“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” – Mark 13:24-37
I could never get over the initial few pages of reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy. But I did watch the movies. Several scenes remain in my mind, most notably when Gandalf, in The Two Towers, promises his friends, “Look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East.” As the battle raged on that fifth day, with the forces of good being pressed hard and stretched to their limits, Gandalf finally rides in on a white stallion with help to save his friends.
Such is really the spirit of Jesus’ warnings and promises in these verses from Mark’s Gospel. Good will battle evil. Satan will continue his evil effort to steal, kill, and destroy. The followers of Jesus will carry the fight with weapons of the Spirit, and armed with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, and all the resources God provides. Toward the end we may nearly faint. We will be sorely tempted to give up and give in.
But there will be deliverance. We need only watch.
I used to think of this as only a warning to frighten me. I worried that I might be caught doing something dreadfully wrong when Jesus returned…suddenly, decisively. To some extent that is part of Jesus’ warning: Don’t set aside your calling, or neglect your redemption.We may not know when that time will come. But never doubt: in the darkest hour Jesus will come and take his own to be with him forever.