Who, and what, are coming?

Luke 21:25-36 (Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10)

So, here we are at the beginning of a season leading up to Christmas, and the coming of the Christ Child. The word advent comes from the Latin ad-venire, which means “to come to.” But, the season begins with a very particular “coming” – not the incarnation (God coming to us in human flesh in the baby Jesus); and not the coming of Jesus into our hearts of which Bernard of Clairvaux (d.1153) wrote. This coming is the Second Coming, at the “end” – a coming that is theologically described as the Parousia (Parousia is the Greek translation of advent).

Jesus, having described the “end” of Jerusalem, turns to a description of the “end” of… well, everything:

[Jesus said:] There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:25-36).

Nature and the Cosmos will be in chaos, just as Joel 2:30-31 alludes: “I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” Even the sea will roar, as described in Psalm 46:2-3: “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.” Psalm 46:2-3 is at the heart of today’s Gospel text: Therefore we will not fear. This is the meaning of Jesus admonition in Luke’s Gospel: “Stand up and raise your heads.” This is the language of faith as trusting in God’s promises made in Christ Jesus. Even if the Cosmos and the earth (all of Creation) is in chaos, the believer is not to succumb to the fears and doubts that surround them. Apopsuchó literally means to stop breathing out of fear – so this is fear of the highest order! Rather:

Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36).

When is all this happening, and why? It is within the lifetime of “this generation” (v. 32). This could refer to those listening to Jesus’ words who oppose Jesus and his teaching; or to those who are alive when the signs appear. The “why” is the return of Jesus: “…The Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory” (v. 27), echoing Daniel 7:13:

As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being [literally a son of man] coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him.

Redemption is drawing near (v. 28), but the word used is apolytrōsis, which is a redemption that is a deliverance or release, rather than a forgiveness of sin. A deliverance from the corruption of a fallen world. That which was lost in Eden (the Fall) is restored in the Parousia. Just as the fig tree loses its leaves in winter and sees them restored in spring, Creation finds its restoration in Jesus’ coming. Therefore, we are to live – as if it is springtime – lives of hope and of expectation.
Pastor Ken+