About That Mystery Prophecy In Luke 21…
Christ, toward the end of His ministry, made some remarkable comments to His disciples about things that would happen in the future. This set them to asking for clarification and further information. Christ provided this information – in astonishing and detailed abundance. You can read what He said in that private conversation with His disciples in Matthew chapter 24 (and all of chapter 25, but with particular emphasis through verse 13). You can also read shorter accounts in Mark 13 and in Luke 21.
What Christ said in these accounts is critically important because He provides his followers with clear instructions regarding what to watch for so that we will see and understand the signs of His return. Christ further placed tremendous and repeated emphasis on the importance of our actively watching for His return (see Matthew 24:42 through 25:13 inclusive). Some of what Christ said to watch for is pretty straightforward, such as in chapter 24:6-8 (these verses form part of the foundation for my ministry). Some verses, however, have been real head-scratchers. This emphatically has included Luke 21:25&26, though some ofthe mystery attached to these verses may be fading before our eyes. Here are the verses from the New King James Version:
“25 And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars: and on earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the seas and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and expectation of those things that are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
First, let me be clear in stating that I think we are just barely beginning to see the fulfilment of this prophecy. I cannot today point to signs in the sun, moon, and stars. I cannot even point to apparent forces and trends that will bring about these signs. So let us pass by the first part of verse 25 and go to the second half of that verse, of which I believe we are seeing some initial fulfillment. We are seeing some limited distress among nations regarding weather, climate, food supply, conflict, finances, etc. What we are seeing is only the smallest indication of what is coming – a sobering thought. But it is the next few words that are the basis of the real mystery of this verse: “with perplexity, the seas and the waves roaring.” What is it that the sea does that causes nations to be perplexed while at the same time it causes the sea to roar? Is it directly related to signs in the sky or is it concurrent with them? Or is the perplexity not entirely caused by the sea but by the totality of events?
For my part, I take the verse to say that the nations are already in distress from the totality of events, so I read the verse to say that the perplexity is directly related to the the seas and waves roaring. So, what is going to happen to the seas? I think we got a hint with the news announcement this week that the western ice sheet in Antarctica has destabilized and that we can expect the massive glaciers there to eventually empty into the ocean, raising global sea levels by 15 feet (enough to wipe out Miami and, in a few cases, entire low-lying countries. The scientists who reported the ice-sheet news also said it would take from 200-1000 years to happen, but this should be taken with a huge grain of salt – all degradation of natural systems all over the earth is accelerating dramatically. Just 30 years ago scientists expected it to take perhaps 200 years for the arctic to be ice-free in the summer. Now we expect this to be achieved in the next few years. For myself, I expect sea levels to rise by 3 feet or more by mid-century, if not earlier, in part because so much of the remaining northern hemisphere glaciers and ice sheets are melting at astonishing and accelerating rates and can, of themselves, easily raise global sea levels by 3 feet or more if they continue to accelerate.
But do rising sea levels really cause the sea and waves to roar? It is possible to argue that waves crashing over low-lying cities is a type of roar, but it is a weak argument. So what else could it be? Lets examine a couple potential culprits.
The first of these is sea-bottom methane hydrates. If you have not heard of ocean-bottom methane hydrates, then a small explanation is in order. There are huge (seriously: huge!) deposits of methane that are sitting on the ocean floor in the form of “ice crystals” as a result of the temperature and pressure. Methane hydrate deposits are very, very unstable and can explosively convert from crystals to gas – methane. A decrease in pressure or an increase in temperature or a solid earthquake can facilitate the conversion from solid to gas, at which the methane boils to the surface and causes massive problems (aside from being flammable, methane is a greenhouse gas that is about 100 times as powerful as CO2 in the short run). So, the rapid conversion of methane hydrate deposits in several places around the world would fit the verse, especially since such an event would drive cataclysmic events all over the world, a fact that would be understood by specialists whose “hearts would be failing them from fear and expectation of those things that are coming on the earth” Is this a realistic possibility? Well, yes, increasingly so, especially with the oceans absorbing so much warming and with deep current changes.
Our next culprit is already in play: Changes to the jet stream. The jet stream is slowing – this we know as fact. These high-altitude winds drive our weather and they are in turn very much effected by changes to the polar ice deposits and to sea surface temperatures. We are seeing huge, huge changes to arctic (and now antarctic) ice deposits and the same is true of sea surface temperatures, so the accelerating decline of this system is well advanced. As the jet stream slows, it wanders more. Think of the jet stream as a, well, stream – of water. The slower the stream, the more it meanders, while a fast stream tends to run as straight as possible. As the jet stream meanders, it sets up very large temperature disparities across large fronts (in other words, we get more extreme weather). We could also – in theory at least – begin to see regional cyclonic winds, the same cyclonic winds that create polar vortexes at the north and south poles. Imagine a circular wind that stays in place over, say, the Atlantic, stirring up huge (roaring) waves and greatly disrupting shipping and shoreline economies. This would truly perplex nations. Is it possible? Theoretically, yes, it seems to be.
This much we can be sure of: We are seeing massive changes to our seas and we will see much greater changes yet, accompanied by signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And, I am convinced we will see these signs very soon. That said, it would be a mistake to wait until we see these signs to start witnessing. Even as we see large and very worrisome changes to the earth, we are seeing schools of thought pop up that say, “The earth needs a good die-off of humans! That is how evolution works” while others say, “These huge events are going to happen anyway, I should be having as much fun and pleasure as possible!” While others say, “Every disruption is an opportunity to expand my fortune!” Truly large events in the skies and seas will silence these groups for a short period, and if our message is going to have any hope of blossoming in that brief moment, the seeds will need to have been planted beforehand. So, while 99% of people have no current interest, we still have to labor to proclaim Christ and salvation through Him. The work is very un-rewarding in the present, but may be critically important and very rewarding in the future.
As regards verse 26, well, this is already happening. Many sincere, analytical types are seeing what is coming (and remember, they currently see so little) and are increasingly panicked for what will happen to mankind.
Keep watching. You will see amazing things now, and astonishing things in the near future and – soon enough – you will see Christ returning. What is happening is that real, and that urgent.