Luke 21:25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” 29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
What Will Be
This text is about what will be, and about the need for us to be prepared for what will be.
We’re coming to the end of another calendar year. It’s amazing how fast it all happens, isn’t it? We are busy, busy, busy throughout the months before Christmas – especially the last month, of course. Before we know it, we have sung all of the Christmas songs, eaten all of the goodies, enjoyed all of the decorations and festivities (I’m telling you ahead of time so that you can be sure to enjoy every minute of it, as I intend to do). We barely catch our breaths in the few days following Christmas. We turn on the TV, and find that they are counting down all of the interesting things that happened in the past year, and predicting what interesting things will be happening in the new year. We just got used to saying twenty-fifteen; now we will have to get used to saying twenty-sixteen.
Well, many interesting things will be happening in the new year to be sure. We will be hearing about them on the news, seeing them on social media. While they are taking place, we won’t necessarily be thinking a lot about the end of the world. We tend to live day by day, and not so much thinking about what will be.
Jesus says in our text, though, that certain things about what will be should capture our attention even as we absorb presidential politics and pass judgment one way or the other on the latest fashion.
Some will be troubled at will be
Luke 21:25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. He is talking about signs of the coming of the end of the world. Jesus speaks to His audience of interested listeners. He speaks of “nations,” of “men,” of “they.” These are people we hope to reach with the gospel, and avoid becoming ourselves.
For these, the Lord says the signs on the Last Day will be a troubling occurrence. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. It isn’t surprising that men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world. After all, Jesus says, the heavenly bodies will be shaken. The signs themselves will be troubling – natural disasters and all.
But for those for whom it is all a surprise, it gets worse. To be helpless before the natural events of this world is nothing compared to being helpless before God. Jesus told His disciples to be most concerned about the One Who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28)! He was talking about God. Imagine what it will be like for people who have ignored God’s Word. Jesus describes the end, for many, as a trap from which they will want to be able to escape.
Escape is the word that Paul uses too. Paul writes similarly to the Thessalonians: ESV 1 Thessalonians 5:2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. In Luther’s meaning to the 7th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, confirmation students learn these words: We pray in this petition, as the sum of all, that our Father in heaven would deliver us from every evil of body and soul, property and honor; and at last, when the hour of death shall come, grant us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven. In the Kyrie hymn that we sing sometimes, we pray, Do Thou our last hour bless; Let us leave this sinful world with gladness. We might wonder, how will that be possible?
Some will be prepared for what will be
Jesus talks about nations, and men, and they who will be so troubled at these things that will precede the Lord’s coming in glory. Then, He goes on to make an imperative statement to His audience. He distinguishes them from nations, and men, and they. He says, 28 When these things begin to take place [the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory – and all of the other things that had terrified unbelievers] – when these things begin to take place – “Stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” He’s saying, there is another scenario than that of nations, and men, and they who will be so troubled – another perspective. Having that other perspective, a person will be able to have confidence on that day. That person will be able to assume the posture of someone who expects only good things to happen. And the person will be expecting those good things for good reason.
In His imperative statement to His audience, Jesus uses the word redemption. In fact, He talks about your redemption. That indicates that the person had been in a situation that necessitated significant corrective action. The person needed to be bought back from something. That’s what redemption is. A price is paid so that the person who was held captive can be set free. That’s one of the things Jesus pointed out that He, as Messiah, was here to do: proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed – and so on (Luke 4:18). He was quoting Isaiah’s prophecy (61:1-3), and applying it to himself as He read in the Synagogue.
The need to be prepared for what will be
In truth, every person is in need of redemption. Every person has inherited Adam’s sinful nature. Every person demonstrates original sin in acts that are sinful. The nations, and men, and they who will be so troubled on the last day are the ones who have ignored God’s invitation, and chosen to go their own way. Refusing to acknowledge our sinfulness is to refuse the invitation. Choosing to devote our most urgent attention to this world’s things is to refuse the invitation. Ignoring Christ as God’s grace among us is to refuse the invitation.
All of us need to be aware of this because, at times, we have bristled at God’s Word, hesitant to apply it to ourselves. We have been hesitant to proclaim God’s Word boldly for fear of the world. We have considered ourselves too busy to listen to God’s Words that Jesus says in our text – alone – never pass away. This world has stolen our interest from God’s Word in the past, and continues to do so.
And Jesus warns that we must avoid becoming the nations, and men, and they who will be unable to stand confidently with heads held high on the Last Day.
An illustration that encourages preparedness
He points to the fig tree, and all the trees. Their characteristic seasonal changes indicate something that will be happening soon. Their sprouting of leaves points to the fact that summer will be coming. Someone observing that – especially in a farming situation – is wise to make whatever preparations need to be made considering that that is the case. It is ridiculous – knowing that – to be caught unawares.
In the same way, Jesus tells His audience, you have every reason to be aware of what will be happening on the Last Day. Not only aware – but, joyfully aware. Nothing about it should trouble you. You have been redeemed in the blood of Christ! He has lived perfectly in your place. He has died for your sins. He has risen in glory as the one who goes before you so that you may rise in glory on the Last Day.
Jesus will return. That is what will be. You are preparing yourselves for what will be by listening to His Word. He draws you to Himself through it. He prepares you to be confident when you see signs that would otherwise be terrifying. He prepares you, through His Words that never pass away, to stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
After Paul tells the Thessalonians about the terrifying events that will take place on the last day for unbelievers, he says these words: 4 But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.
You are his audience too, brothers and sisters in Christ. Pay attention, then, to Christ’s Words, and look forward with joy to the day in which He will return in glory to bring you to be with Him in His eternal kingdom. Amen.