Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Last Sunday I spoke about how as Christians we do have joy and hope in Christ not only for a month and then return to the cycle of anguish and despair until death. On the contrary, we now have the promise of eternal life and the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives, and we look forward to much more after our departure from this world. We remember the birth of Christ because His light will shine in this world and for eternity. Now we have the promise, although not yet the fulfillment.
The Son of God was born in a manger in Bethlehem to die on the cross. But not only to die, also to resurrect on the third day. But not only to rise from the dead, but also to ascend to heaven to be seated at the right hand of Almighty God the Father. There is more, too, because He will return in glory to judge the living and the dead.
That is why, in our reading of the Old Testament (Malachi 4: 1-6), the prophet speaks of the coming of the Messiah as the day of judgment. The entire New Testament period is considered day of judgment, because the final judgment is the fulfillment of Christ's mission that began in the manger in Bethlehem. We too may live in a short time of grace until the Lord's return.
In the verses of Luke 21 before our text, our Lord prophesied the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem in 70 AD, as a sign of the judgment of the whole world. In our text for today, Jesus focuses more directly on events related to the end of the world. The unbelieving world will be confused and frightened by the signs in the sun, the moon and the stars; also on land and sea. This is a repeat of verse 11, which clearly speaks of awesome earthquakes, famines and pestilences, and great signs in heaven. These events, such as eclipses and comets in the sky or storms, earthquakes and tsunamis on earth, will be visible to all, believers or non-believers. But much more the return of Christ in the clouds.
The witnesses of his first coming as the Child of Bethlehem were the shepherds of the oveyas and the magicians who saw a star among the millions of stars. But when Christ comes in glory, everyone will pay attention.
For unbelievers, He will come as Judge and punish them. But for believers, He will come as their Savior. We must pray that this day will come soon, because the return of Christ brings us full liberation from all evil in this world. But we don't need to know precisely the date and time. When a tree puts down its leaves, all ordinary people who are familiar with trees know immediately, without further demonstration, that summer must be near. In the same way the believers, seeing fulfilled these signs that will precede the coming of Christ to the judgment, can be sure that Christ will come.
"Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass until all this happens." So what do these words mean? The word translated generation is used nine times in the Gospel of Saint Luke and always refers to unbelievers. Until Christ comes, many people will reject God's Word and their hatred and persecution of the church will continue.
It is not easy to stand firm in the Word and in faith under the conditions described here by Christ. With such a lack of proper preparation, the arrival of the last day will prove a calamity and surprise even those who professed Christianity. It is not a matter of individual merit, but of being declared worthy by the blood and merits of Jesus Christ the Savior. What is this preparation, then?
"And see for yourselves, that your hearts are not burdened with gluttony and drunkenness and the cares of this life, and that day suddenly come upon you. For like a snare it will come upon all who dwell on the face of all the Watch therefore, praying at all times, that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things to come, and to stand before the Son of Man. "
The Lord urges tireless vigilance at all times, with unceasing prayer to the Lord, and in the means of grace, the Word and the sacraments, so that Christians can escape all the terrible punishments that await unbelievers and scoffers, already appear before the Son of Man on that last great day with joyous confidence.
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." This is our source of trust and peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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