When Jesus foretold the destruction of the temple and the coming of the Messiah people freaked out and rightly so. Think about something that is central to your life, something that the destruction of would be unimaginable. Think about how you would react if someone told you that your whole way of life would cease to exist. The first thing that you will do is deny it and then you are going to want to know, “When will these things happen?” (Luke 21:7) It is only natural that you would want as much information as possible about an event that will affect your life so profoundly. You want to be on guard against it. You want to prepare, right. Well the Judeans were no different and they pestered Jesus to give them a sign, especially the Sadducee and Pharisee and do you remember His response to them. “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. But to His disciples He gave a few hints: Many will come in my name, claiming “I am he,” and, “The time is near” (Luke 21:8). There will be wars and revolutions (21:9). Nation will rise against nation (21:10). There will be great earthquakes, famines, and pestilences in various places (21:11). There will be fearful events and great signs from heaven (21:11). We are living in such times now. As a matter of fact, every generation throughout history has lived during similar times. Does anyone know who David Meade is? Do you know what April 23rd, of this year was supposed to be? The rapture. Yes, and that’s just one of a couple of hundred people and dates that have foretold the end of the world. The fact is Jesus told us not to fear or worry about the date because fear and lies are our greatest enemies and the enemy uses them to distract us. Wesleyan theologian Ken Heer put it like this, “We must be confident people of faith not in circumstances, but in God’s provision and care of His children. Fear is our enemy. Faith is our ally.” Paul is clear that we must always be on our guard, particularly in the last days. Paul writes to Timothy in Ephesus and advises him to watch for, “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:1–5). We were also told that the Lord would come as “a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:1–3), but that He would not come until “the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess. 2:4). Peter went even farther and warned that “in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires” (2 Pet. 3:3); and “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (3:10). George just read Luke to us and Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 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, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” The coming of the Lord will bring fear and tribulation to those who do not follow the Lord, but we are not to fear, we are to be on guard. We are His children and we have been redeemed, still we are not yet in His presence and cannot know the true gift of His grace until we are raised into the heavens just as Jesus ascended into the clouds. The angels have told us, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). He will return in awesome glory and with unimaginable power to become the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Still we must be on guard for that day because no one knows the day of His return, but everyone who follows Christ must be vigilant and discerning of the word of God and where He leads us. Jesus used the fig tree to illustrate that His return would follow as naturally as the procession of the seasons and that it would be obvious to us when it was going to happen.
When the leaves sprout, you can tell summer is near (21:30). As God’s people we too are expected to know that the kingdom of God is near just by being on guard and seeing the world as it is. There are few things in this life that have permanence. Most of us have lived long enough to see the world we were born into change so much that there are very few things that we have in common with the days of our youth. It’s just not there anymore. There are no guarantees in this life, Jesus said that even the heavens and the earth will pass away (21:33). Nothing will remain, nothing…with one exception Jesus said, “my words will never pass away” (21:33). In the end there will be nothing but the word of God, just as there was in the beginning. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. (Rev. 22:13). But until that final season comes, we are to be on guard so that our hearts are not weighed down (21:34). We are to be on guard so that day does not catch you unexpectedly like a trap (21:34). We are always to be alert, praying (21:36). We are not expected to hide in fear. No, we are created to face the enemy with our eyes wide open, with the word of God on our lips and faith in our heart. In prayer we remain confident in God’s faithfulness to us, as we remain faithful to Him and because of your faith in Christ they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify.So, make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. Be on guard when we accept Christ into our lives, we are warned to count the cost, “and they will put some of you to death” (21:16). Jesus never promised us a rose garden, instead He told us “All men will hate you because of me” (21:17). Harsh words but not without promise for Jesus tells us that not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls. Be on guard we may lose our bodies they cannot kill the soul. We are eternal in spirit and we are only ever truly alive when we are within Christ because Crist has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again. And all God’s children said? Amen.