5 And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, 6 “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
7 And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” 8 And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. 9 And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”
10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.
12 “But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13 This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14 Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17 You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.
20 “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23 Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
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.”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus says that as His return draws closer, there will be signs. He tells us about those signs because He expects us to be able to read them. The signs mean His return is as near and as sure as buds on a tree mean leaves are about to bloom.
The signs Jesus mentions are not pleasant. They hang over all of us with impending doom, and we see the signs even today. If you haven’t noticed, the world isn’t getting better. Violent, unstable rulers have the capability to use nuclear or biological weapons. Terrorism continues to spread. Anti-biotics might stop working. Christianity is being persecuted more and more. Violence is on the rise.
Creation is falling apart because our sins have polluted it. But none of this is a surprise. Jesus said it would happen, and He has told us to notice. He told us to notice so that we wouldn’t react to these signs like the unbelievers do.
When unbelievers notice the signs of Christ’s return and the end of the world, they react in two main ways. First, they fear and their fear leads them, secondly, to do works that they think will make themselves righteous.
The first reaction is fear. For those who do not have faith in Christ, for those who do not know God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness, these signs cause distress. Unbelievers are weighed down with fear, dissipation, and drunkenness. And how else should they respond? Fear is proper and appropriate for those who think that this world is all there is. As they see the creation falling apart and people fighting against each other, they know that everything they hold dear is coming undone. They fear.
Their fear is good and proper – it shows that their conscience is working. Fear is the first part of repentance, but it isn’t true repentance. It isn’t full repentance. It isn’t true, full repentance because it is lacking the most important part of repentance, faith. Faith is the most important part of repentance. Faith that clings to the promise that Christ has died and taken away their sin.
This fear often leads to the second way unbelievers react to the signs of Christ’s return and the end of the world which is to make up all sorts of works which they think will give them a clean conscience. But these works cannot justify them because they are motivated by fear – fear of wrath, punishment, and judgment.
You see this in the so-called ‘radical Muslims.’ In fear of Allah’s wrath, they try to follow the Koran. They use violence and terror in an effort to bring about total submission to Allah.
You see it in climate activists. They see the signs of the end of the world in nature and blame people who have huge carbon footprints, drive gas guzzling SUV’s, and spew “toxic” carbon dioxide into the ozone. So they do their good works. They try to save the planet by buying carbon credits and driving hybrid cars. And they evangelize. They preach that the only way to save the world is to do the ‘good works’ of reducing emissions.
And, you even see it in Christians too. Some think that electing this politician or passing that law will slow or stop the terrifying collapse of society. Some believe that we can make our nation become Christian, but nation’s don’t have faith – only individuals do. Brothers and sisters, the Church has worshipped far too long at the altar of politics and prayed too many prayers to the god of government.
None of this will stop or delay Christ’s return and the end of the world. It won’t! Because of sin – your sin and my sin and the sin of those who have come before us and the sin of those who will come after us – because of sin this world will end. It doesn’t matter how many good works you do or how many sins you avoid. This world will end. Christ will return. You will stand before God on Judgment Day.
The only response to the signs that Christ tells us about is to repent. Turn away from your sins and believe, trust in Christ.
The signs of the end of the world do demand repentance, but not a repentance that manifests itself in a self-made righteousness of works done in fear. Rather a repentance of the heart. When you see these signs, don’t be indifferent and don’t try to amend your life thinking that you will stop or delay the end of the world.
Instead, Jesus says, “When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
This takes faith – faith in the words of Christ. You have faith in something that stands firm even in the midst of all these terrors. You have faith that Jesus has come to restore this fallen, decaying creation. Christ will bring that work to completion when He returns. Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” And Jesus’ word to you is, “You are forgiven because of My death and resurrection.”
Believer, do not despair. Do not grow weary in doing good (2 Thess. 3:13). Jesus doesn’t tell us that the world will end so that we would try to fix it. Jesus has already fixed it. He will, He absolutely will – bring His work to completion. Jesus also doesn’t want you to should retreat.
The kingdom is drawing near. Jesus tells you this so that you will have joy and so that you will pray. And while you pray, you should work. Do the works that God has prepared beforehand that you should walk in (Eph. 2:10). What are these good works? They are laid out for you in the Commandments:
Have no other gods. Fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
Do not take God’s name in vain. Call upon God in every time of need and worship Him with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.
Remember the Sabbath. Keep God’s Word holy by being here to listen to God’s Word where He absolves you.
Honor your parents and all in authority over you. Honor, serve, obey, and respect them.
Do not kill. Help and befriend your neighbor in every need.
Do not commit adultery. Honor and defend marriage. Husbands and wives, love and honor each other.
Do not steal. Help your neighbor improve and protect his property and living.
Do not bear false witness. Defend your neighbor. Speak well of him. Put the most charitable construction on all that he does.
Do not covet. Be content with what God has given you.
Don’t do those works to escape Christ’s return or to give yourself a good defense when you stand before God on Judgment Day. Instead do those works because God called you to them.
Brothers and sisters, your Savior says, “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. As you see these things taking place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.