25“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
You will forgive me if I have trouble keeping track of all the things that are sure to bring about our horrible end. There seems to be a new one competing for our unreserved fear nearly every week. So many of the people around us are going through life bowed down under constant pressure and fear. The wrong person won the election? It’s the end of the world. The climate changes? It’s the end of the world! People have too many babies … or too few babies? The end of the world! Not everyone is ready to give into every single made-up human right, some people actually think independent nations are a good thing, people put the resources of this good world into use to make lives better … you guessed it … it’s the end of the world!
It is a sad, but true reality of our current society. Without the full measure of eternity granted by a knowledge of God, every little thing becomes a spark on the powder-keg of existential fears. Without a hope for everlasting life, every piece of news quickly becomes the life-killer everyone now must fear. Safe spaces, trigger warnings, cry-ins, and rioting marches at the drop of a hat … it will only get worse the further removed from God our culture gets.
So what will people do when the end really does come? When the signs of the coming end reach a truly cosmic scale and there is no room left for doubt? Anguish and terror – people coming unglued! The cataclysmic events of the end times will be alarming for one and all. And at a scale not even our chicken-little sky-is-falling society can begin to imagine! That prospect is truly terrifying. For those who ill not hear God’s Word will have anguish, perplexity, fear, and fainting. But to those who do hear – Jesus’ Words offer comfort and hope. How? Because they point to the coming of the Son of Man.
27And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The coming of Jesus will only intensify the fear of unbelievers beyond all bearing. But for the faithful it is Good News beyond compare! The end of the world is not a reason for fear, but a reason to straighten up, stand tall and look up into the heavens, because life in the presence of the Eternal One is about to begin. Don’t be like the unbelievers, who have every reason to fear the end (and who thus see it in every shadow and around every corner). Look up to see the Christ, who brings the glory of the eternal kingdom.
For Jesus will return to earth in splendor and give us in full that redemption He prepared for us on His first visit to earth. And just how can we know this? How can we stand firm in such faith, when the world around us crumbles in doubts and anxiety? Because God’s Word stands forever!
32Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
This generation is always used by Luke to speak of unbelievers. The signs are there, but they will not see. They will not see, because they will not stand under the Word of God. Nothing seems to work, nothing seems to last, everything else has failed them, but still they will not turn away from this world to God and His Word.
Among all the things in this life that dissolve or perish there is one thing that will not pass away – God’s Word – especially His promises to us of forgiveness, life, and salvation in Jesus. All material things will perish. They will drag you down with them when they fall, if you trust in them. But the Word of Jesus, who created all things, is everlasting. “He is not a mere man or angel, neither is He just true, wise, and mighty, but He is the eternal Truth and Wisdom itself and Almighty God. He knows very well what and how He is to speak. He can also powerfully effect and do everything that He says and promises. (FC SD VII 43) This Jesus, this Word made flesh, will not bring you down, but lift you up and hold your head up high in the hope that He alone can bring. This Jesus will straighten you up and allow you to stand firm and watchful as you await His coming.
34“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
If we give in to the desires of our sinful flesh we will be weighed down, our hearts will grow cold, fearful, loveless and we will be tempted to follow the ways of unbelievers and find relief in the temporary and perishing things they look to. We will be tempted to worry too much about this life rather than standing firm in the hope of the life which is coming with our Lord.
Indeed, on our own, we are too weak to straighten up and live right. But despite our unworthiness, we can still escape all these things that shall come to pass, and stand before the Son of Man. How so? Only through the worthiness that the Son of Man Himself has supplied through His saving life, death, and resurrection. We can stand ready for His return, by standing with Him even now. In His Word, and Sacraments, in His Holy Church.
We should always be on guard, always be praying. Ready to meet our Lord with heads lifted high in eager expectation and gratitude. Our focus on daily affairs can shorten our prayers and lower our eyes so that Jesus’ return might surprise us like those who don’t look for it. But His return will bring redemption and new freedom. So instead, let all the fears and uncertainties of this messy life lead you to focus all the more on your redemption in Christ. Jesus’ return will bring a full and final deliverance from all the evil of this world. Pray earnestly for that day.