Archive for the ‘Matthew 24:15–28’ Category

Are You Ready For The Rending?

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Twenty Fifth Sunday After Trinity-HL, November 13th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church

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“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence” [Isaiah 64:1]

isaiah-42-1-o-that-you-would-rend-the-heavens-red-copyAre you ready for the rending; for Christ to come again? He has done everything to prepare you for that momentous day. For you the baptized who are fed His Word and Sacrament right here in this place, He has given you faith to see the day of His return as a day of joy. But for those who lack this gift of faith, for those who can not or will not find His grace sufficient as promised in His Word, the day that Jesus rends the heavens will be a terrifying day of judgment. On that day, the God that burned with anger on Mt. Horeb will return, and this time there will be no relenting in His anger and punishment.

In our Old Testament reading [Exodus 32:1–20] we find that the incredible blunder and sin of the people of Israel was almost enough to move God towards wiping out the entire lot of them, men, women, children, and even little babies from the face of the earth. He was ready to start over and only allow Moses to survive. Why?

Because they forgot. They forgot about the One true, only almighty God that had rescued them from severe bondage in Egypt. They forgot that God had been their God since the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They forgot the signs and wonders God used to accompany them through the wilderness so that they could gather around Mt. Horeb and receive the covenant promises of God. It is incredible that these people should forget so quickly the mighty work of their Savior-God. What happened?

Sin happened. All throughout God’s Word we are reminded that sin, our sin and other folks sin strikes when it is least expected, and often times it is committed by people who should know better; people who have experienced the Lord’s abundant mercy.

So in the midst of their sin of false worship, God speaks to Moses and says, “Go down to your people now and watch me destroy them.” With these Words, God is putting Moses to the test; He is seeing what the character of Moses’ faith is, and He is testing Moses trust in God’s call to lead the people. And Moses stands the test! He serves as a true shepherd and mediator between and angry God and a sinful people. “Why should your anger burn against your people,” Moses replies, “whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?” And finally Moses uses perhaps his most persuasive argument, “Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel….” Remember the promises you made to the fathers of this people! And the Lord who is faithful to all of His promises, “relented” and did not carry out His threat to destroy Israel.

God did not change His mind. The God of all grace, who has promised to hear the prayers of His children, wants them to hold Him to His Word of promise. He wants us to do the same in our time of need. St. Paul puts it this way: “No matter how many promises God has made, they are Yes in Christ. And so through Him the Amen is spoken by us to the glory of God.” What a comfort for us who trust in God’s mercy by faith. By faith we can turn to the same Lord in times of trouble and simply hold Him to His Word. This truth comes out clearly in our Gospel reading (Matthew 24:15-28).

In our Gospel lesson this morning Jesus warns His little lambs about a terrible day that will soon come after His return to heaven. It will be a day that signals that Jesus is coming again in anger to judge and punish the sinful world, and this time He will not relent..

In the year 70 AD the abomination of desolation occurred just before Jerusalem and the temple fell to the Romans. It took place when the Zealots, who held the temple under arms supposedly to protect from it Roman Army, allowed a non-Jewish group of rabble rousers known as the Idumeans entry into the temple. Once in, fighting broke out within the temple, even within the Holy of Holies and the blood of over 8,000 people was shed.

News of this atrocity spread quickly throughout the city, and because Jesus had warned His disciples of this event, most if not all the Christian-Jews within Jerusalem were able to escape the city before the Roman siege took place. And as history tells us, all of Jerusalem was destroyed, along with the temple and its way of worship. The Old Covenant religion given to man by God on Mt. Horeb had come to an end.

If we were to look for a physical sign of the birth of the Christian New Covenant Church that would exist throughout the world, this would be the time. Jesus knew all of this and warned His little lambs that the wrath of God, which He relented from at Mt. Horeb, would finally come and put an end to the Old Covenant promises; a covenant that the people of Israel had broken time and time again. But these new children of Abraham, who were children by faith would be safe because they trusted in Christ alone!

Christ has come and Christ will come again!

This was the mantra of the early church and it still is today. Christ will come again. Jesus has said so time and time again with promises like this: “Hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” And “The Son of man shall return in the glory of His Father, and then He shall repay every man for what he has done.”

This teaching is irrevocably bound together with the fact that Jesus is the Son of God who became man, who redeemed all things, and then rose again, and through all of this He brought forth a new humanity and a new creation. In the drama of salvation there remains only the final scene, His rending; His return in power and glory. This is what the Bible speaks of as “His coming again.”

When will His coming again happen? Jesus was very explicit in stating that no one knows the time, not even the angels in heaven. And none will ever know until it happens. We His disciples, His little lambs, have been warned that it’s coming; that we must live by faith. We must remain dressed for action and our lamps must always be burning. We are to be like servants who are waiting for their master, and we must stay awake so that we may open the door to Him immediately when He comes and knocks. And Jesus stresses this truth with these Words: “Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. In a time you do not expect the Son of man will appear. That day will come like a snare upon the whole earth.”

But you dear saints can rest easy in faith, because you know that God has indeed placed a limit on the amount of sin and suffering, and the time that this world has left; the earth will have its final day. And when this day comes, it will be the beginning of a new age, a new creation, and a new beginning in our collective history. This day of the Lord will “come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved by the fire of the Lord, and the earth and all that is upon it will be burned up, in a twinkling of the eye.” We know that God with a single Word and just a movement of His finger can destroy everything that He has created.

But why does God wait? Isn’t there already too much evil in this world? Yes, and all of it will meet its end when Christ comes again! The Bible has given us an answer to help explain why God seems to be taking His time: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” [2 Peter 3:9] This evil world remains because of the mercy of God. There is great reason to trust in God’s promises and have courage. We can be certain that God still has work to do among us. There are still souls to be won for Christ and saved for the Kingdom of God.

Dear saints, the church does not live in a vacuum; we can not deny the turmoil that our nation is facing right this moment because of a divided election that has taken place. But whether the person you voted for won or lost, you are not to identify with those emotions that are being poured out on the streets and the cyber-world of social media. You are to be above the anger, hate, and fear, because you serve the One true Saving God, Jesus Christ. You serve Him knowing that all will be well with you and those who also trust in His promises. So you have a message of hope and peace to declare in the midst of the turmoil.

The truth is, no one knows when Christ will come again. But there are signs that we are to look for; signs that will preceded His return. They will be the last phase in the battle between God and the forces of evil. Nation will rise against nation, people against people. Famine, war, and catastrophes will be upon the face of the earth, and brutality will increase. Hmmm… does that sound familiar?

Many people today and tomorrow will refuse to read these signs, and that is where you come in; you must help them by speaking of a forgiving God who is coming again very soon. They will try to reassure themselves through political action that soon enough if they work hard enough, everything will be alright in their world, but it really wont be; things will only get worse. So you are to remind them that we have a mediator who is greater than Moses: Jesus Christ, who “bore the sins of many, and made intercessions for the transgressors.” [Isaiah 53:12] And concerning this Jesus the very Son of God, the writer of Hebrews declares, “He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” [Hebrews 7:25] And when He comes again, when He rends the heavens, in an instant, He will raise the dead, transform the believers into His likeness and then bring to effect our final deliverance.

Let’s pray… O Lord Jesus, You have revealed to us the manner of Your return. Therefore we pray, keep us watchful for You so we do not follow those who seek to deceive us. Amen