READ Luke 21:7-13
Jesus has just told the disciples that everything they know about worship in the temple is going to be upended. Understandably, they are confused:
And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” (Luke 21:7)
Our Lord is gracious. Jesus did not have to explain these mysteries to the disciples. He could have just said, “You’ll see!” But He brings them into the narrative and invites them to learn to see things through the upside-down way of the kingdom.
And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” (Luke 21:8-9)
First, Jesus tells them what will not be a sign of this shift. Jesus tells them that many will come claiming to be the Messiah. Many false teachers will attempt to deceive many by claiming the position of honor that only belongs to Jesus Christ. These deceivers will tell the people that the time is now and that the end is at hand. These teachers will be tricky, slyly misleading the people of God. I don’t know about you, but I can name at least three teachers in my lifetime who have made such claims. I saw their videos online or read their warnings on Chicago billboards, and while their message sounded similar to the promises held forth in God’s Word, they offered a counterfeit version of the truth that fell empty and hallow. They preyed on fear and disillusionment, and Jesus warns the disciples not to go after these false teachers because they are not a sign of the shift He is talking about.
Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. (Luke 21:10-13)
Then Jesus tells them what will signal this shift in redemptive history.
Look back through the list of signs that Jesus names and notice how no sphere of our world is left untouched. Name one way each realm of creation will be affected when the time comes:
The physical creation will have tremors, the political powers will be at odds, and even heaven itself will be full of both “terrors and great signs.” If you’re like me, you read these signs and it strikes your heart with fear and floods your mind with questions. But Jesus is clear that the disciples – and we today – are not to fear. Why? How can we have confidence in the face of such social turmoil? Because all of these signs indicate that God’s kingdom is coming.
Today, you and I live in an earthly kingdom. Though Jesus has welcomed us into His kingdom and we are learning to live as citizens of that kingdom, we are also limited humans, living out our lives in the kingdoms of this world. We live in light of our great hope that one day God will come and finally and fully establish His kingdom. The work that Jesus began at the cross will come into full form; God will rule fully and finally and we will live in His presence. All of these signs, as frightening as they sound, are signs of our hope coming alive! God is setting a scalpel to the fabric of the kingdoms of this world, and slowly but surely slicing through the earthly kingdoms to reveal His glorious kingdom. The signs may temporarily terrify us, but ultimately they point to the great hope of the Christian faith: the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Spend some time considering the dichotomy of God’s kingdom and the earthly kingdom in which we now live. Thank God that He has promised to come again and permanently establish His kingdom. Ask Him to teach you about His kingdom and how to live in light of His coming.