Chapter 122

 

“Men’s Hearts Failing Them”

 

“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives. And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him.” (Luke 21:25-38)

 

I am fully aware that these verses speak specifically of our Lord’s coming to destroy Jerusalem and Judaism when He sent the armies of Rome to destroy that city and its temple in 70 AD. Our Savior’s words in verse 32 make that crystal clear. — “This generation (the generation then living) shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.” But that does not mean that they have no meaning for us today. Everything recorded in this passage of Inspiration is written for our “learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Without question, all that we read here is to be properly applied to this day in which we look for “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Historians tell us that the early saints used to greet one another with these words, “He is risen,” and upon parting they would say, “The Lord is coming.” Thus they constantly encouraged one another in the faith and constantly reminded one another of both the accomplishment of redemption by Christ and the certainty of resurrection glory with Christ.

 

Before He left this world, our Lord Jesus assured His disciples that, just as surely as He arose from the grave, He would come again to raise His saints from their graves and translate all His elect in resurrection glory to heaven. Let us ever rejoice in the blessed prospect of our Savior’s return. The Lord is coming (Revelation 1:7). I want, by the Spirit of God, to stir up your hearts and my own to ever be mindful of this fact: — The Lord is coming! May God give us grace ever to live on the tip-toe of faith in the blessed expectation of Christ’s glorious second advent. The Lord Jesus Christ is coming again.

 

The Glory of Christ’s Coming (vv. 25-27)

 

“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (vv. 25-27).

 

Our Savior begins this discourse by describing the time of His coming as a time of great fear, so great that men’s hearts will fail them. I do not know that this is the case, but if that is to be taken as a description of the days just before Christ returns, surely we may reasonably conclude that our “redemption draweth nigh!

 

      In Hebrews 9 the Holy Spirit tells us three things about our blessed Savior: (1.) The Son of God appeared once to put away our sins by the sacrifice of Himself (vv. 25-26). (2.) Our great Advocate and High Priest now appears in the presence of God for us, making intercession for His elect according to the will of God (v. 24; 1 John 2:1-2). And (3.) our great God and Savior shall, at the appointed time, appear again on this earth to consummate His great work of saving His people from their sins (vv. 27-28).

 

      As our Savior describes His second advent in His Olivet discourse in our text, it is obvious that when He comes again, it will not be a secret thing. At His glorious second advent, He will appear with power and great glory. — “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” That is the language of Holy Scripture. Christ’s second coming shall not be in some imaginary “secret rapture.” His shall be a glorious appearing (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; Revelation 1:7).

 

            The Lord Jesus speaks about the sun being turned into darkness, the moon refusing to give light, the falling of stars, and the shaking of powers in the heavens. Such language conveys the idea of a great, universal convulsion, a climatic dismantling of creation by the finger of God. The language He uses is very much the language Peter used to describe His coming (2 Peter 3:10).

 

            In other words, that which shall immediately precede the glorious appearing of Christ will be the conflagration of the universe. Without question, when that happens we will see, “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.

 

Order of Events

 

The order of events at the second coming seems to be as follows. These things are not written in concrete. I would not argue in defense of them for even a second. However, this is what appears to me to be likely. I have formed this order by carefully comparing Scripture with Scripture. Whatever the order of events may indeed be, it will not take long to accomplish the whole thing. When the Son of God rises from His throne and says, “Behold, I make all things new,” it will all be done quickly.

 

1.    Christ will come in the clouds of heaven.

2.    He will raise up those bodies of His saints which sleep in the earth.

3.    Those who are living in faith when He comes shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.

4.    He will destroy the present creation and all His enemies with it, and make all things new.

5.    Then we shall come with Him to the earth. We shall come with Him into a new heavens and a new earth.

6.    Then will come the resurrection of the dead and the great white throne judgment.

7.    After these things — ETERNAL LIFE WITH CHRIST!

 

            Our Lord’s second advent will be radically different from His first. Our Savior came the first time in humiliation, an infant, born of a poor woman, laid in a manger at Bethlehem, unnoticed, unhonored, unknown. He is coming the second time in power and great glory, in royal dignity, with all the armies of heaven surrounding Him, to be seen, recognized, known, acknowledged and feared by all people, nations, tribes, and tongues.

 

            Christ Jesus came the first time to suffer, to bear the sins of His people, to be made sin and made a curse, to be despised, rejected, unjustly condemned, and slain. He is coming the second time as the reigning, almighty Monarch of the universe to put down every foe, put an end to all rebellion, to take possession of all the kingdoms of this world, to rule them in perfect righteousness, to judge the world, destroy His enemies, and to be eternally admired by redeemed sinners.

 

            We would all be wise to lay these things to heart and meditate upon them regularly. These facts are filled with comfort for every believer. Our great King, our all glorious Christ, will soon be here again! We shall, with Him, inherit all things. We will soon exchange the cross for a crown. We shall enter into everlasting honor, joy, bliss, and life.

 

            But, for you who believe not, the facts revealed in the Book of God about the second coming of Christ ought to be terrifying. Indeed, if you dare think upon them, I know, they are terrifying to your soul. Christ, Whom you despise, reject, and mock, will soon call you before His holy bar of judgment. That God-man, whose Gospel you trample beneath your feet, will soon hold you accountable. In that day, you shall receive of the Lord’s hand your exact, just due for all your sins. Hell will be your everlasting portion!

 

            Do you ask, “What is hell?” Everlasting Fire! Endless Misery! Everlasting, Indescribable Woe! Never Ending Wrath! Never Ending Torment! Everlasting Darkness! Everlasting Isolation! Everlasting Cursing! Everlasting Madness! Everlasting Death!

 

The Gathering of God’s Elect

 

In verse twenty-eight our Master tells us plainly that the first order of business and the primary purpose of His great second advent shall be the gathering of His elect. Throughout the Word of God we are distinctly and constantly taught that our God does all things for the elect’s sake. — “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” Mark puts it in these words: “And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven” (Mark 13:27).

 

            Just as God’s servants, as the angels of God, are sent out to gather His elect into His kingdom from the four corners of the earth by the preaching of the Gospel, so at the end of time those heavenly spirits created to minister to the chosen shall be sent forth to fetch them out of the earth and gather them, all of them, even their dust and ashes unto Christ in glory! As the angels carried Lazarus into Abraham’s bosom, so they shall carry all God’s elect into heaven’s bosom to be with Christ!

 

            I stated before that the gathering out of God’s elect will immediately precede the Lord’s judgment upon the earth. Our safety shall be taken care of when the Lord consumes the earth with the fiery brightness of His coming. Nothing shall be done to destroy the earth until God’s elect are beyond the reach of harm (2 Peter 3:9). Not one drop of rain fell until Noah was safe in the ark. Fire and brimstone could not fall upon Sodom until Lot was safely secluded in Zoar. And God’s wrath will not consume His enemies in the earth until He has taken His saints out of the earth.

 

            Blessed be our God, there is a great gathering day coming! We who believe ought to look forward to that great day with unmingled joy, without the slightest dread or fear (2 Thessalonians 2:1: Titus 2:13). It shall be the gracious gathering of God’s chosen. The elect shall be gathered in righteousness, being made worthy to stand before God by the righteousness of Christ, which is our righteousness (v. 36; Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16; Colossians 1:12).

 

The Parable of the Fig Tree

 

“And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled” (vv. 29-32).

 

Our Lord sternly reproved the Pharisees because they could not “discern the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3). They could not see that the scepter was passing away from Judah. They did not see that Daniel’s seventy weeks were fulfilled. Let us beware of such blindness. It is a blindness caused by spiritual lethargy and an overmuch fondness for this world.

 

            This parable of the fig tree is not a deep, mysterious, secretive thing. In this parable our Lord tells us plainly that when we see the things spoken of in its context, as Mark relates this discourse (Mark 13:14), when we see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, His glorious second advent is at hand.

 

            The abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel is the revelation (to God’s saints, not to the world) of antichrist (Arminian, freewill, works religion). It is that which Paul speaks of in 2 Thessalonians 2, the loosing of Satan to deceive the nations of the world (Revelation 20:1-8).

 

            The lesson of the parable of the fig tree is just this: While we must never even guess at or try to figure out the time of Christ’s coming, increasing darkness, ungodliness, apostasy, and idolatry ought to cause every believer to live on the tip-toe of faith, looking expectantly for Christ’s appearing.

 

            The rising infidelity, increasing acceptance of popery, Islam, Judaism, and mysticism, the worldwide will-worship of this apostate age, the lawlessness, the anarchy, the contempt of authority, the acceptance of sexual promiscuity, (fornication, adultery, homosexuality), and the general calling of evil good and good evil ought to be glaring beacons in our eyes and trumpets in our ears telling us — “THIS IS THE END! Judgment has begun. The end is near. The Lord is coming.”

 

            The more we see these things coming to pass the more reason we have to look up in hope. Our redemption draws nigh! We must therefore watch, be sober, and keep our garments white and unspotted from the world (Revelation 16:15). Armageddon is here. The judgment of the great whore is at hand. The Lord is coming!

 

The Certainty of God’s Word

 

In verse 33 our Lord seems to have anticipated our tendency toward skepticism and unbelief and therefore warns us emphatically against it. — “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.”

 

            We must never allow ourselves to give any credibility to any questioning of God’s Word. Let us never dare imagine that any word of prophecy is improbable or unlikely simply because it seems contrary to nature, or experience, or our judgment. Let us never be found among those arrogant fools who imagine that they are smarter than God. We must never find ourselves agreeing with those scoffers who, walking after their own lusts, say, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

 

The People Worthy

 

Now, look at verses 34-36. Here our Lord Jesus tells us to watch and pray that we may be found worthy to escape his wrath and stand before the Son of Man when he comes to judge the world.

 

 “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”

 

            Let us watch, lest we be corrupted from the simplicity of Christ and engulfed with the corruptions of the religious world around us. Ever watch against freewill/works religion, will worship, self-righteousness, and legalism. Watch against idolatry.

 

            But how can we be counted worthy to escape the wrath of the great Judge, when He comes in His glory to judge the earth? How can we be made worthy to stand before the Son of Man in that day? That is altogether the work of His grace. Our worthiness is His blood atonement, His righteousness imputed to us in justification and imparted to us in the new birth! Our worthiness before God is Christ!

 

Bold shall I stand in that great day,

For who aught to my charge shall lay,

When, with His righteous garments on,

I am as holy as God’s Own Son?

 

God’s Restless Servant

 

I cannot fail to call your attention to our Savior’s constant, faithful devotion to the souls of men, the glory of God, and the preaching of the Gospel, as it is described in verses 37-38.

 

“And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives. And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him.”

 

            He never wearied of His labor of love. He never laid aside His commission. Yes, sometimes we find Him obliged to sit to rest Himself by a well, and sometimes obliged to catch a nap in the day. But, even then, He was resting to meet a woman who needed grace, and was sleeping on His way to save a wild Gadarene. He came here to seek and to save that which was lost, and never gave up the work. Aren’t you glad? I am! It is no marvel that “the people came early in the morning to Him in the temple, for to hear Him!

 

            It is my constant prayer that He who so graciously served and serves my soul will give me the constant supply of His grace that I may serve Him in serving His elect for the glory of God, proclaiming the Gospel of His grace in this wicked and perverse generation.

 

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11)

 

            Christ is coming again. You and I are going to meet God in judgment. We are going to spend eternity somewhere, either in the torments of the damned in hell or in the bliss of the redeemed in heaven. Our only hope is Christ. Trust Him, and live forever. Child of God, the Lord is coming. REJOICE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don Fortner

 

 

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