“Sent out to the End”
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. 26Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
29He told them this parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
32"I tell you the truth, this generation[a] will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
34"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. 35For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be 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."
In recent weeks at our Church we have been looking at the subject of being “sent out” into the world. We remember that this stems from Christ’s commission to the Church in Matt 28:19-20.
19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Looking at these words of Jesus, we can see that in Christ’s mind an end would come. This is not normally the case with us – we have hopes and dreams. We hope to make it through whatever trials we face with the hope of a better future. We hope we can be happy in life. We look forward to our children’s successes – graduation; marriage; grandchildren. We look forward to retirement. There normally seems more to look forward to than what we have. Could it be that we are wired by God to have hope for brighter tomorrows?
In Christ’s mind an end would come – there was a future to be looked forward to; there would be an eternity with God. The apostles carried o this theme in their writings:
Paul wrote about “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
Peter encouraged the Church to persevere in living godly and holy lives because the end would come like a thief:
10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. 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.[a]
11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[b]That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
In 2 Peter 3:10-12 Peter’s wording agrees with our reading in Luke 21 – the end will not be a happy occasion for every human. He tells us destruction will come. Luke talks about nations being in anguish (v25) and men fainting from terror (v26). Not exactly joy to the world with this coming of Christ!
So how are we to respond to these things? Are we left thinking that God is cruel to be the destroyer and bringer of terror? I believe the answer is given in the Great Commission – we are to go and tell the world about the gracious love of God. It is because judgment will come upon the world that we are to go and share Christ with our friends, families, neighbours and strangers.
Why do we share Christ with the world? At the simplest level, because Christ shared himself with the world and with us. Why are we sent out in mission? God’s mission today is to transform this present, tired old world so that it resembles more and more the new world he will one day create, and to gather together the community which is destined to live in it - a community, entered by faith and centred on the cross, whose present name is ‘the church’ (from www.emergingevangelism.com). Jesus loves this world so much that he sent us into the world to shine and speak out for him.
If anything, the verses we have heard read tonight should sober us each to our Christ-given calling. It seems that when the end comes there will be great confusion and even suffering – yet God loves the world. For the Christian there is hope:
Verse 28 tells us, when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
For the Christian there is a coming redemption – this should fill us with hope at one day seeing our Christ-redeemer face to face. Our faith will be fully realised and we will spend eternity with God.
But for those who have lived without acknowledging God in there lives there is reason for anguish and terror – God has called his Church to share Christ with people so that redemption comes to as many as believe. It was love for the world that compelled Christ to take up the cross and die (John 3:16).
Does love compel us tonight to consider being bold and sharing our faith until the end comes? Do we care for those that are living without Christ? Are we willing to live our lives in such a way that others are drawn into relationship with our loving God?
Eternity will come like a thief. We do not know when, but we need to be sure that we are being faithful to the commission of Christ to his Church – Go and preach the Gospel (and if necessary use words. Live different. Where the world has mixed values, may we live holy and honest lives that glorify God and bring a smile to his wonderful face.
In the passage Luke shows us many important things, of which we shall take two:
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
If we are to be sent out to share the truth of God, we need to know the truth. God’s word is his revealed truth to the world – we are to live and share this with those we meet. Read the bible regularly – get to know personally what God’s word says – then we will be more confident about what we are sharing. Imagine you read the football scores in the paper every day – soon you would be confident enough to talk about football with others. Having a knowledge of what we believe gives us greater confidence to speak of it.
Secondly, Luke encourages us to Be always on the watch, and pray (v36). Pray for those you meet that they will meet with Christ through you. We are encouraged all through the bible to pray – it makes ALL the difference to us and to those for whom we pray – do not underestimate the power of your prayers! If they did not make a difference, God would not tell us to pray. Do you find sharing your faith hard – pray that God will make it easier for you – you may be surprised at how he answers your prayer.
In closing, we have seen that there will be an end to our world as we know it. For the believer there is a coming redemption that inspires hope within us. For the unbeliever there is a coming judgment that should motivate us into being ‘sent out’ to share God’s Gospel message of grace, love and mercy. As we share our faith we have God’s word to help us and give us confidence, as well as the prayer, through which we seek God’s advice and help, as well as to ask God’s blessing upon those we are ‘sent out’ to share with.
As we consider Christ’s thief-like return, let us stop for a moment to pray for ourselves and our world.