good things for Him. And He will reply, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (verse 40).
Then Jesus will turn to the goats and say, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you didn’t invite me in, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me” (verses 42, 43).
The goats are shocked! “Lord!” they will reply, “when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”
And Jesus will reply, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me” (verses 44, 45).
Jesus’ lesson here is that when you become aware of a person who needs a word of encouragement or financial aid, give them your time, effort, and money. Even if you see one of these people standing on the side of the road holding a sign and asking for help, hand them a dollar or two—or five. I’ve often said that I’d rather help someone who doesn’t need it than fail to help someone who does.
So don’t wait until the crisis hits to prepare for it. Watch for people who can use your help—and do what you can to meet their need.
This is how you and I can prepare for the coming global crisis and the second coming of Jesus that will immediately follow.
Marvin Moore is the editor of Signs of the Times®. He and his wife, Lois, live in Caldwell, Idaho.