Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Luke 21:25-36 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, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” 29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 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. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But 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.”
The first thing to understand is that though the signs preceding the last day are of different kinds, they will all be fulfilled, even though none or very few take note of them or regard them as signs. There are two sets of signs in this chapter. The first set are the signs that Jesus talks about earlier in this chapter: nation against nation, wars and rumors of war, earthquakes, famines and pestilences, and persecutions. They will deliver you up to the prisons and before kings and governors for my name’s sake. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of them will put you to death. Although people today see these signs, still they do not believe, but laugh at them and confidently say: “You fool! Are you worried heaven is falling. Is there not a rational, scientific explanation to your so-called signs? Is it not just a bad government, a corrupt president, or global warming that is behind all these things?” They will scoff and follow their own sinful desires and say, “Where is the promise of his coming?” They will continue to marry and give in marriage. They will laugh and play and live in all kinds of debauchery and uncleanness. They will give themselves over to orgy and drunkenness. They will sit securely and dwell on the earth as if the day of judgment were still very far away. But Jesus says it will come upon them like a trap just when they least expect it.
But you, people of Christ, should not be led astray here thinking that this happens because of the natural course of heaven or politics or manmade disasters. Christ calls these things signs. Let the unbelievers doubt and despise God’s signs and say they are only natural; you hold onto the Gospel. Recognize these signs and when you see them taking place, rather than tremble with fear, rise up, lift your heads in joy that the Lord is not far behind.
These are the first signs, but now we look at the second signs. The signs in our text this morning. These are entirely different signs. Jesus says there will be signs in the sun and moon, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves. People fainting with fear of what is coming on the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. These are different. For the orgy and drunkenness during the first sings will come to an end. Now, in the second set of signs, instead of living in confidence saying these are just natural events and not signs at all, they will faint with fear. The first signs are what we are living in today. The second set is the actual coming of Christ in power and might, when the sun will give up its light and the heavens and earth will be rolled up and disappear.
At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. In contrast to the first time He came, hidden in a stable, in poverty and weakness, bearing our sin on a cross, abandoned by God for our guilt, and paying the penalty of our unrighteousness, this time he will come in power and glory and judgment. Yet still today he comes to us in the weakness of the Gospel, hidden in water and bread and wine.
But when he comes again on the Last Day, all will see him; from the east to the west. This coming will be public and “every eye will see Him,” (Rev 1:7). This is the time when the Lord of All shall return in glory, surrounded by a great host of angels and with the sound of a trumpet.
Let that be enough concerning the signs, what comes next deals with comfort for Christians against these signs.
The Second Part
When these things begin to take place, look up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near (v.28).
Here you may say, Who can lift up his head in the face of such terrible wrath and judgment? If the whole world is terrified at that day, and hangs its head and looks down out of terror and fear, how are we to lift up our heads and raise them up, which means joy and longing? Answer: All of this is spoken only to Christians who are truly Christians, and not to heathens. True Christians suffocate in great temptations and persecutions from sin and all kinds of evil, so that this life becomes bitter and loathsome to them. They suffer from the curse of sin and death pronounced at the garden of Eden. They suffer from hatred, sickness, disasters and woes. From persecutions and scorn and from all temptations to sin and evil that come from within their sinful flesh, from the world, and from the devil. True Christians recognize that they deserve the wrath of the coming Lord and if justice were met out, they would be cast into the eternal sea of fire.
Therefore, they long and wait and pray for redemption from sin and all evil—as we also pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come” and “Deliver us from the evil one.” If we are true Christians, we will earnestly pray this prayer.
If we pray correctly, then we must regard these signs, however terrible they are, with joy, as Christ says, when these things begin to take place, look up. He does not say, “Be filled with fear or hang your heads,” for what we have prayed for so earnestly is coming. If we earnestly desire to be free from sin, death, and hell, we must desire and love his coming.
St. Paul also says, “He will give the crown of righteousness not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing,” (II Tim 4:8).
But what do those people do who are filled with fear and do not want him to come when they pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. Deliver us from evil”? Are they not striving against the will of God? Therefore, we should not hate or dread that day. To believers that day will be comforting and sweet. That day will at the same time be the highest joy to believers and the deepest terror to the unbeliever.
But you say, “I would indeed await and love this coming if I were godly and without sin.” Answer: Well, then how does fearing and fleeing help you? It would not redeem you from sin even if you were afraid. The damned are eternally afraid, but this does not take away their sin. Fear must depart and be replaced by a desire for righteousness and for that day.
There is no one who is more prepared for the last day as he who desires to be without sin. If you have such a desire, what do you fear? That day comes to set you free from all sin. Christ says his coming is for our redemption. Christ paid for your sin by his death on the cross. There he did set you free from all sin, and pronounced you sinless in his eyes.
Therefore, we must above all things lay aside all hatred and fear of this coming and remain diligent, that we would earnestly and gladly be free from sin. As Jesus says, “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.” But, 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.
First he says, You will hear of wars, but you should not be frightened. Second, He tells you joyfully to look up. Third, to lift up your heads, and fourth he calls it your redemption. What can comfort and strengthen you more than such a word. It is not your condemnation, but your redemption of which Christ speaks.
So, watch and stay awake. Put away all drunkenness and licentiousness. Put away all sexual immorality. Put away hatred and jealously, strife and division. Dedicate yourself to works of righteousness and a pure heart. Sacrifice your all for your neighbor. Serve him and love him. Put away filthy speech and offensive language. Speak words of truth and comfort. Words of encouragement and counsel. Seek their well-being. Encourage one another in the Lord and may your lips speak the Gospel of Jesus Christ for their comfort and salvation. Praying at all times for your neighbor and his salvation from sin so that on that Last Day you may stand before the judgment seat of the Lord without fear, but trusting his mercy and grace.
That is enough for the explanation. But the world will not believe any of this, so that the scripture remains true that assigns them contempt for God’s Word, works, and signs. Indeed, heaven and earth will pass away, but his words and promises will not pass away. Amen.