The Tribulation Prophecies

Luke 21: 20-28
Rv 18: 1-2. 21-23; 19: 1-3. 9a / Ps 100: 1b – 5

But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.
(Luke 21:28)

The end times will come with certainty,
Fearful days of great calamity.
The question is, how prepared are we
To face them without anxiety?

Jesus said, ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation is at hand. Those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are the days of punishment, when all that is written are fulfilled. Woe to those who are pregnant and nursing mothers in those days! For a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful vengeance upon this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Lk.21:20-24)

The Coming of the Son of Man

‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 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.’ (Lk. 21:25-28)

Reflection

Jesus is making two distinct prophecies in today’s Gospel reading: the first, in verses 20 to 24, is a repetition of His lament over Jerusalem as He was entering the city (in Luke 19:41-44). History shows this prophecy would be fulfilled in A.D. 66–73, approximately forty years after the death of our Lord, when the Roman armies under Titus, the son of Vespasian, conquered Palestine and destroyed Jerusalem, slaughtering most of the Jews and bringing the captives as slaves back to Rome.

The second prophecy is obviously no longer about the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, but about “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” This second prophecy is for the benefit of all Christians — warning us to prepare for our Lord’s Second Coming to herald the Final Judgment. Again, (for emphasis), this is a repetition of His earlier prediction of the End Times (in Lk.21:7-11). “Signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves” evidently refer to nature’s cataclysmic phenomena as manifestations of the prophecy’s fulfillment. The past few years of this millennium have seen the occurrences of such natural disasters like giant temblors and super typhoons, and even fires in America and famine in Africa. This last apocalypse is a consequence not only of drought, but by wars in the continent and in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. And of course we are all aware of the current global warming phenomenon.

How did the early Christian community escape from the destruction and slaughter in Jerusalem? According to the church historian Eusebius (300 AD), the Christians fled Jerusalem before the war and escaped to Pella, a city across the Jordan River. They surely must have remembered Jesus’ prophecy, and acted accordingly. It would do well for us to follow their example, and ‘escape’ from our sins while there is still time. This is the message that the coming Advent season is conveying to us today. So, please take heed.

Save us, Father God, from the impending destruction; protect us from the evil that will befall the world on the day of tribulation. This we pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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