Advent is coming. In fact, long ago some churches would have started Advent this weekend, as we’re about as close to Christmas as Ash Wednesday is to Easter. That’s why during the last Sundays of the Church Year and Advent we hear about the end of all things. In fact, we’ll hear the last four verses of today’s Gospel in three weeks.
Today’s Gospel is not just about the end of all things, but also the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus uses Jerusalem’s destruction as a picture of the world’s destruction. Jerusalem was destroyed in August 70AD; The Liturgy remembers this every Trinity X. It was the center of everything for the Jews, far more central to them than Washington DC is to us. Its destruction marked the end of their way of life. God was saying: “You cannot reject Me and get away with it. Eternal punishment follows.” They rejected their God when they crucified Him, so He rejected them.
Jesus also tells His Apostles what life would be like for them. It would not be the comfortable life many people think goes hand in hand with Christianity. It would be hard. It would be full of trials and persecutions. They would be killed for preaching Him. Yes, all but St. John were martyred, and they faced the raging of people like Saul, before his Damascus Road experience, and the Roman Empire, which was angry that they wouldn’t worship Cæsar.
Nothing has changed in the last 2000 years. The world is the same way it always has been, even if it looks and feels different. Its sins may be somewhat different yet they’re still the same. For the world still does not love us and will never love us, for it hates God and His Christ. It will always hate the message of Christ Crucified for the forgiveness of sins. That’s why it hates our moral stands. It’s not because we have them to keep us self-controlled or to control people. It’s because we hold to them because we love Him Who died for us.
The end came to Jerusalem. Rome’s armies surrounded it. Great turmoil filled the city. Finally they entered and destroyed her, even destroying the temple by accident. But no Christians were killed. They saw the signs and fled across River Jordan. They believed their Lord’s Word. They were saved. They heard Him say “Get out, don’t go in, get to the mountains where you’re safe” and they did as they were told. They believed, and their faith saved them.
He doesn’t give you the same instructions for the end of the world. He expects you to be in the world. He expects you to be salt and light. Salt keeps things from going bad; light shows the right way. Christians draw others to Christ. He also tells you to straighten up and lift up your heads. Don’t be sorry that the end is coming or let yourself get sidetracked by all the bad stuff in life. Focus not on this world, but on Christ, Who is coming to redeem you from sin and death and Satan.
For this is why He came 2000 years ago. That’s why He was born of Mary. He took on our flesh in order to redeem us from sin, death, and Satan. Sin enslaves us to a Pharaoh far worse than the one who drowned in the Red Sea. He could only force them to work while it was day and while they were alive. Satan has control of us all the time. Sin makes us part of His kingdom. It drags us down into hell and away from God. We need Christ to buy us back from them.
So He did. The world put Him to death and thought it was done with God forever. But The Father handed His Son over unto death. He gave up His life because He wanted to, not because the world forced its way on Him. The serpent bruised His heel, but by His Death He crushed its head. That means death to a snake. So the devil by killing God’s Christ lost everything. He lost his rule over you. He lost hell’s claim to you. He lost death’s hold on you.
Now Christ Jesus claims you. He rescued you from the devil’s kingdom when He baptized you. He told the devil, that unclean spirit, to get out of you to make room for The Holy Spirit. The Lord proclaimed The Faith to you. His prayer was prayed over you so that His kingdom would come to you. So then you rejected the devil and all his works and ways and confessed faith in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And then the water of life was poured over you as His Name was spoken onto you. He wrote His Name on you. He claimed that you are His own for everyone to see and hear.
So hear what He says. Prepare for the end. It could come at any time. Nations and kingdoms have been rising up against each other ever since Cain killed Abel. Earthquakes, famines, and plagues have been around ever since The Flood. Astronomers have been watching stars, comets, planets, asteroids, and eclipses as long as we’ve been writing. Christians have been persecuted ever since Pentecost. Since those are the signs of the end, the end could come at any time.
So be prepared for it to come. It will come without warning. If you’re alive, it could be when you’re making lunch or getting ready for bed. It could even be while you’re at a funeral home. He’ll come when He thinks it’s time, and not a moment too soon or late. We don’t set that time. He already has. His Father set it when He created all things.
That day will come. He will appear on the clouds; after all a cloud hid Him when He ascended. The archangel will blow his trumpet, and all flesh shall rise from the dead. The faithful will be gathered to His side, and the ungodly will receive the result of their unbelief. They who were not with the true God in life will not be with Him in eternity. Those who were His unto death will be with Him eternally and will “serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness” in the new heavens and earth that He will give us when He destroys this world with fire.
So prepare for His coming. How do you do that? Repent of your sins and be absolved. Be truly sorry for them and desire to do better. Believe your Savior has rescued you from sin, death, and Satan. Come hear His Word in this place; read it every day at home too. Receive His Sacrament at this His Altar because it is the physical pledge that your sins are forgiven and you too shall rise. Only with His gifts working in you will you be able to “watch and pray lest you fall into temptation.” Only with Him working in you will you stay straight and raise your head to see your redemption drawing nigh. Only then will you stay awake, for if His Word is not in you you will fall asleep. His Word keeps us awake. So stay awake, stay in the true Faith, stay with Christ, for (TLH 67:1):
The Bridegroom, soon will call us, Come, all ye wedding-guests! May not His voice appall us While slumber binds our breasts! May all our lamps be burning And oil be found in store That we, with Him returning, May open find the door!