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.”
29And 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.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A couple of years ago, we had some trouble with the oven in our home. For some reason, it would suddenly go into self-cleaning mode while something was being cooked. Apparently, self-cleaning mode brings your oven’s heat to somewhere between 750-1,000°F. Banana bread does not like temperatures that high. Also, apparently, my family’s lungs did not like the banana bread’s response to temperatures that high. The worst part was how long it took to extract the smoking loaf from the oven. Even after the power was cut, the oven door remained locked and the bread kept smoking until the temperature fell to whatever Whirlpool deems safe. I stood next to the oven waiting so that as soon as I heard the lock release, I could open the door and take the glowing loaf outside to finish smoldering.
I was amazed at how our normal oven was able to turn what was supposed to be tasty goodness into a block of inedible, charred ash. But God speaks of another oven that will be more intense than anything we can imagine in our Old Testament text (Mal. 4:1-6). God speaks there about the day of judgment. Listen again to the first verse: “Behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” Now, that’s one hot oven.
Too often, it seems as though the wicked are strong, powerful, and unmovable. Too often, we think the wicked will always prosper and be better off than we poor, little Christians are. Malachi here says that our perception is that the evildoers are like strong trees with deep roots and large branches. But the burning oven of that day will incinerate them so that there will be neither root or branch left. Instead, the evil will prove to be nothing more than stubble that will burn up quickly. For those who refuse to repent, the Last Day will mean their utter destruction because the oven of God’s wrath will burn the stubble of the wicked.
As Jesus talks about this same day in our Gospel text, He doesn’t use the picture of a burning oven, but He uses similar pictures of calamity. Signs in the sun and moon and stars. Distress of nations in perplexity. Roaring of the sea and waves. People fainting with fear and foreboding because of what is coming on the world as the powers of the heavens are shaken.
We don’t like that imagery. We don’t like it when the world seems to be coming apart at the seams. Our fear probably lies in the fact that this world is all we have experienced and known. So, when we see it falling apart at an alarming rate, we get anxious. Repent. This world is not all there is.
Dear saints, we don’t need to be worried when we see the world collapsing. Jesus told us that it would happen. He gave us these signs so we would know what is actually going on. Jesus warned us so that we wouldn’t be afraid. It’s like Jesus is saying, “When it looks like everything is falling apart, when all creation seems to be disintegrating, it is. But don’t worry about it. Nothing bad is going to happen to you. Instead, be glad because all of it means that your redemption is drawing near.”
When you see signs in the sun, moon, and stars; when you see the nations in distress and perplexity; when you see the roaring of the sea and waves, people fainting with fear and foreboding; when you feel the oven heating up and see the stubble burning, remember what the Scriptures say. You are safe in the nail-scarred hands of your Savior, Jesus.
Again, as God promised in Malachi, “For you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out leaping like calves from the stall.”
So, the pictures we have, so far, of Christ’s return are an oven burning up the stubble of the wicked. But for you Christian, the picture is that the sun is rising and a new day of joy and everlasting peace is dawning. Imagine it this way:
You are in a castle at night, but suddenly all the guards and soldiers start running to the walls of the castle. They take their positions there because outside the castle walls is an army marching to attack the castle. The boots of that attacking army stop tramping, and you hear the shouts of commanders telling the troops to load the catapults and start banging away with the battering ram. Then you hear it. BOOM! The battering ram hits the castle doors and the walls shake. BOOM! A rock launched from a catapult hits its target and a couple of windows break and dust falls from the ceiling. Again and again and again BOOM!
Normally, you would be terrified in a situation like that. But not now. Not now because you are in the prison of that castle being held captive. And the commander who is leading the army that is storming the castle is Jesus coming to save you.
Knowing that, every crash, every clang, every shout of battle, every wall that crumbles around you means that your release is closer. And you know that a new day is dawning, and it is the day of your deliverance.
Dear saints, I said it a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll say it again. This world is ending. Good riddance. Every sign pointing to the end of this world – no matter how fearful or painful it may be – is a sign of your rescue. All of them are signs pointing you to the return of your Deliverer, your King, your Savior.
The oven is heating up. The stubble is smoldering. But, dear saints, lift up your heads. The Sun is rising. A new, eternal dawn is breaking forth on the horizon. And your redemption draws near. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.