‘WITH GREAT POWER AND GLORY’ – Mark 13:24-27
Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on February 12, 2017 under 2016 |
Preached Sunday, February 12, 2017 from Mark 13:24-27
Theme: In this passage, the Lord Jesus alerts His followers beforehand of the nature of the times that will precede His return.
(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
We’ve already examined much of our Lord’s discourse—considering most recently what He had to say about ‘the Great Tribulation’ in verses 14-23. But this morning, we come specifically to what He had to say about His return to this earth. In verses 24-27, Jesus said;
But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven (vv. 24-27).
These words are very sobering and serious. I almost feel as if we should do as Moses was told to do, when he came before the burning bush, and remover our sandals; for we are most certainly standing on holy ground. May we treat every word with the utmost seriousness. And may the Holy Spirit help us to understand them so that we respond to them rightly—and live in the way He wants us to in the light of the things they promise.
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Now; there are a couple of thing that you should know about the words of Jesus in this passage.
First you should know that even though the things He tells us in them seem remarkable to us, from the Jewish standpoint, He is not—for the most part—saying anything new. He is not coming up with any new images, or creating any new prophetic statements in telling His disciples what He tells them about His return. These are largely expressions and prophetic images that are taken from out of the Old Testament prophecies—in some cases, almost word for word.
That is important to know. Jesus is not presenting the events that surround His coming to this earth as something new to His apostles; but rather, as the fulfillment of long-expected promises in the Scriptures with which the apostles were already familiar. What is ‘new’ to them is simply that they find their fulfillment in Him.
But what is also new is that He places a very particular structural outline to these things. And certain words and phrases gives us clues to that structure. In the translation I’m using, He begins in verse 24 with the word “But”. That word is meant to indicate a clear distinction between the thing our Lord had just talked about and the thing about which He is now going to speak. He had just gotten through speaking of ‘the Great Tribulation’; and now, He says, “But in those days, after that tribulation …”; and He then goes on to talk about the signs in the heavens. And in verse 26, we find a second structural clue. After talking about the signs that will appear in the heavens, He says, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” He uses two Greek words put together which mean “And then …” It’s a strong demarcation of sequence—showing that one thing follows after another. And verse 27, we find a third structural clue, with the same two words being used; “And then, He will send forth His angels …”
“But in those days, after that tribulation …” “Then …” “And then …” I talked about this with a friend the other day who is familiar with the field of law. He told me that, in the presentation of legal evidence in a court of law, a clear and distinct expression of a sequence of events is vital to a full understanding of the truth of a thing. And here, our Lord gives His disciples a clear distinction of events in sequential order. There is, first, the signs in the heavens. And then, after that, there is the seeing of the Son of Man. And then, after that, is the sending of the angels.
This sequence is intentional; and it is therefore important for us to keep in mind if we would understand the things that Jesus tells us in this passage.
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So, with an attitude of reverent submission to the limits of what He has told us; and with a mind to the clear sequence of events that Jesus distinguishes for us; and by drawing a more complete understanding from the Old Testament promises that had already been given in Scripture, let’s now seek to learn more of what our Lord has told us about the time of His return.
First, let’s consider …
1. THE SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS.
Jesus said that after the tribulation of those days that He had just spoken of (“immediately after”, as the Gospel writer Matthew has it), Jesus tells His disciples; “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken” (vv. 24-25).
Many of the commentators that I consulted about this passage warned that we should not press these words into too literal an interpretation. Some of those commentators went so far as to say that this is only meant to be understood as symbolic of the political and social upheavals of the times. But I’m really not sure why we can’t take them at common-sense, face value. Why couldn’t Jesus have meant what He said? Why should that seem impossible—if what we’re talking about is the work of God?
When Jesus said that the sun will be darkened, I believe we should take Him to mean that the sun—or the light of the sun—will somehow be affected so that sunlight on the earth will be, for a time, visibly and ominously darkened; and in such a way that all the people of the world will notice it. I believe that when He said the moon will not give its light, He meant that, if the sun is somehow darkened, the light of the moon will also be dimmed—and in a way that the people on the earth who do cannot see the darkening of the sun will most certainly see the darkening of the moon. When He said that the stars of heaven will fall (or more literally, “shall be falling”; as if in an ongoing event), He meant that people will look up to the night sky and see familiar star formations with well-known points of light suddenly missing or moving out of place. Or it may even be taken more literally still; that “stars” will be falling and striking the earth in the form of meteors and comets—with increasing frequency and in alarming and deadly numbers. And when He said that the powers in the heavens will be shaken, why can’t we understand Him to be speaking in such a way that what He said in Luke 21:25-26 would be a literally true response? He said,
And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken (Luke 21:25-26).
If these things are not to be taken in their plain meaning, then how can they possibly serve as clear ‘signs’ of anything? If we really believe in the power of God the Creator, then I don’t believe that there’s any reason not to take these words just as Jesus spoke them.
Now; what are theses things the signs of? You may think that they are signs of the return of Jesus. And certainly they are a part of the general set of things that will happen at the time of His return. But when we go back to the Old Testament prophecies—from which these images were taken—then we discover that Jesus is really making reference to a sign of something else far more specific.
If you were to look back, for example to Isaiah 30:9-13, you find hints of what these events in the heavens are meant to signify. God speaks words of judgment against ancient Babylon and says;
Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger,
To lay the land desolate;
And He will destroy its sinners from it.
For the stars of heaven and their constellations
Will not give their light;
The sun will be darkened in its going forth,
And the moon will not cause its light to shine.
“I will punish the world for its evil,
And the wicked for their iniquity;
I will halt the arrogance of the proud,
And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.
I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold,
A man more than the golden wedge of Ophir.
Therefore I will shake the heavens,
And the earth will move out of her place,
In the wrath of the Lord of hosts
And in the day of His fierce anger (Isaiah 13:9-13).
These events in the heavens, then, specifically signify to the world the coming of the day of God’s terrible judgment and just wrath upon an evil world-system that is proud and arrogant and wicked in it’s rebellion against God. Consider what is also said in the prophecy of Joel. In Joel 2:30-31, God says;
“And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:
Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD” (Joel 2:30-31).
Both Joel’s and Isaiah’s prophecies speaks of “the day of the Lord”; and in 3:12-16, Joel goes on to explain what the nature of “the day of the Lord” is;
“Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
For there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.
Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.
Come, go down;
For the winepress is full,
The vats overflow—
For their wickedness is great.”
Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.
The sun and moon will grow dark,
And the stars will diminish their brightness.
The Lord also will roar from Zion,
And utter His voice from Jerusalem;
The heavens and earth will shake;
But the Lord will be a shelter for His people,
And the strength of the children of Israel” (Joel 3:12-16).
“The day of the Lord” is associated with “the winepress” being full. And in Revelation 19:15, when we’re told about the return of Jesus to this earth, we’re told, “He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” So, dear brothers and sisters; I believe that these specific signs in the heavens are a meant to signify something terrible to this present world-system: that the day of God’s terrible wrath and righteous judgment has come for its persistent wickedness and rebellion and unbelief—but always with the promise that His own beloved people being protected from that impending judgment.
Just consider what we’re told in Revelation 6 as it describes what happens at the end of the time called ‘the Great Tribulation’. The apostle John wrote;
I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place (Revelation 6:12-14).
These things sound very much like the signs in the heavens of which that Jesus speaks; don’t they? And look at the way we’re told in the Revelation that the whole world will interpret these things:
And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (vv. 15-17).
So; the first great event we find in the words of our Lord—and I say it with all soberness and seriousness—is the signs in the heavens which signify to the whole rebellious, unbelieving, defiant world that the time of God’s judgment for the age has finally come. It may be that the terrible judgment itself does not begin right then at the appearance of these signs; but certainly the signs will make clear that it is definitely and irreversibly about to begin. And the meaning of these things will not, in any way, be a mystery to the unbelieving people of this world. God has already put His law in the hearts; and the Spirit of God already convicts them of sin, righteousness and judgment. They will unquestionably know what it all means. What a terrible sign it will all be!
And may I just say a quick word about it? Isn’t it a great mercy of our Lord that He lets us know all of this now?—before that terrible day of God’s just wrath comes? He tells us now because He loves people; and does not want them to experience His wrath. But let’s not allow ourselves to grow complacent either; because for those who persist in rejecting His offer of grace, the day of wrath will finally come—and all of a sudden. As it says in Proverbs 29:1;
He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy (Proverbs 29:1).
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Now; after telling us about these signs in the heavens—signs which indicate the coming of the day of God’s just wrath upon a sinful world—our Lord then tells us about the very next thing in the sequence. He speaks of …
2. THE SEEING OF THE SON OF MAN.
In verse 26, Jesus says, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” Who is the “they” in this verse? I believe it will be the people who also saw the signs in the heavens. The sight of the Son of Man coming is something that will be visible to everyone on the earth.
Now; this too is something that the Lord Jesus is taking from right out of the pages of Old Testament Scriptures. The apostles would have heard the name “Son of Man”, and would have immediately remembered what it says in Daniel 7—and to one of the best known prophecies in the Scriptures about the Messiah. After giving his remarkable vision of the four beasts in Chapter 7, Daniel writes in verses 13-14;
“I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
The thing that Jesus is talking about here, then, is that sign which declares to the whole world—that whole ungodly system of rebellious values and defiant practices that is about to receive the just judgment of a holy God—that He has now enthroned His Son as King of kings and Lord of lords. He is called “the Son of Man” because He is the Son of God who became Man, and is now the rightful Chief and Head of humanity. And think of it!—He is signified as coming, not merely in power and glory, but in great power and glory!—unspeakable and immeasurable power and glory!
When the Gospel writer Matthew tells us the story of Jesus’ teaching on this, he reports that Jesus calls it “the sign of the Son of Man”; and that He told His disciples that it will not be a day of rejoicing for this world, but rather a day of mourning:
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).
When He hung upon the cross, He hung in nakedness and shame and disgrace—with people laughing at Him and mocking Him. But when He comes again, He will be clothed in clouds of glory. And in the light of that, the apostle John tells us something truly remarkable. In Revelation 1:7, he writes;
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen (Revelation 1:7).
How it will be that even those who rejected Him, and mocked Him, and crucified Him, will see Him come in glory is a great mystery to us. But let’s not doubt it. Nothing is too hard for our heavenly Father.
And again, isn’t it gracious of our Lord to tell us these things in advance? If even those who crucified Him back then will see Him come in great power and glory, then how will those who persists in rejecting Him today be able to avoid Him? How much better it would be to repent today and greet Him on that day with gratitude and rejoicing, than to continue to reject and mock and scorn Him today and behold Him on that day with terror and mourning!
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So; you see the sequence. First—after the tribulation of those days—will come the signs in the heavens that indicate that the day of God’s just judgment has come. And then, secondly, will come the seeing of the Son of Man, as He comes in great power and glory as the just Judge.
And after that, thirdly, comes …
3. THE SENDING OF THE ANGELS.
In verse 27, Jesus said, “ And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.”
Earlier, I pointed out that—even in times of great judgment—God protects those who are His own people. I don’t believe that it can be said that He always spares His people from times of tribulation; but I do affirm, without question, that He will never allow His people to undergo the outpouring of His wrath upon the wicked. And that is a pattern we find affirmed to us throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. When God brought the judgment of the flood upon this world, He spared Noah and his family. When God brought judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah, He spared Lot and his family—even to the point of sending angels to take them by the hand and lead them out of the place destined for destruction. When God brought judgment upon Egypt, He delivered His chosen people through the Red Sea. As the apostle Peter put it;
the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:9).
And I love how our Lord tells us this. He says that He will send His mighty angels forth at that time on a great mission to gather His elect from this earth before the outpouring of His wrath. They will gather them “from the four winds”—which suggests that they will gather them from all directions: north, south, east and west. Not one of His elect—on any point upon the face of the earth—will be missed. And He even says that they will be gathered from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven. Not one will be missed—either ‘side-to-side’ or ‘up-to down’.
By the way—I may be the only person who has dared to suggest this, so take it for what it’s worth. But do you realize that we are living in a time in history when our Lord’s words can be taken quite literally? Perhaps previous generations couldn’t have known what it would mean that He would send some of His angels to to grab His believing ‘elect ones’ from ‘the farthest part of heaven’; but today we do! Perhaps some devoted followers of Jesus who are working away in a space-station somewhere far away will have a front-row-view to some of these things. But you can be sure of this: Absolutely none of His precious people will be missed—no matter where they may be!
And once again; isn’t it gracious of our Lord to tell us this in advance? He promises that His elect will be delivered from the wrath to come; and He tells us this now, so that we may believe on Him while we can, and make sure that we are among His chosen ones when that day comes.
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What tremendous things these are that the Lord tells us in this passage!—the signs in the heavens that announce the coming of judgment; the seeing of the Son of Man that proclaims Him as the righteous Judge; the sending of His angels to gather His elect from the day of wrath.
And what do we do with it all? I believe there’s two things. First, we should remember what the apostle Paul told us in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11;
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).
And second, we should see ourselves as on a ‘rescue mission’ in this world. We are ambassadors for the Son of God; and it’s our job to appeal to the people of this world to trust in the grace of God through Jesus. As Jesus Himself said;
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (James 5:24).