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“Your Redemption is Drawing Near”

5While some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, [Jesus] said, 6“As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” 7And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” 8And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. 9And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

      10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. 13This will be your opportunity to bear witness. 14Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, 15for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. 17You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your lives.

      20“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

      25“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

      29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:5-36)

Apostles’ Creed

apostlescreedIn the Apostles’ Creed, Christians everywhere confess that Jesus Christ “will come to judge the living and the dead.”  This confession is true because so say the Holy Scriptures, as heard in today’s Gospel reading.  The Lord Jesus will one day return, not in humility, but in glory.

He who “humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross…God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:8-11, NKJ)

Christ’s Coming—Good News for Christians, Fearful Day for all others

As we approach the end of this church year, which concludes next Sunday, news of Christ’s second Advent—His Second Coming—is good news indeed for all who long to be without sin, for all who desire God’s mercy in Jesus.

But for all others, for those without Christ, the day of Christ’s return will not be a welcome day.  It will be a day of fear and dread.  It will be a day of fear and dread because for those who do not have Christ, to those who ignore His calling now to repent and believe the Gospel, they will be called to account for their sins.  For them, Christ’s return is not for salvation.  It is for their judgment.

But for the Christian, for the one who calls upon the Name of the Lord, who seeks God’s favor through the obedience of His Son, Christ comes to bring them to Himself, to take home all who belong to Him.

Be Ready12th-hour

 “The day is surely drawing near” (LSB 508).  We know not when.  Our Lord therefore says “Watch,” “Stay awake,” “Do not be weighed down with anxiety and the cares of this world” (Luke 21:34).

The Lord’s Return-The when we don’t know; That He is we Do

When it comes to our Lord’s His Second Coming, we know that He’s coming, we just don’t know when.  Some speculate that we have plenty of time.  After all, things have been going as they have been.

But in the words of Peter, “Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation”” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

To those who hold such ideas, Peter says, “This they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.  But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?   Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” (2 Peter 3:5-15).

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise…” He “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

Signs of Jesus’ Coming

From today’s Gospel text, Jesus reveals that the time is near.  He tells us that there will be false prophets and teachers, they who would deceive from the truth (Luke 21:8).  There will be wars, and nations fighting against nations.  There will be disasters such as earthquakes, and famines, and plagues.  There will be persecutions and betrayals and even martyrdom for the name of Christ.

All of these things that Jesus told His disciples, He told them that they might know that the end is near, and it is nearer than before.

Reason for hope—Your Redemption is drawing near

Nevertheless, instead of worrying and becoming anxious, instead of despairing over what is in the world and the church today, instead of losing heart and giving in and giving up, Jesus says “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).

For the Christian, and for the Christian only, the increasing days of trouble both inside and outside the church are not reason to loseResurrection hope.  Christ continues to be her head.  Jesus gives nothing but the sure expectation of life everlasting to all who wait on Him!

The Lord will judge your oppressors with righteous judgment.  He will deliver you from the evil foe.  Indeed, He already has.  Sin and death no longer have their stronghold over you.  God the Father sent His Son to fulfill and satisfy God’s will for you on the cross by willingly shedding His precious blood.  His blood cleanses you of all your sin.

“If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:1-2, NKJ).

Sins Forgiven—Eternal Salvation

Now—in Christ–your debt of sin no longer remains.  You have no reason to fear the coming of the Lord.  You have reason to rejoice!  The judgment of God was met on Jesus, all of it, and none remains.

Straighten up and raise your heads!  The coming of the Lord Jesus means your redemption.  The coming of the Lord Jesus is your salvation.

Don’t Despair—Take Courage

Do not Despair!  Take courage! Be of good cheer (Matthew 9:2)!

In Jesus you have peace with God and need not fear Christ’s return at all.

Therefore, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory”(Colossians 3:2-4).

Instead of fretting and complaining because of how things are and despairing or worrying because of what you see around you, hope1turn to Christ, pray, and wait upon Him.

Believe His Word and His promise!  Trust in the Lord!  Seek first His Kingdom, His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), and watch; watch and stay awake, that you be ready for the coming of Your Lord.

Continue to hear His Word.  Continue to partake of the Sacrament, the very body and blood of Christ, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, by which you are ready for Lord’s appearance.

Jesus comes to deliver you from this veil of tears.  Your redemption is near.  Rejoice and be glad!  You are Christ’s, and He is yours!  Amen.

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This is a faithful saying…

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

1 Timothy 1:15

It is an easy thing to see what others do and to lay blame, point the finger, and criticize.  It is also an easy thing to look at another’s faults without also seeing one’s own.  This habit is common to all sinners.  We notice what others do or do not do that is not to our liking, and we immediately make judgments.  We compare ourselves with others, using our own criteria as the measuring stick.

God works differently.  St. Paul the Apostle writes that, “There is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11).  He judges all the same with the same judgment—guilty as charged, having fault, condemned (Romans 3:23).

This means, that before God, as the Bible says, “There is none righteous” (Romans 3:10).  All of us are in the same boat.  One is not better than another.  Nor is one worse than another.  There are only sinners here.

But the Good News is that, because of Christ, God does not hold that damning, condemning, judging sin against you.  Though everyone stands before God a sinner, on account of Christ, that very same sin which condemns no longer condemns.  Christ has born that judgment for you.  He did this on the cross when He was crucified.  There, He took away your sins that they no longer have the last word over you (Romans 6:14).  You still struggle with them, and with judging others as more sinful than yourself, but in light of God’s Law, all are humbled (or will be), either at the present, or in time to come.  Thus do we learn that it is not what we say of others that is final (nor of what others say about us), but what God says.  This and this alone is of lasting significance.

If God calls you a sinner, so you must be.  If God declares you forgiven, so also must you be.

Therefore, instead of denying the truth as God so readily reveals through His Holy Word for your salvation, believe it.  Believe that you are a sinner as God makes known to you through His inescapable Law.  See yourselves as God sees you according to His Word.

Also, and especially, believe yourselves to be as God declares you to be on account of Jesus-forgiven, blessed of God, God’s own child. All this apart from what you have done or have not done.  All this because of Jesus (Romans 4).

Luther

“Do not permit your sins to be merely sins; let them be your very own sins. That is, believe that Christ was given not only for the sins of others but also for yours. Hold to this firmly, and do not let anything deprive you of this sweet definition of Christ, which brings joy even to the angels in heaven: that Christ is, in the strictest of terms, not a Moses, a tormentor, or an executioner but the Mediator for sins and the Donor of grace, who gave Himself, not for our merits, holiness, glory, and holy life but for our sins.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p38).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me faith to believe that your Son’s death covers all of my sins.  Help me not to doubt or despair Your grace in Christ towards me, an undeserving sinner, because of the sin that I know or feel.  Strengthen my confidence in You.  Amen.

Age of 120 years and Genesis 6:3

And the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’

(Genesis 6:3, NKJ)

How are these words of the Lord to be understood?  With other Bible readers, I always took this passage to refer to the age of man and not to anything else.  That reasoning seemed to make sense, “his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

However, Genesis 11 records that the father of Abram, Terah, lived to be 205 years old.  And most of those before him (also recorded in Genesis 11) lived more than 120 years.  Moses, in contrast, did not live as long as those before him, for Moses died at the age of 120 (Deuteronomy 34:7).

One reasonable explanation for the lapse in time between the greater ages of men in the earlier parts of Genesis (i.e. Noah, Terah, etc.) to the decreasing ages of men (i.e. Moses) shortly after the pronouncement of the Lord in Genesis 6:3 might be that the lowering of the maximum age to 120 years was not immediate.  Here, we might reflect on the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden.

The Lord had clearly said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).  However, neither Adam or Eve physically died immediately, but they were surely in the “state of death.”  Also, and especially, to be outside of God’s blessing and favor surely does mean certain eternal death.[1]

I had understood these words of our Lord in Genesis concerning the 120 years to be referring to the limitation of man’s age due to his wickedness.  It was a word of judgment.  It made sense to me.  And even today, you hear of few people living over 110 years, let alone over that.  The explanation seemed “to fit.”

Nevertheless, another, and more likely, explanation exists which was recently brought to my attention…

The word of the Lord concerning 120 years is certainly a word of judgment.  But it is not to be understood as a word of judgment with reference to man’s age.  It is word of judgment with reference to how long the wicked of the world had before the coming destruction of the flood.

Note these following verses in Genesis 6:

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  So the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:5-8);

“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.  And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Genesis 6:11-13).

The world was corrupt.  The people were wicked.  Judgment was coming…

Genesis 5 records that Noah was 500 years old. Noah and his family (wife, three sons, and three daughters-in-law), totaling eight people, entered the ark when Noah was 600 years old.  This leaves a difference of only 100 years, twenty less than the Lord’s, “yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

In other words, the Lord wasn’t speaking of limiting man’s age, but limiting the amount of time before man’s judgment, that is, giving wicked man time to repent, to change his ways (i.e. Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 19:12-14; Jonah & Nineveh, Jonah 3:4).[2]

Such truly is the way of the Lord, the way of grace and mercy, to give time to repent, to give time to turn from sin and believe His word and promises, for the Lord says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel 33:11).

That time is now, not to wait as those who perished in the flood:

“Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’  For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.  But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.  But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:3-9).

Thus does our Lord say through the St. Paul the apostle:

“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).

That the Lord would reveal the coming destruction of the world by flood as in Genesis (or by fire, 2 Peter 3:10ff) is not foreign to Holy Scripture.  That the Lord would reveal such coming destruction by means of giving the amount of time before such an event is also not foreign to the way God works, for the Lord does indeed desire sinners “to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:4).  However, if they do not, judgment is sure to come and will not delay.

LutherOnGenesis6.3


[1] This latter point might be what is truly meant with reference to the Lord’s words, “surely die.”  We might immediately think of physical death, but physical death, though indeed a result of sin, is not the instantaneous, nor the ultimate, consequence, but separation from God is, and all that this means.

[2] In Genesis 19, only Lot, his wife, and two daughters fled the city alive.  The sons-in-law refused to depart.  As for Nineveh, the king and its citizens did repent and were thus spared, though destruction did come later (Nahum 1:1ff; Zephaniah 2:13)

Return to the Lord

The day of the LORD is great and very terrible; Who can endure it? (Joel 2:11)

The day of the Lord, the day of Judgment, is come. It is great and very terrible. Yes, indeed! Who can endure it? Who can persist and continue when the Lord meets out His judgment upon a wayward people, a wayward people even called by His Holy Name.

Joel prophesied to such a people. He spoke and proclaimed to the people of God. They had departed from the Lord, following their own ways, heeding their own opinions, holding fast to their own judgments, and not according to the will of the Lord. They were a way faring people, led by their own desires and hearkening to their own inclinations.

They took for granted all that the Lord had done for them, all that He had provided for them, and how He had kept and preserved them. And now, judgment was to come, judgment by way of that which would destroy their bounty, diminish their excess, and humble a prideful people…

Joel2.12-19, Ash Wednesday, 2011A.pdf

“Who is Jesus”

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”  So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:13-16

Who is Jesus?  This is the question of all questions.  Though some will indeed try to ignore the question or not attempt an answer at all, the question of Jesus’ identity, and what you believe about Him, cannot be avoided.  The Bible reveals that a judgment day is drawing nearer.  And though many ignore such a warning, it cannot be avoided, regardless of how anyone disbelieves it.

So who is Jesus?  In Jesus’ day, some professed Him to be John the Baptist (risen from the dead, John 14:1ff).  But Jesus was not John the Baptist.  Some believed Jesus to be “one of the prophets,” as in one of the Old Testament prophets.

Still today, there are those who see Jesus only as a prophet, only one among many.  Such belief is found also in nonChristian religions (i.e. Islam, Buddhism, etc.).  But Jesus as only a prophet saves no one.

Jesus surely did preach and proclaim (compare the messages of St. John the Baptist & Jesus, Matthew 3:2 & 4:17), but He did more than preach and proclaim.  He gave His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).  He is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  He sacrificed Himself for the sins of the world, in order to save sinners.

If Jesus were just a prophet, such sacrifice would be for naught.  If Jesus were just a “good” teacher, you are still in your sins.  If Jesus were just an example, further “in the hole” would we be.  Also, if Jesus were just a man, we would still be under God’s wrath and judgment.

Confessing Christ to be a great man, a compassionate leader, a “new Moses,” equal to the Old Testament prophets, or just a “good fellow” is not the Christian faith.  It is the demonstration of unbelief.  Though there be many, even within Christian churches today, who have high regard for Jesus, high regard for Jesus does not yet mean the Christian faith.

Christians confess Christ to be who He claimed to be—the very Son of the Living God.  Christians confess Christ to be who God the Father declared Him to be—His only begotten Son.  Christians, according to Holy Scripture, confess Jesus to be God in the flesh, the Savior of the world.

Only in such a Jesus, who is God and man in one person, who was born of a virgin, suffered, died, and rose again from the dead (2nd article of the Apostles’ Creed), only in such a Jesus is your sin done away with, having been put to death by His death.  Only in such a Jesus do you, a sinner, have life, even eternal life.

No man can do anything to make things better between himself and God, let alone for others.  But Jesus is not merely a man.  He is also God, God for you.  See the nail prints and His side!  He is flesh.  Yet this one who died—is risen from the dead, and sits at the right hand of God.

Therefore do we not only confess Jesus to be as He is in truth according to the Bible.  We worship Him, too.

Who is Jesus?  With Peter we confess, “Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Amen.

Luther

“The Arians were truly sharp. They conceded that Christ has a double nature and that He is called “God of true God”—but only in name. Christ, they said, is a most noble and perfect creature, higher than the angels; through Him God then created heaven and earth and everything else. Thus Mohammed also speaks of Christ in a laudatory way. But all this is nothing but fallacious reasoning and words that are pleasant and reasonable, by which the fanatics deceive men unless they are careful. But Paul speaks of Christ differently. You, he says, are rooted and grounded in this knowledge, that Christ is not only a perfect creature but true God, who performs the very same works that God the Father performs. He performs divine works, not those of a creature but of the Creator. For He grants grace and peace; and to give these is to condemn sin, to conquer death, and to trample the devil underfoot. No angel can grant any of this; but since it is ascribed to Christ, it necessarily follows that He is God by nature.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p31-32).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us ever faithful to Your Holy Word, that we not deny You, nor Your Son, but continue in true Christian worship all of our days.  Amen.

Ready for the Lord’s Return

“The book had all the makings of a bestseller. Adventure, drama, action, mystery, even a touch of horror; it was all there. Paul finished reading the final few pages, put the book down, and reflected on the author’s dramatized account of the events recorded in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. The Author had a gift for bringing the biblical ideas to life.

Kelly, a friend from the church, had recommended the book to Paul. She had told him the books was not only an excellent read—it had changed her life. With a new understanding of the way in which the end-times would unravel, Kelly again felt excited to be a Christian. She had explained to him how the book had enabled her to figure out the mysterious symbolism of Revelation. With this understanding, she was now able to see that the end-times scenario was unfolding right before her eyes!”[1]

So begins a chapter entitled, “The Millenniums Debate” from the book, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. The name of that book which was read by Paul and recommended by Kelly was not mentioned in the book. But maybe it need not be. Many books and movies have been and are still being published and produced which have to do with the end-times, for such books and moves not only sell money—they peak our curiosity and interest levels, too. They “claim to give understanding of how the end-times will unravel.” They “dramatize the events of Revelation.” They might even move some to believe they are more “excited about being a Christian.” But such books are to be tested against the entirety of the Scriptures—not just one book or one section—rather all…

Mt24.36-44, Advent 1, 2010A.pdf

“The Death of Jesus Christ & The Coming Judgment”

It is peculiar that today’s Gospel reading from St. Luke seems so far removed from ‘The Last Day of the Church Year’. Where we would expect to hear of God’s Coming Judgment, of signs in heaven and growing tribulation on earth, and of Christ’s return in the clouds (Acts 1:9-11), instead we hear of Christ on Calvary’s cross, of women weeping after Him, of people mocking Him as He’s dying on the cross, and one of the two criminals crucified with Him saying, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom (Luke 23:42).

An account such as Jesus’ death and the events just before it do not seem to ‘fit in’ to this time of the church year. It seems like it would be better suited for Lent and Good Friday than today. However, taking a closer look at the text, we find that it is indeed fitting. And it is ‘fitting’ in this way: First, with regard to Jesus’ words to the women who were mourning and lamenting after Him as He is on His way to the cross and death. Second, concerning the proper way to be prepared for our Lord’s return. And third, with reference to Jesus’ words to the criminal on the cross, to whom He said, Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 23:43).

Lk23.27-43, Pentecost26. Last Sunday of the Church Year, 2010C.pdf

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