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November 2014 - The End Approaches

THE END APPROACHES

            As the weather turns colder, the days shorter, we are reminded that we are coming to the end of our Church Year calendar – a time of the year when we focus on the end of all things and the coming Judgment Day when our Lord will return no longer as the Suffering Servant and Savior, but as the glorified, Holy Judge. 

            In a sermon delivered on December 9, 1537, Martin Luther wrote this about that coming Judgment Day:

            “God told Noah that He would grant the world 120 years in which to repent.  This warning Noah diligently proclaimed, saying: God is angry and in 120 years will drown the entire world.  Ah, how they must have wagged their tongues and put him down for a fool!  The more he proclaimed and terrified, the more they said:  Do you not see that God gives us food and drink?  If He wanted to destroy us, He would not give us peace, security, and good things.  So they let him preach and cry out, while they laughed… So the Sodomites caroused.  And Lot told his sons-in-law: The Lord will overthrow this place.  But they, too, laughed and asked him whether he was mad and demented.  Why should the Lord be angry when He gave them time and opportunity to eat, drink, build, and marry?  And they said:  Why, you uncouth teacher, you impotent fool!  He even announced the day and the hour to them.  But after he had left, Sodom lay in hell.

            So it will be at the last Day, when the people in the world cannot get enough of eating, drinking, marrying, building, planting, worrying about their livelihood, scraping and scrambling.  Under those conditions they should be frightened.  But they will mock and ridicule us and go on with their eating and drinking.  And then, when they think the final Day is a hundred years away, they shall in a moment stand before the Last Judgment.”

            “They shall in a moment stand before the Last Judgment.”  Luther rightly notes the sentiment that our Lord speaks about in  Matthew 24:37-39:  “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. {38} For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; {39} and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”   The coming of the Day of Judgment will be sudden and unexpected.  Though our Lord has given us warning signs to be on the watch for (and the seemingly growing incidents wickedness, apathy, disasters, warfare, unbelievable acts of evil and cruelty more and more frequently, as well as a growing animosity toward Christians and the Church would seem to indicate we are truly in the latter days) , the end will still come suddenly.  And then the Judgment – the time when we will be judged on one thing only: On whether or not our names are written in the book of life, that is, on whether or not by the grace of God we have faith and trust in the saving work of Jesus.

            “They shall in a moment stand before the Last Judgment.”     And we would do well to not focus on the word “they”, but also think of ourselves.  For indeed, the end of things can come very quickly for us as well – and not just the fact that our Lord could return in His glory in the next few minutes.  But our end, and subsequent time before the Judgment Seat of Christ could come at the lack of the very next heartbeat.

            With that knowledge, we then are to live our lives not in fear or dread, but in fullness, joy and expectation.  Knowing that we have been already killed and raised up unto eternal life in Christ, our guilt washed away in the cleansing flood of His Blood and Righteousness poured over us at our Baptism, we can have full confidence before the Throne of God.   Not because of anything we have done or any quality about us whatsoever, but solely because of Christ.  We know that we do not have to fear that judgment and wrath of God that was poured out upon Jesus in our place.  Rather, we know the Judgment Day means that we will be forever freed from all of the sorrows and torments that come from living under the curse of this fallen world, and that instead we shall live forever in the New Creation.  That kind of expectation of the Life that awaits us can indeed encourage us in these final days, enabling us to live with the hope in our daily lives that will cause others to take notice and hopefully open their ears to better hear the Good News of Jesus that we are to be sharing with earnest to all who will listen around us.   The days are growing short.  The Final Day ever approaches.  God grant us the wisdom to live each day with the fullness, joy and expectation that comes from knowing the Life that is ours now and forevermore, and how soon the end could come.

 

Pastor Reiser

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