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When the Good News is terrifying

Columbia Biblical Studies: Tuesday, July 22
Columbia Biblical Studies: Tuesday, July 22
Junior Libby

Today’s bible study is from the Gospel of Luke 21:25-28: There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

This verse seems to be a very frightening warning indeed! Can you imagine the sun, the moon and the stars changing their size, shape, color or location? Can you even conceive of the sum hurtling toward earth and the moon leaving its orbit to drift off to the unknown reaches of the universe? Dare we imagine the sea tossing in a manner that surpasses even the most violent Tsunami we have ever known and people fainting en masse from terror? This is a very frightening scene that Luke portrays.

Luke is, in fact, speaking of the coming of the Son of Man. This coming is also mentioned in the gospel of Matthew and Mark.

Theologians tell us that the Son of Man will come in a cloud. The end of history, the consummation of God’s purpose for the creation, is pictured as the return of Christ. At the end of history we do not meet a stranger, but the one who has already appeared among us as the definitive revelation of God. At the end of history we shall meet the same Jesus portrayed in this Gospel.

Luke rejects the idea that the earthly appearance of Jesus in love and compassion was only a preliminary effort on God’s part to win humanity back to himself. But when Jesus returns it will be with violence and vengeance. The God represented by the Jesus of this Gospel will ultimately prevail.

The function of this eschatological discourse is not to satisfy curiosity about the time and manner of the end, but (1) to proclaim God the Creator as the Lord of history, whose purpose for the world will finally be fulfilled, and (2) to call the readers to repentance and service.

This is a frightening verse and one which M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock have studied it far more extensively that I. I can only pray that, if and when the end does come, that we shall all be ready to meet our maker and become children of His kingdom. May we do our best to live the word of God and to walk in the paths of Jesus. May we also appreciate all of creation, every rose and every tiny bird, and know that it is God’s creation and may be fleeting in the time/space continuum.

References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock and The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur.

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