Summary: Jesus talks about signs of the end-times. Here is one way to think about them.
Signs, Signs, Everywhere Are Signs
December 3, 2006
A couple of weeks ago, Toni and I felt the need to get away over night to try to relax after the really rushed Charge Conference season. We left on Thursday afternoon and didn’t get home until early evening on Friday. We had thirty wonderful hours by ourselves when we talked about church for a total of maybe 30 seconds.
We didn’t know exactly where we wanted to go and I suggested that we go up to Frankenmuth, Michigan. Toni thought that was a great idea, so she got on the internet and made reservations. Then we looked on a map. Frankenmuth is farther away that we thought. I thought that it wasn’t too far north of the Michigan state line, but discovered that it is about a three and a half hour trip. Actually longer for us because we like to drink a lot of soft drinks while we drive which means we have to stop frequently.
Anyway, we got up to the place where I69 joins I75. There was a lot of construction going on and the traffic was horrendous. I was concentrating on the highway and counting on Toni to read the signs. Signs were pointing everywhere: to Flint, to Detroit, to Ann Arbor, to Saginaw, to Pontiac. Toni followed the signs, I drove, and we got to our destination without any trouble at all.
Do you remember that song from a long time ago? “Signs, signs everywhere is signs, blocking up the scenery, breaking my mind. Do this, don’t do that can’t you read the signs?”
We live in a nation of signs. Some of them are helpful and some are not. For example, here are some actual signs seen around our great country.
• From a small town in California…”Fishing for children Only/Limit 3”
• From Maui, Hawaii…”Bottomless Pit/65 feet deep
• From Austin, Texas, a sign on a balcony read…”Please be aware that the balcony is not on ground level”
• In Mitchell, South Dakota is a sign that reads…”Safe Haven Small Animal Hospital/ Hunters Welcome”
• From Los Angeles…”Caution: Blind Drivers Backing Out”
• Also from Los Angeles…”Antique tables made daily”
• A sign in Racine, Wisconsin read…”Happy Easter! We Rent Handguns”
Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Advent is a season that looks in two directions at the same time. We look backwards to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, but we also look forward to the time when he will return to earth to set up his kingdom. The first Sunday is always the day that we look forward to the end of history and his final return.
We believe that it was God who created the world and is on the way to bringing it to an end. God is on the move, always active, always going forward toward the goal of establishing his rule over every living creature.
And along the way, there are signs. Everywhere are signs. In Isaiah, King Ahaz received a sign of the Lord’s presence: a young woman bearing a child named Immanuel (Is. 7:14). At the birth of Jesus there were signs in the heavens and the earth. The star shown in the heavens and the choirs of angels sang. The shepherds received the word from the angel, “This shall be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” At the end of his life, darkness covered the whole earth and the curtain in the Temple was torn in two as signs of his death.
Just the same, there will be signs that will herald the end of times. Isaiah says, “The glory of the Lord will be revealed and all people shall see it together (40:5). If you go back to the beginning of Luke 21, you discover that among the signs of the end times are that Jerusalem will be destroyed, that there will be wars, earthquakes, famines, and false Messiahs. There will be persecution of Christians because of their faith. This is the time when Christians are urged to be faithful and continue their witnessing until the Good News has been preached to the ends of the earth. In the lesson for this morning we learn that the signs include uproar in the cosmos and chaos over all the earth.
If we are honest with ourselves, we will recognize that this stuff has been going on for centuries. Jerusalem was indeed destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Wars have not ceased. Natural disasters continue to haunt us: floods on the Gulf Coast, Tsunamis in the Far East, and earthquakes in Iran.
If you turn to just about any religious radio station, you will no doubt hear preacher after preacher saying that the end times are just around the corner because the signs are everywhere. The problem is that people have been saying this stuff since the resurrection…and we’re still waiting. The disciples had trouble understanding and reading the signs. And we too still struggle with their comprehension.