From billboards to bumper stickers, novels, movies, songs, and sermons, we are bombarded with the (usually designed to be threatening) question: “Are you ready to meet God?” or “Jesus is coming: are you ready?”
Laying aside for the moment the most egregious error in such a message – which is failing (or refusing) to recognize that the word of the Lord’s coming is NOT a threat, but a promise, greatly to be anticipated – let us rather consider just what it is to be “ready”. Please review studies 124 and 125 as we undertake this one.
Different aspects of “readiness” – for many different occasions – are represented in the New Testament by three different “families” of words, which, although quite distinct in their implications, are seldom distinguished by English translators. See if you can suggest alternate words that would convey the differences.
Interestingly, only one of these, hetoimazo, hetoimos, is ever used in connection with the Lord’s return, although a second, kataskeuazo, appears four times regarding John’s preparations for Jesus’ first appearance.
I have chosen to pass over the four instances where mello, a versatile word used for anything that is “about to happen”, is translated “ready” (Lk.7:2, Ac.20:7, Rv.3:2, 12:4), because there is no idea of preparation involved. The reference is simply temporal: the more common translations are “shall” (25x), “should” (19x), and other indications of the immediate future.
Likewise, prothumia / prothumos was classically used of willingness or eagerness to do something, and in the New Testament, four times with respect to the relief offering collected by the Gentile churches for the Judean famine (II Cor.8:11,12; 8:19, 9:2), once (Ac.17:11) of the eagerness with which the Bereans received Paul’s message, once of Paul’s desire to preach in Rome (Rom.1:15), and twice as Jesus warns his disciples that although their “spirit is [ready] willing” (Mt.26:41, Mk.14:38), their human nature is not. Prothumia speaks of desire and enthusiasm, but lacks practical substance.
Paraskeuazo , appearing only 4x, leans a bit more heavily upon practicality regarding the offering (II Cor.9:2,3), and also refers to preparations for battle (I Cor.14:8), or simply the preparation of a meal (Ac.10:10). The noun form, paraskeue (Mt.27:62, Mk.15:42, Lk.23:54, Jn.19:14,31,42) refers exclusively to the Jewish Day of Preparation before the Passover Sabbath.
Kataskeuazo, referenced earlier, more often used in the sense of building: a house (Heb.3:3,4), the tabernacle (Heb.9:2,6), or Noah’s ark (Heb.11:7, I Pet.3:20), is also used in prophecy, by Gabriel (Lk.1:17) and both John the Baptist and Jesus quoting Isaiah (Mt.11:10, Mk.1:2, Lk.7:27). Both words are classically used of producing, preparing, or procuring something, or making preparations; but both are also used of fraudulent legal manipulations, to influence a court or “pack” a jury! I have not detected this aspect in any of the New Testament references, although I am sure that it happened – case in point, Ac.23:12-16, describing one of the plots against Paul (with the use of hetoimos).
The most common, and most versatile, of the words referring to “readiness” is hetoimos(17x), hetoimazo (29x). Liddell/Scott notes virtually any kind of preparation, whether for a meal, warfare, or any other event; to have cash-in-hand for payment of an obligation; the feasibility of a task; a promise made good; or lack of hesitation. New Testament uses include preparations identical with those in which paraskeuazo is used: preparing the way / people for Jesus’ arrival (Mt.3:3, Mk.1:3, 14:12; Lk.1:17, 3:4), and later, preparing the Passover meal (Mt.26:17,19; Mk.14:15,16; Lk.22;8,12,13), and the discussion (more frequently using prothumia) of the relief offering (II Cor.9:5).
Commander Lysias’ orders to assemble a military escort for Paul (Ac.23:23), and preparation for battles – which, please note, did NOT take place – (Rv.9:7, 15; 16:12); Paul’s request to Philemon for a guest room (Phm.22), and the women’s preparation of embalming spices (Lk.23:56, 24:1), as well as ordinary preparation of meals or lodging (Lk.9:52, 14:17; 17:8, Mk.14:15; Mt.22:4), all employ forms of hetimazo.
The adverb, hetoimos, expresses Paul’s acceptance of whatever fate awaits him in Jerusalem (Ac.21:13), as well as his deliberate travel plans (Ac.21:13), and Peter’s assessment of the Lord’s readiness to exercise judgment (I Pet.4:5). Earlier, Peter had used the adjective hetoimos in boasting of his loyalty to Jesus (Lk.22:33). Six times, the reference is to God himself doing the preparing: Mt.20:23 – arranging positions in the final kingdom; Lk.2:31 – the working out of the deliverance planned for all people; I Cor.2:9 – the unimaginably glorious inheritance prepared “for them that love him”; Heb.11:16 – the city, whose builder and maker is God; Rv.12:6 – refuge from persecution for the “woman” (the church?), and I Pet.1:5 – “the deliverance [salvation] that is prepared to be revealed in the last time”; and twice (Jn.14:2,3) Jesus speaks of “preparing a place” for his disciples.
Paul urges both Titus (3:1) and Timothy (II Tim.2:21) that they, and those they teach, be “ready / prepared for every good work”, and Peter (I Pet.3:15) advocates constant readiness to respond to questioners who are puzzled by “the hope that is in / among you”.
Only in a few parables does Jesus connect “readiness” with his return.
The parable about the feast (Mt.22:1-13 and Lk.14:16-24) uses the “ready” words only with respect to the preparations made by the host. It is their rude behavior that excludes the invited guests.
The judgment scene in Mt.25:31-46 refers to “the kingdom prepared” for those who have acted mercifully, and “the fire prepared” (not for people) for “the devil and his messengers”. Again, people are not charged with making the preparations.
In contrast, the story of the girls awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom (some manuscripts say “the bride”) places the responsibility squarely upon the guests. The ones who were welcomed were the ones who had been careful to keep their lamps working! (A reflection of Mt.5:14-16?)
Most significant of all is Jesus’ teaching in Mt.24:42-51 and Luke 12:35-48. The Master has been out of town, leaving his servants to tend to his affairs, and entrusting some with the responsibility to care for the others. Those whom the Master finds faithfully fulfilling their assigned duties are commended, and rewarded – not with starry crowns, but with greater responsibility! Notice that the one incurring the most severe punishment is the servant “in charge”, who abused those entrusted to his care! (Lk.12:45,46 and Mt.24:46-49), and treated his assignment as one of privilege, rather than responsibility.
Luke adds (47,48) the observation that the Master’s expectations (and reaction) are commensurate with the degree to which the servants were aware of his wishes.
Please note that nothing at all is said about what anyone “thought” or “believed”, or to what sort of doctrine, dogma, or creed he subscribed! (Refer also to W.S.#10).
Jesus does indeed encourage his people to “be ready” for his coming (Mt.24:44, Lk.12:40,47). It behooves us therefore, to check with him regarding what that “readiness” entails!
As long as you are busy following the Master’s instructions, YOU ARE READY!
Go out to meet him in unmitigated JOY!