Summary: A sermon that closes out the church year with the hopeful message of staying awake for Christ's return. This sermon teaches about Christ's return and applies it textually to the hearer's life
“Don’t touch that!! Its hot and you’ll burn your hand!” “Don’t eat that! It has been on the ground!” “You better button your jacket up or else you’ll get a cold!” “Look both ways before crossing the street so you don’t get hit by car!” Have you ever told someone these warnings? Have you ever been told these warnings? As a child, my parents and care takers would tell me these warnings although now they seem like common-sense, or at least they should be. As parents or caretakers, we give warnings like these to children because we love and care for them. We give them warnings like these to protect and prevent them from serious harm. We give our children warnings to help guide them on the right path and to help them become cautious and alert. We do it for their good and in order to teach them. Today, on the last Sunday of the Church Year, Jesus gives us a general warning about the end times: Stay awake!
He gives us this warning and others with the same intentions in mind that we have when we give our children warnings. He does it to protect us from spiritual harm and death. He does it to lead us on the right path. He warns us in order to teach us. In a time when we have things like the Pittsburgh Shooter, or Parkland, when we hear threats of terrorism and wars, see Christians being persecuted, and witness all other sort of bad calamities, like the California forest fires, His Words and warnings couldn’t be more relevant if we tried. This morning, let’s listen to what Jesus warns us about this morning.
Last week, the Gospel text talked about some of the signs of the end times. They were things like the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the emergence of false prophets and christs, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, and persecutions. Jesus says that these are signs of the end times, and it is on the heels of this that our text starts. Jesus begins by giving us a warning about what the Last Day is like in order to teach us. He says that after the destruction of the temple and after those tribulations, the Last Day will come, and He gives us a brief description of what it is like. He says, “the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.” Stars will fall and the powers of Heaven will tremble.
In the midst of what sounds like the universe collapsing, Jesus says that He will come on the clouds with great power and glory. His glory is the sum of all His attributes: traits like His almighty power and knowing all things. We will see His full divinity revealed when He comes back in glory and in power. It will be quite a sight.
But why does He come back? Why doesn’t He direct events from His throne in Heaven? He comes back to get you! He says that He will send out His angels and will gather His elect, you, His people. Our text doesn’t mention Him coming back to destroy Satan, demons, and the evil angels, or to punish unbelievers. He will do those things but our text focuses on something else. Our text mentions that He comes back to get you, to gather His elect, those whom He has chosen from before the foundation of the world! He will raise your body from the dead or if you are still living, He will take you back to be with Him as all of this chaos and destruction is going on. His coming for us the elect removes all fear of judgment. Will it be a frightening day, you bet! But because of Christ, we have nothing to fear.
Jesus gives us this warning and description about the Last Day, and we see that He does it to teach and comfort us. For as believers, His coming is not a bad thing, but a great thing! We are going to be with Him!
As He finishes His teaching and warning about the Last Day, He finally answers the question that the disciples asked Him all the way back in verse four. They asked, “When will the temple be destroyed?” And like a politician, in verses 28-32, He finally gets around to answering their question, although it is answered in a vague way. Jesus warns us that even though we knew the time frame for the destruction of the temple, we won’t have any idea of the time frame for when He will return. To help illustrate this, He uses the example of the fig tree. When fig trees become tender and begin to sprout leaves, you know that summer is just around the corner. A good example for here would be when you start seeing vendors and their vehicles, more buses and bus stops, parking signs everywhere, people out walking, Snelling a parking lot, the weather hot and muggy, and when Roseville is extra-crowded and has no parking. When you see these things happening, you know that the State Fair is around the corner, or almost finished, even if you didn’t know the date. Jesus says that when the disciples and people would see these false prophets, conflicts, and persecutions, they would know that Jerusalem would soon be destroyed. He said that its destruction would happen within a generation, and a generation was about 40 years. His prophecy came true and Jerusalem was destroyed and leveled by the Romans in 70 A. D.