2015-9-20 The Kingdom Of God Is Approaching

LUKE 21:25-38                                                                                SEPTEMBER 20, 2015

“THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS APPROACHING!”

“A little known fact from the life of Christopher Colum bus is that he predicted the end of the world. He wrote a volume called ‘The Book of Prophecies’, in which he prophesied that the world would end in the year 1656. He even stated very definitely that there is no doubt that the world must end in 165 years.” Whenever you hear someone give a date of the return of Christ or of the end of the world you can know with a certainty that it won’t be on that date. Matthew 24:36, 42 (NIV) 36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

Over the years I have observed two different reactions on how Christians think about the prophecies of his return. Some become obsessed with the end time prophecies while others tend to dismiss them as being irrelevant to daily life. Each of these extremes should be avoided. We would do well to keep his prophetic words in mind so that we will be prepared.   

Last week we looked at the short term prophecies that Jesus foretold in Luke 21:5-24. Today we will look at the verses that refer to future events. These events are to take place after “the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”. (Verse 24) Luke 21:25-28 (NIV) 25 “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. 26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

The scripture points to events in the heavens and upheaval of the earth as signs that God is bringing his judgment and justice. Isaiah 13:9-10 (NIV) 9 See, the day of the LORD is coming –a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger– to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. 10 The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.”Joel 2:30-31 (NIV) 30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.” This passage from Joel was quoted at length in Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost.

People often respond to cataclysmic events with despair and fear. Yet Christians are not to respond with fear but with expectant hope. “28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” If we are aware of the signs of Christ’s imminent return then we will be able to respond in faith and trust because we know what is going to happen.

The scriptures have long foretold of the coming of the Lord by his appearing in the clouds. Daniel 7:13-14 (NIV) 13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

When Jesus ascended into heaven the angels told the disciples to expect his return in the same manner. Acts 1:10-11 (NIV) 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Jesus then told his disciples the parable of the fig tree. Luke 21:30-31 (NIV) 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” In the last two years we have had four blood moons that have occurred on Jewish religious holidays. The last of these blood moons has just appeared in the days leading up to the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.  When blood moons have occurred like this on Jewish holy days significant events have taken place affecting Israel. Do I think something may happen this week or sometime soon? It is possible.

What I know for sure is this. Luke 21:34-36 (NIV) 34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” It is very easy for us to get bogged down in daily life and be unaware of what is happening in the world.

In my freshman year in college I did not know that Egypt and Syria had attacked Israel on the Day of Atonement in September of 1973. It was three days before a professor mentioned the attack in class. I was unaware of this war, along with most of my fellow students. We should not be like unbelievers who will fret and worry over world events and allow events to catch us up in the hysteria of the moment. We are called to be alert and ready to respond in faith and in prayer.

Jesus also gave this warning. Luke 21:32-33 (NIV) 32 “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” There is much debate on which generation Jesus is referring.

What shines through in these prophetic words of Jesus is that God is sovereign over world events. God is in control of all things! In the shorter catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith question seven asks: “What are the decrees (commands) of God? “The decrees of God are his eternal plan based on the purpose of his will, by which, for his own glory, he has foreordained everything that happens.” Psalm 33:10-11 (NIV) 10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.”

Jesus made it clear how he expects believers to respond to these events. We are called to stand firm in the faith and use the occasion to point people to come to Jesus, the only hope of eternal life and forgiveness of sins. Trusting God in all things will calm our fears and allow us to stand firm holding on to our faith in Jesus Christ.

To God be the glory forever and ever! Come quickly, LORD JESUS!

Let us pray.

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