Date: 6 Nov 2022
Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
Sermon Text: Luke 21:5-38
How many Sundays are there now to Christmas? If I’m not wrong there are 7 Sundays.
Christmas is significant for us as believers in Christ. It is because we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus the Son of God.
But the incarnation is significant not just because God became man, but because as a man, Jesus went to the cross for us.
To die for your sin and mine.
And so, it’s significant that as we prepare to celebrate Christmas in 7 Sunday’s time, we will be preparing by journeying through the final 3 chapters of Luke’s gospel.
The final 3 chapters that records for us the passion of Christ.
And it is the passion of Christ that gives us the depth of why Christmas is so significant for us as believers.
May I also link it to Reformation Sunday which we commemorated last week.
The Reformation brought us back to the correct understanding of salvation. We were reminded that salvation is God’s gracious gift which is received only by faith in the once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ at Calvary.
No acts of works can ever be sufficient to earn our salvation. Thus, we can only boast in the cross of Christ.
Therefore, because salvation is a gracious gift from God, which we celebrate at Easter, Christmas is all the more significant, because that is where Jesus’ earthly journey begins.
Now Christmas and Easter belong to the first coming of Jesus. When Jesus ascended to be with God the Father, the angels told the disciples He will come again.
We now live in the in-between time. The time between Jesus first appearance in the 1st Century AD and His second coming.
How will the times between Jesus’ first and second coming be like for believers? How should believers prepare themselves for His second coming? How should believers live in the light of His 2nd coming.
That is the focus of today’s text, thus my sermon title Be Future Ready Today. We can be future ready today when we are building resilience in Christ and when we are building trust in His Word.
And in each of these 2 sections, I would like to use 3 words to guide us through - Perspective, Permanence and Perseverance.
Building resilience in Christ (Lk 21:5-24)
We are entering into the holiday travel season. When we plan for our travels, we typically discuss the mode of transport – car, plane, train, boat. We discuss the weather at our destination – do we need to bring winter jackets or is it beach attire.
If we are travelling with a diverse group, we also add in the type of things to see and do. This so that we manage the expectations of everyone.
Why do we do all that? Well, we want to be prepared. Can’t be wearing beach shorts and arriving in snowy conditions.
We don’t want to have the mindset of a leisure holiday if the trip is actually instead a business trip or a church missions trip.
When we are prepared, we will not be unduly shocked. When we are prepared, we can continue to be consistent through the changing environments.
I submit, this is the effect that Jesus’s words are to have on us today.
By Jesus giving us the picture of what will happen, we are not to be taken by surprise because He has already prepared us for it.
Today’s text begins with some in the crowd admiring the grand architecture of the temple in Jerusalem.
It was a magnificent structure that took over 50 years to finish building. The current wailing wall is a small part of the foundation left from that building.
One rabbi has been recorded as saying ‘He who has not seen the Temple in its full construction has never seen a glorious building in his life.’
It was assumed that the magnificent temple was permanent. A display of God’s presence amongst His people and thus His favour upon the nation.
But Jesus foretells that the temple will be destroyed. It was finished in 62 AD but by 70 AD, it was in ruins.
In v20 to v24, the destruction of Jerusalem is prophesied. This happened alongside the destruction of the temple.
And God said the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple are the days of vengeance to fulfil all that is written (v22).
Jerusalem will no longer be a permanent place of refuge. Due to disobedience, God’s judgement will be seen through the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
For the first listeners, Jesus’ words would prove true within a decade of the writing of Luke’s Gospel.
If the temple is no more, how can believers build their resilience in God?
Apostle Paul and Peter tell us how.
1 Cor 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Apostle Paul tells us that now the Spirit of Jesus dwells in each of us. Our physical bodies are now holy. They become God’s temple. He dwells amongst believers permanently by His Spirit.
Apostle Peter speaking to the persecuted Christians in Asia Minor says:
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
There is no need now for a temple, for a physical nation. Now the people of God, all who have made Jesus Lord and Saviour, they are a chosen race, a royal priesthood and a holy nation.
The church is now the body of Christ and Christ is her head, her King. Now the church is beautiful and is being made glorious by Christ Her king.
Resilience means we understand that we (believers throughout all ages) contribute to this beautiful picture of God’s church. Resilience means we are assured that God’s church will be permanent unlike Jerusalem and the 1st century temple.
Many of us want to know when the prophecies will happen. But Jesus is more interested in how we live when it happens.
So even as Jesus was asked when will the temple be destroyed, He tells them have instead a biblical perspective towards living.
Be discerning for there will be many false messiahs. Do not be led astray.
Be discerning for there will be wars and tumults – nations will rise against nations, there will be earthquakes, famines and pestilences. Do not be terrified.
When we think of false messiahs, we think of cult groups, people whom we might associate as quacks. And we say, I’ll never be led astray. But I think we assume too highly of ourselves.
The nation of Israel we know from history, made a golden calf twice.
Once was in the wilderness of Sinai just after God had delivered them from Egyptian slavery. The other time was when Jeroboam did it in 1 Kings 12.
Remember, he was the king of Israel in the north and he did not want them to go to Jerusalem in the south to worship and so he made 2 golden calves one in Bethel and another in Dan.
When we went through 1 & 2 Kings, we saw how the leaders of both Israel and Judah left the people into sin by turning away from Yahweh and worshipping not just the golden calves but the gods of the nations.
Today, let’s admit we still struggle with our golden calves of worship. We still seek after false messiahs. And Scripture summarized as follows:
1 Jn 2:16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
Church, if we do not have a biblical perspective we will follow after such false messiahs. False messiahs who will promise us what the flesh so readily craves for.
And because 1 Jn 2:16 is the manifestation of sinfulness, I submit humanity’s sin is the cause of wars, of man-made disasters, and the chaos we experience in the world.
Human fallenness is the basic cause of all the catastrophes the world has experienced.
And because the bible is informing us about it, Scripture is saying do not be terrified.
Why because God has already told us that these will happen and why it will happens. And because God has told us so, He proves He is all knowing and in absolute control.
Therefore, resilience in Christ happens because we have been given the right perspective to view the world. We can read the terrible news daily and not be terrified and depressed.
Yes, the news is terrible, but you and I can be resilient because God has already told us such things will happen. Its, part of the fallen world that we live in.
Yes, the news speaks of great uncertainty, but I can be resilient and not be depressed because God is in control. For we know He holds all our tomorrows.
In v12 to 19, Jesus brings it closer to home. If international conflict and disasters are not enough, Jesus foretells that His children will have to also experience persecution.
Then, not only persecution, which is already bad enough. But Jesus says, some of you, they will put to death. Believers will be hated by all.
All this, Jesus repeats twice, is because it is for His name’s sake.
Basically, we will experience persecution, hatred and even death because we are believers. Because we call ourselves Christians. Because we say Jesus is our Redeemer and Master.
And Jesus brings it to an even more personal level by saying, we will be persecuted even by family and friends. Even our loved ones will attack us because we are believers.
The life of a believer is not one of ease, not one of material prosperity.
To this, Jesus offers us 3 reasons why we can be persevering.
Firstly, and very radically, in v13 Jesus says, change your perspective – ‘this will be your opportunity to bear witness.
Secondly, in v15, Jesus says, I will be with you, I will give you a month and wisdom which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.
And finally, in v18, He will preserve us – for not a hair of your head will perish.
Imagine the weight Martin Luther had on him as he was questioned by the Church in Rome and pressured to recant.
Yet, God gave him the opportunity to witness as to what justification by faith meant for our salvation. And by the enabling of the Holy Spirit, he concluded that unless Scripture says otherwise, he cannot recant.
In Singapore, we may not have the type of persecution (e.g. where imprisonment or death), which our mission partners in ASEAN have experienced.
May I offer one possible scenario in which we can experience v13 & 15:
Imagine you are working in an event management company and your company organizes sports events.
One day your boss tells you that since famous overseas marathons have now decided to offer 3 gender categories – Male, Female and Nonbinary. The next event you are organizing should also have these 3 categories.
Would this be a God-given opportunity then to testify graciously to your colleagues about your understanding of gender according to Scripture? That God has created us Male or Female.
Would you testify even when you run the risk of be labelled ‘arrogant’, ‘narrow-minded’, ‘out of touch’ or ‘bigoted’?
If you knew that its either you embrace it or look for another employer, would you be able to affirm still, that God’s hand is in the situation?
Resilience in Christ I submit sees the persecution stand as the pulpit to proclaim the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And resilience in Christ also means not being terrified to stand before those who persecute you, because Jesus has promised His divine presence and enabling.
Finally, we can persevere because it is Jesus who will preserve us at the end.
Since Jesus has already told us that some may face death so v18 ‘not a hair of your head will perish’, cannot be a promise for this life.
Remember Jesus said it earlier but in a negative way:
Lk 12:4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.
Positively it means, Jesus will preserve us. For when we meet Him face to face, we will receive our glorified body where there will be no disability, no sickness and no tears.
Building trust in His Word (Lk 21:26-38)
Jesus said these words recorded by Luke around 30 AD. Theophilus received the written Gospel about 60 AD. During that time, the disciples would have already witness fellow believers being persecuted and brought before kings and governors.
The book of Acts which we will go through next year is full of their testimonies.
And within 10 years of Luke’s Gospel, Theophilus would be around to see the fulfilment of the prophesy about the Jerusalem temple and city’s destruction.
With the immediate prophesy fulfilled, Jesus now uses the same template to talk about His 2nd coming.
To the generation between Jesus first and second coming (and this includes us all), Scripture says, be future ready by building our trust in the Words of Jesus.
In v25 to 28, we begin with Jesus instructing us to have a proper perspective. To view things with biblical lenses.
When the Son of Man comes, it is going to be a spectacular event. It would be preceded by cosmic upheaval that will affect the sun, moon and stars.
Amongst the nations, there will be a sense of loss and despair as natural forces go haywire.
Like the movies on Armageddon have depicted, there would be wide spread panic and fear. It would look like a scene where dark thunder clouds gather in the horizon during typhoon season, a dreaded sense of foreboding.
All these happens not when the Son of Man appears, it all happens before the Son of Man comes. It’s the signs that the time is at hand.
Perspective - what should our attitude be when we see such upheavals in the heavens and on earth? Could it be the attitude of expectancy? Hey, it’s just as Jesus has told us.
Can it be like waiting at home eagerly for your parents to come home when the evening sky turns dark.
Jesus is saying, these are the signs that precede my coming. While the world panics, should ours be instead that of anticipation?
In contrast, to the dark and foreboding scene of v25 & 26, when the Son of Man appears, Jesus will be in a cloud with power and great glory.
It will be unmistakable, that it is Jesus coming. For all will see and all will know.
Thus, it means, don’t worrying about looking out for His coming, just concentrate on being ready for it.
The world will seem powerless at the cosmic upheaval, but Jesus in contrast will come in power. Power that he has already exhibited over all of creation at His first coming.
And to add to the expectancy perspective, Jesus says, all believers, in contrast to unbelievers who are fainting with fear, should straighten up and raise your heads.
There should be a confident and unapprehensive posture in us. Jesus the Son of Man is coming.
And the reason why we can hold our head up high is that our redemption is at hand.
At His 2nd coming, Jesus will fully consummate His kingdom. Now we live in the here and not yet. But then, at His second coming, our redemption will be full and for all eternity.
Believers have redemption to look forward to when Christ comes again.
But the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple gives us the picture of the fate for those who do not accept Christ.
If you are yet a believer, may I invite you to consider Christ today. Be the one who will be raising your head and standing straight instead of fainting in fear.
For believers, as Jesus’s Words have proven true for that of Jerusalem and the temple, may that reality so build our trust in Him. So that we will act differently from the world at the coming of the Son of Man.
The Jews thought the temple was too grand, too solid to fall, yet it did. Mankind thinks creation is too permanent, too complex for someone to have absolute power over, well think again.
When the Son of Man comes, everything that we think is fixed in time, space and history will no longer hold. It will be like a complete meltdown of everything mankind has placed their trust in. It is going to be a complete catastrophe.
And Jesus says, through the parable of the fig tree, that the signs will be unmistakable. As leaves signify the coming of Summer, so too when you see the signs as described in v25 to 28, know that the coming of Jesus is at hand.
But the comforting assurance is that only one thing will endure, and that is the Word of God. Jesus says, Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.
We have this phase, fly-by-night. Companies that have this description are those we deem unreliable or untrustworthy. It’s because they have not been around long enough to earn our trust. For friends we call them fair-weather.
Comparing with the solar system that seems so permanent, Jesus tells us, His word will outlast even that. His Word will continue for ever and ever.
Because Jesus’ words have proven true, we can build our trust in Him. We can rest our foot on the sure foundation of:
Isa 51:6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.
May I echo what Eld Elgin shared 2 Sundays ago about building our trust on God’s word. We should “Never doubt in the dark what God has told you in the light.”
The permanence of God’s Word is our confidence that in the dark, His Word is still faithful.
I know of a younger Hermonites who shared with me that he became interested and open towards Christianity when he saw how believers conducted themselves at a funeral.
He said, yes there was sadness and grief, but also hope and trust that God was in control and held the future.
Our hope and our assurance rest on God’s unchanging word that endures.
Even as couples want their Holy Matrimony to magnify God’s name, so too can families desire that funerals do the same.
Thus we can sing at funerals with inner confidence in God’s promises – And then one day, I’ll cross the river, I’ll fight life’s final war with pain. And then as death gives way to victory, I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives.
Finally, we know we are building our trust in God’s Word when we take heed to His instructions.
Because we trust our doctors, we follow their instructions on the medication they prescribe. We trust that it will aid in our recovery.
So, the evidence of our deepening trust in God’s Word is our loving obedience to Jesus’ instructions.
Jesus says this is what we should do as we wait expectantly for His 2nd Coming:
Lk 21:34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap…. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
V34 tells us to be vigilant in 2 ways. Firstly, do not be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness.
Don’t be in an alcoholic fog where things are hazing, unrealistic and where we are not in control of our senses. I suppose any type of addiction and idolatry would fit this category.
But the interesting thing is that Jesus adds, even towards the cares of this life, we are to be watchful against. The normal affairs of living can so consume us that we are not prepared for His 2nd coming.
As it were, we become so earthy focus that we have lost sight of heavenly things. And so we have to sing regularly to remind ourselves, turn our eyes upon Jesus, look full into His wonderful face, and the things of earth will go strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
And how can we be alert and vigilant, Jesus says, the resource is prayer. Prayer brings us to the heart of God.
In prayer, we have intimate fellowship with God for He is our Heavenly Father. In prayer we come humbly, for we know we are in the presence of the Almighty God.
If we don’t pray before we read Scripture, the Holy Spirit will not guide us into God’s Truth. Instead, it will just be text on our screens.
But when we pray, we are asking the Spirit to illuminate for us, God’s truth. Only then will we perceive Scripture as God’s loving communication to us.
And when that happens, perseverance in trusting His Word becomes 2nd nature. We will long to hear His voice and to abide by His wisdom.
How can we be future ready today? It starts by us seeking to build our resilience in Christ and to build our trust in His Word.
Though the journey ahead is challenging, may I encourage us that when we finally meet Jesus, we will realise that He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phi 1:6).
Let’s end by using the lyrics of the song ‘Yet Not I But Through Christ in Me’ as our prayer.
Heavenly Father, hear our prayer that till we see you face to face -
With every breath we long to follow Jesus
For He has said (and His promises are true) that He will bring us home
And day by day we know (by the power of the His Spirit that) He will renew us Until we stand with joy before Your throne
To this we hold (O Lord help us to never let go, that), our hope is only Jesus All the glory evermore to Him When (our earthly) race is complete, still our lips shall repeat Yet not I, but through Christ in me.