Your liberation is near. 21:25-36
In our passage for study, Jesus calls on us to be alert, for it is very easy for a believer to slip into the cares of daily living and drift in faith such that we miss out on joining with him in the day of glory.
v25-26. Early in this chapter Jesus mentioned to the disciples that the temple would soon be destroyed. The disciples naturally want to know when and how these things will happened. Jesus now describes the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Drawing on prophetic imagery, he describes this destruction in the terms of the shaking of the "sun, moon and stars" - the shaking of powers and authorities on earth and in heaven. This rather descriptive language does not really concern cosmic disturbance, or natural calamity, rather it describes political distress under the mighty hand of God, Isa.13:10, Ezk.32:7, Jol.2:10-11. Jesus uses prophetic language that was once applied to Israel's enemies, and which is now applied to Israel itself.
v27.The proclamation concerning the coming of the Son of Man is what actually shakes the powers and authorities. Jesus' "coming in the clouds" is a coming to heaven, or from our perspective, an ascending to heaven to reign, Dan.7:13. As Lord of heaven and earth, Christ brings all things into subjection to himself. Stephen, in his vision, witnessed this "coming", Act.7:55-56. So, the Son of Man's coming, his enthronement, brings with it judgment.
v28. The shaking of all power and authority should remind believers that their liberation draws near. This was true for the apostles, and it is also true for us.
v29-31. As new sprouts on the fig tree tell us that summer is near, so the presence of these signs tell us that God's eternal reign is bursting in upon us. The early Christians witnessed Jerusalem surrounded by armies and they knew well that the end of the restored kingdom of Israel was at hand. History tells us that the believers fled Jerusalem before its destruction by Rome in 70AD. These same signs will herald the end of our age and the realization of the kingdom of heaven. Let us pray that we too will be able to read the signs in that day.
v32-33. Finally, Jesus answers the disciples' question "when", namely "this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place." The apostles did indeed witness the fulfillment of Jesus' words, but we need to be reminded that Jesus' prophetic words apply to our age as well as to the church in the first century.
v34-36. Jesus warns his disciples to be alert. These words warn us to not get caught up in worldly interests such that we take our eyes off Jesus. The last days will be devoid of faith and many believers will be carried away with the cares of the world. We need to pray that God will give us clear insight such that we are not lead us away from Christ. In the end, only those who continue to trust in the Son of Man will stand with him in the last day.
The shaking of heavenly bodies|
Biblical prophets always address their own generation, but their words also apply to other generations. For the disciples, the shaking of the "sun, moon and stars" imaged the destruction of the temple, but it also images another time in these last days. Although we think of cosmic dissolution, Jesus is speaking of a divine shaking of powers and authorities, both geopolitical authorities and those dark powers in heavenly places. This shaking is even now, but there is an implication that as the final day approaches, the pride of national sovereignty and the schemings of dark powers will rise against the throne of Christ. Persecution will go hand-in-hand with this shaking. Of course, only those with eyes to see will see it. The rest will be carried away by the glory of the "angel of light." All we can say is that when the day dawns, the children of faith will know it.
The purpose of these sayings of Jesus is not so much to prompt a reading of signs, but rather a renewing of faith. There are a number of motivators for the Christian life, and the return of Christ is one of the more powerful.
The danger we face in our Christian walk is that of secularization. Both the individual believer, as well as the church community, can get caught up in the "anxieties of life." This is particularly so today for the church, faced as we are with declining attendees and constricting budgets. It's very easy to rely on pragmatics rather than theology, easy to rely on marketing and management programs rather than faith in God's sovereign grace. Once a church gets into networking programs, rather than the straightforward communication of the gospel, then it has moved its members from faith to works. We are also under pressure to adjust our ethics, to comply with the social justice agenda of secular society rather than the revealed will of God. The gay marriage debate is a perfect example of this pressure.
We stand approved before the coming Son of Man, not by anything we do, but by a gift of God's grace appropriated through faith. If we have taken our eyes off Jesus and begun to focus on doing rather than receiving, then we face the danger of rejection on that day when we stand before our coming Lord. "Be careful" not to lose sight of this truth.
1. "Heavenly bodies will be shaken." What does this imagery represent?
2. "The Son of Man coming in a cloud". What is the purpose of his coming?
3. How are we "able to stand before the Son of Man"?
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