Pentecost 24, B – November 15, 2015

 Scriptures – Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-25; Mark 13:1-13

 

“The one who endures to the end will be saved.” Mark 13:13

 

Today our hearts go out to the people of Paris and our prayers for them. It’s not just some foreign and far away city, is it? The attacks on Friday brought back memories of 9/11. I thought of my daughter Beth and her husband Alex, who were there just a couple of weeks or so ago. We’re much more connected today than ever before.

 

There are truly bad things, evil things, going on in our world. This should be no surprise, for long ago Jesus warned of this. Many evils will come before He returns! But, He gives us this promise: The one who endures to the end will be saved.

 

Endures what? Jesus warns of many terrible things: wars; societal strife and disruption; famines; earthquakes; the hatred and persecution of Christians. But, notice the evil that He mentions first: “Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.” Religious leaders who deceive and lead people the wrong way will come. Some will claim to be Christ Himself. David Koresh and Sun Myung Moon come to mind here. Others will bring false teachings, corruptions of God’s Word that change what it says about Jesus and make a false Christ out of Him. This is the worst of the many evils that will befall our world before Christ returns; the worst, because earthquakes and famines and wars and other such terrible things can hurt many people. They can even kill the body. But, their harm ends there. False Christs and false teachings about Him will lead those who follow them into hell after they die, into the place of shame and contempt and suffering which never ends. Nothing could be worse than this!

 

Think of it this way: think of your church as a pharmacy, and your pastor as a pharmacist. If your pharmacy is in a high crime area, that’s bad. Your car might be broken into when you’re there. You might get mugged. How about if your pharmacy is in an area that is prone to flooding? It might be closed when you need it. Prices might be increased to cover losses. That’s also bad. But: what if the pharmacist is distributing bad drugs? He fills the prescriptions incorrectly. He writes down the wrong dosage. Sometimes He even fills the bottle with cheap sugar pills while charging you for actual medication. This is terrible! The danger to you is far worse. Your very life, and the life of everyone who goes there, is threatened!

 

Our world today is filled with pharmacies and pharmacists – with houses of worship and clergy – who are dispensing dangerous medicine: false teaching about God. Now, they’ve always been around, as have earthquakes and floods and wars. “Birth pains,” Jesus calls them, for they come and go.

  • I remember when Lorayne was in labor with Beth. In the middle of the night the labor stopped for a while, and she got some rest.

    So it is with the signs of Christ’s return. They come and go. They are more intense and more noticeable at some times than at others. Christians throughout the ages have seen them and been expecting Christ’s imminent return. This is good! We should always be expecting it and be ready to welcome Him.

     

    Today, however, the first sign Jesus names, of false Christ’s and false teachings about Him, fills the world and even fills Christian churches. The danger is not only Islamic radicals who preach a god of anger and vengeance and seek to carry out that vengeance. The danger is also seen in Christian churches where what once was accepted and taught as Christian truth has been rejected or changed. Who God is and what His will is for us is basically considered unknown or unknowable, for the Bible, which once was accepted by all as God’s true Word and His voice, is now considered by most within Christianity to be uncertain, a product of ancient people who were captive to prejudices and hampered by a lack of knowledge. Christ and His Gospel are less trusted and accepted... and the world is coming apart at the seams.

     

    I pray you don’t go along with this. If you trust in Jesus and the truth of His Word… good! Take His Scriptures all the more seriously, then, especially as you see signs of the Lord’s return. “Walk about Zion, go around her, number her towers, consider well her ramparts, go through her citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever” says Ps. 48. This isn’t talking about a city. It’s talking about God and His kingdom. Be more interested in your God, in hearing and learning what His Scriptures teach about Him and His works, than you would be in the sights and sounds and art and architecture of Paris! For, God’s Word is our strength and our hope and our salvation. By it your God makes you a strong city. He gives you a faith in Christ that will endure to the end and receive His salvation.

     

    Look at the hope our Lord gives us through His Word this very day! “The one who endures to the end will be saved,” Jesus promises. He’s not speaking of mere resignation, like enduring an invasive medical test. “I’ll put up with it because I have to.” The endurance Jesus gives arises from and is filled with hope. He says in Luke 21, “when these [signs] begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Your redemption – “purchase,” the word means – is drawing near! Think of the purchases of Christmas; not of the price that draws near and has to be paid afterward, but of the joy there will be when that which was purchased is given and received and opened. This is what is drawing near for you who trust in Christ when He returns from heaven! Lift up your heads with hope!

     

    What is our redemption? What is Jesus bringing us? Hebrews 10 tells us, “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.” When Jesus returns His and His people’s enemies will be crushed and humbled forever. He will raise them from the dead, but to “shame and everlasting contempt,” Daniel says. Yes, there is a hell! We struggle in this life to identify and overcome those who do evil. Christ does not. He has purchased eternal peace and freedom from evil people for you. At His coming He will crush them under His feet, and they will never trouble us again. We will sing of His victory! “This is the feast of victory for our God. Alleluia! Power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing are His” – and ours, for by His blood He set us free to be people of God!

     

    But, are we not also sinful? Are not our sins also evil? Yes, they are. But in Christ they have been forgiven. This is the other aspect of our redemption. “Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins,” Hebrews says. Because of the sacrifice of His death on the cross for us, God says: “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” God removed your sins from His mind when Christ died for you. They will not be remembered and held against you when Jesus returns. “By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified,” promises Hebrews 10. The purchased gift of eternal joy and peace, of hearts and minds never again troubled by sins, will be opened and given to you when Christ comes.

     

    Talk about this and encourage one another with this! Do so all the more as you see evils like what happened in Paris as signs of Christ’s return. You have been washed with pure water, the water of your Baptism into the Triune God that washed away all of your sins. You receive the blood of Jesus that purchased your eternal salvation. You have a confession of eternal hope in Christ to hold onto. Have confidence, then, to enter into God’s presence now in your prayers! Be confident that He will hold onto you and you will endure to the end, even if you are hated for holding onto Him! And finally, be confident that you will enter into God’s eternal presence in heaven when the end comes and your Savior returns. This is the endurance, the hope you have in Christ. It will keep you – He will keep you – until the end! In the name of Jesus. Amen.