Jean’s Gospel: The Coming of the Son of Man
“The Coming of the Son of Man
‘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, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’ ” (Luke 21:25-28)
When Jesus returns on the last day in glory with power, it will be plain and unmistakable to everyone. “For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.” (Luke 17:24) Creation itself will signal God’s final judgment. Christ’s return will be preceded by spectacular signs in the cosmos and on earth, which many people worldwide will notice. However, people will react to these signs very differently.
Unbelievers will be perplexed and terrified with fear. What is more perplexing to an unbeliever, when faced with immanent catastrophe, than the questions of “Why me?” or “Why now?” Unbelievers will experience helplessness and powerlessness to forestall the end. The signs of the end to them will herald final judgment and death.
On the other hand, Christ’s return is the joyous fulfillment of the prayers of the Church, which from her beginnings have included: “Thy kingdom come;” “Deliver us from evil;” and “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22:19) In contrast to the faithless who will faint with fear, Jesus tells His disciples to “straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Christians have nothing to fear from the signs of His coming. Judgment day for Christians is resurrection day – the redemption of our bodies. And this redemption is not only for Christians: “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom 8:21)
“The Lesson of the Fig Tree
And [Jesus] told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’ ” (Luke 21:29-33)
Jesus wants us to anticipate His return in peace with great joy. He compares his second coming to the arrival of summer. Just as the darkness, bitterness and cold of winter depict the opposition, sin and evil that afflict Christians nonstop in the Church Militant, the bright colors, fruitfulness and warmth of summer depict the deliverance from evil, sin, death and the devil that Christians will inherit in the Church Triumphant. Paul describes his inheritance as a “crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Tim 4:8) Christ’s promises will survive the passing of heaven and earth.
This summer is the harvest time that Jesus referred to in the Parable of the Weeds. At this harvest, He will send His angels to separate the wheat from the tares. “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matt 13:43)
‘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. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 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.’ ” (Luke 21:34-36)
Some of us may be conflicted about Christ’s return or distracted by the cares of this life? Are we ready to meet Christ now or do we have things we want to accomplish first? Is it a promising career? Getting married or starting a family? Evangelizing an unbelieving relative or spouse? Are we too busy for church right now? Is there unrepentant sin that we are not yet ready to confess but know is wrong?
We must repent of conflicting priorities and unbelieving hearts, which weigh us down, and trust Christ. “Our will be done” must yield to “Thy will be done.” Christ’s return and his kingdom will be infinitely more glorious than anything we might hold on to or accomplish for ourselves here on earth. His timing will be perfect. Christ will not return a minute too soon or a minute too late. So do not fear. The cares of this world must not distract us from the kingdom of God.
But stay awake at all times, praying that you have the strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36)
Jesus concluded His teaching with an exhortation: “But stay awake at all times….” Sounds reasonable right? But who can actually do this? Not even Peter. Therefore, if we are going to stand before the Son of Man on the last day with raised heads, it will not be by our own strength or works. We need a Savior. Jesus addressed a similar question in Mark’s Gospel: “And [the disciples] were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’ ” (Mark 10:26-27)
Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2). He will be our strength to escape the cataclysm of the last day. Jesus will stand us up with raised heads at the final judgment. He will provide His Church with more than enough oil to keep our lamps brightly lit until the day of His return. Therefore, let us with joy and thanksgiving continue to receive forgiveness, salvation and life in Christ’s name, which He won for us at Calvary and now delivers to us through His ministries of Word and Sacrament. “Come, Lord Jesus!”
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20-21)