Luke 21:25-36 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 People 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 “Truly I tell you, 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 carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on 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.”
This is a difficult text. If it weren’t in the Advent 1 Year C lectionary, I probably would skip it. But that bothers me. You see, I respect the Bible as God’s Word. I believe that God inspired the writers of the Bible. God caused them to write about the things we need to know. Therefore, if I don’t like a particular scripture, the problem is probably with me and not with the scripture. In fact, I often find that, when I take the time to deal with a text that I don’t like, God often turns on lights for me that I hadn’t even imagined were there.
Again, we are tempted to ignore apocalyptic texts such as this. Not only are they difficult to understand, but we are embarrassed by the extremes of today’s apocalyptic preachers. However, we must acknowledge that Jesus spoke clearly about the Second Coming (also known as the Parousia), and other New Testament writings emphasize it as well. The lectionary does us a service by helping us to recover this important doctrine.
Our Gospel lesson for this week has its beginning in Jesus’ prediction that the temple will be destroyed (vv. 5-6) and the disciples’ question, “Teacher, so when will these things be? What is the sign that these things are about to happen?” (v. 7). Jesus responds by telling of wars and rumours of wars, earthquakes, and plagues (vv. 9-11), the arrest of Christians for witnessing (vv. 12-19), and the destruction of Jerusalem (vv. 20-24). Then come the cosmic signs of verses 25-26, which is where our Gospel lesson begins.
Jesus does not say these things to frighten us, but to prepare us.
Our proper response is not to be terrified (v. 9), but to avoid being led astray by false teachers (v. 8) and to take advantage of opportunities for witnessing created by the turmoil (v. 13). We are not to be concerned about preparing our defence, “for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to withstand or to contradict” (v. 15).
This is a very different scene from that which is too often proclaimed from apocalyptic pulpits today. There is no car suddenly left driverless at the Rapture. Jesus does not lift us above turmoil and suffering but drops us into the middle of it.
“The ‘redemption’ that is promised is not a private lifeboat to save a few privileged folks while everything else is destroyed” (Ringe, 253).
Jesus’ purpose is not to insulate us from discomfort, but to prepare us for redemption.
Jesus makes two major points are made here
POINT ONE LUKE 21:25-28. THERE WILL BE SIGNS
5″There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and on the earth anxiety of nations, in perplexity for the roaring of the sea and the waves; 26men fainting for fear, and for the expectation of the things which are coming on the world: for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28But when these things begin to happen, look up, and lift up your heads because your redemption (Greek: apolytrosis–sometimes used for being redeemed from slavery) is near.”
Jesus has been speaking about the destruction of the temple (vv. 5-6) and Jerusalem (vv. 20-24). He now turns his attention to the future of the world at large. The former will be characterized by the coming of armies, who will bring destruction (v. 20). The latter will be described by the coming of the Son of Man, who will bring redemption (v. 27). Both events will be devastating, but the destruction of Jerusalem will be catastrophic, while the coming of the Son of Man will be redemptive.
The coming of the Son of Man is heralded in Daniel 7:13-14. That chapter describes Daniel’s vision, where he saw frightening beasts doing terrible things. Then the Ancient of Days (God) took his throne, destroyed the beasts, and was joined by “one like a son of man”–a human figure in contrast with the earlier beastly images. This “one like a son of man” is given “everlasting dominion,” and “The kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole sky, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:27). The picture is that of a world restored to God’s intent–an end of chaos and evil–a beginning of peace and justice.
“There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and on the earth anxiety of nations, in perplexity for the roaring of the sea and the waves” (v. 25). When Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple, the disciples asked, “Teacher, so when will these things be? What is the sign that these things are about to happen?” (v. 7). Jesus then talked about wars and earthquakes and famines and plagues and great signs from heaven and persecution (vv. 19). Those were the signs that would point to the destruction of Jerusalem. Now, in verse 25, Jesus talks about the signs that will point to the coming of the Son of Man–cosmic signs involving the sun and moon and stars.
Jesus portrays a scene very much like the one described in the book of Daniel. The coming of the Son of Man will seem catastrophic (vv. 25-26)–and Jesus implies that it will be catastrophic for unbelievers–but it will usher in the redemption of believers (v. 28).
The picture is that of the birth of a new world–of all creation in labour. However, that labour will give birth to a wonderful new world where evil will be ended–where creation will be restored to God’s design. It is therefore a time for hope–for eager anticipation–for joy.
“the roaring of the sea and the waves” (v. 25b). If the sun, moon, and stars are affected, they can be expected to have an effect on earthly things as well. We know how the moon controls tides. Just imagine the ways an altered sun would affect us.
“men fainting (Greek: apopsuchonton–faint or die) for fear, and for expectation of the things which are coming on the world: for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (v. 26). Fear will be so intense that people will faint. The word apopsuchonton can also mean die, so it seems likely that some people will be literally scared to death.
“Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to happen, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near” (vv. 27-28).
The surprise here is that the warning signs pointed, not to the destruction but to the coming of the Son of Man–to redemption. Gardner Taylor, the great African-American preacher, had a sermon on this text that he concluded by shouting, “Look up! Look up!” Then he paused, his voice softening, and he proceeded very deliberately: “For your redemption–draweth–nigh!” Great words for an African American congregation that has suffered more than its share of turmoil! Great words for us all!
“But when these things begin to happen, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near” (v. 28).
Jesus’ language seems strange to us, but that would not be the case for Jesus’ disciples, who know Hebrew scripture. Hear these examples (see also Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 2:10; Haggai 2:6).
o The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts (Psalm 46:6).
o You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them (Psalm 89:9).
o The earth is utterly broken, the earth is torn asunder, the earth is violently shaken (Isaiah 24:19).
o I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke (Joel 2:30).
Such language is poetic. We cannot expect to connect it to specific events but need instead to hear the promise that God intervenes decisively in our history. It is not a threat, but a promise!
“your redemption (Greek: apolytrosis) is near.” Redemption involves bringing liberty to a captive, usually through a ransom payment–the payment required to secure the redemption. The New Testament presents Jesus’ death on the cross as a redemptive act for humanity–as a “ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Paul speaks of “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). He says that Christ Jesus became for us “wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). He tells us that “we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7)–and that Jesus Christ is the one “in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins” (Colossians 1:14).
POINT TWO LUKE 21:34-36. Be ready & BE CAREFUL
For one thing, this scripture tells us to get ready and to stay ready, because you never know when the day will come. Jesus says:“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with overindulgence and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap” (vv. 34-35).
That’s good advice, isn’t it? Get ready and stay ready, so that:
Those are three killers, aren’t they! overindulgence and DRUNKENNESS and the WORRIES of this life.”Those three things literally kill people. If you don’t believe me, ask your doctor whether overindulgence drunkenness and worries kill people. I am confident that he will say, “yes”
Soldiers talk a lot about readiness. Commanders remind them regularly that they need to be ready for whatever might come–whenever it might come.
“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life (PAUSE) and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.”
It would be so easy to say, “Well, let’s not get excited now. After all, Jesus hasn’t come back for two thousand years. Why should we think that he will come soon? Let’s not inconvenience ourselves now. Let’s not pray now. Let’s not worry now. After all, we read the Bible last month. Surely we don’t need to read the Bible this month too.”
But Jesus says to us- Be on guard Jesus calls us to be ready now because we might have no warning. That’s good advice whether we are preparing for the Second Coming or just preparing for tomorrow. “Get ready” is good advice for every day, regardless of what that day might bring. If we are spiritually ready for the Second Coming, we will also be spiritually ready for whatever else life brings.
Former British Prime minister Benjamin Disraeli said “The secret of success in life is to be ready for opportunity when it comes.”
Then there is this Chinese proverb –“ Dig a well before you are thirsty.”
The early church thought a lot about Christ’s Second Coming, and their message was always one of hope.
The great preacher, Alexander Maclaren, put it this way.
“The primitive church thought more about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ than about death or heaven. The early Christians were looking not for a cleft in the ground called a grave, but for a cleavage in the sky called Glory. They were watching not for the ‘UNDERtaker’ but for the “UPPERtaker.“
I know this can be a difficult subject for some people, however, I hope you enjoyed reading it.
- ARE you nervous about the second coming?
- Do you believe that Christ will return in physical form?
- How are you preparing for the second coming?
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