Endurance and the Christian Hope

MEMORY VERSE: “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but My words shall not pass away.” —Luke 21:33

LUKE 21:25-36

THE prophecies contained in this lesson pertain to what the Bible indicates to be “the end of the world.” However, to understand the end-of-the-world prophecies correctly it is essential to realize that to a large extent they are couched in symbolic or pictorial language.

Actually, the end of the world described in the Bible is not the end of the literal heavens and earth, but of a social order which these symbolize. Many of the literal things of earth, as well as the heavens, are used in the Bible to picture various truths of the divine plan—rivers, trees, grass, mountains, the oceans, sheep, goats, etc. The characteristics of these literal objects suggest the meaning which the Bible attaches to them when they are used to present God’s truth.

Similarly, the sun, moon, and stars are used as symbols. For example, Malachi 4:2 reads, “The sun of righteousness [shall] arise with healing in his wings.” Here the warming, healing rays of the sun are used to illustrate the divine healing powers of the Messiah that will operate during the thousand years of his kingdom.

Our lesson speaks of the “powers of heaven” being shaken, and of heaven and earth passing away, but actually, according to the promises of God’s Word the literal heaven and earth shall never pass away. The earth was created to be man’s eternal home. Isaiah 45:17,18 reads, “Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited; I am the Lord; and there is none else.”

The literal heavens exercise a certain control over the earth. The tides and seasons are thus controlled, and this means that life itself is pretty much subject to the control exercised by the heavenly bodies. This fact is used in the prophecies to illustrate that the social order under which we live has two principal aspects, the heavenly, so far as we are in contact with it, being largely the powers of religious control.

It is this symbolic picture of a great time of trouble that is presented in verses 25,26: “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” (see Isa. 17:12,13)

There seems no doubt that we are now living in this foretold time when the hearts of the people are failing them for fear of what they see coming upon the earth. The fact that the powers of the symbolic heavens are no longer able to hold society in check is one of the major contributing causes of the distress of nations and the resulting fear.

Verse 27 associates these events with the coming of the “Son of man.” The text says that he comes “in a cloud with power and great glory.” (compare Revelation 1:7) Here is further use of symbolic Language. Literal clouds would conceal, but these clouds of trouble reveal the presence of the Son of man. No human will see Jesus literally. The thought is that those who know the meaning of the prophecies will discern their fulfillment as indicating that the end of the age has been reached, and that the time is near for the establishment of his kingdom, which will be the new world, or social order of tomorrow.

The “Parable of the Fig Tree,” and “all the trees,” is revealing. The fig tree is a symbol of the Jewish nation, but in addition to Israel many new nations have come into existence; and Jesus said that this would also be an evidence that the “kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”

Jesus assures us of the trustworthiness of his words. Though the symbolic heavens and earth will pass away, his prophecies will remain and be fulfilled, and today we are seeing their fulfillment. It is a time for great watchfulness on the part of all true followers of the Master.


Give examples of the use of symbolic language in the Bible.

What will supplant the symbolic heaven and earth of today when they pass away?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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