God, grant us eyes enlightened with understanding. Amen.
Text: Matthew 24:15–28
“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those with nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”
As the times before the destruction of Jerusalem were especially wicked, so will they be before the end of the world. In particular, human teachings and sects will begin with incredible number. 1) “False prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Already in his letters St. John speaks about false christs, deceivers, and antichrists, who deny the Father and the Son. But what would the Apostle say in our day? Christendom displays its secular power. The Lord’s word, “Go and make disciples of all the nations” (Mat 28:19), extends over all nations of the world. But how many thousands of baptized Christians have become deceivers and deniers! How sad that the apostolic doctrine of justification through faith is trod under foot! And how sad that it is misused as a cover for sin! Who can count those who in our age have risen up against the Lord and His Anointed, denying Christ’s deity, and despising the Church’s doctrine of the Father and the Son and the Spirit? And people willingly let themselves be deceived. Western culture is born of the Gospel, but now turns against it to get rid of it. God’s Word is the Light to the nations, the Sun over the life of the people, but the people willingly surrender to those who deny the Gospel, who lead them into darkness and deep darkness. Devilish wickedness that blinds poor mankind! St. Jude even finds it necessary to write to the believers and exhort them to “contend for the faith that once was delivered to the saints” (Jud 1:3)! With prophetic spirit he speaks remarkable words for us in our day. He warns against those who deny their only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and those who, fascinated by dreams, defile the flesh, despise the Lord, reject authority, and walk the way of Cain, Balaam, and Korah (Jude 1:8.11). Let us take it to heart and understand the signs of the times.
2) For Jerusalem the terrible internal dissension was just as certain a destroyer as the Roman legions threatening outside their walls. In the Christian Church more and more there is a cry: “See, here is Christ!” “No, here He is!” The apostles of denial who separate themselves from the communion of saints and attack the Christian faith wouldn’t be so dangerous if the believers presented a united front. But the devil knows the rule: divide et impera, divide and conquer! Divide the competition, and you are the winner! Never has Christendom been so torn apart as now. So, if someone has a different interpretation with doctrine, immediately he establishes his own denomination. So, if someone has his own special thoughts about church government, he must establish his sect. Someone is offended at the lack of discipline, another is attracted by a separatistic preacher: they leave and go to another church! Sever the bond! Away from the former brethren in the Lord! Many who leave our fellowship because of our imperfections do not shrink from sinning against Jesus’ most earnest prayer for the unity of His people. They do not shrink from establishing divisions even though the Apostle puts this in the same class with adultery, murder, and drunkenness (Gal 5).
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, let us stay together and bear with one another in love! The partisan spirit is not the spirit of the meek and loving Savior. If we want to belong to Him, then let us follow His Spirit! Don’t go after those who say: He is in the desert, but not in the fellowship of the church! And don’t go after those who say: He is in the little groups, in small fellowships, but not in large ones! Continue in what you learned from the beginning, and continue in the Church that became your spiritual Mother. Continue in meekness and love. Continue where you were born to life in God, and prepare to meet the Lord who shall come when He is least expected. Let this be your concern: “in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2Pe 3:11-12). The Lord’s words about the destruction of Jerusalem were precisely fulfilled. His words about the end of the world will just as surely be fulfilled. See if it isn’t already evident in the branches of the fig tree! Aren’t our days more and more like the days of Noah? And isn’t the church more and more like divided Jerusalem? Watch, for you do not know at what hour your Lord is coming!
God, help us in this for Jesus’ sake. Keep us united in Your love, and guard us from the craft of the deceiver. Be gracious to Your Church, uphold Your faithful, and bind us together as one in You, so that Satan’s cunning may not put us to shame. Let us always stand with our loins girded and our lamps burning, ready to go to meet our Bridegroom (Mat 25). Amen.
Days are passing, times are fleeting,
No one knows the Lord’s great hour,
While the world may suffer beating,
Tribulation ever dour.
Will it soon all be complete?
Christian people, do give heed!
Storms their threat’ning clouds are rearing
Over spire and tow’r appearing!
Grant, O God, in tribulation,
And when comes Your judgment hand
Over ev’ry land and nation,
That we in the end may stand
Still among the ones You love!
Jesus, help us from above!
Free us from sin’s condemnation;
Grant Your gracious free salvation!
Where the slaughtered ones are scattered
Rav’nous wolves will soon rush in;
Show Your patience, O dear Savior,
With us, poor children of sin!
Give the time that we require
Ere Your wrath becomes a fire,
When the world around is blazing,
Reach Your hands to us upraising!
Landstad: Dage komme, Tider skride L 572 tr. DeGarmeaux;
tune: Freu dich sehr (ELH 354); alternate hymn: Wake, awake ELH 544:1