From the Word
25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Luke 21:25–28, RSV
By the powers of heaven some understand the angels of heaven. But since Christ speaks of signs and says we shall see them and recognize in them the coming of the last day, they must surely be visible tokens and be perceived with the bodily senses. For those people whose consciences are in distress and whose hearts are failing from fear, though this be an affection of the soul, yet manifest it by word and countenance. Therefore these powers of heaven must be such as can be really shaken and so perceived.
The Scriptures speak in a twofold way concerning the powers of heaven. At one time they are spoken of as the heavens which are the most powerful among all creatures, “and God called the firmament—expanse or fortress—heaven.” Every creature under heaven is ruled and strengthened by the light, heat and movements of the heavens. What would the earth be without the heavens but a dark and desert waste? At another time the powers of heaven signify the hosts of heaven: “and the heavens and the earth were finished and all the hosts of them.” It is common in the Scriptures to speak in this way of the powers of heaven. And it is clear from this and other passages that the hosts or powers of heaven include all that is in them; in the heavens, the sun, moon, stars and other heavenly bodies; on earth, man and beast, birds and fish, trees, herbs and whatsoever lives upon it. The passage before us may therefore mean the powers of heaven in both senses, probably chiefly the hosts of heaven. Christ could say that all creatures shall be shaken and shall serve as tokens of that day; sun and moon with darkening, the stars with falling, the nations with wars, men with hearts failing from fear, the earth with earthquakes, the waters with winds and roaring, the air with infection and pestilence, and the heavens with their hosts.
Christ calls these signs and desires us to take special notice of them, appearing, as they do, not alone, but with a multitude of other tokens. Let the unbeliever doubt and despise God’s tokens and speak of them as simply natural; but let us hold fast to the gospel.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 429–30.