How should Christians react to signs of the end of the age?
Let’s look at the purpose of prophecy and how Jesus encourages us to proceed.
We will examine, the second part of Jesus’ prophecy in Luke 21:25-36 and what he wants us to do about it.
Luke 21:25 “And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. 26 People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. 28 So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” 29 Then he gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. 30 When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. 31 In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near. 32 I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear. 34 “Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, 35 like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. 36 Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”
(Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.)
Signs (vs. 25-28)
Jesus begins this chapter with short-range prophecy about the destruction of the Temple, then moves to longer-range prophecies. Signs of Christ’s return are astronomical, international troubles, oceanographic, and terror. While the world cringes in fear of the coming of the Son of Man, we Christians are able to rise above fear. What is the difference? Those who are too tied to this world fear and mourn, whereas those who are expectant of a better world have faith and look forward to Christ’s coming. The term Son of Man comes from the book of Daniel. We should stand up and look with confidence, because literally “redemption” is near. We cannot know the day or hour, but we CAN KNOW that God’s kingdom is near. This is good news for those who believe Jesus and submit to his reign over our lives.
Faithful not Fearful (vs. 29-36)
Prophecy ought not make us fearful, but faithful. The analogy of a fig tree getting its leaves, indicating that summer is coming, indicates a different way of reckoning the seasons. Moderns like the day-and-hour concept of seasons. For instance, in the USA, summer 2016 begins Monday, June 20 at 6:35 PM EDT. We can also determine seasons by looking at plants and weather. In this way we speak of summer coming late or early. Jesus’ coming cannot be determined by the day-and-hour, but only by its nearness and it’s approach should spur us to readiness. The term “this generation” is not necessarily a length of time, but could also refer to fearful people attached to this world who resist the Gospel. That kind of people will not pass until Christ returns. Jesus encourages believers to be ready and in prayer.
Jesus is actually with us every moment, but he is hidden to our eyes "behind that invisible veil which keeps heaven and earth apart, and which we pierce in those moments, such as prayer, the sacraments, the reading of scriptures, and our work with the poor.”1 One day we will see with our eyes. Heaven and earth will be one. At that time every knee shall bow, creation will be new again, the dead will be raised and the kingdom of heaven will be here in all its fulness. Before then Jesus speaks of signs alluding to prophecies like Isaiah 13:9-10; Ezekiel 32:7-8; and Joel 2:30-31. As this world and its institutions come to an end there will be two kinds of people, those who live in fear and panic, and those who live in faith.
1Wright, N. T. Simply Christian Why Christianity Makes Sense. San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006. Print. 219.
Positive Steps in a Negative World
Looking down at the world we see turmoil and negativity. Jesus says to stand and look up, for your salvation is near! Where are our minds’ eyes focused? If the fig tree pictures the Jews and any other tree the nations, do we see signs there that his coming is near? Jesus says that we can know that the Kingdom of God is near. Why are we sad about nations rising and falling, when we know that the present heaven and earth will disappear, but his words will never disappear? Our generation is familiar with horror; we see it on the news; some even enjoy it as entertainment; as a society we are weighed down with self-indulgence and worries. Jesus says, watch out! If we fall asleep spiritually, that day may catch us unaware like a trap. Keep alert and pray.
Stand and look up, notice the fig tree. We don’t know the day or hour, but we can know that it’s near. Watch out! Don’t be dulled, don’t be worried, don’t be caught unaware. Keep alert, pray to escape and stand before Christ.