Sermon: Trinity 25 - 2018
11 November 2018
Text: Matt 24:15-28 (Ex 32:1-20, 1 Thess 4:13-18)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
A hundred years ago today, the most horrific war up to that time came to an end. November 11, 1918. Every year, this date is celebrated around the world as “Armistice Day.” “Armistice” means “to stop fighting.” It usually precedes a treaty that formally ends the war.
The war that came to an end a hundred years ago was the first modern war. Today we call it World War One. This was the first war to feature planes and tanks and chemical warfare. The entire globe was involved, and about 15 million people were killed outright. It was so horrific, that it was called “the war to end all wars” – and yet, only twenty years later, World War Two would begin and would add to the global horrors with even more destruction, including the atomic bomb.
World War One was a frightening time to be alive. People wondered if they were on the cusp of Christ’s return. The death and destruction were apocalyptic. Humanity still bears the scars of this war, nobody can even really explain why it happened.
Ultimately, all such things happen because our world is fallen. Humanity is broken. Scarcity causes men to fight against men, tribe against tribe, and nation against nation. The lust for domination propels tyrants and dictators upon a quest for world domination.
In our Gospel, our Lord gives us a glimpse of the world at the time of His return. As bad as World Wars One and Two were, this truly apocalyptic time will be all the more horrific. It looks like there will even be demonic deception or some kind of technology to fool us into thinking that Christ may be on the earth. But Jesus has warned us: “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There He is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.”
This future “abomination of desolation” – that the future reader will understand when the time comes – will precede a “great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, and never will be.”
We Christians will look to the heavens in hope, knowing that the Lord will come. He will come the way He went up – not according to the lies of those who will say, “Look, He is in the inner rooms.” We are not to believe them. For when our Lord comes, there will be no mistake, no wondering who He is. All the world will see, “For as lightning comes from the east and shines in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
We need to know this and remember this. We need to teach our descendants this. When the time comes, they (or we) will need to be ready. That is why Jesus said, “See, I have told you beforehand.”
For as horrific as this Great Tribulation will be, we have been told that it is coming. Like a woman’s birth pangs and labor pains, we know that this agitation will precede something great and magnificent: the coming of our Lord, our redemption, the vindication of the saints – as we heard in last week’s first reading: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” In Christ, they are sheltered by “His presence,” they suffer no want or hunger, and all of their tears have been abolished by God, Himself.
So how do we prepare for this eventuality, dear friends? By being washed in the blood of the Lamb, by being baptized, by believing in Him and in His Word, being immersed in the Holy Scriptures, and the frequent reception of the Lord’s Supper. Pray, dear brothers and sisters, pray without ceasing! Pray for your children and those yet to be born, pray for our families, and pray for the Holy Christian Church throughout the world!
Pay heed to the lesson of the Israelites, who having been freed from bondage, in the short span of forty days as Moses went to the top of the mountain, the people forgot about God and His mercy, and their concerns became nothing more than eating and drinking and playing. They elevated entertainment to the level of worship. They replaced the Divine Service with a party. They replaced the true God with an idol. They led their own children into destruction by their unfaithfulness.
Please don’t repeat their mistake, dear friends! Listen to what St. Paul taught us about these lessons of old: “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.’ We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”
The end of the ages has come upon us, dear friends. For Christ has come, and Christ is coming again. We need to be prepared, and we need to prepare our children. What could be more important?
Only the blood of the Lamb can prepare us for this great tribulation: the very same blood that He offers you here, along with His body, along with His Word of warning and of comfort, of Law and Gospel, along with His Holy Absolution that declares you forgiven, along with your own Holy Baptism that washed you with the blood of the Lamb and bound you to the saving cross!
For like the Passover, when the children of Israel were spared the angel of death, we too will be raised from death in a bodily resurrection. This, dear friends, is why we Christians do not “grieve as others who have no hope.” For, says the holy apostle, “since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.” And “we will always be with the Lord. Therefor encourage one another with these words.”
The entire history of mankind is one of domination and destruction. But with our Lord’s coming, by His death upon the cross, an abomination that results in our redemption, we are assured of our salvation, even amid this unknown future abomination of desolation, and this great tribulation against the people of God.
For in the midst of war and destruction, of rubble and smashed buildings, of blood and gore, and the wholesale slaughter of millions of people, it seems as if peace is never going to come. But even in the midst of that Great War such as had not been seen from the beginning of the world until that time, on this very day one hundred years ago, the last gun fell silent. The last bullet came to a stop. The last combatants crawled out of their foxholes, shook hands, and went home. It was sudden. The silence was deafening.
One day, our broken world’s warfare will come to an end. Satan will be cast into the lake of fire. The last sin will be no more. The last tears to stream from the face of the redeemed will dry up. We will stop fighting. There will be no more strife: no more attacks from the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. There will be no more scarcity or hatred between men, tribes, and nations. There will be an armistice that will have no end, followed by a treaty signed in in the blood of the Lamb.
And this, dear friends, will be the peace to end all wars. Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters. The peace of Christ be with you, now and even unto eternity! Amen.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.