Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky. “Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives . . . People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” (NAB)
Often, the end of the world is portrayed with images of terror, darkness, fright, panic, pain, despair, and annihilation. Even the Sacred Scriptures do not spare the reader this picture. In the Gospels, Jesus’ depiction of the end would send chills down the spine of many a reader. At first glance one is tempted to believe that the end – that Day – will be all gloomy. At times, many fail to see the full picture, that it is not all about darkness and dread. Surely, the Bible’s depiction of the end can be very frightening. And many preachers, of diverse religious affiliations, appeal to these apocalyptic images in their quest to stir their audience to repentance.
Yet, one must not forget the other side of that Day. In the passage for today’s reflection, for example, Jesus says: “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end” (Luke 21:9). Terrifying events will occur, but the Lord says: Do not be terrified. No one who puts his trust in the Lord has reason to be afraid. The Lord continues, “You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives (Luke 21:16-19). That Day will bring troubled and turbulent times, but there is a divine promise of protection for the Lord’s people. It is important to keep this in mind. Wherever and whenever there is a prediction of terror, there is also the promise of peace for God’s people. Luke adds yet another piece to his depiction of the end times: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand (21:25-28).
That Day will surely come, according to the Lord’s solemn promise. But it will not feel the same for all. For those who wait upon the Lord and await his coming, it will be a day of peace, not terror. It will be the hour redemption. Jesus’s words are clear: But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand. In other words, Jesus’ message to his followers is this: Rejoice because these signs happen. Be not afraid; nor be terrorized. This is the Day you have been waiting for. Stand erect; raise your heads in confidence; march for your glory.
For those who rejected the love of God, that Day will surely be a day of utter dismay and terror. It would indeed be a terrifying experience to not have God as your refuge on that Day. Knowing the full story helps. Seeing the big picture makes a difference. What that Day brings will depend, to a large extent, on personal choice. One can choose to welcome it as a day of terror or a day of peace. For those who trust in the Lord, God himself will be their refuge to preserve them from the potential terrorizing effect of that Day. The Psalmist was right to say: “God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress. Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken and mountains quake to the depths of the sea, Though its waters rage and foam and mountains totter at its surging. The LORD of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob” (Psalm 46:2-4; RSV vv 1-3).
The prophet Malachi is also noted for his depiction of that Day. At times, though, many forget that he tells the full story, of terror and of peace. His prophecy brings out the distinctions we have already noted. He says: “Then they who fear the LORD spoke with one another, and the LORD listened attentively; And a record book was written before him of those who fear the LORD and trust in his name. And they shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, my own special possession, on the day I take action. And I will have compassion on them, as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. Then you will again see the distinction between the just and the wicked; between him who serves God, and him who does not serve him. For lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, And the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the LORD of hosts. But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays (Mal 3:16-20).
What that Day holds for the world will differ from person to person. The coming of the Lord will bring peace to those who fear him, and terror to those who reject him. As you read these words, you may wonder: For me, would it be a day of peace or a day of terror? Each person has to answer for himself. As you live, you still have a choice and a chance. Decide today. Do you want a day of terror or a day of peace? It is strongly recommended that you opt for peace. Surrender to the Lordship of Christ Jesus, repent from your sins, obey his voice, and open your heart to accept the Good News. God bless you.
Invitation to pray:
Dear Jesus, I praise and bless your name. I ask you to forgive me and cleanse me of my sins. I decide to worship you alone as my Lord and Savior. Come into my heart, live in me, and prepare me for that Day. Thank you, Lord. Amen.