(Save video ’til the end!) If Jesus’ prophecy is true (and I believe it is), it will end the world as we know it. Sounds extreme, no? But it’s the best way I can introduce this momentous event beyond imagination.
Lets’ briefly set the scene. It’s (still) Tuesday before Jesus’ Friday crucifixion. Every brand of Jewish authority has verbally attacked Jesus through the day in the temple courtyard, trying but failing to force him into self-incrimination (Mark 11:27-12:34 & previous posts).
As they had left the temple, the disciples had been awed by its wonders. Not one stone will be left standing, Jesus had replied. Later, outside the city on the Mount of Olives, the disciples asked when this would happen and what signs would precede this cataclysmic destruction. Jesus told what lay ahead: wars, famines, earthquakes, false messiahs and persecution (13:1-13). One sign would be critical—“the abomination of desolation” standing where he shouldn’t. That’s when you must flee to the mountains, Jesus had warned. Tribulation on Jerusalem would be unequaled (13:14-23).
“But in those days, following that distress,
“‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds
with great power and glory. And he will send his angels
and gather his elect from the four winds,
from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens” (13:24-27).
Yeah, right. Religious crazies. It’s been, what, 2000 years? I know, I know. I’ve heard prophecies like this since I was a kid. And the sun still shines. No “Son of Man” in clouds. The time-factor mightily disputes these end-of-the-world words. So does this whole apocalyptic prophecy itself. Dark sun. Murky moon. Fallen stars. Whole lotta shakin’ going on in the sky. Son of Man coming powerfully and gloriously to gather his chosen people from Australia to Alaska.
The Time Factor. Okay. I agree. 2000 years is a long time, especially when my computer takes maybe 60 seconds to power up and a pop-up moans, “Too slow.” Maybe Jesus miscalculated. Or author Mark misheard Peter (from whom Mark got this stuff) or Peter misheard. Maybe instead of putting his foot in his mouth as he was prone to do, he stuck it in his ear.
Peter answered the time-factor dispute like this:
. . . scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing,
following their own sinful desires.
They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?
For ever since the fathers fell asleep,
all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation . . . ”
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved,
that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years,
and a thousand years as one day.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness,
but is patient toward you,
not wishing that any should perish,
but that all should reach repentance.
(2 Peter 3:3,4,8,9)
Jesus’ word “But” concurs. It translates the Greek alla which indicates a strong break with what preceded it and implies Jesus is now speaking of a new time period. Indefinite and long (as we’ve seen) to be sure, but sharply disconnected in time from the temple’s end in 70 A.D.
Apocalyptic Content. What Jesus predicts for the sun, moon, stars and sky sounds crazy. But so would a prediction on 9/10 of 9/11. Who would have imagined the twin towers would fall and make the southern tip of Manhattan a ghostly war zone?
Will the sun really go dark and the moon reflect no light and the stars all shoot to earth and the whole heavens shake like an otherworldly earthquake? Why wouldn’t they if the One through whom they were created was coming to judge the world?
I used to wonder how people throughout the earth could all, at the same time, see Jesus coming in the clouds. When TV went global, I thought that’s how. Some of us will see him in the flesh, others on live, cable TV. I’ve changed my mind. I still don’t know how Jesus will pull it off, except to say that, since he’s coming with “great power and glory”—not just “power and glory” but “great” (Greek mega)—I’m sure he’ll find a way. (Can you imagine what Jesus considers “great power and glory”?)
Good News: Gathering. The first part of Jesus’ prophecy implies bad news for Jesus’ enemies (including all who refuse to follow him in faith). But the second part—“And he will send his angels
and gather [together] his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens” is good news.
I see Jesus’ followers at work in office buildings, in hospitals, on farms, in nursing homes, in families around dinner tables, or alone at a kitchen table. All activity has stopped. Eyes on every continent are lifted toward the great power and glory of the Son of Man coming. Then angels move among people from every tribe, language, people and nation, approaching a man here, a woman there, a child there, saying “Come, he’s calling you.” And like a massive, holy, loving and joyful exodus the chosen stream together to the Son. Somehow, though they seem to be more than the sand by the sea, he welcomes each by name.
(Now, listen to the video, trust his words, and rejoice in praise!)