Summary: End-times living won’t be easy. Jesus doesn’t promise that it will be. How can it? This universe is plummeting down to its death, and such death throes are never pleasant.
The end of the church year draws near. With the end of the church year comes preaching of the end: the end of this creation, the coming of Jesus Christ, and the new creation on the Last Day.
When Jesus comes on the Last Day, the world as we know it ends. That probably doesn’t cross your mind when heavy traffic in Branson is frustrating you, or your everyday tasks are wearing you down. I suppose few of you woke up this morning thinking, “Today could be the last day of the universe.” That’s one reason we have a church-year calendar that ends with the end. It reminds us of that reality.
When we look at our nation, our government, our institutions, and our way of life, we think, “All this can’t possibly end.” We plan to will items to our children. We expect a tomorrow, a day after that, and another day after that. How can everything we’ve worked for come to such an abrupt end? [Pause]
One day, when Jesus was walking in the Temple courtyard, He saw the tourists of His day look with awe on Herod’s Temple renovation. The Temple was an architectural wonder of its time! Much money and labor went into its rebuilding.
But then Jesus drops a bomb: Not one stone of this Temple will be left intact. This Temple was the same Temple where God came to His people in Old Testament times. The Temple was the place of God’s sacramental presence among His people. Even so, Jesus clearly says, “This Temple is coming down.”
What are the signs for this? When will it happen? Such a focus on the end brings out such questions. So, Jesus prepares His disciples, not only for the near future, but also the distant future! Jesus prepares them for both the coming judgment of Jerusalem and the coming judgment of the world. Jesus does this all this in only a few words.
First, Jesus drops this word of warning. “Others will come in my name, other saviors, false messiahs, saying ‘I’m the one.’ Ignore them. Oh, they sound religious and spiritual. But just because something sounds spiritual doesn’t mean it’s from Holy Spirit. Just because something sounds spiritual, doesn’t mean it’s true. They will say, ‘The time is near.’ Don’t let them fool you.”
Jesus prepares His disciples for hard times and persecution. As a disciple of Jesus, should you expect life on this earth to be easier just because you are a Christian? Jesus says, “No.” Life could even get worse. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. Famines and diseases will have their way throughout the land.
End-times living won’t be easy. Jesus doesn’t promise that it will be. How can it? This universe is plummeting down to its death, and such death throes are never pleasant.
The disciples will be arrested. They will be persecuted. They will be brought before kings and authorities. Yet, they will continue to proclaim a Gospel: that a dead-and-risen Jesus is the Savior of the world! Such a truth will not often be popular or believed. And so the disciples will stand trial, bear witness, and testify, even to their own martyrdom.
Yet with all this, Jesus gives His disciples a promise. Don’t be anxious about what you will say. You won’t have to cram for this exam. Jesus says, “I will give you words and wisdom.” That’s how Jesus is: He never leaves His Church without breath. He never leaves His baptized believers without the Spirit, the breath, and words to confess the faith.
So don’t worry what you will say when it’s your time to speak. Keep coming to receive God in Word and Sacrament. Keep getting filled with Jesus until you are overflowing with His thoughts and words. The Spirit will use all of it. He will use every Scripture you’ve read, every sermon you’ve heard, and every hymn you’ve sung as the raw material for the words you must speak.
You will have words and wisdom. You will speak Christ’s words and wisdom. That’s how Jesus works. He comes to us through His creation, in this case through the words and wisdom of His people.
Jesus says they will put some to death. And that was true. Of the Twelve, only John didn’t die a martyr’s death. That’s how it is. The world crucified Jesus. So don’t expect the world to be too enamored with His true followers. Don’t expect true Christianity to be popular. Consider the times in history when Christ’s followers basked in the glow and favor of the world as an anomaly.
Jesus says, “Others will hate you because of me.” Does Jesus say, “Hate”? Yes! That means others may persecute you. This means others may betray you. This is hardly the health-and-wealth, the name-it-and-claim-it schlock you hear on TV or from the religious best-sellers. Does this surprise you?