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ARE YOU READY FOR THE RAPTURE?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, November 25, 2012

“But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:37-42).


Christ told us what the world would be like at the end of history. He gave one great sign indicating how people would live in the last days, just before the end of this present world. He said,

“For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:38-39).

I am convinced that we are now living in those days. Judgment is about to fall, but we are living like it will never happen.

Some time ago I went with a group of people to a fancy restaurant at Universal City. Food of every imaginable kind was piled up throughout that restaurant. It was the largest smorgasbord I had ever seen. People ate until they were gorged. I couldn’t help but think about the days of Noah. Christ said, “As in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking... And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:38, 39).

The other day I read in the newspaper that Americans bought 581 million pounds of turkey for Thanksgiving. But the article said that “204 million pounds of [turkey] meat will end up in the garbage after the holiday feast.” That means Americans will throw away enough turkey meat to feed a meal to every man, woman and child in China! Think of it – every man, woman and child in China – a billion people! The article went on to say, “Over the full year, Americans [throw] out $165 billion in uneaten food” (The Los Angeles Times, November 20, 2012, p. B3). We throw away enough food every year to feed a meal to every person in India, China and Africa for a month! We are living in luxury, throwing away billions in uneaten food, while many people in the world are starving. At the same time we will spend more billions of dollars to prepare for “the holidays” – when our people will gorge themselves on more food and drink. But few of our people will think about God during Christmas and New Year’s. Back in 1949 Billy Graham said, “Sin is failure to attend church services. The Bible says, ‘Neglect not the assembling of yourselves together.’ For some of us it’s been a long time since we attended church regularly. This is a sin against Almighty God” (Billy Graham, Revival in Our Time, Van Kampen Press, 1950, p. 112).

I have been accused of “legalism” for telling young people to be in their church on Christmas and New Year’s. Was Billy Graham “legalistic” when he said that missing church “is a sin against Almighty God”? Or was he telling the truth? I don’t agree with him on some things, but he was exactly right when he said it is a sin to miss church!

The Bible says that Noah was “a preacher of righteousness” (II Peter 2:5). Noah told the people of his generation to repent, to change their ways, to live for God. But they laughed at him. They thought he was a legalistic old fool. They went right on “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:38, 39). I say with Billy Graham that it “is a sin against Almighty God” to live like that! I say that you should be in your church at Christmas time, and New Year’s Eve. When I was a boy we always went to church at Christmas. We always spent New Year’s Eve at church. Have we become so gluttonous and pleasure-mad that we can’t stand that kind of preaching any more? Are we living as they were in the days of Noah? If you are living like that, judgment will fall on you as it did on them, when “the flood came, and took them all away.” The materialistic way of life most people are living today will end in God’s judgment, damnation, and Hell. Tell somebody I said that! It’s the absolute truth. “The flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

Christ will come in the air to take the real Christians to be with Him in Heaven. This is called the “rapture.” It will come as suddenly as the Flood came. And very few people will be prepared for it. The Apostle Paul said,

“The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air...” (I Thessalonians 4:16-17).

That is the “rapture,” the catching up of Christians to meet Christ in the air above the earth. It will happen in a moment of time. Paul said, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (I Corinthians 15:52). The bodies of real Christians will be changed into glorified bodies, and we will be caught up in a moment of time to meet Christ in the clouds.

Oh, joy! oh delight! should we go without dying,
   No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying,
Caught up through the clouds with our Lord into glory,
   When Jesus receives “His own.”
O Lord Jesus, how long, how long, Ere we shout the glad song,
   Christ returneth! Halleljuah! Hallelujah! Amen,
Hallelujah! Amen.
      (“Christ Returneth” by H. L. Turner, 1878).

But the “rapture” will come so suddenly that some of you here this morning will not be prepared for it. Going back to our text, Christ said that they “knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left” (Matthew 24:39-41). Commenting on those verses, Dr. Henry M. Morris said,

In view of this context, the first event of His coming, the sudden rapture of believers, is the theme here. The one taken is caught up to be with the Lord, while his fellow worker, an unbeliever, is [left] to endure the tribulation (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, World Publishing, 1995, p. 1045; note on Matthew 24:40).

“One shall be taken,” up to be with Christ at the rapture. “And the other left” – left on earth to go through the horrors of the “tribulation.” Earlier in Matthew 24, Christ said,

“Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21).

If you are not a real Christian, you will be left behind to go through the great tribulation of that period. You will go through a literal hell on earth. You will experience horrors that no other generation ever went through.

When Dr. Bailey Smith was the president of the Southern Baptist Convention he said,

During the time of the great tribulation, there will be hailstones that will fall from the sky weighing 100 pounds each. There will be fire literally running across the earth. The Bible speaks of scorpions as big as men that will move across the earth stinging those who have not given their lives to Christ. Monstrous horrors will happen during the final plagues of the great tribulation to those who have been left (Bailey E. Smith, D.D., Real Evangelistic Preaching, Broadman Press, 1981, page 138).

If you have never been truly converted you will be left behind, you will go through the plagues and “monstrous horrors” of the great tribulation.

Am I trying to scare you? Yes, that’s exactly what I am trying to do! A few weeks ago my family and I attended a retirement banquet for a Chinese pastor I have known for many years. When that pastor’s son spoke he said that years ago he heard me preach on the Second Coming of Christ, and it scared him. In fact it scared him so much that he trusted Jesus and was saved when I preached that sermon! But I know very well that I can’t scare you enough to trust Christ. The Holy Spirit alone can do that. When the Holy Spirit scares you, you will be able to say with John Newton, “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear.” Only the amazing grace of God can terrify you enough to flee to Christ for salvation. But think of it. These things are coming – and you will be left to go through all this, as described by Dr. Bailey Smith,

During the time of the great tribulation, there will be hailstones that will fall from the sky weighing 100 pounds each. There will be fire literally running across the earth. The Bible speaks of scorpions as big as men that will move across the earth stinging those who have not given their lives to Christ. Monstrous horrors will happen during the final plagues of the great tribulation to those who have been left.

If you have never become a real Christian, you will be left behind to go through those “monstrous horrors.”

“Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left” (Matthew 24:40-41).

“But,” you may say, “I will repent and be saved then.” I wouldn’t count on it! The Bible teaches that people will not be able to repent in that awful time. It says,

“The rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works... Neither repented they of their [sins]” (Revelation 9:20, 21).

“And they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds” (Revelation 16:10, 11).

You see, you cannot repent any time you want to repent. The Bible says, “If God peradventure will give them repentance” (II Timothy 2:25). It is God who gives repentance. By this point in the tribulation God will no longer give anyone grace to repent and be saved. Everyone will be judicially hardened then, and it will be said of them, “God gave them over to a reprobate mind” (Romans 1:28). In one of his songs, Dr. John R. Rice said,

Too late when is burned out my conscience, Too late when my heart is like stone.
   Too late if the Spirit forsakes me! Too late when my life breath is gone.
It is late, oh, so late! Yet He knocks at the door.
   And Jesus, sweet Saviour, is calling once more.
(“Too Long I Neglected” by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).

It will be too late for you then! Too late! Everlastingly too late! You will gnaw your tongue in pain, and blaspheme the God of heaven because of your pains and sores, but you will not repent in that day! (Revelation 16:10, 11). Too late! Too late! “Too late when is burned out my conscience. Too late when my heart is like stone. Too late [when God’s] Spirit forsakes me. Too late when my life breath is gone!” As Dr. Smith said, “Monstrous horrors will happen during the final plagues of the great tribulation to those who have been left.” Will you be one of those who is left behind when Jesus comes to receive His people at the rapture?

When I was preaching in the San Francisco area in the early 1970s, many young people came to the church I started. And many of them were saved. I had the privilege of going back there to speak at the 40th anniversary of that church last August. One of the songs we often sang in the 1970s was the one Mr. Griffith sang before this sermon. Listen to the words again, as I try to sing it.

Life was filled with guns and war,
   And everyone got trampled on the floor,
I wish we’d all been ready.
   Children died, the days grew cold,
A piece of bread would buy a bag of gold,
   I wish we’d all been ready.
There’s no time to change your mind,
   How could you have been so blind?
The Saviour called, but you declined,
   The Son has come and you’ve been left behind.

Man and wife asleep in bed,
   She hears a noise and turns her head – he’s gone.
I wish we’d all been ready.
   Two men walking up a hill,
One disappears and one’s left standing still,
   I wish we’d all been ready.
There’s no time to change your mind,
   How could you have been so blind?
The Saviour called, but you declined,
   The Son has come and you’ve been left behind,
You’ve been left behind,
   You’ve been left behind.
(“I Wish We’d All Been Ready” by Larry Norman, 1947-2008;
     altered by the Pastor).

“Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:40-42).

The last verse gives the application – “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42). That is what you need to do. Watch and be ready. Are you ready for that day? The Bible says, “Prepare to meet thy God” (Amos 4:12). Are you prepared? You must repent. You must turn away from your sinful and selfish lifestyle. You must live a new life in the church on Sunday morning and Sunday night. I’m an old-fashioned “landmark” Baptist. I believe in the local church. I am convinced that you need to be in your local church every Sunday, morning and night.  And I think you ought to be here on Christmas Eve and New Years' Eve too!  You must turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (I Thessalonians 1:9). And you must come to Christ by faith. If you don’t come to Christ, you will not be saved even if you come to church. He died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sin. He rose from the dead to give you life. He is there, up in Heaven at the right hand of God. You must come to Him by faith. Jesus said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Come to Jesus, and rest in Him. He will pardon your sins, and you will be prepared to meet Him when He comes again! We are going to sing hymn number seven. Please stand and turn to it on your song sheet. Let us stand and sing it.

While we pray and while we plead,
   While you see your soul’s deep need,
While our Father calls you home,
   Will you not, oh sinner, come?
Why not now? Why not now?
   Why not come to Jesus now?
Why not now? Why not now?
   Why not come to Jesus now?

You have wandered far away;
   Do not risk another day;
Do not turn from Christ your face,
   But today accept His grace.
Why not now? Why not now?
   Why not come to Jesus now?
Why not now? Why not now?
   Why not come to Jesus now?

While we sing the next stanza, if you are not sure you are saved, leave your seat and step to the back of the room. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet place where we can speak with you about coming to Jesus. Go quickly while we sing.

In the world you’ve failed to find
   Aught of peace for troubled mind;
Come to Christ, on Him believe,
   Peace and joy you shall receive.
Why not now? Why not now?
   Why not come to Jesus now?
Why not now? Why not now?
   Why not come to Jesus now?
(“Why Not Now?” by Daniel W. Whittle, 1840-1901;
       altered by the Pastor).

Mr. Lee, please lead us in prayer.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: I Thessalonians 4:15-17.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I Wish We’d All Been Ready” (by Larry Norman, 1947-2008; altered by the Pastor).