One of the downsides of growing up a Christian is that I’m a bit too used to Jesus. I’ve read all the Gospels before, so I tend to skim over some of the interesting, profound and downright weird things Jesus says.
I ran into one of the last of those as I was preparing for a Bible study last week. Among other passages, we were looking at Luke 21:25-28.
“… 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.”
Wait. What? Jesus was just talking about all kinds of horrible things happening. Earlier verses talked about wars, earthquakes, famines and plagues. Now even the planets and stars are moving out of their orbits. To me, the logical response to all of this would be to hide. But that’s not what Jesus says to do.
Well, He did warn the people in Judea to flee when they saw Jerusalem surrounded. But that was talking about the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. The second half of the passage is focused more on the Second Coming, also known as the end of the world.
So to summarize: when the city of Jerusalem is destroyed, we should run, but when the whole planet is destroyed, we should, “straighten up and raise [our] heads.” When we got to this part in my Bible study, the whole class started laughing. I don’t blame them. This is very counterintuitive. But it has to do with the bigger picture. When the whole world starts falling apart, it’s a sign that God is about to put it back together again. And when He does that, the world will be far better off than it was before.
But what does this mean for us today? I’ve heard people claim that the Second Coming is going to happen in the near future, but I’m not convinced. It could, but I really don’t know. However, I do know that when I watch the news, it tends to make me depressed. There’s so much death, destruction and corruption in the world right now. Sometimes it seems like things are really falling apart.
If the problems we see in the world are in fact a sign that the end of the world is near, we can face the future with confidence because Christ will return soon and make everything right. In fact, the horrible things that are happening are all a part of God’s plan.
But if the problems we see are just problems and not at all related to the end times, we can still face the future with confidence. If God can use even the destruction of the world for His glory and to bring about something new and better, how much more can He use the other problems we face, problems that are, well, not the end of the world. Obviously, as Christians we should do what we can to bring the world into better alignment with God’s will. But whether we succeed or not, God, who governs all of history, has a plan that will never fail.