The End Of Time
November 24, 2018
Verse: Mark 13:24–13:37
Christ Lutheran Church
November 25, 2018
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Last Sunday Of The Church Year
The End Of Time
But in those days, after that affliction, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the heavens, and all the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then you will see the Son of man coming on clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out his angels to gather up his elect from the four winds; from the four corners of the earth and to the ends of the heavens … Watch and be alert; and pray for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey who leaves his house and puts his servants in charge; each with his own work to do; and he commands the gatekeeper to watch. Watch! therefore for you do not know when the Lord of the house will come; in the evening; or at midnight; or when the rooster crows in the morning. Watch then lest he come suddenly and should find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all. Watch! (Mark 13:24-37)
Most people who hear today’s gospel misunderstand it. They come away with curious conclusions, by which they construct imaginative End Time scenarios.
Lutherans, however, reject such conclusions as “the rapture, “the “thousand year reign of Christ on earth” and all the other peculiarities that accompany that line of teaching; (AC XVII) and so are unaffected by it – unless they happen to dial up religious broadcasting, which is ill advised.
But if that is the case then what are we to make of today’s gospel?
The first thing we need to do is regain our coordinates; to remember that Scripture is about Christ and him crucified for us as we see in all the readings the church places before us on this Last Sunday of the Church Year.
In today’s Old Testament lesson we should understand that Jesus is the Law, Justice, Light, Righteousness, Salvation and Arm of God in whom all people must put their hope. We must believe this because the world will not last forever, nor will we live forever except by Christ. As Isaiah says in today’s Old Testament lesson: The earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never fail!
We learn the same from today’s Psalm (93). Jesus is its Lord who reigns from the cross robed in the majesty of the wounds he suffered on our behalf just like Isaiah says: he was wounded for our transgressions … and by his stripes we are healed. (Is. 53:5)
Moreover we are the villains named in St. Jude’s epistle who have been snatched from the fire; (Zech 3:2) and our sin-soaked garments removed and replaced by the robe of Christ’s righteousness.
But the crowing piece of today’s message is the holy Gospel which is not about eccentric End Time scenarios; but about the Lord’s death on the cross that deletes the sin of the world – and there’s nothing better than that!
The Lord’s Great Sacrifice is the singular event upon which all history hinges. It is The End Time Event that brings the Old World, the dead, despondent, cold, cruel and unjust world where “sin and sorrow reign” … brings it to a crashing conclusion! To a decisive end! Never to rise again!
But even as the Old World Ends a New World instantly begins. As Jesus breathes his last which finishes the Old World off – in that same dying breath he breathes out his Spirit on the world (Jn 19:30) to do what the Spirit does. To bring order out of the chaos (Genesis 1:2); and to renew the face of the earth (Ps. 104:30)
As Adam was the first man of the Old Creation Jesus is the Firstborn of the New just as St. John says: “In the beginning was the Word.” (John 1:1)
When Jesus died the sun was darkened, the moon gave no light, the stars fell from the sky and the “powers in the heavens” were shaken!
In the greatest struggle of all history – a Great Tribulation “such as had never been from the foundation of the world, nor ever would be again;” (Mt. 24:21) –the Son of Man re-aligned the powers of the universe with the “great power and glory” of this redeeming death.
In this central saving act of all history the world was wrested from the hands of the Prince Of This World (Jn 16:11); and placed securely into the hands of the Prince of Peace; even Jesus our victorious Lord and God, “and he shall reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 11:15)
And so what we hear in today’s gospel is indeed about the End Times … only not the End Times on which so many, have wasted so many words – only to move people farther and farther from the cross of Christ.
But Jesus tells us where our focus should be when he says 3 distinct times: Watch!
It is no unspecified mental activity the Lord commands here. Nor does “watching” consist of torturing the Scriptures to make them say what we want them to say.
Then what does it mean to Watch?
We are doing it now!
We Watch as often as we assemble to confess our sins, believe the absolution, sing out God’s praises, “gladly hear and learn” his Word, and to offer ourselves altogether to God in Christ; even as Jesus did on the cross!
To say with Jesus throughout our lives, but especially in the pangs of death: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. That is authentic worship; pure liturgy; that is what it means to watch.
But watching is not for the faint of heart because, as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup (1 Cor. 11:26) we are conducting a D-Day invasion x10 against: “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12ff)
And if you want to know why the pews are more empty than full it is because there is nothing the devil fears more, and nothing he fights against harder, than this sacred assembly! This Holy Communion!
It reminds him that he has lost his grip, that his kingdom is routed, that his time is short (Rev. 12:12) and that his permanent residence in the Lake of Fire is imminent. (Rev. 20:15) And so he is intensely focused on taking out as many “Christian Soldiers” (TLH #658) as he can.
But today we are here.
Today each of us has heard the call to watch and our watching is richly rewarded.
Today God’s kingdom comes before our very eyes; and is fulfilled in our hearing! (Luke 4:21) so that today we can say with St. Jude:
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 23-25)