Deliverance Drawing Near

“When these things are beginning to occur, raise yourselves, and lift up your heads; for your deliverance is drawing near.”
—Luke 21:28, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott

THE ENTERING OF A new year is always a reminder that time marches on, and time is an important consideration in our outlook as Christians and students of prophecy. The servants of God in every age have been out of harmony with the world around them. They have been pained by the sinful and unjust practices of the ungodly, and because of their own imperfections have groaned within themselves, longing for the time to come when the downward course of sin would be arrested, and deliverance from its corrupting influences would come to them and to all mankind.

The questions, “How long?” and “When?” and their equivalents, appear many times in the writings of the prophets and apostles, and God’s reply is always that the reign of sin and death will not continue forever. The expressions, ‘last days,’ ‘the time of the end,’ the ‘latter days,’ and others, gave assurance that in the Divine plan a new dispensation was coming, in which righteousness would be enthroned and sin and death destroyed.

God’s assurances of this final triumph of right over wrong are recorded throughout the Bible, beginning with Genesis 3:15, where the statement is made that the “seed” of the woman would bruise the serpent’s “head.” This hope is amplified by God’s promises to Abraham that through his “seed” all the families of the earth would be blessed.—Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18

Through Moses, God promised to send a great “Prophet,” and Isaiah prophesied, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder.” (Deut. 18:18; Isa. 9:6) Daniel prophesied, “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom.”—Dan. 2:44

When Jesus came, he was accepted by his disciples as the One of promise. To them it seemed that the long-awaited time for the Divinely promised deliverance had come. John the Baptist announced the presence of Jesus with the statement, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:2) A better translation of the original Greek in his statement would be, “The Royal Majesty of the heavens has approached.”—WED

To the disciples it seemed certain that there was to be no further delay. They believed that the “kingdom of God should immediately appear.” (Luke 19:11) Jesus understood this situation, and to prevent them from being too greatly disappointed, he related the parable of the pounds, in which a “certain nobleman” went into a “far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and [later] to return.”—Luke 19:12

The disciples evidently recognized that Jesus, their Messiah, was the ‘certain nobleman’ of this parable, and that he was telling them in this parable that he was going away, and that the kingdom which they believed ‘should immediately appear’ would not be established until he returned. They did not understand that his going away involved his death, so they were quite unprepared for this sudden termination of his ministry.

Nevertheless, on the supposition that Jesus was leaving them and returning later to establish his kingdom, they went to him on the Mount of Olives, and inquired, “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming [Greek, presence], and of the end of the world [age]?” (Matt. 24:3) Here we have the question again, ‘When?’ and how will we know—what evidences shall we look for—that the age of waiting has ended, and that you have returned to set up the long-promised kingdom?

Chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew contain Jesus’ reply to these questions, and Luke’s report of the Lord’s great prophecy of his return and the end of the age is found in chapter 21 of his Gospel, of which our text is a part. “When” you see the signs I have outlined “begin to come to pass,” Luke reports Jesus as saying, “Then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption [Greek, deliverance] draweth nigh.”—vs. 28

Here we have one of the most definite assertions found in the Bible concerning the time for the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. It is ‘when these things begin to come to pass.’ It is very important, therefore, that we ascertain what these things are which so definitely identify this time for which the saints of God in every age have so hopefully waited and longingly prayed.

Let us examine briefly some of these things—the signs referred to in verses 24 through 27 of Luke’s Gospel, chapter 21. Verse 24 reads, “They shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” The first part of this text is a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Israelites among the various Gentile nations.

While the literal city of Jerusalem was then destroyed, its destruction signified the overthrow of the whole Jewish polity and the complete subjection of the people to Gentile domination. Actually, the nation had lost its independence more than six centuries before this—in 606 B.C.—when their last king, Zedekiah, was overthrown, and the people taken captive to Babylon.

When Jesus said, ‘Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled,’ he was merely saying that the nation which had lost its independence in the days of Babylon would remain captive, and continue to be persecuted, ‘until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.’ This is one of these things which we should see begin to come to pass if we are to be assured that our deliverance is near.

Has this prophecy begun to be fulfilled? We believe so. But let us not read more into the prophecy than it says. We know from other promises of God that wonderful blessings of health and peace and life and joy are in store for Israel. We know that the time will come when he will “make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah.” (Jer. 31:31-34) We know, too, that while Israel will be the first to have these kingdom blessings made available to them, the Gentiles will share in the blessings in God’s due time.

Jesus said nothing about these kingdom blessings in this prophecy. All he said was that Jerusalem, emblematic of the nation as a whole, would no longer be trodden down of the Gentiles. Since the treading down of the nation began with the loss of its sovereign independence, its restoration to independence would fulfill Jesus’ prophecy. And Israel is now a free nation—a nation among nations—and has been given this status by the United Nations of the world.

The free Israel of today is not a large nation. Jesus did not say it would be. She does not possess all the promised land—this is not implied by Jesus. The liberated Israel is not free from problems—serious problems—but Jesus did not say she would be. Just like every other nation on earth today, Israel is perplexed and fearful. Like every other nation, she has acute economic problems. And, like every other nation, she is burdened with debt and further draining her resources in an armament race. Furthermore, she has within her own borders, and adjacent to them, enemies that seek her downfall, using terrorism and suicide bombings to make day-to-day living fearful.

Jesus did not say that Israel would escape the problems that plague other nations and not have enemies when she first became free. He indicated only that Israel would no longer be trodden down; that her status of bondage as a nation, which began in 606 B.C., would be changed; that she would again be free to conduct her own affairs and make her own laws; that’s all—and certainly we have seen this begin to come to pass.


Verses 25 and 26 describe two signs which are closely related. Jesus said there would be “signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars.” And on the earth, he said there would be “distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring.” Because of these things Jesus said that men’s hearts would fail them for fear; “for,” he added, “the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”

It seems evident from these two verses that the signs in the ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ and ‘stars’ are what Jesus refers to as ‘the powers of the heavens’ being shaken. This, it appears, is one of the contributing causes of men’s hearts failing them for fear. It is not the literal heavens that are ‘shaken,’ any more than it is the roaring of the literal sea and waves to which Jesus refers in this prophecy.

It is the symbolic heaven and earth that are involved, the same heavens and earth mentioned by the Apostle Peter when he wrote, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”—II Pet. 3:10

The figurative ‘heavens’ and ‘earth’ which pass away with a great ‘noise’ in the ‘day of the Lord,’ are the spiritual and material aspects of the social order which must give place to the kingdom of Christ, the “new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (II Pet. 3:13) Just as the literal heavens exercise a powerful influence over all life on the earth, so the symbolic heavens through the centuries of this present evil world have exercised a large measure of control over the people.

This has been done through religious institutions which have been recognized as a spiritual influence; spiritual, that is, in the sense of claiming a higher authority than the dictates of human laws. The church-state governments of Europe are a good example of this arrangement; but even where these have not functioned, the Christian nations have been subject to the restraints of religious viewpoints and influences. This, indeed, has been true also in non-Christian nations, although their concepts of right and wrong have varied somewhat from those of Christendom.

One of these things which Jesus foretold would take place at the end of the age and the time of his presence was, ‘The powers of the heavens will be shaken,’ that is, religious institutions and concepts would lose their control over the people. Have we seen this begin to come to pass? In many countries throughout the world, religion still exercises much influence in the affairs of the people. Nevertheless, we would be blinding ourselves to reality if we did not recognize that the powers of the heavens are beginning to be shaken, and that this disturbing development is contributing to the fear that fills the hearts of man today.

Atheism has increased in Christian nations. Those dominated in the past by the USSR in the communist world were told that religion is the opiate of the people. Since the demise of communism, religion has returned to these nations, but the effects of atheism have been damaging. Large areas of the world once under much religious restraint have seen this power of control almost completely broken.

Adding to this trend, many people in the religious world were shocked to learn about the scandalous behavior of Roman Catholic priests as pedophiles. The Catholic clergy is not alone in sex abuse scandals. Other religious groups have been exposed as having similar problems. In every country there has been a breakdown of religious and moral standards. There has been an increase in crime, juvenile delinquency, as well as corruption and dishonesty in business and government.

On the horizon, another part of the religious heavens has become explosively active. Muslims are committed to convert the world to Islam. Holy wars have been declared, such as Afghanistan’s Muslim clerics against the United States of America. In turn the United States has declared war against al Qaeda, the Muslim organization led by Osama bin Laden, responsible for the terrorist attacks destroying New York’s Twin Towers, and has bombed Afghanistan. President Bush is contemplating declaring war on Saddam Hussein of Iraq to destroy his hidden arsenal of weapons.

Meanwhile Israel is enduring terrorist attacks by suicide bombers and is trying to employ military force to stop it. A situation now exists where liberal Israelis have turned into advocates of total war against the Palestinians, and moderate Palestinians cheer the suicide bombers. No one knows where or when the next attack of terrorism will occur in the world, and a great fear is widespread among all the people. At the time of this writing a terrorist bomb killed 200 people on the island of Bali in Indonesia. Truly, as Jesus said, “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” (Luke 21:26) There is fear of biological warfare, chemical warfare, and use of nuclear bombs. It is feared that these are in the possession of Iraq.

We see this sign of Luke 21:25,26 begin to come to pass. Only those who are watching the “sure word” of prophecy (II Pet. 1:19) can see this beginning with an understanding of what it means. And how heartening is that understanding! It means that our deliverance ‘draweth nigh.’ That deliverance from the bondage of sin and death for which God’s people throughout the age have waited and prayed is at hand. This means, also, that the deliverance of the whole world from the rulership of Satan is near. For this too, we thank God.

Meanwhile, the world also sees. But, unlike the watchers who ‘look up’ and ‘lift up’ their heads, their hearts are filled with fear as they contemplate what they feel will be the inevitable result of the complete breaking down of all religious and moral restraints. We now see the beginning of this sign, and we rejoice in the evidence it gives that our deliverance is near. As it progresses, the world will ultimately recognize the significance of what is taking place. Jesus said, “Then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”—vs. 27

With the symbolic sun, moon, and stars in the ecclesiastical heavens completely obscured so far as their power to control is concerned, the world will see only a ‘cloud.’ It will be in those symbolic clouds—and by means which Divine providence will direct—that the presence of earth’s new King will be recognized. At this juncture in the Divine plan, the ‘new heavens’ will take control, and through the administrative agencies of the new symbolic earth—to begin with the resurrected Ancient Worthies—God’s promised blessings of peace and joy and life will begin to flow to the people as a mighty “river of water of life.”—Rev. 22:1-3

So, as we enter the new year it is with hope, and confidence, and joy, for we know that deliverance is near. Just how near, the Lord has not revealed. For some of us it may be within the year. It doesn’t really matter too much, for we know that in any event we do not have much longer to wait.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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