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God’s Word for You

Mark 13:26-31 Signs of the end

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, August 23, 2023

26 “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

There are times when Jesus looks back and speaks from first-hand knowledge about the creation of the world, such as when he says, “the beginning, when God created the world” (Matthew 13:19) and “I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world” (Matthew 13:35). And there are times when Jesus looks ahead to the last day and knows, on account of his all-knowing divinity, exactly what that final day will be like. So here he speaks not as a man does, making a prediction, but as God, seeing what will be before it happens with clarity and perfect sight. Mankind will see Jesus returning to earth “in the clouds” and with great power and glory. The glory emanates from himself. The great power is both in his own being and also what he will bring with him. Luther wonders about this: “Here power may signify the host of angels, saints, and all creatures that will come with Christ to judgment. I believe this is the correct interpretation” (Sermon on Luke 21:25-36).

Christ talks about the role of the angels in his parables. “At the end of the world, the Son of Man will send his angels, and they will harvest out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and everyone who keeps sinning, and they will throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:40-42). And again: “At the end of the world, the angels will go out and separate the evil from the righteous, and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:49-50). Therefore the presence of the angels coming along with him in his descent to judge is quite likely. But the angels do nothing apart from the will of Jesus, and even their coming and going from and into heaven is “on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). There again, we have the words of the prophet, who tells us that Jesus will not only be surrounded by a few of his angels, but all of them, the full number of them: “Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones will come with him” (Zechariah 14:5). The ancient pastor Ambrose explains: “They will come in obedience, he in glory. They in a company, he at the head. They stand, he sits. To use a word of human uage: He judges, they minister.”

With big, broad words Jesus describes the mission of the angels: to “gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” The elect are all people who were chosen by God before the beginning of creation to be his believers, his holy Christian Church; and they are the ones who did not reject him when the gospel came to their ears. Of all of those people who ever lived, not one will be forgotten. Not one will be left behind. Those who died in their beds, or who died in war, or perished at sea, or who were lost in the mountains or in the wilderness—all of them will rise from the dead and be brought by the angels to the Lord. The angels do not fail in their work.

28 “Learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its branches get tender and it sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also when you see these things happening, you will know that he is near. He is at the door!

Here the Lord reveals a mystery to us: Why has he told us before hand about the end of the world and the signs that will happen before it?

  1. The signs show his love for us. “It is indicative of a friendly and benevolent spirit to forewarn someone about evils to come.” Jesus warns us with clear words about the approaching end. The Scriptures even picture this by the way he is shown to carry his mystical sword. First, it is worn at his waist (Psalm 45:3) to simply show his power and to terrify sinners. Second, it is in his mouth (Revelation 1:16), to threaten with his spoken word and to silence man’s foolish arguments and flawed reasoning with the unchanging word of God. Third, he unsheathes the sword and brandishes it in his hand (Psalm 7:13; Ezekiel 21:11) and strikes with judgment. All of these things he has warned us about ahead of time.
  2. The signs drive away security. The excuses of the ungodly are completely removed by Christ’s words. If you can tell that when leaves appear on the fig tree that summer is coming, then you will be able to see that the end is near when the signs appear. Not only is the end coming, but it is truly near (1 Peter 4:7).
  3. The signs are an antidote for useless speculation. Sinful man has a habit of rash investigation and wild opinion about things that God reserves for his own power and knowledge. Death is certain, but the hour of death is uncertain. So it will be with the last day. The end is certain, but the hour and day of the end are uncertain. Therefore we should keep ready, and be vigilant.
  4. The signs are a remedy against a weak spirit. We will be oppressed and attacked by the devil and by those who hate Christ. Our lives will be disturbed by their viciousness, and by our own mistakes. But the Lord is with us. The evils we suffer and the crosses we bear are themselves signs that we will soon be delivered and brought (with our oppressors) before the throne of God. Gerhard again says: “The more and the worse the evils are that beset the godly, the more they hasten the day of their redemption and relief.”

30 Amen I tell you: This generation will not pass away before all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

The end will certainly come. Jesus uses the Hebrew word “Amen” (truly) to show that when he speaks about the end of the world, it is not a comparison for something, but an absolute. The world will indeed end and be completely destroyed.

Yet there will be something that is not destroyed: The words of Christ. This is true of everything our Lord has said, but we should especially remember his gospel promises, because this is his comfort and his vow to us. “In my father’s house are many dwellings,” he says (John 14:2), “If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” Of course not. Our Master had us in mind when he made the universe, and he has had us in mind as he prepares places for us to dwell in heaven. The earthly realm will be unmade, but his promises and holy word will never cease.

“You word, O LORD, is eternal. It stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues forever” (Psalm 119:89-90).

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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