Whether domestic or foreign, local or international, the news we receive today seems to be predominantly bad. The third Gospel tells us of a time yet future which will be immeasurably worse. The writer, Luke, says this: “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. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (21:26-28). Luke tells us what man’s natural reaction to those times will be but also what the attitude of the godly should and can be in any age. Because Luke is describing circumstances at the end of the seven-year tribulation period, the New Testament church will not be on earth to witness these things; nevertheless, Luke’s depiction of man’s natural reaction and of every saint’s hope is applicable today.
“Looking after.” What will cause men’s hearts to fear during the time described by Luke will be a series of horrifying natural phenomena designed to cause men to quake when they see them. We are natural men living in a natural world. It is only natural to look around at (or “look after”) our circumstances and, when they are negative, to begin to fear. The Greek word translated looking after means expectation or apprehension and in our text conveys a negative sense. Sooner or later, the circumstances of our lives, if not those of the entire world, will afford each one of us ample reason to feel apprehension, dread, even fear. The inevitable result of focusing on this world is such a response.
“Look up.” But the Spirit of God who inspired the words penned by Luke offers this remedy to those who are troubled by the circumstances of their world: “Look up.” The Greek infinitive means to unbend or to straighten up. You see, looking around at our circumstances tends to bow us down under the burden of worries and fears. The imperative to “look up,” then, is not so much a command to turn our eyes heavenward as it is to get out of the fetal position fear has put us in, to straighten our spines like men, to stand at attention like soldiers, and to throw off the burden that we have allowed circumstances to put on us. In other words, in the Lord, circumstances, however dire, need not weigh us down. But this verb contains more than an exhortation to quit ourselves like men (I Cor. 16:13) because to look up in the Greek means figuratively to be elated. It is a reminder that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10). It is a reminder that what bows the natural man down with fear in dread of judgment should cause the believer to stand erect in joyous anticipation of deliverance.
“Lift up.” Having “looked up,” that is straightened up, Luke then instructs believers to lift up their heads. Instead of looking around at our fear-inducing circumstances, we are to fix our eyes on things above. Each trial is to be considered by the believer as another step upward closer to heaven and the Lord. The command is reminiscent of Psalm 24, which instructs the saints on the fearful threshold of the millennial kingdom to rejoice in victory: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah” (vv. 7-10). We understand implicitly that pleasant circumstances are cause for rejoicing. Scripture teaches us that difficult times may be so as well if we stop looking around and “look up” and “lift up.”
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