Based on what many people write and preach regarding end times, you would think the key is fear. Fear of what is happening. Fear of missing out on a shortcut to heaven. Fear that we will misread the calendar and time tables. You see many terms thrown around to supposedly “make the end clear.” Terms such as premillennial, post millennial, pre-trib, mid-trib, etc., but they do not make things clear. Sadly much of the writing and preaching, and teaching leads people away from the assurance and hope of faith. They confuse and cause fear. Faith in such systems become not much more than fear motivation.
But is that what Jesus taught regarding the end? Not hardly. He taught faith and faithfulness. In fact, the entire Bible emphasizes those themes.
Our text for this Sunday is Luke 21:5-28. In it Jesus addresses the concerns of his disciples regarding aspects of the end. The key is not fear, but rather faith and faithfulness.
Luke 21:5–28 (HCSB)
5 As some were talking about the temple complex, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, He said, 6 “These things that you see—the days will come when not one stone will be left on another that will not be thrown down!”
7 “Teacher,” they asked Him, “so when will these things be? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?”
8 Then He said, “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Don’t follow them. 9 When you hear of wars and rebellions, don’t be alarmed. Indeed, these things must take place first, but the end won’t come right away.”
10 Then He told them: “Nation will be raised up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be violent earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of My name. 13 It will lead to an opportunity for you to witness. 14 Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, 15 for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. They will kill some of you. 17 You will be hated by everyone because of My name, 18 but not a hair of your head will be lost. 19 By your endurance gain your lives.
20 “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that its desolation has come near. 21 Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains! Those inside the city must leave it, and those who are in the country must not enter it, 22 because these are days of vengeance to fulfill all the things that are written. 23 Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
25 “Then there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and there will be anguish on the earth among nations bewildered by the roaring sea and waves. 26 People will faint from fear and expectation of the things that are coming on the world, because the celestial powers will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 But when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near!”
Faith not fear; Faithfulness not frenzy
Faith is specific in this context, faith in Jesus Christ as Savior of the world. Faith that Jesus is true God and true Man. Faith that Jesus will (and now has) fulfilled all the righteous requirements set by his Father in heaven.
In faith they will know the truth (from God’s Word). Then they will live in faith and by faith. Jesus cautions them: “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Don’t follow them.” (21:8). Further he notes, “don’t be alarmed.” In other words, faith is the key in assessing the end, not fear. Fear shows a lack of faith in Jesus Christ.
Such faith leads to faithfulness. Jesus said, “By your endurance gain your lives” (21:19). We do not use the current events to interpret the Bible. Rather we live by faith in Christ. He is faithful to his promises. We live by faith and live faithful lives unto death.
Faith endures to the end
Note that Jesus ends this section about the end times by another call to faith: “But when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near!” (21:28) In other words, the world events leading up to the end are cause for us to look up, not around at world events. Jesus will return one time— the end (not 2 or 3 times). All things will be consummated. He will raise the dead, and those who died in faith will have their bodies and souls united to be with him forever. Those of us who are alive when he returns will be caught up with them in the air to be with God forever in our heavenly home.
From now to the end faith in Jesus Christ leads us to rejoicing, worship, and witnessing.