“Religious persecution may shield itself
under the guise of
a mistaken and overzealous piety.”
— Edmond Burke
In August 2012, something unexpected happened involving Chick-fil-A restaurants and the coalition of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transexuals. I watched the evening news and was fascinated by San Diego broadcasters who were trying to give fair and balanced coverage of how people both protested and showed their support for the Chick-fil-A owner and his public comments on behalf of the traditional definition of marriage.
People held up huge signs with colorful lettering. Some stood toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose, shouting at each other. (I wondered if any of them had been sucking on breath mints beforehand.) Others discussed rationally one-on-one. And then there were those who endeavored to make their point by screaming obscenities or kissing someone of the same gender.
It was an interesting display. And it brought to my mind Dr. Luke’s account of Jesus’ words concerning events that will be happening on the day of His coming: “Just as it was in the days of Noah … It was the same in the days of Lot … It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:26-30).
I will let you find those stories in Genesis 6 and 19, and read about the culture during Noah’s time and Lot’s day, since the interpretation of those passages can be quite controversial. What I want to focus on is the unprecedented event listed in Jesus’ timeline which will take place “immediately after the distress of those days” – described by the Son of God as, “unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again” (Matthew 24:21).
Luke simply says, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars.” But Matthew and Mark paraphrase the prophet Isaiah: “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4).
Isaiah also foretold: “… the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.” And check out what John saw during Jesus’ revelation (Revelation 6:12-14): “I watched as [the Lamb, Jesus] opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to the earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.”
I suppose that since Isaiah neglected to mention the part about the moon turning blood red, the Lord God made sure the connection would be made through the prophet Joel in a similar vision: “The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31). He also gave Joel a message of hope to share: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for on Mount Zion [the Temple Mount] and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said …” (Joel 2:32).
Hopping back to the first three gospel writers, we find something else unprecedented. Matthew puts it this way: “AT THAT TIME the sign of the Son of Man [Jesus] will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:30)
In the Book of Revelation, John adds some specifics: “THEN the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man [a.k.a. “all the nations of the earth”] hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called out to the rocks of the mountains, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” (Revelation 6:15-17).
Then Matthew quotes Jesus as saying: “And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:31).
In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle – who was quite literally acquisitioned by Jesus – wrote: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thess. 4:16-18).
In Revelation 7, John finishes that chapter for us: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb….”
How much more clearly and simply could we expect the story of Jesus’ second coming and the rapture of the elect to be told by imperfect humans?
It’s just spread out a bit!
“The Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd …
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
A RUST REMOVER …
Read the accounts of what the social scene was like during Noah’s time (Genesis 6:1-13) and Lot’s day (Genesis 18:16-25). Decide for yourself whether inappropriate behavior could have been the cause of the Lord’s decision to destroy those who had chosen to participate. Then compare that behavior with the blatant sexual impropriety of modern day.