Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Are we living in the End Times? It’s hard to listen to “Christian” radio stations or “Christian” TV channels without confronting that question. Most of these folks will say, “Yes, we’re living in the end times because of Russia and Israel and the United States and Egypt and the U.N. We’re living in the End Times because the four blood moons and asteroids and immanent nuclear war.” And, if you buy their book for only $24.95, you can read all about it. Oh, and since it’s the end of the world, they’ll need to advertize it to the world, but in order to do that they need all your money. It’s ok though, Jesus is coming back soon so you won’t need that cash anyway. It might be funny if I had made any of that up.
What makes it even more tragic is the fact that they have the right answer, but have veered so far off course in getting there. Yes, we are living in the End Times, but it’s not because of microchip technology, temple rebuilding plans, or any world governments. We heard in today’s Gospel reading Jesus’ own words as to what must first take place: wars and rumors of war (check,) earthquakes and famines (check,) persecution and betrayal (check.) These things have been going on from time immemorial. As for anything specific, Jesus mentions one historical event that was yet to come in His day, the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. This Temple was destroyed just 40 years after Jesus. The signs have all been met. Every obstacle has been removed. All we have left to do is wait.
It’s what the author of Hebrews says that Jesus Himself is doing. “When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…” When did that happen? On the cross. Through the Empty tomb. It is finished. “When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.” The jig is up. The enemies have been beat. But Christ, and we, are waiting for them to finish their death throes and finally die.
But this waiting is not like our waiting. It’s not when we sit on our rear ends and nod off out of sheer boredom. No, this waiting is like waiting for Christmas. It’s coming, and we can’t wait. Waiting for Christmas involves cleaning and baking and shopping and gathering together with friends and family and worshiping and planning and dreaming and decorating and wrapping, the list could go on and on. This kind of waiting is an eager, excited, busy waiting, full of preparation and anticipation.
We are living in the End Times. Jesus is coming back. Soon. What the word “soon” actually means in our timetables, according to our deadlines is another matter entirely. It may be soon as we normally use the word, but it may be soon as only God can use it, apart from being restricted to our experience of time. It can be both of these because there’s nothing that we know of that’s preventing Jesus’ return. His work is done. The circumstances have all been met. Jesus is coming soon.
So where does that leave us? How are we to live in these End Times? In today’s reading from Hebrews, we’re left with four things to do as we actively wait and anticipate Jesus’ second coming. We get the first in verse 23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hold fast the confession of our hope. Don’t give up the faith. Don’t give up on Jesus. I think there’s some intentionality with this being the first action listed for us. We’re waiting for Christ’s return, and we have been for some time now. Yes, we’re living in the End Times, but humanity has been living in the End Times for about 2,000 years! It’s tempting to take a look at just how long we’ve been waiting and throw in the towel.
But because of Jesus, that option is not the best. Hold fast to the faith because “he who promised is faithful.” God keeps His promises. Yes, we’re waiting, and we have eben for a long time, but we believe in a God who keeps His Word, who has demonstrated time and time and time again that when He says He’s going to do something, He’s going to do it. All of Scripture, both the Old and the New Testaments bear witness to this fact: God keeps His promises. So let’s hold fast to Jesus, because God is faithful.
Verse 24: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” We’re waiting, but that doesn’t mean we can sit around and twiddle our thumbs. Rather, in this community that God has placed us in, there is more to be done. There is always more love to be given and always more love to be had. There are always more good works to do. And quite frankly, that can be hard for us. I know it is for me. I am a perfectionist and if I can’t do something completely, fully, and finally all in one sitting, I have a hard time doing it. So when I hear that I will always have more work to do, that I can fill my day and still not be done, that I can bring myself to the point of exhaustion and still leave work to do, that really frustrates me. If I can’t do it completely, I would rather not do it at all.
But here again, we’re not left on our own. Love is one of those resources that, for Christians, is limitless. The fact that I love my wife doesn’t mean I have less love to give my parents, or my siblings, or to you. When we remain connected to the source of all love, God Himself, we are filled to overflowing with love for all people, our friends, family, neighbor, and enemy included. God is love, and that love will never run dry. But love isn’t just emotion, it’s also action. It’s the good works that we do for one another and our world. Stir one another up to love and good works because you are connected to True Love and given the opportunity to practice true good works because of Jesus Himself.
Thirdly, “Do not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some.” Since you are all here this morning, I probably don’t need to add too much here. You are the ones who have heard this word and taken it to heart, taking time out of your week for worship and Bible study. This time is more than just doing your duty. It’s not even the point of being a Christian. This time together is meant to uplift and empower you to go out into the world and live as Christians. It’s meant to offer you time and again the gifts of God in His Word and His Sacraments so that from Sunday at noon to the next Sunday at 9 am, you would follow Jesus in the course of your life. Worship is about Jesus, and when you keep Him at the forefront of your heart and your mind from day to day, you’ll realize what a gift we have when we meet together.
And finally, “encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We are living in the End Times. Jesus is coming soon. And that’s exactly what encouragement we need to hear. Build each other up. Remind them of the truth of Scripture. Remind them of what Christ has done. Remind them of what Christ is doing. Remind them of what Christ has promised to do. Jesus is our hope and encouragement in the midst of a hopeless and downtrodden world.
We are living in the End Times. And as we wait and anticipate Christ’s final saving work, we are supported by Him through His Church, this community He has created for you and me. Be the church. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
Lobe den Herrn
B. A. Woell