Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Advent Midweek 2

Advent Midweek 2
December 10, 2008
Text: 1 Thess. 4:13-5:11

Dear brothers and sisters, our Lord Jesus has promised that He will come again to judge the living and the dead. But our Lord warns us, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:36-39; ESV). In our text, St. Paul is essentially preaching on this passage from Matthew. We don’t know when our Lord Jesus will return, but one thing is certain, we know He will return. And though there will be signs indicating our Lord’s impending return, for example, wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom, famines, and earthquakes in various places (cf. Matt. 24:6-7), the reality is that these signs have been testifying to the end since the beginning of the world, at least since Adam and Eve fell into sin and their son Cain rose up against his brother Abel and murdered him. Every war, every famine, every earthquake, every conflict and every natural disaster is a sign of the end. But the end has not come yet. And so life goes on as usual, even in the midst of these signs. Just as in the days of Noah, people are eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, celebrating another Christmas and another New Year as if the end will never come.

There is a danger here of becoming lax in our waiting and watching for the Day of the Lord. There is a danger here of false security, believing the Lord will never return, that there will be no judgment, that life will always continue this way, in spite of the signs. But dear brothers and sisters, “you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). In other words, it will come when we least expect it. When it comes to securing our homes against thieves, we have to be vigilant about locking our doors and windows, investigating suspicious noises in the night, being on the defensive, because we never know when a thief may try to break in and steal. “But know this,” says Jesus, “that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into” (Matt. 24:43). So we also have to watch, at all times. If we knew exactly what day and time the Lord was returning, we might be tempted to let our guard down, to put off repentance until the last moment, and then the devil would have opportunity to rob us of our salvation permanently. St. Paul is warning the Thessalonians in our text that for this reason they need to watch, to be ready at any moment for the Lord’s return. For He could return a thousand years from now. But so also He could return in the next ten minutes. For “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3). This is true not only of the end of days, but of your death. Even if Jesus does not return during your lifetime, you do not know the day or hour when the Lord will take you from this life. And then you will be judged. Make no mistake, the judgment is coming, one way or another. Therefore repent of your carnal security. Be warned, and watch.

There is another danger, though. Sometimes Christians, in their zeal for the Lord’s return and their sincere belief that He will, as He says, come soon, stop living in their God-given vocations in this life. As a matter of fact, while in 1st Thessalonians Paul writes the Christians in Thessalonica to warn them against false security, believing the Lord will never come, in 2nd Thessalonians he has to write to them again, this time to warn them against forsaking their callings in this life. Some Thessalonians apparently were under the mistaken impression that since the Lord could come at any moment, they no longer had to work for a living, no longer had to provide for their families, no longer had to tend to the matters of this life. Not so, says Paul. In fact, Paul is very emphatic on this point: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). We are in the world, even if not of the world. God has placed us into specific relationships and specific vocations in this life. And He would have us serve faithfully in these relationships and vocations right up until the very last moment. This is, after all, God’s way of providing for His people. He provides for His people’s earthly needs through the hands of His people working in their vocations. And this is one reason our God has seen fit to withhold from us the day and hour of Jesus’ return. He wants us to continue in faithful service to our neighbor for as many days as He gives us.

So how are we to avoid these twin dangers when it comes to Jesus’ second Advent? St. Paul says that we are to avoid them by remembering who we are. We are the people of God. We are baptized into Christ. We have been redeemed by Him through His suffering and death. We are marked for resurrection like unto His glorious resurrection. The Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel and enlightened us with His gifts. Therefore we are not in darkness for the day of the Lord to surprise us as a thief (1 Thess. 5:4). “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober” (vv. 5-6). And remember that the Day of the Lord will be a Day of rejoicing for you and for all who believe in Jesus Christ. For on that Day Jesus will return visibly, in the glory of His Father, with the holy angels, with the cry of command and the voice of an archangel and the sound of the trumpet of God. Then the dead in Christ will rise first, bodily, springing from their graves to join the Lord in the air. This includes your loved ones who have died in Christ. And then as many of us as are left will also be caught up together with them in the clouds. Then there will be the judgment, but remember, your verdict has already been pronounced. If you are covered by Jesus’ blood, and you are in your Baptism, all your sins have been forgiven. You are not only innocent, you are righteous, justified. And Jesus will say to you, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). Then you will enter His glory to enjoy a new heaven and a new earth, without sin and sorrow and sickness and death, in the eternal bliss and fellowship of your Lord Jesus.

You may not know the day or hour when your Lord Jesus will return. But rest assured, He will return. And since you are in Christ, since you are a child of the day, not of the night, you can watch in eager expectation. And if God so grants it, you can celebrate another Christmas and another New Year, in the certain confidence that the Lord who first came as Baby and Savior will come again to grant your final deliverance from all that is fallen. Behold, He makes all things new. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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