Jesus View of His Disciples’ Future
Luke 21: 25-28
“And so, signs there will be in the sun, the moon and the stars and upon the earth there will be anxiety among the peoples at the sounds of the sea and the tides, while men’s lives are collapsing from within because of fear about what they are anticipating concerning the disclosure of their stewardship upon the inhabited earth; for the very powers of the heavens will be shaken from its moorings. And then they will begin to perceive that this is the son of Man coming in the [accumulating] clouds with great power and majesty. And when these things begin to happen stand to attention, heads up, because your [full and complete] emancipation is surely near at hand.”
The entire creation is put on alert. Jesus presents the Big Picture. Something is at work throughout the creation that seems to have put it all at risk, in danger of complete collapse. As a result, the sun, the moon & the stars no longer know their place. This is a vision describing the intention of those who would subvert God’s purpose for his creation. Their rebellion presents a picture of creation out of joint. The shaking of the earth sends a tremor into the heaven’s courts.
And so, it appears that the Creator Himself is about to be unseated with all his glory disintegrating in total chaos and anarchy for all to see. But God’s purposes are not thwarted, nor are they going to be. Jesus expected these massive events when everything would seem totally “out of whack”. He taught his disciples to be ready. He knew the sun, the moon & the stars to be God’s gifts to us to help us fine-tune our lives. But when people take the path of self-destruction it’s not just their individual lives that are at risk – the entire creation is on the line. To ignore God’s purposes is to threaten the place of all God’s creatures under heaven, including these creatures that help us from the heavens. Let’s take careful note of all this. Surely Jesus has the prophet, Jeremiah, in mind.
31:35: The word of the Lord, He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees that the moon and stars will shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the Lord Almighty is his name. Only if these decrees vanish from my sight, declares the Lord, will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me. This is the word of the Lord: Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done, declares the Lord.
So Luke is giving Theophilus a taste of Jesus’ cosmology, the viewpoint that drenches the teaching of the Old Testament, all the way back to Noah. This is the way to envision the future God is actually intent upon bringing about in his creation despite the rebellion of those made in his image. The Chosen One, the Chosen descendant of Jacob who had wrestled with God, has now arrived at the capital, confirming God’s promises, reminding his specially handpicked disciples and those listening attentively to him (as well as Theophilus and ourselves) that creation may pass away but God’s promises stay sure.
And there he was, teaching in Jerusalem, a city ruled by Caesar’s army. All who read the prophets know that the God of Israel laughs at those who defy his rule. The Roman authorities may have thought they were the rulers of all the earth, but God is not mocked. Caesar might also have a dalliance with those who wished to deify him, like they deify his father Augustus. Those who believed the prophets know Jeremiah’s prophecies about God’s promises. His rule will come and His people will be safe for ever. One thing is for sure on God’s calendar – he keeps his promises. And Jesus believed Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel; he had faith that the words of Joel, Amos, Micah and Malachi were on their way to fulfilment.
When Jesus referred to the Son of Man coming on the clouds of glory, he was reminding his disciples of Daniel’s dreams. He was reiterating Daniel’s prophetic dream – it was on the way to being completely confirmed. That is the meaning of what is now before their very eyes. And so, Jesus’ disciples are to live as messengers of God’s faithfulness.
The sun, the moon & the stars, put there since ancient time to help us live, to order our days, weeks, months and years, to assist us as we grow older, are part of the life given to us. That is the life they shall receive as reward for their patience (21:19). The eye of faith sees that from these creatures we learn now to enjoy the endowments of God our Maker and Friend. From them we learn how to enjoy his creation in the context of the coming fulfilment of God’s creational purposes. Daniel had said:
7:13 In the night I saw visions, and I beheld the arrival of one like a son of man on the clouds of heaven. He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom is one that is indestructible.
Jesus told his disciples to live their lives confidently, watching and waiting to welcome the Son of Man whose coming will wrap everything up on God’s time-table. Until then, we indeed dream of his coming. We may see him in our dreams but God has told us he is with us and he fulfils his promises. Whoever believes in this Son of Man, wherever they may be, spread out around this earth, knows that God is busily gathering them, making them part of the Kingdom of his Son. It is no time to quake in fear. It is a time of great hope.
The clocks God installed – the sun, the moon & the stars – will not always help us to tell the time. These massive servants of the Lord will also bow to the Coming of the One who is the Lord of time, just as they did in Joseph’s dream all those many years ago, before his brothers sold him into Egypt’s slavery. The sun, the moon & the stars will have their day, but their purpose will be fulfilled. The One for whom all time and eternity exists is coming with great power and glory. And we know now that since the Lord Jesus rose from the dead and ascended, that he is on the way, closer than ever before, hurrying to meet us.
The sun, the moon & the stars are important; but their time is still limited by God’s timetable. But now the Kingdom of God has dawned. The One for whom creation was set up, the One in whom time makes sense, is presented to the Ancient of Days. In that apocalyptic presentation we come to understand who Jesus is and who we are.
Human pride wanted to reach up and take heaven but in doing so it turned what God intended as his glory into chaos – generation to generation chaos. To defeat human pride, God gave up his splendour and reached down to our global human unhappiness. Jesus came to rescue the human race from disaster. In the meantime God requires the sun, the moon and the stars to do their duty each day as His plans are worked out, as we wait for the coming of His Son.
BCW 7th February 2017