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Your Redemption is Drawing Near

Date: Dec. 22, 2013

Author: Michael Mark

Luke 21:25-36

Key Verse: Luke 21:28

“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your head, because your redemption is drawing near.

Welcome everyone to IIT, and to the fourth Sunday in Advent this year. As you may know, advent is about celebrating the coming of Christ, whether that be his first coming or his second. In these past three weeks, we studied passages related to the coming of Christ to prepare our hearts to more deeply worship him this Christmas. One of the underlying themes between each passage was “Proclamation,” and I did notice we sang “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” at the prior two worship services. Two weeks ago, we joined together to learn about how the angels proclaimed Jesus to be “Glory to God and peace to men.” Last week, we heard Simeon’s testimony, and how he praised God, calling Jesus “salvation, a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel.” This week, we will see what Jesus says about himself. Another underlying theme we’ve seen each week is this: “Glory to God, and peace to men.” It was the title and theme of John Martin’s message two weeks ago, and also in Pastor Ron Ward’s message at the UBF Chicago Christmas Worship Service. Simeon was able to find peace, and glorified God in Chris Wada’s message last week. And today, we will also see why Jesus is the glory of God, and brings peace to men.

In this passage, Jesus has grown and is we are coming near the last week of his ministry here on earth, and he will be speaking about his second advent. The second coming of Christ will be very different from his first coming. In his first coming, he came as a baby in a manger, known only to a few people in the world. He did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world. In his second coming, he will come again as Lord and King, and judge of all the earth. Everyone will see him in his second coming, and it is here that he will reward the faithful with eternal life, but condemn the wicked to eternal punishment. The question I want to ask today is, are you ready for Christ when he comes again? Will you be ready? Do you want Christ to come again? Jesus says at the end of the book of Revelation, “I am coming soon,” and John writes in reply, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Rev 22:20)” As we think about Christ’s second advent and what it means, I pray that we, like John may more eagerly desire Jesus to come again.

The text for today starts in the middle Jesus’ reply to a question his disciples had.

The story begins in v.5, “Some of the disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God.” They were really impressed at the glory and magnificence of the city of Jerusalem, especially at the temple. But Jesus said to them, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.(v.6)” The temple was the center of Jewish life, and nobody can just say what Jesus said unless he were some kind of prophet or greater. It’s like me saying, “Listen here, all of the bricks in Chicago’s city hall will be thrown down.” The first thing you all might do is kick me out of here. Or call the police. But here again, we are almost at the Last Supper of Jesus, he had been with the disciples for about three years now, and they believed that he was the Messiah (at least they did not doubt it for now). So they believed him when he spoke about Jerusalem, “not one stone will be left on another,” and they asked, “Teacher, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place? (v.7).”

Jesus answered them plainly, saying many false Messiahs will come. He told his disciples that they will be persecuted. He then prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem and told them that when they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, it will soon go down. Coming to our passage, we begin where he speaks about the signs in heaven and on earth. Can you please look at v.25, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.” We read that in the book of Revelation (interesting to note that West Loop just finished studying the book, and it is part of our UBF Daily Bread Readings), Rev 6:12-14 speaks of signs in the heavens. As the Lamb of God, Jesus himself, opens the sixth seal, there will be a great earthquake. The sun will turn black, and the moon will turn blood red, and the stars in the sky will fall to earth.

I believe that these things have yet to happen, and are signs that will happen in the end of time – but did you know also, that there were signs in the heavens and the earth during the fall of Jerusalem, near 70 A.D.? Josephus, a well known Jewish historian who lived in the first century, during the time of these events, recorded accounts of supernatural phenomena. In the year 66 A.D., around the time of a Jewish Festival, a star that looked like a sword appeared over the city, and a comet was seen for the whole year. In the same festival, a cow gave birth to a lamb, and in the temple, a very heavy brass door, fastened deep into the stone, would appear to open by itself at the sixth hour of the night. It seemed to be an omen that foreshadowed the city’s destruction. A few days after the feast, before sunset, an entire army of troops were seen running around in the clouds, and surrounding the cities. (Josephus, Book 4, Ch.5, Section 3). V. 26 says, “People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” There are other signs that I have not mentioned, but these events themselves would scare the daylights out of me, especially if I served in the temple.

The destruction of Jerusalem would come about because of their sin and rebellion against God. Jesus told his disciples, if you look back in v.12-17, that the Jewish leaders would seize them and persecute them. They will hand the disciples over to the synagogues and put them in prison, and bring them before kings and governors, all on account of Jesus’ name. They would even be betrayed by their own parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends, and some would be put to death. Jesus says, “Everyone will hate you because of me.” The apostle Paul, before he was converted, was one of the most violent and persistent persecutors of the early Christians – following some into towns and approving the death of others. As we are studying in the book of Acts, persecution of Christians first broke out among the Jewish leaders, who caused them to be scattered all over Judea, to Samaria and the ends of the earth. The Jewish authorities oppressed and persecuted Christians because of their faith in Christ, and kept them in bondage and fear.

This is not unlike the oppression of sin in our lives. We are held in bondage to sin, and nobody is free from sin. We sin every day, multiple times per day, because we are all sinners. We are slaves to sin, we serve a sinful nature, and the wages of our sin is death. All sin leads to death. Have you noticed that some of the activities people enjoy the most are those that lead to death? Sexual immorality, alcohol abuse and drugs. People enjoy the most violent type of sports, movies and video games. More recently there seems to be a greater interest in the occult, in vampires and zombies. And because we are slaves to sin, we are enemies and rebels against God. Sin at its core is rebellion against God. We love ourselves more than God because of self-love (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, Christian Publications Inc, 1982, p.42). We neglect God out of self-sufficiency. And we disobey God because of self-righteousness. This was how Christ was crucified. He was the Son of God, and exposed the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders, but because of their pride and self-righteousness, they would listen to no one. Not even one who claimed to be the Son of God and proved it, so they had him put to death.

Jesus Christ, however, will one day come again and have his justice. Look at v.27, “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” At his first coming, Jesus was born in the little town of Bethlehem and laid in a manger. At his second coming, he will come in a cloud with power and great glory. In Revelation, we see him one time seated on a cloud, with a golden crown on his head, and a sickle for harvest, and in another event he is on a white horse, his eyes like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean (Rev 14:14, 19:11-18). Jesus is the commander of the Lord’s army, and he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

When Jesus comes again, he will come to redeem his people. Can we all please read v.28: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” To redeem means to liberate, sometimes through a payment of a ransom price. It was used in the slave trade, and to redeem a slave, someone would need to come and purchase their freedom. Jesus was telling his disciples that he would liberate them from under the bondage, oppression and persecution of the religious leaders. This was a comfort and a hope for them as they endured trials and suffering for Jesus’ name. The enemies of Jesus better be aware, that he will bring about great destruction to save his own people.

In the same way, Jesus will come to liberate us from our slavery to sin. He has accomplished through his death on the cross. We were slaves to sin, born as enemies to God. Throughout our lives we are rebellious toward the one who gave us life. The wages of our sin is death.  How many wrongful and prideful words have I uttered, how many wicked thoughts have I had against my neighbors, how many times have I denied God in my personal time, or in front of friends and family. Against you Lord, and you only, have I sinned, but I can do no good. But thanks be to God – thanks be to God for his compassion, his great mercy – to send his one and only Son to offer his life as a ransom sacrifice to pay for my sins. If I had all the gold in the world, and if I owned the moon and sold it, I still could not pay off my debt of sin. But God has given me Christ, who is more than enough to pay for all my sin, and yours too. Jesus was punished in my place – he took on the eternal wrath of God, and he bled and died to take my sins away. And his righteousness, his holy, perfect life, was transferred to my account by God’s grace.

Look again at v.28, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Notice what Jesus tells his disciples to do: to stand up and lift up their heads. That is all they have to do – to stand up and lift up their heads. Jesus does not tell them to try to save themselves, or to go to the mountains to take cover. He does not say look down and be ashamed, but to stand up and lift up their heads. We are redeemed by faith and trust in what Jesus has done. Jesus is the one who will deliver us. Jesus is the one who saves. Just simply look to Jesus, believe that he has done everything that is needed for your salvation, and trust in him that he has redeemed you. This is the good news. We have been reconciled with God and peace has been made between us. He has changed us from enemies of God to children of God. If you do not have faith in Christ, then you are still an enemy of God, a slave to sin, and can only expect to be fearful on the day of judgment. But if you are reconciled with God, you will desire that may come again soon.

I want to show you a chart, called the Fourfold state, taken from a book called “Human Nature in Its Fourfold State,” by Thomas Boston, a Puritan church leader who lived from 1676-1732, which shows the four different states of human nature from Adam until Christ comes again:

(Pre Fall Man) – (Able to sin, Able to not sin) – (Innocent)

(Post Fall Man) – (Able to sin, Unable to not sin) – (Wicked)

(Reborn Man) – (Able to sin, Able to not sin) – (Part Good/Part Bad)

(Glorified Man) – (Able to not sin, Unable to sin) – (Good)

The pre-fall man was Adam and Eve before they fell. They were innocent, but had an inclination to sin, which they did. When they sinned, all of their children, including you and me, became unable to not sin. Here we cannot do any good, because we have become self centered. Here you see, we have become slaves to sin. The Bible has a lot of verses that say this. “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. (Gen 6:5)” “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit. (Jdg 17:6)” “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isa 53:6)” “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).” “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Ps 14:1-3)”

In Jesus’ first advent, he came to redeem us and give us life. Having justified us through his death and resurrection, he sends us the Holy Spirit to enable us to be able to do good. This state is better than the previous, because now we have the ability to do good, though our flesh is at war against us. Paul says in Rom 3:21: “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” That is why after we put our faith in Christ, we still fall in to sin sometimes, but our desires are also for God. That is why we still need to come to Jesus daily in prayer and repentance. But we are also looking forward to a hope – and that’s why we are looking forward to Jesus’ coming – so that we will be glorified and made perfect, the 4th state. In our fallen state – we could not imagine how we could please God. We can easily think about all the sin we want to do. But now imagine the glorified state – where we will be unable to sin. We can even barely imagine how this will be. Instead of all of our thoughts being only evil all the time, our thoughts are only good all the time. I’m constantly thinking about how to love my neighbor. Maybe they’d like a bowl of M&Ms, or a foot rub. I’m constantly thinking about how to glorify God. But I can’t imagine not wanting to sin, yet that will be our glorified state.

And here is our hope: look at v.32-33, “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Whatever Jesus says, it’s as good as done. A generation can be considered 30-40 years, and the “this generation” Jesus is referring to is the one he spoke in. And no more than 40 years later, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman Empire, and his disciple, the apostle John, lived through that event. So when Jesus says he will come to redeem us, and to complete our redemption at the last days – we can already consider it done. There was the story of the centurion who had faith and said to Jesus “I’m a man of authority, I tell this guy to go, and he goes, so just say the word (Luke 7),” and Jesus commended him for his faith. I used to have a friend who would say “Done,” after I asked him a favor. Clearly he didn’t do it yet, but he meant, “Consider it done,” and his word was good. Jesus’ word is good, and if you have been saved, and redeemed, in due time you will be made perfect when he comes again. And if you still want more proof Jesus will keep his promise, he has also given us his Holy Spirit, as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Cor 1:22).

Now that we have this hope, how shall we live as redeemed children of God? Look at v.29-30, “He told them this parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.’” It’s interesting how Jesus compares the coming of the kingdom of God like the coming of summer. Just as God orders things in nature, God has also planned out the coming of his kingdom. However, we do not need to know the exact date. Summer doesn’t come at the exact same day every year, but we know it by the signs around us. When we have a hope and faith in Christ, we know his word is good – and not knowing keeps us watching, anticipating, and even more hopeful when the time comes. So just as we would pay attention to our environment to know when the change will come, we ought to pay attention to the signs God has given to know when he may come again. If the sun ever turns dark, or the moon blood red, the world may not know what these mean, but the watching Christian will know.

We should read the signs, be careful with drinking and anxieties, and finally, as a redeemed believer, we should always watch and pray. Please look at v.36, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” We should always be on the watch – to fix our eyes on Christ. We should watch our sins, and make sure we do not fall in to temptation, or take the proper safety precautions, like prayer or fleeing. We should watch our relationship with God, and make sure that it is not neglected. We should also watch our faith, as we have to deal with each day’s tasks, to seek to glorify God in them and honor him. And I love this – we should pray. We should be constant in prayer – in private prayers, in public prayers, in short prayers, in thanksgiving prayers. Take some time out or devote a lunch time to spend some time in prayer with God. Take your fears and anxieties to God, and he will give you the peace that surpasses all understanding. Our help comes from the Lord. Pray for others. When our lives become busy, what is the first thing we usually leave out? It’s prayer. If we’re too busy in the morning, or wake up late, or too tired at night, prayer often gets sacrificed. Matthew Henry wrote, “You may as soon find a living man that does not breath, as a living Christian that does not pray.” Prayer is as important to our spiritual life as breathing is to our physical life.

Finally, the last part of v.36 says to pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man. Some of the disciples, like John the apostle, mentioned before, escaped this judgment in Jerusalem, and continued to spread the gospel throughout the world. We should continue to pray that we would escape the judgment of our souls, even if our bodies must go. And we should also pray that we may be able to stand before the Son of Man – this is before the judgment seat. Ps 1:5-6 says, “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous, for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” The wicked will never stand before the judgment of God, but the Lord is able to preserve us, he watches over all of our ways, and makes us stand.

There will be two types of people present at his second coming. His enemies will be terrified when they see all the signs of the coming of the day of judgment, but his people will be full of hope and joy to be with the Lord. Our redemption began when Christ came in his first advent, and the climax of that redemption was the cross. Our redemption will be completed at his second coming, where we will be glorified, and made perfect. He has made this promise to us through his word, and sealed it by the Holy Spirit placed in our hearts. God will dwell with us, and he will be our God, we will be his people, holy and dearly beloved. In heaven, He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. We want Christ to come again, therefore, we pray and keep watch, and, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!”

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