God’s Word makes it very clear that Jesus is going to return some day. He will appear suddenly in blazing divine glory in the sky for all the world to see. It will be overwhelming. For the unbeliever, it will be sheer terror. For the believer, it will be one of the greatest days on earth. For the believer, the Bible describes it as a “wonderful day” (Titus 2:12-13). It is a day that believers “eagerly look forward to” (2 Tim. 4:8). Believers throughout the centuries have been “looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven” (1 Thess. 1:10).
Before we get into Mark 13, I want to point out something in Titus 2:11 which says,
For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed (Titus 2:11-13, NLT).
A couple of quick observations. I’m convinced that looking forward to the return of Jesus impacts us in several ways.
Number one, the return of Jesus reminds you of when you turned to Jesus. This was by grace. The grace of God was revealed to you at some point in your life and it brought salvation to you. At that moment you were justified before God. Because of God’s salvation, you are able to stand before God forgiven of your sins, pardoned of your sins, and rescued from your sins. This is all possible because of what Jesus did on the cross for you. Because of that grace and salvation, you love Jesus and are looking forward to His return.
Number two, the return of Jesus motivates you to live for Jesus. There is something inspirational about looking and longing for His return. We are looking for “upper taker,” not the undertaker! But during the waiting period we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God. This deals with your sanctification and spiritual growth. You are in the world, but not of it. Until Jesus returns you are to live a responsible and honorable life that is dedicated to bringing glory to God.
Number three, the return of Jesus is going to be wonderful. You are looking forward with hope to that wonderful day. As you look forward to that wonderful day live a wonderful life. Let your love for Jesus and His return drive you to love your God, love your neighbor, love your enemy, love your husband, love your wife, love your children, love the people you go to school with and work with. Bless others, encourage others, serve others as a representative of Jesus. Tell others about the gospel of Jesus and the salvation He has brought. Support missions. Be involved in your local church. Become a kingdom man or kingdom woman who is identified as a lover of Jesus and a lover of people. Let the Lord’s return motivate you. The best is yet to come.
Now, let’s focus on Mark 13. In Mark 13 Jesus specifically addresses His return.
At that time, after the anguish of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, 25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven. (NLT)
To help us understand what Jesus is saying, let’s break this down into four sections.
The first section deals with the setting. Jesus says, At that time, after the anguish of those days…. What days of anguish is Jesus talking about? He has just painted the picture of the days leading up to His return (Mark 13:1-23). They include the following.
- The anguish of spiritual disasters (Mark 13:5). Jesus said that people will claim to be the Messiah and have all the spiritual answers. Jesus said they will deceive many. This will cause an increase in cults and occults and false religions.
- The anguish of human disasters (Mark 13:7-8). Jesus said that until He returns there will be wars and rumors of war. He said nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
- The anguish of natural disasters (Mark 13:8). Jesus said there will be earthquakes around the world, along with famines and plagues.
- The anguish of persecution (Mark 13:9). Jesus said that believers will be handed over to various religious groups and they will be beaten for their faith in Christ. Some believers will stand trial before political groups because they are followers of Jesus.
- The anguish of betrayal (Mark 13:12). Jesus said brother will turn his brother into the authorities because he is a believer, a father will turn against his son and daughter and sons and daughters will cause their parents to be executed because of their faith.
- The anguish of hatred (Mark 13:13). Jesus said that believers will be hated because they follow Jesus.
- The anguish of the abomination of desolation (Mark 13:14). Jesus said there will come a day when the Antichrist overtakes the Temple of God in Jerusalem. Declare himself God and demand everyone everywhere to worship him. This will unleash a worldwide persecution of believers.
During these days of anguish there will be unrestrained immorality, unparalleled devastation, and unrelenting violence toward all believers. That is the setting that leads up to the return of Jesus. Jesus said, at that time, after the anguish of those days something significant is about to happen. This takes us to the next section.
The disciples specifically asked Jesus for a sign that would let them know when His return would be. Jesus gives it to them at the end of verse 24 saying, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, 25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.[i]
Luke adds a little more insight into all this saying,
“And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. 26 People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. 28 So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (Luke 21:25-28, NLT).
What does all this mean?
Just before Jesus returns, Jesus says the sun will be darkened and the moon will give no light. As Jesus approaches the very sun and moon will become darkened. This is an unmistakable sign. No one can replicate this. All the false messiahs, all the false religions, all the antichrist and The Antichrist will all witness this. Everyone on the planet will lose sunlight and moonlight (see also Revelation 6:12).
Jesus went on to say the stars will fall from the sky. Most see this as a major meteor shower or comets hitting the earth. As Jesus approaches the heavens will rain down its stars upon earth.
In Luke Jesus says that because of these strange signs by the sun, moon, and stars the various nations will be in turmoil and they will be perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides (Luke 21:25). There will be no natural light from the sun or moon. There will be a major meteor shower pounding the earth, the seas will be roaring, and the tides will be acting strangely. The earth will be in complete chaos and turmoil.
Jesus then adds the powers in the heavens will be shaken. What Jesus calls the powers in the heavens we call the universe.[ii] The entire universe will be shaking. The whole universe begins to shake at the arrival of the one who created the universe and who will judge the entire universe. An interesting thought is that this is the same Jesus who, while on earth, so completely veiled his true identity that nobody recognized him as God, apart from his miracles. At Jesus first coming. He arrived as a baby in a stable. He got hungry. He got thirsty. He got tired. That was Jesus with his divinity hidden so he could identify completely with you and me to die for us. At Jesus’ second coming, His true identity will be completely revealed and the universe will shake at His arrival and presence.
As Jesus arrives to gather up His people, He will withdraw His sustaining power. The Bible says that Jesus “sustains everything by the mighty power of his command” (Heb. 1:3). Colossians 1 tells us that God created everything through Jesus, and everything was also created for Him. It also says that Jesus “holds all creation together” (vs. 16-17). As Jesus approaches, He will withdraw His sustaining power. Without His sustaining power, gravity will weaken, and the orbits of the stars and planets will change. When the Lord withdraws His power from the universe, nothing in it will function normally, and every aspect of the physical world will be disrupted beyond imagination. All the forces of energy, here called the powers in the heavens, which hold everything in space constant, will be in dysfunction. The heavenly bodies will careen helter-skelter through space, and all navigation, whether stellar, solar, magnetic, or gyroscopic, will be futile because all stable reference points and uniform natural forces will be ceased to exist or else become unreliable.
This universal chaos on earth and in the heavens is THE sign that Jesus is about to return.
We have seen the setting for the Lord’s return. We have looked at the sign just prior to the Lord’s return. Now let’s look at the Savior who is returning. Jesus, talking about His own return, said in verse 26, Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory.[iii] In all the chaos and darkness of the planet, with no sun shining and no moon to light the night, suddenly and vibrantly Jesus will appear coming on the clouds with great power and glory. Paul put it this way in 2 Thessalonians 1, when he wrote, “… when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire…” (vs. 7-8, NLT). The backdrop of the Lord’s return is darkness, but at the center of all this darkness is Jesus shining with His holy fire and mighty angels. His presence will be unmistakable, and all the world will witness His appearing (Rev. 1:7). He will arrive with great power and glory.
- The first time Jesus appeared He appeared as a baby. The second time, He will appear as a King (Matt. 2:13; Rev. 19:11-16).
- The first time Jesus showed up, He showed up lying in a manager. The second time He shows up it will be on mighty clouds.
- The first time Jesus arrived, He arrived in weakness and meekness. When He arrives the second time, He will arrive in power and glory.
- The first time He paid for sins, the second time He will abolish sin.
- The first time He arrived as a servant, the second time He arrives as Master.
- The first time He was the sacrificial lamb, the second time He is the roaring lion (John 1:29; Rev. 5:5).
- The first time very few people knew about it, the second time the whole world will know about it (Luke 2:15-17; Rev. 1:7).
- The first time Jesus came He opened the door to heaven, the second time arrives He closes the door to heaven (John 10:9; Rev. 3:8; Luke 13:22-25).
When Jesus returns, He will arrive with great power and glory. But, why did He return? This takes us to the last section.
The reason Jesus returns is to gather His people, the saints. Jesus said in verse 27, And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.[iv] I want you to notice three things.
First, when the Lord returns, His angels will come with him. Jesus said, he will send out his angels…. Angels are an invisible army of beings who manage history for God. God does not need them, but He created them for His purposes and glory. Even though we cannot see them, they are as real as you and me. Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him [talking about Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (ESV). The angels are created beings.
- They have a purpose to point people to Christ and to serve Christ in some way. Angels are spirit beings (Heb. 1:14).
- They are personal beings; they have intellect, emotion and will (1 Peter 1:12; Luke 5:10).
- When it comes to God’s angels, He has a lot of them (Daniel 7:10).
- Angels worship God (Rev. 4:8), they do God’s will (Psalm 103:20) and they minister to believers (Heb. 1:14).
- The Bible shows us they are used to deliver God’s Word (Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Luke 1:11, 26; 2:9) God’s protection (2 Kings 6:8-23; Acts 5:17-18), God’s provision (Psalm 78:24-25; Matt. 4:11), God’s judgement (Rev. 15), and God’s guidance (Acts 8, 10).
- Angels have been a significant part of God’s history and they will be a significant part of our future when Jesus returns. They are real, they are powerful, and they are on your side as a believer.
Number two, when Jesus returns, His angels will be used to gather up His people. He will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones…. I want you to notice that as a believer, you are described as part of the chosen ones. Some translations use the word elect (ESV, NASB). When Jesus was talking to His disciples He plainly said, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you” (John 15:16, NLT). Paul would comment about this later in Ephesians 1 saying, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” (Eph. 1:4-5, NLT). I don’t fully understand everything God’s Word teaches about predestination, election, and being chosen. But one thing I do know, I thank God for it because without it I would not and could not be saved. Because of what Christ has done in my life and your life as followers of Jesus we are a part of the chosen ones. He didn’t choose us and save us because of something special about us, but because of something special about Him. He chose you because of His love and grace and mercy and holiness and justice. It is by grace you have been saved (Eph. 2:8-10). Because of His grace and love Jesus will send out His angels to gather His chosen ones.
Number three, When Jesus returns, His angels will gather them up no matter where they are. Jesus will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven. Wherever the believers are and whatever they are doing they will be gathered up. These believers will be made up of every kind of person on the planet. These chosen ones will speak different languages, have different skin color, some will be wealthy, some poor, some healthy, some sick, some working, and some sleeping. There will be women, men, boys, and girls. Some will be smart, some not so smart. Regardless of all that they all have one thing in common that Jesus is the Lord of their life.
- None of them will be perfect, but all of them will be forgiven.
- Some will be in prison for their faith, they will be taken.
- Some will be on trial for their faith, they will be taken.
- Some will be hiding in caves; they will be taken.
- Some will have just given their life to Jesus; they will be taken.
- They will be gathered from homes, prisons, caves, fields, woods, cars, plains, villages, huts, streets, beds, and everywhere else God’s people are.
God will gather his chosen ones from all over the world. When Jesus comes back, He is coming after His precious people.
Now listen up.
- For the believer the return of Jesus will be a wonderful day!
- Every believer is looking forward to that day, whether they are alive then or not.
- But until then, Jesus wants us to live for Him.
- We do that by loving God and loving others. Bless people. Serve people. Pray for people. Live for Jesus until He returns.
- Worship God. Be generous. Go the extra mile. Live for Jesus until He returns.
- Forgive others. Allow for their faults. Make wise decision that honor others and God. Live for Jesus until He returns.
- Do the right thing. Read the Word. Study the Word. Apply the Word. Share the gospel. Support missionaries. Be all in with your church. Live for Jesus until He returns.
- Be an example of a lover of God and a lover of people. Stand up for truth. Defend what is right. Live for Jesus until He returns.
[i] The Old Testament prophets referred to this major event (Isaiah 13:10; 24:23; 34:4; Jeremiah 4:23-28; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 2:10, 30-31; 3:15; Amos 5:20; 8:9; Hagia 2:6, 21; Revelation 6:12-13)
[ii] This statement is a little more difficult to interpret. Some see this referring to the powers that holds the heavens in place whereas others see the powers as referring to angelic hosts who are powerful, including the kingdom of Satan and his demons.
[iii] In describing this future event, Jesus borrowed the language of Daniel 7:13-14, “As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed” (NLT).
[iv] Matthew 24:31, “And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones from all over the world[i]—from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven” (NLT). Notice Matthew adds that a mighty blast of a trumpet will initiate the start of the angels gathering up God’s people.