Compare the words of the Introit from Isaiah chapter 30: The Lord will cause His majestic voice to be heard, and you shall have gladness of heart with Jesus’ description of His second coming in Luke chapter 21. There seems to be something off-putting about having gladness of heart about the powers of the heavens shaking, not to mention all the natural disasters taking place.
No one should have gladness at heart watching the earth melt with everything else in the known universe. Our heavenly Father created everything out of His fatherly, divine kindness and mercy. Everything we see is a gift from a caring Father to His dear children. Yet He will allow all that He has created to be shaken. After all these strange events, Jesus tells His hearers straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
Now you see why we shall have gladness of heart when the Lord causes His majestic voice to be heard. Many will faint with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. Those of us who have patiently waited for our Savior’s appearance will gaze on the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Even those who faint in fear will see Jesus’ Second Advent. They will tremble because what they thought they knew would never happen is happening.
That is why Jesus is careful to warn us to watch…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. It’s easy to slip into this sort of thinking. It’s easy to think that our Lord delays His coming. Perhaps He is waiting for something special to happen in your life before rudely interrupting your life in order to raise the dead and bring all His faithful into the New Creation.
Sinful human beings aren’t professional waiters. Patience may be a virtue, but patience is a rare virtue to find among those for whom Christ died. Instead of being ready at a moment’s notice for Jesus to return, we fall asleep like the five foolish virgins in our Lord’s parable in Matthew chapter 25. When the Bridegroom comes, there’s no oil in our lamps and no place to find any spare oil. You thought there would be plenty of time to get some more oil. You thought the Bridegroom was going to be a while longer in appearing. You thought wrong.
Jesus does not set His schedule to your schedule. He comes when His Father is ready to send Him. He wants you to be ready at any time for His appearance. This is not appointment television. You can’t set the DVR to record His second coming. You can’t fast forward through the commercials to get to the good stuff. He’s here when He gets here whether or not you are ready.
You’ve had plenty of signs of Jesus’ second coming. Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. You know when tree leaves turn color and fall to the ground that cold weather is approaching. You know all the signs, even the folk tales, about changes in weather and other changes in nature and in life. Yet you don’t know, or won’t know, the signs of the Savior’s imminent appearance to judge the living and the dead.
It’s time. The prophet Malachi warns the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. It’s time. Look up. Stay awake. Pay attention. Jesus returns soon. Don’t look too busy, lest you miss His appearing and your heart is burdened by earthly concerns.
Watching for something is hard work. Ask anyone who has served time as a fire watcher in a fire tower. It’s lonely up there. The scenery might be beautiful in some places, but after a time you get bored of what you see. If you look away even for a moment, you might miss a fire. So it is with Jesus’ Second Advent. You watch. You note the signs. You believe these signs to be the birth pangs of the end. It won’t be much longer before Jesus returns and your heart will leap for joy in His coming.
That’s what the second coming of Jesus Christ brings for all His children: joy. You will stand before the Son of Man blameless because His righteousness covers you. You are innocent in Christ’s blood. The powers of the heavens will be shaken and you won’t mind it at all, because Jesus has come and brings everlasting pleasure. The end is actually the beginning. The catastrophic close of this heaven and this earth brings something new. The new heaven and new earth, our home of righteousness, is something even our sin-feeble minds cannot understand. It must be believed. It is a matter of trust and hope; a sure and certain hope because of Jesus.
The God of hope fills you with all joy and peace in believing He has never broken a promise. The end is near, perhaps at any moment. You will, as Malachi prophesies, tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts. This triumphal procession is much like Jesus trampling down death in His resurrection. Satan is crushed. Death no longer has dominion over you. You will jump for joy, treading over death and hell as you do so. The signs were right. The fullness of time happened at just the right time. As we sing in the hymn, “At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing”: Now no more can death appall, Now no more the grave enthrall; You have opened paradise, And Your saints in You shall rise. Alleluia!
You are not stuck like a dope with a thing called hope. These things will come to pass. Scary? Yes, of course. But don’t worry. Jesus is on the way, and your hearts shall rejoice, and no one can take your joy from you. Behold, your salvation comes.