Scripture: Luke 21:20-28 (alternate reading for Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.A. from Luke 17:11-19)
20 "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it; 22 for these are days of vengeance, to fulfil all that is written. 23 Alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people; 24 they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. 25 "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men 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, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
Meditation: Do you believe that the world as we know it is going to end just as Jesus foretold? Jesus' prophetic description of the destruction of the holy city Jerusalem, the destruction of the world, and the day of final judgment, was not new to the people of Israel. The prophets had foretold these events many centuries before. Behold the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger to make the earth a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it (Isaiah 13:9-13; see also Joel 2:1-2; Amos 5:18-20; Zephaniah 1:14-18). Jesus warns of the imminent destruction of Jerusalem as a consequence of the rejection of the gospel. According the historian Josephus, over a million inhabitants died when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem with its temple in 70 A.D. Jerusalem's vengeance resulted from her indifference to the visitation of God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 19:44).
Jesus also speaks about the judgment at the end of the world. Only spiritual blindness can keep us from recognizing the obvious signs of approaching disaster which awaits the day of judgment for those who refuse to heed God's word of grace and salvation. Jesus was completely honest. He told his disciples what it would cost to follow him. And he promised that he would never leave them alone, even in their time of tribulation. The saints and martyrs who underwent torment and death made their prisons a temple of praise and their scaffolds a throne to the glory of God. They knew the saving presence of Jesus Christ with them in all circumstances. Jesus offers us safety in the face of earth's threats. Not a hair of your head will perish (Luke 21:18). The disciple who walks with Christ may lose their body but not their soul.
The greatest gift which no one can take from us and which we can be most thankful for is our redemption through the precious blood of Jesus, which was shed on the cross for our sins, and our adoption through Christ as children of God our heavenly Father. Jesus Christ has redeemed us from slavery to sin, from fear of death, and from final destruction. We can be eternally thankful because our hope is anchored in heaven and in the promise that Jesus will return to fully establish his reign of peace and righteousness. Jesus speaks of his second coming as a known fact, a for certain event which we can confidently expect to take place in the Lord's time of choosing. This coming will be marked by signs that all will recognize – signs which will strike terror and grief in those who are unprepared and wonder and joy in those who are ready to meet the Lord. When the Lord Jesus returns he will fully establish his kingdom of justice and righteousness and he will vindicate all who have been faithful to him. His judgment is a sign of hope for those who have placed their trust in him. Do you hope in God and in the promise of Christ to return again to establish his reign of righteousness and peace?
"Lord Jesus, fill me with gratitude for the gift of redemption and increase my hope and longing for your return again in glory. May that day bring joy to my heart rather than sorrow. Help me to serve you faithfully and to make the best use of my time now in the light of your coming again."
1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the lands!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the LORD is God! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name!
5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures for ever, and his faithfulness to all generations.