Advent Comings Luke 21:5-20

A sermon with the congregation of the Good Shepherd in the Anglican parish of Kingston North, Ontario, November 18, 2001. Robert Brow   (    (see sermon on "Coming in AD 70")

The word advent means coming. It can refer to a ordinary coming for a visit (the advent of Aunt Mildred). And it can be expected with happy anticipation (if Aunt Mildred is wealthy, and comes to give out goodies), or with apprehension (the advent of the income tax inspector).

The problem is that here in Canada the only advent of the Lord that really grabs people is the coming of the baby Jesus for Christmas. Today here in Kingston we have the Santa Claus parade down Princess Street. What it says is "Get Ready for Christmas." And for most people it makes no difference if Jesus is lying in a manger with shepherds and angels singing, or Santa is riding on a sleigh with jingle bells.

There is also a group of radio and television preachers whose main business is preaching about the second coming. For the past hundred years they have interpreted every event in history as a clear sign of his imminent coming. I have a paperback titled The Late Great Planet Earth, 1970, in which Hal Lindsey shows that the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 is absolutely certain proof that within forty years, i.e. 1988, the Lord will return. He was wrong, but he still sells books by the million.

The idea that there was a first coming when Jesus came as a baby and a second coming in our day is not at all what the Bible teaches. There will indeed be a final coming when God's purposes are complete, and the Son of God wraps up our world (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). But throughout the Bible the Son of God keeps coming to intervene in the current situations of the nations. The first coming was in the Garden of Eden when the LORD God came for a walk with Adam and Eve, and they hid themselves "among the trees of the garden" (Genesis 3:8). He still comes to us, and we prefer to hide from him. Then there was a coming when people were building the tower of Babel with the idea of reaching up to heaven, and the "LORD came down" and scattered them (Genesis 11:5). Maybe the destruction of the towers in Manhattan (September 11, 2001) will remind us that God is not enthusiastic about tall buildings in their pride reaching into heaven.

The Bible goes on to describe the Exodus from Egypt as a time when the LORD "will redeem you with an outstretched arm" (Exodus 6:6). It was also the LORD who allowed the Babylonians to take the people of Jerusalem into exile, and the same Lord who toppled Babylon seventy years later in another Day of the Lord (Isaiah 13:6-13), and brought the exiles back home.

In our text today the disciples are admiring the "beautiful stones" of the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 21:5). And Jesus tells them that "the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down" (Luke 21:6). That would happen in their lifetime. "Truly, I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place" (Luke 21:32). In the toppling of the religious establishment of Jerusalem (Pharisees, Sadducees Priests) in the destruction of the city by the Romans, "they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory" (Luke 21:27). That happened in AD 70. And the Jewish nation was exiled from their city for 1900 years till 1948 when the State of Israel was established. Notice the fall of the city is described as "the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory (Luke 21:27, exactly as in the fall of Babylon in Isaiah 13).

But what do those distant events mean for us? In that day the disciples would hear of "wars and insurrections" and "nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom" but they were not to be terrified (Luke 21:9-10). They should know the King of kings and Lord of lords had things in hand. And when they saw "Jerusalem surrounded by armies," they were to leave the city immediately (Luke 21:20-22). Josephus, the Jewish historian tells how the Christians did that, and escaped the "great distress and wrath" (Luke 21:23) of the terrible siege that closed like a trap on those who remained in Jerusalem.

In our situation we are not to be rattled and worried. We look to the Lord who is still reigning as powerfully and firmly among the nations as he was at that time. But we are also to see how he comes (intervenes) in our churches. In the Book of Revelation we have warnings to the seven churches of Asia Minor. Notice how the Lord speaks of his coming to deal with them. To church in Ephesus he said. "You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place" (Revelation 2:4-5). If you visit Turkey, you can see the ruins of the great city of Ephesus, and in fact the church there disappeared without trace, as John had written.

Similarly to the church in Pergamum the Lord said "You also have some who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent then. If not I will come to you soon, and make war against them with the sword of my mouth" (Revelation 2:15-16). The church in Thyatira was warned to"hold fast to what you have until I come" (Revelation 2:25). And Sardis was also told "Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief" (Revelation 3:2-3).

But to the church of Laodicea there is a warning and a beautiful invitation to communion. Jesus said "I reprove and discipline. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me" (Revelation 3:19-20).

Finally we need to remember that the Lord not only makes his advents to come and deal with nations, and also comes to deal with churches, but he also cares about each one of us. When we face terrifying situations, we can look to him and say "Come, Lord Jesus" (Revelation 22:20). Perhaps some of you are facing upsetting situations right now in your work or family situations. Don't get rattled and complain as if the Lord was no longer around. In a moment of silent prayer you can talk to him, and then invite him to our communion service, and then go out and watch what he does among the nations, and in our work, and in our family.

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