“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. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” 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. 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.”
Luke 21:25 - 32
From the traumatic events surrounding the overrun of Jerusalem which ushers in the “times of the Gentiles”, Jesus now turns their attention to the time of the end.
One day the “times of the Gentiles” will draw to a close. During this period, as we now know, the good news message of forgiveness and new life through Christ will spread throughout the Gentile nations. God used Jerusalem’s official and settled rejection of Jesus as an opportunity to bring the message to the whole world. Many, many millions will accept Jesus.
But that period also will come to an end, marked, as the New Testament will later spell out, by increasing rebellion against God. The Gentile nations will not prove to be any less corrupt or sinful than Israel. Moreover, so-called Christendom will prove in large part to be no more loyal to Christ than Jerusalem was.
The time of the end will be heralded by massive upheavals in the natural world, both on earth and in the cosmos. These disturbances will be so dramatic and so clearly beyond human ability to control that they will give rise to great fear and apprehension. Yet Christians are told to lift up their heads in hope. The time of final redemption is near. The kingdom of God is about to come in all its fullness. For the King is coming.
And how different this coming will be from the one Jerusalem has just witnessed! “Then all will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” No longer will he ride on a donkey; he will return in a cloud. No longer in humble circumstances, but in all his majestic glory. So, stand tall and lift your heads (and hearts and minds) in this sure hope.
What did Jesus mean by this generationthat will not pass away before Christ’s words are fulfilled? The phrase has given rise to a variety of interpretations. For example, some think Jesus used it to refer to a particular period of time (20 to 70 years) or to those alive during a particular period. (I personally think this is unlikely.) Others think that it refers to the nation that rejected Jesus as Messiah, meaning that they would continue to reject him until the very end.
The main point is clear: everything Jesus said was going to happen will certainly happen. Nothing, not even the passing away of heaven and earth, will prevent Christ’s words being fulfilled.
His disciples needed that assurance. In a few days their world was going to be badly shaken. The reality of the world’s hatred of Jesus would hit them very hard. While they would witness some amazing supernatural interventions, opposition would not only be maintained, it would increase. In the coming days and years they would have much cause for thankfulness that Jesus, right on the threshold of his own suffering, had gone into such detail to prepare them for such times, building their trust and confidence in God’s sovereign control of history.