Falling stock market … Coronavirus … political polarization … general unrest. That’s been our week in this world, hasn’t it? Do these indicate the end, if not of the world, at least of something?
In Luke 21.5-38 Jesus adjusts His disciples’ vision—and our vision too. It’s scant days before Jesus will pay for sin with His death. He’s been in the temple during these days; He leaves to spend nights on the Mount of Olives. As as He and His disciples were leaving the temple complex after one day of teaching, His band of mostly provincial disciples begin admiring the temple—massive, white granite stones, tapestries, golden plates that reflected the light of the sun like mirrors. Don’t get so excited about this, Jesus says, … the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down (:6).
Questions about the end (:5-7). The disciples then ask Jesus two questions: When will this be? And, What will be the sign when these things are about to take place?
Events that DON’T mean the end (:8-26). The majority of what follows consists of Jesus’ description of eight events (by my count) that DON’T indicate that the end of the age is at hand. Here they are: false claims about the Christ (:8), social chaos (:9), kingdoms rising and falling (:10), natural disasters, famines and pandemics (:11), persecution of God’s people (:12-15), family hatred (:16), the fall of Jerusalem (:20-24), and cosmic upheaval (:25-26).
While Jesus’ disciples likely thought the fullness of the kingdom (and Jesus’ return) would occur within their own lifetimes, Jesus is preparing them for the long age (by our reckoning) between His two comings. He’s preparing them for the time in which you and I are living now. This in-between time will include a pattern of intensifying unrest, leading toward, but not immediately resulting in the return of Christ and the end of the age. In the words of Romans 8.22, For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now … This time will also include the worldwide preaching of the Gospel (Matt 24.14; Mk 13.10).
The sign of the end (:27-28). Then comes the beautiful part of the passage (for those trusting in Jesus). And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. This is Jesus, the head of redeemed humanity, cast in the language of Daniel 7. Just as sure as He died a physical death, was raised to physical and bodily life, and ascended physically and bodily (Acts 1.10), He will return. And, He won’t be here until He’s here—though He won’t be late.
Jesus Himself is our glorious hope! In admiring the temple the disciples were in danger of distraction. In becoming mired in the business of life, we’re in danger of taking our eyes off Jesus.
How do we prepare for the end? To prepare for the end, keep your eyes on Jesus!
Preparing for the end (:28-38). The remainder of the passage includes a command, an illustration, and some built-in application.
Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (:28). I take “these things” to refer to the entire pattern of fallen-world events stretching back to verse 8. When I see the world in trouble, I’m to keep my eyes on Jesus. Like the flowering fig tree (:29-33) means the coming of summer (or dripping sap means the coming of spring in the Northwoods), times of trouble mean Jesus is coming.
And while I’m enduring “these things” I’m to “watch [myself]” and “stay awake” (:34-38). This is practical application. There’s lots of things that would keep us mired down in this life and not thinking of Jesus and His return. Engine lights … kids not working well in school … bathroom pipes breaking … breakups with boyfriends or girlfriends … marriages coming apart … losing jobs … and so on, etc. If I lose sight of Jesus, the Day will come on me like a trap.
May it not be! May we, rather, be like the Apostle John who, in the last line of the last book in our New Testament finished by saying, Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev 22.20).
And may that thought encourage each of us this week.
Questions to discuss with others:
- This passage ends with a warning not to be consumed with the stuff of this life. What are some things that keep you from drawing your hope from Jesus?
- Jesus’ disciples wanted to know WHEN? and WHAT SIGN? Did Jesus answer these questions? Or did He answer other questions that we all need to know about Him? What are those questions?
- What are some unhelpful ways that we ought NOT to read this passage of prophetic Scripture?
- How does this passage ease or trouble your mind? What still bothers you? How does thinking about Jesus’ visible and glorious return help you?
Now, have a great week in the Lord …