Sunday, November 13, 2011
The Beginning of the End of the World
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
St. Paul agrees: "The Day of the Lord comes as a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
And yet questions arise. But why doesn't he return now? What's the delay? Why won't Jesus do something about this messy, sinful world if it really is as bad as Scripture says it is apart from him? To be sure, he already has done something about this messy, sinful world. That's what his first coming was all about. As we look to his second coming we have the reality of his first as a guarantee of his return. There's no need to worry about judgement on the Last Day. Jesus has already been judged in your place on the cross; he has robbed hell of it's eternal claim on you. There's no need to wonder if you are a sheep or a goat; the Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world, your sin. And this Lamb is also your Good Shepherd and he leads you unto himself. You are more than a sheep; you God's own dear child. There's no need to ponder or calculate the exact date of his return; he will come again as surely has he rose from the dead. It will be impossible to miss the trumpets blaring. Or, as Lewis comments in Mere Christianity, "You will see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else, something it never entered into your head to conceive - comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others...For this time God will come without disguise, something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature."
Because of Christ - the judgment he bore, the punishment he endured, the death he died for us - Christians have every confidence that the last day will be one of joy. Jesus teaching is, above all things, a teaching for consolation. Christians know their own future in Christ better than they know the present. For Jesus teaching on the subject is known by three propositions: "1) That he will certainly return. 2) That we cannot possible find out when. 3) And that therefore we must always be ready for him" (C.S. Lewis. The World's Last Night).
So, how do you prepare for this gracious burglar? Watch. Be sober. Live in the joy of Christ's Last Day verdict that comes to you ahead of time in the absolution. Even now you are gathered around the Lamb and his marriage supper in the Eucharist.
Rejoice. The Last Sunday of the Church year is upon us. Even now, the King is at the gates. He is ready. The dragon is defeated. You are free. You belong to Him now and forever. And no one can snatch you out of his hands or rob you of his crucified and risen joy. Even so we pray, "Return, O great burglar and restore your lost treasure...Come quickly, Lord Jesus."