A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on November 29,  2009 by Pastor Dale Raether Fearful Signs of Hope Luke 21:25-36People have always been trying to guess when and how the end of the world will come.  For example in the 900’s, many thought Jesus would come sometime during the year 1000.  Obviously He did not.  Lately some are saying, based on the Mayan calendar, the end will be on December 21, 2012.  Maybe you’ve seen this movie trailer.  Now, the Mayans were very advanced in tracking the positions of the moon and the planets.  In fact our military is still using their chart in tracking satellites.   Another amazing thing the Mayans figured out is it takes 5,125 years for the moon and planets to cycle through until they’re all in the exact same relative position again.  We don’t know why, but for some reason the Mayans choose May 10, 3113 BC as a starting point, which means our solar system’s calendar starts over again on December 21, 2012.  So far, this is just science; but here’s where it gets a little weird.  According to Mayan theology, every time the solar system’s calendar starts over, the gods violently end that era on earth and start a new one.  And so, in the previous era, they said the earth was ruled by animals.  In this current era, the earth is being ruled by man.  In the next era starting on December 21, 2012 the earth will be ruled by spiritual beings.  Now, on top of all this, someone figured out that on December 21, 2012, our solar system, as it rotates through the galaxy, will line up to have a clear shot with the center of the galaxy.  And then supposedly energy from the center of the galaxy is going to destroy the earth as we know it.  So, are you concerned?  Don’t be! The only reason I said this much about 2012 is this stuff is out there, and it’s dangerous.  It’s dangerous because it makes Judgment Day look like a joke, which it isn’t.  Also, by getting people focused on when Judgment Day will come, the devil keeps people from thinking about what’s really important, and that’s always being ready, whenever it might be.  Are you ready?  Our text this morning prepares us.  1.  There will be fearful signs just before Jesus’ appears.  2.  For believers these are signs of hope.    We read in our text, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.  Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken – Luke 21:25-26.” This is just one of many descriptions in the Bible of the last day.  However, when you put them all together, our planet isn’t the only thing that’s going to be destroyed.  All the matter and energy in the entire universe will start breaking down.  As this begins happening, our oceans will shake and roar like no one has ever seen before; and people are going to be scared!  If this goes on long enough, I can imagine leaders from all over the world meeting at Copenhagen and trying to figure out, “How do we fix this?”  But that won’t be possible.  In fact in the original Greek the words in anguish and perplexity express absolute panic over not knowing what to do and even if they did, not having ability to do it.     We, Christians, on the other hand will know what’s going on.  We’ll know that in a matter of minutes, hours, days at the most, we will hear trumpets and we will see Jesus.  However, while we’re waiting, we may experience some fear.  Here’s why I say that.  Our text reads, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near – Luke 21:28.”  Jesus repeated urged His believers to not be afraid when they see these signs of the last day.   That Jesus had to say this means that most believers will be afraid.  However, even if we don’t live till Judgment Day, facing our own personal end can be just as frightening, especially in our minutes, hours, or days.  Now, we may very well tell ourselves that we don’t need to be afraid.  We know that our sins are paid for.  We know that we’re going to be forever with the Lord.  Yet until we actually let go – I don’t care what anyone says, as we see our time wind down, it’s upsetting.      However, whether our fears are over events leading up to our death or events leading up to Judgment Day, having fears doesn’t mean we don’t have saving faith.  Our fears simply mean that we’re human.  And now, here’s how Jesus calms our fears and strengthens our faith.  Again our text reads, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”   The instant Jesus comes for us, we are freed from the sin that lives in us.  Never again will we struggle with temptation.  Never again will we have to drag ourselves through the day feeling tired and crabby.   Never again will we doubt God’s wisdom or love, for we will also be freed from every consequence of sin – no more sickness, no more separation from people we love, no more growing old and someday dying!  Remember when you were a kid and you couldn’t wait as you counted down the days till Christmas?  May the signs of Jesus’ coming, fill you with that same kind of joyful excitement for an even greater Christmas celebration!  And may this certain hope overcome all your fears! However, continuing in our hope isn’t easy, when the time starts dragging on, and the fears come back.  And so, in our text, Jesus gives us a visible sign to prove that His Word is true and that everything is going to happen just as He said.  We read, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away – Luke 21:32-33.”  The Greek word for “generation” can also mean “race”, and in this context, it means the Jewish race.  A sign that God’s Word is true is that there will always be people with Jewish blood in the world.   So, then, Islamic extremist may try to kill every Jew person in Israel and America or where ever else they live, but the extremist will fail just as Hitler did.  Now, we might ask, why this irrational hatred toward Jewish people?  This hatred is of the devil.  The devil’s goal in trying to wipe out all Jews is to prove one of Jesus’ prophecies false, but that’s not going to happen.  And so, all this frightening news from the Middle East with Iran trying to get nuclear missiles, as well as the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the instability in Pakistan – all of this is just part of the wars and rumors of wars Jesus told us of.  And so these are signs that He is coming and that His Word is true, so don’t be afraid.   However, not being afraid doesn’t mean that we have nothing to do.  We read, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.  For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth – Luke 21:33-34.”  In the days just before the Flood, people were completely consumed with partying and had no idea what was going to happen to them, until it started to rain.  This is also the way it’s going to be just before Jesus comes – partying, partying, and partying!  Our number one job is to be careful that don’t get sucked into that lifestyle and all the stress that goes along with it in not having the right clothes or the latest gismo, not to mention the morning afters.  You see, the problem with all this, besides the sins we fall into, is then we’re neglecting God’s Word.  As a result, when we start seeing the fearful signs of the last day, we won’t know how to handle it, and our faith may not be strong enough so that we look up in joy.      Reading on in our text, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man. – Luke 21:36."  Our second job as we wait is to watch and pray, and this has to do especially with being ready to stand before Jesus.  And so, watch and pray lest you think you’re good enough as you are, because of the sins you avoided or the people you helped.  Rather we must be holy, without sin, and never have fallen short in anything; but we aren’t!  And so, we are ready to stand before Jesus only by believing that He has given us His holiness and has paid for our every sin.  Yet how can we keep on believing that, if we’ve had to ask God to forgive us for the same sin the 40th or even the 400th time?  We need God’s power to believe.  And so, keep listening to the Word and receiving the Sacrament.  And keep praying that God rule your heart and mind and that He defeat your will, whenever your will gets in the way of His will.  However, all this is easier said than done.  But that’s why we can’t save ourselves, only God can save us.  And that’s why we need to watch and pray, so we will always believe that only God can save us.  But now as we do, that’s when the fearful signs of the end won’t be fearful for us anymore, but they will fill us with joyful hope. There’s one thing we need to do as we wait for Jesus.  We need to watch and pray in behalf of others, and then go and tell, because there are many who aren’t ready for His return.  However, we need not fear this work, any more that we need fear the signs of the end.  Jesus is with us.  He knows our needs.  He’s guiding our life, so that by His Word we can know what to say, that by word and example we may lead many others to His righteousness.  In fact that’s why we’re still here, that’s why the world is still here.  However, time is winding down.  And so, all the more it’s important, that we keep guarding ourselves and watching and praying, till we do joyfully stand before Him. Finally, there’s one more question I’d like to touch on.  What will set all the events of the last day into motion?  Did the Mayans possibly stumble on to the answer?  I doubt if the end is will anything to do with position of the moon and the planets and the alignment of our solar system with the rest of the galaxy.  No, the answer is simpler than that.  The world began when God said, “Let there be.” The world will end according to Revelation 21, when Jesus says, “It is done.”  You know, when you think about it, isn’t that comforting?  Nothing is going to happen that Jesus isn’t in control of for the sake of the Gospel, and end won’t come, a second before or a second later than when Jesus says, “It is done!”  And now as for this sermon, it is done, but not our being ready, and not our getting others ready.  Amen.   

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