[Jesus said:] “In those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven” (Mark 13:24–27).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Trust in the midst of trouble. That’s what our Lord calls us to experience today. In our Gospel reading, Jesus speaks to a few of His disciples about the end of the world and Judgment Day. The vision He offers is frightening, unsettling. Nature breaks apart. The sun and the moon no longer give light. The stars tumble from the heavens. Everything is falling apart. But trouble brings trust to light and for those who hold on to the faith, there is wonderful Good News on the horizon!
The moment God brings history to an end is the moment when the Son of Man will come in the clouds of heaven to judge the living and the dead. Who is this Son of Man? Jesus consistently used this term to refer to Himself. He used it also in Mark 8:38 and Mark 14:62 when speaking of His coming in judgment. So, the disciples know it is the same Jesus speaking with them on the Mount of Olives—the one who will shortly suffer and die for the sins of the world—who will also come on that Day to judge the world.
On that Day, Christ will come in glory and power and not in a state of humiliation as when He first walked among us before His resurrection and ascension. In His assumed human nature, He will return to gather to His tribunal all people, the dead and the living—the former raised to life from the dust and the latter changed in an instant.
On that Day, Christ will reveal His power and authority by sending His angels. They will gather the elect, all those who have been called and chosen by the Lord to be His own. No matter where we are or where our bodies, bones, dust, or ashes may lie, the Lord’s angels will find us and bring us to Him. While our text does not expressly mention the resurrection of the body, it is certainly implied.
On that Day, all will see the truthfulness of Christ and His Word. In the prophetic and apostolic oracles, He promised that there would be a judgment at an appointed time. Those who scoffed and mocked such prophecy will receive their comeuppance; those who believed and trusted His promise will have their faith validated.
On that Day, those who suffered unfairly and who cried out to the Lord for justice, will see its completion. All will be made right. Each will receive the compensation for his works in his body. All people will see the glory of God’s justice. The godly will receive their rewards, the ungodly will receive eternal punishment. Cast into the outer darkness, the ungodly will no longer be present to tempt us or to persecute us. We believers will be safely with the Lord.
On that Day, Christ will demonstrate His kindness and grace because He will repay the godly beyond what we have deserved, beyond every merit, by completely sharing with us the boundless treasure of eternal glory and happiness of His Kingdom and therefore also Himself.
On that Day, Christ will demonstrate His power in the execution of the sentence He has pronounced in the full destruction of the devil’s kingdom and in the confirmation of His own heavenly and eternal Kingdom. For at that time, He will “place all His enemies as His footstool (Psalm 110:1) and “He will destroy death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). He will reveal Himself as really the most powerful Victor over Satan, death, and hell (Hosea 13:14; 1 John 3:8).
On that Day, Christ will completely renew and reshape the divine image in which man was first created in His beloved elect and He will dwell with us forever as if in His own glorious temple (Philippians 3:21l Revelation 21:3, etc.). In eternity, the saints and the elect will glorify God and the Lamb seated upon the throne by freely acknowledging the glory of God’s wisdom, goodness, truthfulness, justice, and power and by doing this with unending praises.[i]
When will this be? Only the Father knows. But that Day could be any day. All the signs have been fulfilled.
The lesson of the fig tree is simple. When the twigs and leaves sprout, summer is at hand. Thus, when you see the signs mentioned in this chapter, you know that the end is near. However, we must remember that God does not look at time the way we do. “For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4). From the time the apostles took the Gospel out into the world, to the destruction of Jerusalem, to the growth of the Church, to its persecution from within and without, to the end of all things is one chapter in God’s sight—the final chapter. Jesus has a purpose in speaking this way—so that we might never say His coming is due on such and such a date and then delay in getting ready.
For the sake of the disciples, who were often perplexed and in doubt, Jesus added a statement concerning the reliability of His words and predictions. Heaven and earth will grow old like a garment (Mark 13:24-25) and pass away, but His words will never pass away. Many years may pass (and have!), but the end will most certainly come. At that moment, Jesus also will come to gather all believers to Himself. That’s a real antidote for despair.
As Jesus unfolds this frightening vision, He offers us a comforting promise. The Son of Man will return. He will gather His people from the ends of the earth. And He will reveal what has always been true—He rules over all things (Mark 13:26) and His Word is to be trusted (Mark 13:31). Amid all the frightening changes, one thing remains the same—Jesus, who promises to be there for you.
On that Day, Jesus will come with the clouds of Heaven. He will no longer be someone you can mock and spit on and torture and nail to the cross. He will no longer be someone you can worship at your leisure when you don’t have anything more pressing going on that weekend. He will no longer be someone whose words you can pick and choose which you want to believe and follow. No, He will reveal Himself as Lord of all. All things are under His control. When the Son of Man comes with power and glory, angels go forth at His bidding to gather His people from the ends of the earth and the ends of the heavens. And all the Lord’s promises of eternal life in His Kingdom, will fully and finally come true.
So, “watch,” Jesus says. His words to you are life and His promises will never pass away. In the end, you will see He has conquered sin, conquered death, conquered Satan for you. Our risen Lord Jesus is the reigning Lord Jesus. Even now when He is so hard to see.
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that life in our world has been changing drastically. And I’m not talking specifically about COVID, now. COVID just hastened a sickness in our society that was already spreading quickly. I’m talking about our social interactions. No one knows how to speak with someone with whom they disagree anymore. Everyone who agrees with us is our friend and everyone who disagrees with us at some point in our enemy. Our nation’s public codes of behavior and topics of conversation have changed, and, for Christians, that can be bewildering. We wonder how to respond.
Today, Jesus comes to remind us of what we already know. The kingdom He brings is not of this world. If the world does not look like the Church, that is because it is not. His Kingdom is not a political kingdom, established by votes, manipulated by polls and the news cycle, and enforced with power. Christ’s Kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, and He works by grace.
By grace, today, Jesus gives you His promise:
“I am your Lord and Savior. On that Day of Judgment, you will see Me on the clouds of Heaven, revealing who I am—the Lord of all nations. For now, I come in hidden ways. In a word spoken from a pulpit. In a splash of water on a child’s head. In the bread and wine shared at the communion rail. I am there, in body and blood, in power and love, for you.
“From now until the day of My return, the world will change, and people will wander from their God. People will turn more inward to themselves and against others. Such changes are disorienting, frightening. As My disciples, I know you will feel isolated and alone. But look and listen.
“Like a tree, putting forth its leaves, about to bear fruit, these changes and challenges are just the sign of My coming. When the world gives you trouble, I give you relationship of trust.[ii] Trust in the One who overcame the world and who will finally come for you.
“Until that day, gather together. Support one another. Encourage one another Watch for My coming. For one day, I will return, and, when I come, I will open My Kingdom and welcome you home.”
Go in the peace of the Lord and serve your neighbor with joy! You are forgiven for all your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
[i] Gerhard, Johann. Translated by Richard J. Dinda. Theological Commonplaces XXX_XXXI: On the Resurrection of the Dead and On the Last Judgment, p 376
[ii] Gospel: Mark 13:24-37 (The Last Sunday of the Church Year …, https://www.1517.org/articles/gospel-mark-1324-37-the-last-sunday-of-the-church-year-series-b.