IN NOMINE JESU
Over the course of history, many people have proclaimed—incorrectly—that the world would come to an end on a certain date and at a certain time. We heard a lot of these declarations four years ago, as the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand was approaching. A lot of so-called experts were convinced that the beginning of the year 2000 (Y2K, as it became known) would mark the end of the world as we know it. The doomsday crowd predicted that everything connected with a computer would stop. As a result, many people purchased generators and stocked up on non-perishable food and bottled water. Some even purchased a countless number of dehydrated meals. Several quit their jobs, sold their homes, and headed for the hills, ready for the Lord to come again. There were lots of erroneous predictions that the Lord would come as 1999 became 2000, due to the fact that many cult leaders, their followers, and many others interpreted the Scriptures incorrectly regarding the Lord's return on the Last Day. Even in the year Y2K-plus-three the Scriptures have been misapplied; people miss the signs spoken of by the Lord, and they make signs out of things He has not designated as such.
The Lord is very clear about what will happen leading up to the Last Day, as well as what will happen on that Day. What He does not state is when the Last Day will be; He does not tell us when He will come again. But He does tell us that He will. He tells us to be watchful, to be ready for His return, whenever it may be. The blessed Reformer, Martin Luther, said in a sermon he preached on the Second Sunday in Advent in 1532:
That is the one thing we ought to learn today, to prepare ourselves for the Lord's return, just as we confess in our Creed that our Lord Jesus Christ will come to judge the living and the dead. For what our Creed states briefly, this Gospel states profusely and assuredly, declaring in addition what the situation will be like in the world before the Lord returns, namely, Christ will be despised, and the preachers of the gospel will be regarded as fools.
The true fools will be those who are caught unaware of the Lord's return when He does indeed come, for they will not have been watchful, nor will they have been ready to receive Him as He comes in all His glory. The Lord cautions us in our text, "Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake" (vv. 33-37). The ascended Lord turned over to His Bride, the Church, the work of making disciples of all nations by going, baptizing, and teaching. He has also given us His command to keep watch. We are to do the work of the servants and the doorkeeper, to work, to witness, and to watch. We do not know when our Master, Jesus Christ, will come again; therefore we need to be ready to receive Him when He comes again. You see, when the Lord comes again in all His glory, there will be no second chances; there will be no one left behind. The angels will go to all parts of the earth and gather together all the believers. The Holy Spirit will raise us and all the dead and give eternal life to us and all believes in Christ. Those who are not ready, those who do not believe, will face a resurrection into eternal condemnation on the Last Day.
Are you ready? Are you ready for the Lord to come again? Do you want Him to come? We ask for this to happen each time we pray the Lord's Prayer. But is this what we want? Luther also says:
From all this we learn how few there are who pray the Lord's Prayer acceptably even though it is prayed unceasingly in all the world. There are few who would not rather that the day would never come. This is nothing else than to desire that the kingdom of God may not come. Therefore the heart prays contrary to the lips, and while God judges according to the heart, they judge according to the lips. For this reason they [the Romanists] institute so many prayers, fill all the churches with their bawling and think they pray aright when in reality their prayer is: "May Thy kingdom not come, or not just yet." Tell me, is not such a prayer blasphemy? Is it not of such a prayer that the Psalmist speaks in Ps. 109:7, "Let his prayer be turned into sin." How men are applying all the wealth of the world to fill every nook and corner of it with such blasphemy, and then are calling it a divine service! [Second Sunday in Advent 1522]
Our lips say one thing, while our heart says another. God judges our hearts, for it is not what comes out of a person that makes him unclean but what is already in him that makes him unclean. We are by nature sinful and unclean. As such we pay no heed to the Word of the Lord, even though we say with our lips, "Thanks be to God," because we have our minds and hearts set on other things, things that seek to keep us from doing the work of the Lord and from being ready for His return. But the Lord has come to us today in His Word, proclaiming to us what the day of the Lord will be like. Through His Word He is preparing us for His return. We may roll our eyes and yawn now, but when He comes in glory, our eyes will tear up, we will be weeping and gnashing our teeth, for those who ignore the signs of His coming, who refuse to listen to His Word, will face certain judgment. The great Church Father, St. Augustine, exhorts us, saying:
In His last advent He will come in the clouds to judge the quick and the dead, just as He preached of clouds in His first voice which sounded forth in the gospel: "They will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory." What is "then"? Will not the Lord come again in later times, when all the peoples of the earth shall lament? He came first in preaching, and filled the whole world. Let us not resist His first coming, that we may not tremble at His second.
The Lord has given us great cause to rejoice over His first coming, for the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. He gave His life as a ransom for me. He gave His life as a ransom for you. He paid the price for our sins with His very life. The Son of Man, who in His human nature knows not the final hour of this world, knew when His last hour in this world would be, just days after He announced what would happen in the last days, in which we currently live. For this reason the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, "though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:6-11). Every knee shall bow before Him, and every eye shall adore Him, for He made Himself nothing so that we would have everything: forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation. Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, hid Himself in human form, hiding His glory, and allowed Himself in His human nature to be crucified for our sake and rose so that we would have life in Him, that we would look forward to His Second Coming, when He will come and gather us unto Himself.
The Lord came in the flesh the first time to be our Savior. The Lord will come again in glory to be our Judge. Hear again the words of St. Augustine:
The first coming of Christ the Lord, God's Son and our God, was in obscurity. The second will be in sight of the whole world. When He came in obscurity no one recognized Him but His own servants. When He comes openly He will be known by both the good and the bad. When He came in obscurity, it was to be judged. When He comes openly it will be to judge. He was silent at His trial, as the prophet foretold.... Silent when accused, He will not be silent as Judge. Even now He does not keep silent, if there is anyone to listen. But it says He will not keep silent then, because His voice will be acknowledged even by those who despise it.
Through our God-given faith in Jesus Christ, we will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd when He comes again, even as we hear Him now as He comes to us through His Word. He speaks to us today, and He says, "Watch." This is not some terrorist alert that is filled with vague generalities. There is nothing vague about what the Lord says to us. He tells us what will happen so that we will not be afraid. Even if the sun and moon grow dark, we need not be afraid, for darkness is as light to Him, and we who by our sins have been walking in darkness are being drawn into His marvelous light, the light no darkness can overcome. Even if the stars fall from heaven and the powers of the heavens are shaken, we shall not be shaken, for the Lord says through the prophet Isaiah: "'For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but My steadfast love shall not depart from you, and My covenant of peace shall not be removed,' says the LORD, who has compassion on you" (Is. 54:10), and again through the prophet Haggai, "For thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts. The silver is mine, and the glory is mine, declares the LORD of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will gave peace, declares the LORD of hosts'" (Hag. 2:6-9). He gives us His peace, even in the midst of the appearance of chaos, such the world has never seen but will see when the Lord comes again.
In this peace of Christ, we need not fear when the Lord comes again to be our Judge, whenever that will be. The Holy Spirit came to us at our Baptism and created faith within us, and He strengthens our faith as He feeds us on Holy Scripture, as He does today and each Lord's Day, and on the body and blood of the Lord, given and shed for the forgiveness of sins, a foretaste of the Feast to come, the Feast to which our Lord will bring us when He comes again. So we need not fear the divine Judge, for our heavenly Father has declared us not guilty by the blood of His Son. Thanks be to God. In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
Rev. Mark A. Schlamann Our Savior and Redeemer Lutheran Churches, Pettibone and Woodworth, ND
To be Christian is to be Trinitarian. To be Trinitarian is to be Christian.
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