There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. (Luke 21:25, 26)
We are now into the church’s season of advent. Advent is not simply a time to look forward to Christmas, and prepare for the celebrations. It is a season to remember and prepare for the second coming of Jesus. During his earthly ministry, Jesus taught about his return, in passages like this on from from Luke 21. In it he encourages us to look out for signs, such as “nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.”
It sounds very impressive doesn’t it? It also doesn’t sound very far removed from our world and experience today. The roaring and tossing of the sea connects with the storms, hurricanes and tsunamis that we have experienced over recent years. Climate change and the unpredictable weather that accompanies it, have certainly brought anguish and perplexity to the nations.
Another sign for Jesus’ return is that people are “apprehensive of what is coming on the world.” We may not have the heavenly bodies shaken as described here, but I think we have all experienced apprehension over what is happening in the world, haven’t we?
As these verses suggest, all the nations and every person is anxious and apprehensive. With the Covid pandemic still with us, wars and rumours of wars across the globe, and rising tensions politically, it doesn’t take much imagination see what Jesus is getting at here. The signs are there for all to see.
So what are we to do with these signs? One response to these signs is to drop our heads. We can either look away and avoid the signs, or we can drop our head out of fear.
Jesus puts it this way in verse 34: “your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life”. We can distract ourselves from what is happening with pleasure, or drink ourselves to a state where we forget. Or we can allow ourselves to be dominated by fear and anxiety; to be weighed down by worry and allow our heads to drop. We don’t pay attention to signs and don’t notice what is going on. So Jesus’ return comes as a surprise.
But there is another response to the signs of Jesus’ return. We can not drop our heads, but instead lift our heads:
When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (Luke 21:28)
There is much that is scary and worrying in the world. But those things are signs that Jesus’ return is coming closer. And that is a good thing. So when we see or hear these things, we should stand up straight! We should lift our heads! Because our redemption is drawing near! Our king is coming closer! It’s nearly time!
Now, I don’t think Jesus is telling us to be uncaring about the state of the world. We should be concerned about things like climate change and Covid. They affect people and we should care about them and do what we can to help where we are able. But what we should not be is afraid. We don’t need to fear even when everything seems to be going wrong and disaster seems to be at the door. All these things are signs that Jesus is close at hand.
So notice the signs that the end of the age is near. Stay safe by trusting in Jesus. Do whatever we can to alleviate suffering, help the poor and vulnerable, care for those in need. Lift up your heads. Can you hear it? The king is near!