Hebrews 10:19-25 I vividly remember this time of year in 1999. Countless people were certain that the world was coming to an end at midnight on December 31st and there were plenty of so-called experts who were all to glad to egg them on. Computers would stop working! Planes would fall from the sky! Grocery stores would run out of food! And so on.
People were advised to fill up their gas tanks- and make sure they had cash and have a supply of water- and canned goods on hand. And those were the more reasonable suggestions!
Why food and water and cash would be necessary if the world was coming to an end I never quite understood. But that’s what fear will do. Of course we know the world did not end.
But the fact of the matter is: this world will come to an end. As certainly as there was a historical moment when the world came into being at the command of God, so there will be a historical moment when this world comes to an end.
And there are things that we need to be doing right now to be prepared for that day: drawing near to God, holding fast to our confession, and stirring up one another to faith and good works—things that benefit us and the world and the church—things we need to be doing, not in fear, but in confident faith as that Day of our Lord’s return draws near. The Bible says that:
We have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
On the Last Day every person who has ever lived will stand before the one, true and living God of the universe and will face his righteous judgment.
The time leading up to that day will be filled with great and terrible signs in the church and in the family of nations and in nature--signs so pervasive and so powerful that the very foundations of human life will be shaken to the core.
And yet, for the child of God, in the very midst of a world that is coming to an end and falling down around them, Jesus says: Lift up your head for your redemption draws near!
It is not fear, but faith that motivates the child of God and disciple of Jesus as we consider the Last Day and the end of all that we know of this world. It is not cowering in fear but confident faith that will allow us to stand in God’s presence unafraid and unashamed because Jesus has opened the way for us by his death on the cross.
When our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, the curtain in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom—that barrier that kept from sinners from a holy God was no longer needed because the blood of Jesus had atoned for the sins of the whole world.
Trusting in his resurrection victory there is a new and living way for people to come into the presence of God through faith in Jesus. That saving way is not ancient history…
Our crucified and living Savior continues to serve us in God’s house as our great high priest, constantly lifting up his “once for all” sacrifice for our sins and praying to his heavenly Father for our salvation, speaking to us in his word and feeding us with his body and blood.
And the fact of the matter is, we already live in the presence of God and putting our faith in Jesus, we having nothing to fear from the day of his return. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things to do to be prepared for that day. There are! The Bible says:
let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
First of all, to be prepared for the day of the Lord, the Bible says that we are to draw near to God. In other words our relationship with God, our life with God is to deepen and grow and become closer.
What greater blessing can there be for us than to be close to God! That is possible only because God has first drawn close to us in his Son Jesus Christ. He has come so close to us that he has taken upon himself our flesh and lived our life and died our death and bore our sin. He knows what it is to live our live—to be lonely and hungry and forsaken by friend and misunderstood by family and to face death.
We mere mortals can have a close, intimate relationship with the living God of the universe because Jesus Christ has made a way for us to God by washing away our sins and joining us to himself in the pure waters of Holy Baptism.
And so then as God’s dearly loved children, we spend these days preparing to stand before our heavenly Father on the Last Day by deepening our relationship with him.
We talk to him in prayer. We hear him speak to us in his word. We fellowship with his people. We learn about his ways and do his will so that when this world comes to an end and we come into his presence, God will be no stranger to us and heaven will feel like the home it is.
That is our hope as we look forward to the Last Day and we are to boldly confess that hope to the world around us without apology. The Bible says: Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
We live in a world where people are living and dying emotionally on the outcome of the last election-- or the daily changes in the stock market-- or what some crazy person is doing here or around the world.
Their hearts and minds are filled with turmoil that is nothing other than a reflection of the turmoil in the world around us.
Now, we Christians live in the same, dark and dying world as the rest of our fellow men-- but our hearts and minds are filled with hope that comes with a perspective that lies beyond this world.
Evil will be punished! Brokenness will be healed! Blessings will come! And while it is true that much of that has to be laid hold of by faith, we still look forward with hope because we know that the one who promised those blessings is faithful. The Bible says that the one who has begun a good work in us WILL bring it to completion at the day of our Lord Jesus Christ!
How desperately the world around us needs to hear that confession of faith and hope from the lips of the children of God!
In our world today, if people have hope at all, it is misplaced. They think that the next election or the next promotion or the next pay raise will give them peace at heart. But of course pay raises are never enough and politicians fail and promotions bring problems.
And there are so many people who have no hope at all because they have bought into a materialistic worldview that tells them they are merely bio-chemical creatures in a vast cosmos empty of meaning in the middle of a timeline already billions of years old with billions more to come.
In the midst of no hope- and in place of false hope-as we await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ--we can point the world around us to the hope of a new heaven and a new earth and life everlasting even as we do everything in our power to live out those kingdom values in our life together as the church right now. The Bible says:
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, as you see the Day drawing near
It has been said by those who are critical of biblical Christianity that Christians are so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good. And…
Yes, we believe that this world and everything in it will come to an end. Yes, we believe in the final destruction of evil and the victory of good. But because we know how it all ends does not mean that we do not do all within our power (as we await that day) to do all the good we can while we can.
It is because we believe in the redemptive power of God that we encourage one another to love those around us deeply and care for them in real ways with good works.
And so we heal the sick and feed the hungry and shelter the homeless and educate the young. We show love to the weakest of the human family by: protecting all human life-- and welcoming the stranger-- and caring for the outcast and the prisoner.
The people of God live a life of love and good works because we have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we gather in this place, we hear his voice in the word and we receive his real presence in bread and wine, and we see him manifest in the lives of our fellow Christians and we grow to love him and want to live our lives like his own.
And so we meet together and love one another and do good works and encourage one another in the Christ-life and all the more as the day of Christ’s return draws near. The Bible says that salvation is nearer now that when we first believed and so it is.
This world came into existence at a particular moment in time. Our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross at a particular moment of history. We were baptized into his death and resurrection on a particular day-- and this world will come to an end at a particular moment in history.
We are grounded in history but history will come to an end in the new, eternal day of our Lord’s return. We look forward to that day with confident faith and hope because we know that our Lord Jesus Christ is our Savior and so we spend our time growing closer to the Lord and bearing faithful witness to him and showing his love to the world around us.
Living out our faith this way, we have nothing to fear as that Day draws near. Amen.