"The Gospel Calls Us to the End"
Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
2 Thessalonians 2:1-8, 13-17
November 11, 2007
IN NOMINE JESU
We are living in the last days; this is most certainly true. During this All Saints' Tide, we look forward to that end-time reality that is ours, awaiting the fulfillment of the promise in heaven. Last Sunday was the traditional observance of All Saints' Day, on which we gave thanks to God for all the saints who from their labors rest, and we prayed that the Holy Spirit would set our hearts and minds upon the Last Day, when our Lord will come on clouds descending, raise us and all the dead, and give eternal life to us and all believers in Christ. And how does one come to saving faith in Christ? One believes by hearing the Word of God and keeping it. The blessed Apostle St. Paul writes, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). That Word of God comes to us today, just as He spoke to and through the prophet Moses and through Paul and the blessed Evangelist St. Luke in our Readings for today. Our Lord, the great I AM, Yahweh Himself has come to you and has spoken in your hearing, even as He spoke to His people in centuries of old. "In many and various ways, God spoke to His people of old by the prophets. But now in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son" (Heb. 1:1-2a). These words follow the Readings in the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer in Lutheran Worship and Lutheran Service Book, giving us pause for further reflection upon the Word we with our ears have heard, the words our Lord has used to communicate with us. "But now in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son," who comes to us through means, through Word and Sacraments. As we believe, teach, and confess in the Augsburg Confession:
That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake.
They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works. [AC V]
The Christians at Thessalonica heard the Word of God, but they were hearing lots of other things as well. They believed the word of false prophets that the end was coming very soon. They had given up all activity and waited for the Lord to come. They fell for a false prophet's lies. For this reason Paul wrote, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in our text:
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. [vv. 1-4]
They did not need to have someone else interpret the signs for them, for they had the Word, as the Lord had given it to Paul. We have this same Word, which the Lord has given us. He speaks clearly regarding the Last Day. There is no need for us to turn on the television and listen to those false prophets called televangelists and their selling their snake oil which is more accurately called heresy. We get sucked in by the fiction of the Left Behind series of novels, and we believe the fiction as if it was Gospel, and we reject the true—and only—Gospel that comes from God's Holy Word. We despise preaching and God's Word, and we do not gladly hear and learn it. Our minds are made up; we do not want to be confused by the facts. The fact remains that we will not be left behind if we reject God's Word; no, we will be condemned into hell forever, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for rejecting the read and proclaimed Word is to reject the Incarnate Word—that is, the Word made flesh and who dwelt among us.
Christ, our Lord, our Word-made-flesh, has dwelt among His people to give us hope in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ came to give us life, eternal life in heaven, that we would dine at the marriage Feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end. Last week we gave thanks to God for those who have gone before us in the faith, who became baptized into Christ, whose sins were forgiven in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, who heard the Word of God and kept it, who feasted on the Lord's body and blood at His Table—the foretaste of the Feast to come for us and has come for them. This eschatological, this end-time, promise will also be our reality when our end comes. Just as the Lord, through His bride, the Church, washed, forgave, taught, and fed our forbears in the faith, He has done the same for us…and continues to do so. St. Paul writes in our text: "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (vv. 13-14). He calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies, and keeps us in the one true faith. The Holy Spirit calls us with the Gospel, which tells us that Christ died for our sins, and all who believe in Him have eternal life, for He Himself rose to life after dying on the cross, having bled and died to take away our sin. "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. …Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him" (Rom. 6:4, 8-9). Christ, the Lord, the great I AM, is the Lord of the living! He is OUR Lord forevermore—thanks be to God!
Having this promise of eternal life in heaven given to us now and fulfilled there, we rejoice, and we look forward with eager anticipation to the Last Day, for the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to endure these last days on earth until THE Last Day, whenever that will be. St. Paul exhorts us, saying, "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle" (v. 15), the very words God gave the Prophets, Apostles, and Evangelists to write, the words He gave us to hear, so that we would give ear to His Word, as the writer to the Hebrews encourages us:
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. [Heb. 10:19-25]
And in the words of St. Paul, "Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints" (1 Th. 3:11-13).
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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