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Dear Christian friends,
After I graduated from college, I worked the following two summers inGlacierNational Parkas a bus driver/tour guide. Even though the years were 1973 and 1974, the buses I drove were built between 1936-1939 by the White Truck Company. The buses had four rows of seats that could seat four in each seat. I had a couple of Japanese tours where five fit into a row. The buses had canvass roofs on them. We rolled them back when the weather was good. In the middle of the summer it was almost a daily guarantee. People could stand up and look over the beautiful scenery and take pictures. Most often we drove Going to the Sun Highway. The road winded into the mountains. In many places the road was literally cut out of the mountain. When the canvass roof was rolled back, you could look straight up the mountain side. There was a place on the road that was called the weeping wall. Water constantly showered the edge of the road. Snowfields above were melting and it was like rain. The road was wider there. If any of my tours were loud and obnoxious, I’d pull over and give them a shower. Usually some grandma hit me with a purse.
All along Going to the Sun Highway there were signs that said “Beware of Falling Rock.” We used to tell the tourists the reason there were canvass tops on the buses was because the transportation company was tired of replacing metal roofs so they just put on cheap canvass. They were cheaper to replace. I always thought that those “Watch for Falling Rock” signs were sort of useless. A person couldn’t see the little pebbles rolling down the steep cliffs anyway. If you did see rocks coming down, the buses were too clumsy to turn to avoid. Like I said, I thought that “Watch for Falling Rock,” signs were kind of useless. Today on this the first week of the church year, the Lord speaks about signs too. They are not useless. “The Signs Indicate that Jesus is Coming.” Jesus urges us to 1) See the signs; 2) Heed the signs.
We go back to Holy Week - Tuesday. Lots of teaching was done at the temple. The disciples had made the remark how impressive the temple inJerusalemwas and how big the stones were that were used to build it. Jesus startled them by telling them that one day those stones would no longer be there. Jesus was referring to two days – the destruction of the city ofJerusalemand the final one – on Jesus’ return.
Yes, the day was coming whenJerusalemwould be destroyed. That happened in the year 70 AD. Jewish zealots, reacting in opposition to Caligula the Roman Emperor began a revolt againstRome. Roman General Titus encircled the city, and began the siege ofJerusalemin April, A.D. 70. The inhabitants of the city ofJerusalemdied in great numbers by starvation. On the 10th of August the city was invaded. They finished off the population that had not already died of starvation. Then Titus put a torch to the city, burning theTemple. They didn’t leave one stone upon another. When theTemplewas set on fire the Roman soldiers tore apart the stone to get the melted gold that had been mixed in the mortar.
Yet the destruction of Jerusalemwas only a preview of what would come on the last day. Jesus warns, “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. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.”
Don’t think that the LORD’S return is the grand bluff. It is real. The Lord is coming back to judge all. Look at the Lord’s track record of meaning what he says. The angels who rebelled against him in heaven were driven out of heaven never to enjoy the pleasure of God’s presence ever again; the world was destroyed by the flood except for the eight who entered the ark and trusted the Lord. The cities ofSodomandGomorrahwere burned to a crisp along with their citizens for thumbing their noses at God by refusing to repent of their perversion.
Jesus uses an analogy. 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.” What Jesus says is very easy to understand. I don’t know anything about fig trees but I do know this. They are mentioned a lot in the Bible. But like most other fruit trees, when they flower and bloom that’s a sign the days of spring and summer are upon you.
Jesus says there will be signs right before the end - signs in the heavens. There will also be some unsettling feelings among the people of this earth. Nature will also be upset. So when you see a meteor cross the sky, when you see pictures from the Hubble of incredible things going on in space, when scientists reports gigantic explosions in the sun called sunspots that might interfere with radio and TV reception, use them as the Lord telling you that the end is not far behind. They are not just acts of nature. They are reminders from Jesus. He is coming back. See the signs, but also heed the signs.
“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.” Jesus spoke about the reactions of believers and unbelievers at his coming. When the signs begin he said that “Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” There are going to be a lot of people whose only words will be, “Oh no!”
To us, the people of God, we can have an entirely different attitude; “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Remember on 9/11 those scenes in New York. When those planes hit the twin towers people were running away from the destruction. Many were covered with soot and ash. Fright was painted over their faces. That’s going to be repeated at Jesus’ coming. On the other hand, you and I won’t be running. We will be looking up! Instead of saying, Oh, no! we will be saying, “Oh, yes!” Jesus is here!
The difference between the believer and unbeliever is how seriously people take this warning. When it is not taken seriously, it is the same a calling Jesus a liar. “I tell you the truth, 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.” The phrase “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” has caused a lot of people to wonder what that means. If the end was supposed to come and the generations of people were living when Jesus was, then Jesus wasn’t telling the truth. But the end that he is talking about is the destruction ofJerusalem in 70 AD. There were people that Jesus was speaking to who would be alive to see that. But the same signs preceded the coming of Titus, the Commander of Rome’s army, who burnedJerusalem to the ground. But such destruction will happen again. We have Jesus promise on that. While heaven and earth passes away, the truth of God’s promises will not pass away. To doubt and to scoff at Jesus’ warning is to call Jesus a liar. He doesn’t lie. His Words he says will never pass away. Take Jesus’ promise seriously.
Take these signs seriously; don’t put yourself in spiritual danger. “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.” There is such a temptation to get spiritual ADD, where we let the worldly garner and hold our attention instead of the heavenly. Jesus says it happens two ways. Sin can be fun and really appeal to the sinful flesh. He warns us not to be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness. I wouldn’t have translated the Greek word as dissipation. Not too many people know whether they have dissipated or not. They do understand “carousing” though. Life can be so appealing to the sinful flesh. A young man once said to me that he had no time for Jesus because he was having too much fun. There was the entertainer who said that he wanted to go to hell because he heard that’s where the party was.
The other temptation is to get too concerned about the cares and problems of life. Don’t bother me with this Jesus talk, I have a business to run. Don’t bother me with this talk Jesus’ return, the only return I am concerned about are the ones on my investments. Wouldn’t it be something if Jesus returned in the middle of the Super Bowl? Not taking Jesus’ return seriously puts you in spiritual danger.
Take these signs seriously because no one is excluded from God’s judgment. “For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth.” When Jesus comes no one will be able to call in sick or say that they would prefer this happen tomorrow. Judgment Day is not like a buffet line where you can choose it or leave it behind. Everyone will face Jesus when Jesus wants them to face him. Take it seriously.
“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.” Always be on watch! It seems to me that this thought ought to be constant on our minds. Where do I want to be, what do I want to be doing when Jesus comes. Since Jesus can come at any time it seems we ought to be thinking about such things.
I was really disappointed about the news of General Petraeus in these last days. He seemed to be such an honorable and moral man. He said I screwed up royally. Yes, he did. So do we! Not just here and there! Don’t let anyone give you the allusion that somehow and someway we might not be in the middle of some sin of thought word or deed when the Lord returns. But sinning does not necessarily mean we don’t believe, does it? The comfort we have is that we don’t get to heaven on whether we sin or not. None of us would make it if that were the case. We go to heaven because Jesus took your guilty away. He came the first time so that the second time he comes will be one that we can look forward to. Believe in him for the signs indicate he is coming soon.