THE BIGGER PICTURE
25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
— Luke 21:25-36, ESV
On this first Sunday of Advent, we begin to see a picture of Christmas. The world around us is painting it with Santa Clauses, elves, reindeer, and a plethora of red and green. But, we know there is a bigger picture in view.
For Christians, Christmas is about Christ. We emphasis His miraculous but humble birth. We admire His earthly parents, Mary and Joseph. We rejoice with the angels and the shepherds. Jesus Christ has come to earth, to do no harm, to seek and save. Yet, there is a bigger picture still.
When we celebrate the first advent of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must keep in mind the bigger picture, which is His second advent, still to come. At Jesus’ first coming, almost no one knew He had arrived, and this relative anonymity continued throughout His life, ministry, and death. Christ’s second coming will be known to everyone, human and angelic, dead and alive, with spectacular scenes which serve to paint a much bigger picture indeed.
Those who celebrate best the first coming of Jesus are those who can see the bigger picture, those who know their souls will be safe, forevermore, at the second coming of Christ.
The Bigger Picture of the Son of Man
“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory (vs. 27)”
“Pray that you may escape and stand before the Son of Man (vs. 36).”
The phrase, “Son of Man,” is turned 199 times in the pages of Holy Scripture. It represents humans as distinct from God (ref. Numbers 23:19) and God in human form (ref. Daniel 7:13-14). It is prophetic (Ezekiel’s 88 uses) and messianic (the Gospels’ 82 uses). At the end of the day, and in the last book of the Bible, it is apocalyptic (ref. Revelation 14:14).
Clearly Jesus is referring to Himself as the “Son of Man” in this vital passage in the Gospel of Luke. The Lord is in the last days of His ministry on earth, His first advent, and He is clearly speaking about the time He will return to earth, His second advent.
In the Old Testament, the “Son of Man” appeared to snatch three of God’s children out of the fire. At the end of this New Covenant age, He will do much more of the same thing. The “Son of Man,” is the Lord Jesus Christ, Messiah, Savior, the one who saves God’s children from the fires of final judgement. He does so in three redemptive stages.
The Bigger Picture of Redemption
“Straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (vs. 28).”
“Redemption” speaks of release by paying a price. People used to lay away Christmas gifts, then redeem them when the full price was paid. A ransom to release a kidnap victim is a redemption price. In the Bible, redemption is salvation, as Jesus has redeemed the children of God with His own blood.
Notice in this text how Jesus speaks of salvation, our redemption, and something which awaits us in the future. Can’t we experience salvation full and free right now? Don’t we have a blessed assurance that such a salvation is present and persistent throughout our lives on earth? Do we have to wait until we go to Heaven, or Heaven comes to us, to be saved? The answer to all of these questions is “yes!”
The grace of redemption in justification occurs the moment we are saved, regenerated, repentant, and full of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are redeemed by His perfect person and work on the cross, our sin debt is paid in full, Christ’s righteousness becomes our own, and we were saved, past tense, the moment we accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
The grace of redemption in sanctification is present tense, beginning the moment we were justified and continuing until the time we will be glorified. It is Christ’s presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit. It is the hunger for righteousness we continually feel that can only be filled with proper worship and obedience to the word of God. It flows out of the price Jesus paid to save us and makes us willing to pay any price to follow Him. We were saved in justification, we are being saved and proving our salvation in sanctification, and we still will be saved, future tense, in glorification.
The grace of redemption is glorification is still to come. It awaits our meeting with the Lord, face to face. It is the phase of redemption that Jesus says is “drawing near.” It is experienced by the children of God when they walk through the door of death, yet not every believer will have died when Christ returns to earth. Some of us will be very much alive and awake when this final redemption is “drawing near,” when the second advent arrives.
The Bigger Picture of the End of Time
“When these things begin to take place (vs. 28).”
“When you see these things taking place (vs. 31).”
“All these things that are going to take place (vs. 36).”
The second advent of Christ will mark the end of human history as we know it. The date and time of this cataclysmic event cannot be known by man (ref. Matthew 24:36). But, there are definite signs of the time. Jesus is speaking of them here, referring to them as “these things” three times. What things?
Could Jesus have been referring to global warming? Look again at verse 25. People all over the planet, including some very smart people like The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, are much worked up about chaos in the cosmos. But this is just a small picture of the bigger picture to come.
Could Jesus have been referring to the exponential rise in cases of anxiety and depression? Look again at verses 26 and 34. Medicines for mental health are being produced and distributed at all-time record rates. God bless you if you are one of them, for such problems are real and the remedies give aid. Even so, this sign of the times is a small picture of the bigger picture to come.
Could Jesus have been referring to the rebirth of Israel in 1948? Look again at verse 29. Some say the “fig tree” is Israel, reborn as a nation a little over seventy years ago. Seventy percent of the people born in that year are still alive and well on planet Earth. Could they be alive when Christ comes again? It this a little picture of the big picture waiting to be seen soon?
These little pictures are too small to tell that much. Global warming seems to be a long term trend that transcends the acts of we colonies of ants here on the earth. Depression and anxiety are as old as the human race. Modern Israel is just one “fig tree” among “all the trees” where the vast majority of the birds blatantly reject the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The “these things” the Lord is speaking of are the spectacular, star rattling, sky splitting, and soul shaking events surround the second coming of Jesus Christ. When it happens there will be no doubt as to what is happening. When it happens will all see the bigger picture (ref. Revelation 1:7).
The Bigger Picture of the Advent of Christ
We really don’t know the date of Christ’s birth, although we can pinpoint is as some time, probably in the spring, between the years 4-6 B.C. We have no idea of the date and time of the second coming of Christ. But we need to keep our eyes on the bigger picture.
Jesus came the first time as an innocent baby. He will come the second time as a warrior on a white horse covered in blood. Keep your eyes on the bigger picture.
The Lord came the first time to pay the price of redemption, salvation, and lead His people in an earthly and eternal life of repentance and faithfulness. He will come the second time to gather all of His people of all time and share with them the glories of a new heaven and earth, while all unbelievers of all time will know that time has run out for them. Keep you eyes on the bigger picture.
I love Christmas, and all that goes with it, a true celebration of the first coming of Christ. I also long for the second coming of Christ, an end to sin and strife, hatred and war, persecution and pain. But to enjoy eternity, you have to make your earthly preparation by believing and obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Even so, come Lord Jesus” (ref. Revelation 22:20). Keep your eyes on the bigger picture.