The Abomination of Desolation – Matthew 24:15-28

06. November 2011
Trinity 25
Matthew 24:15-28

The tabernacle and temple of old was the dwelling place of God. In the holy of holies sat the Ark of the Covenant, where the Lord himself was enthroned between the cherubim dispensing mercy to the people. Each year the chief priest would sprinkle the blood of a bull upon the seat for the sins of the people. This sprinkling of blood annually atoned for the sins of the people. Forgiveness rendered by the shedding of blood.

The holy place for you is this sanctuary. Your Lord sits enthroned here upon the altar, still dispensing mercy as He did for the people of old. Not the blood of bulls but the blood of the only begotten Son of God atones for the sins of the whole world. The sacrifice is not made yearly for the people but is given freely from the cross until He comes again. Blood is not only sprinkled on you in the font but is given to you to drink. Forgiveness of sins still rendered by the blood. This blood is a life giving flood and the medicine of immortality.

Imagine a great horror would occur to this place just as it did to the temple of old, something so terrible that we shrink at the thought. Imagine this place of forgiveness was desecrated with foreign idols. Imagine the insignia of a false god placed over it. What if this place was turned into a marketplace? What if we charged for services rendered, dispensing mock forgiveness only when a coin is placed in the plate? What if we capitulated to society, ignoring the Word of God? Gay marriage performed. Abortions blessed. Divorces endorsed. Greed encouraged. The neighbors good interests ignored.

Jesus warns in today’s Gospel of the “Abomination of Desolation” to the Temple as foretold by the prophet Daniel. He was specifically speaking of the holy of holies within the temple, Daniel said:  They shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation. The temple will be made unclean and then laid waste by lies and deceit. This prophecy was fulfilled in the temple in AD 70. It also applies to the churches of this world and even to your heart.

In the of desolation day, a great idol will sit upon the throne reserved for Christ in the Holy Place. He will speak, claiming Christ’s Word. He will command, claiming Christ’s authority. He will promise, claiming Christ’s mercy. From this idolatrous throne, he will perform great signs and wonders, trying to lead even the elect of God astray.

Such idols exist in our day, claiming to speak from Christ’s authority or in His stead, but instead speaking lies contrary to Christ’s own Word. In many places, what was once holy is made desolate by the abomination of idolatry. There are those within the church that will abandon the faith and lead you astray by betrayal, falsehood, hatred, and lawlessness. They will lead you into a rebellion against God and His truth. The abomination foretold by Daniel and by Christ himself is the rejection of the Word of God. He is warning us of the exchange of lies for the truth. This is an abomination for it ultimately destroys faith and thus salvation, leaving you desolate.

St. Paul warned the church of Thessalonica about these: Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)

Such abominations obviously happen in Islam or Mormonism when they blatantly add and mix the Word of God with falsehood. Jesus has in mind not only them but also those who would are more clever in their deceit. Some would tell you that our faith is about being good Christian people. Some suggest that Christianity is defined by what it is not—not gay, not aborting, not Democrat. Some suggest salvation by works, acts of charity, living according to God’s law. Others fly flags out front that identify them as gay-friendly. Others talk about how they are for the hip and cool. Some talk about being family-friendly. No matter what, we want a church that is accepting of us, that lets us be just who we want to be, even if God disagrees.

Do not think you are immune from this prophecy. The old Adam is strong, sin remains tempting, and the Devil’s lies still are whispered in your ear. He wants nothing more than for you to capitulate to culture, satisfy your sinful cravings, and ignore the Word. He would have the pastors of the church ignore sin, gloss over immorality, and endorse idolatry. He would have you seek a church that is accepting, inclusive, and open to every whim and fancy of the fallen flesh.

Our faith is not defined by our targeted demographic or who we are not. It is defined solely by who God is and what God has done for us in Jesus. Remember that you are part of the body of Christ. Your own heart is the dwelling place of God, like the mercy seat of old. Yet, while in this body of death your fallen will still desires to dethrone Christ from your heart. You would rather place other idols to rule and govern your thoughts and deeds.

Perhaps you are consumed with the material of this world that you worship your “stuff” more than Christ. Thus, you horde God’s gifts for yourself and do not use them to His glory. Perhaps you have made your family and idol, giving your spouse and children priority over daily prayer and divine worship. Thus, you have cast Christ off his throne and replaced Him with other fallen creatures. You worship your family more than the one who saved you. Perhaps you have put your trust in princes, blindly following messianic politicians, who claim they can solve this country’s problems. They claim to put more money in your pocket, food on the table, and an addition on the house. You have dethroned your savior who is the sole provider for your every need of body and soul.

When these powerful enemies pursue your heart, heed the prophet’s warning. Flee to the mountains. Leap from your place of rest and run from the field. Pray that you will not be held back by cares for family. Pray that it not be winter or the Sabbath. Run fast and never turn back. That is, repent. Confess your sin and your desire to be god. He is merciful and forgives you. He suffers your idolatry and works in you a clean heart.

Do not look for solace in the false Christ’s of this world. There are those who would lead you astray. There are those who would convince you to worship them and forget Jesus. There are those who will try to lead you to believe you can “have your best life now,” that you “are not a poor, miserable sinner,” or worse yet, mix error with truth. Anyone or anything that claims to save you apart from or in addition to Jesus is against him.

They are the anti-Christ, the false prophet. They will tell you a great many things which sound good and true and may even be verified by great success. Their churches may grow by leaps and bounds. Yet, they are synagogues of Satan, abominations of desolation. This devil is a great deceiver and ruler of this world. He can convince sinful heart and mind to believe and see that which it wants.

It is only God’s Word that gives what we truly need. It is only the testimony of the Spirit in the church that brings you Jesus Christ crucified. It is only the Son of God’s atoning blood, his body sacrificed, his death, and his glorious resurrection that must be enthroned in your heart. No thoughts of self-righteousness, no looking to your wealth or prosperity, no beautiful family, nor any growing congregation will clean the temple of your heart. Only the strong man can loose the bonds, break the fetters, and release the chains that have bound you. Only your victor king Jesus can conquer and rule you in His grace and mercy.

The Lord has rescued you. The Lord has established his holy habitation in you. He has named you His child, anointed you, and set you apart for sacred worship. You and he are forever joined, bonded inseparably as the bride of Christ and the bridegroom. Within the one flesh union of the Son of God, you are purified of your evil. Christ himself has conquered your enemies, the ones who set up abominations in your heart where love alone should dwell. He has run out the idolatry of sin and reclaimed you as iconic temples to Him. Thus, as Christians, sweet prayers arise like incense from your lips, you serve as living sacrifices, and Christ sits with mercy for you in your flesh upon the ark of His Word.

Despite your sin and your future death, you need not fear. Jesus has died for you. He has redeemed you. He has rescued you from the unholy trinity of sin, death, and the devil. We are temples to God, forever purified in the blood of Christ. This is the wonderful promise of the Gospel. He has promised to show mercy to his humble servants. You trust not in our own merit, our sinful desires, or our self righteousness. Nor do you receive the severity of our just desserts. Instead you are blessed in Christ with grace and mercy. The abomination of desolation has been dethroned and Christ is restored in you.

In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church
Dyer, Indiana

Protecting religious freedom

Want to learn more about religious liberty and protecting our First Amendment rights? It’s more important now than ever – with increasing intrusions from the government into the realm of the church. The LCMS has resources available for your use at, frequently asked questions, articles, videos and more. You can find tips on how to talk to your neighbor about this matter. You also can find a sample letter that you can personalize and send to your representatives. Learn more about “Religious Liberty: Free to Be Faithful” at or call 888-THE LCMS (843-5267).


“Who’s God Gonna Call?” – Matthew 22:1-14

07. October 2012

Catechetical Sermon on Election from the Article XI, Formula of Concord.

When the Formula of Concord was written, there had not been a controversy yet over the doctrine of election. In the Reformed and Zwinglian churches this most comforting doctrine had caused quite a stir. Our Lutheran forefathers prophetically authored article XI of the Formula to prevent unnecessary disagreement and separation among their successors. That’s you. In our midst, despite this comprehensive summary of teaching of Holy Scripture, many have fallen off the wagon—so to speak—into either denying the consoling Word from God or taking it too far in way of the Calvinist. Despite the abuse or misunderstanding by others we ought to explain this teaching from the Scriptures and find in it the grace our Lord intends.

First, God sees and foreknows everything that is and will be, that is happening or will happen, whether good or bad. While He foresees and foreknows both good and evil, His gracious will is not that evil happen. All the perversity of the devil and your wicked wants and desires is restrained by His knowledge. He limits evil—how far it should go, how long it should last, and when and how He will hinder and punish it. Our Lord orders all to his glory and your salvation. The author of evil is fallen man and his father the Devil. In His foreknowledge God even uses our perversity to His glory. To everyone but the godly, this is an astonishing thing [1 Cor 2:7-8].

While God forsees and foreknows who will receive Him in faith, the source of this saving faith is His gracious will and pleasure in Christ Jesus. The Holy Scriptures say God predestines or elects us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ [Eph 1:4-5]. This means God himself causes and works everything needed for our salvation, start to finish.

I’m betting you can already guess how some react to this teaching. “If God causes me to believe and He already knows I will believe then I don’t need to do anything.” Or for others: “God has chosen some and damned others already. I’m a total screw-up and there’s no way I’m one of the elect.” When challenged by these questions, many pastors will just throw up their hands in a panic. The doctrine of election is not to strengthen self-confidence without repentance (“Look at what I did! I accepted Jesus!”) nor is to leave you hopeless and in despair (“No one could save me!”)

Too many people who call themselves Christian, including many who remain on the membership roster here fall into the former camp. They say they are a Christian, that God will save them no matter who they are or what they do, acting as if they are invincible. They sin without repentance. They ignore the Word preached and the Holy Sacraments. Prayer, faith, and a godly walk are forgotten. And then others fall into the latter, claiming that no matter how much they go to church, repent, believe and receive the Sacrament, they could be lovely to God.

Even believers trap themselves in these thoughts and have to be drug out of the pit of despair or humbled from the throne of self-righteousness. Here is the sure response to this delusion: Holy Scripture is inspired by God. It is given for a confidence boost but for reproof, correction, and training in righteousness [2 Tim 3:16]. Nor is it given to drive us to despair but rather that we have hope [Romans 15:4]. When these Scriptures speak of our election, they drive us to the Word, encouraging us to repentance, godliness, and to strengthen our faith with the assurance of salvation.

We should idly speculate about God’s foreknowledge. We do not know what tomorrow will bring. Instead we look to God’s revelation in Christ Jesus. His purpose, will, and counsel which for you belongs to your redemption, call, justification, and sanctification. [Those doctrines will have to be explained more fully at another time!]

Christ taught this doctrine in today’s parable of the Wedding feast. Those who have ears to hear and eyes to see will know the comfort and consolation of their election. God himself has given His Son to be your bridegroom and you his bride. In a splendid way, all those who come to the wedding feast are not merely guest but the chose bride. None of them are worthy of the Son but are redeemed and reconciled by His faultless obedience, suffering, and death. This righteousness is given to you in a spotless and brilliant wedding garment. Joined to the eternal Son of God, you too will live eternally.

All that He did for us and every benefit of this matrimony of Christ and His church are shown, offered, and given through His Word and Sacraments. God works salvation in us by His Holy Spirit through this Word when it is preached, heard, and pondered. Christ himself works on us, converting our hearts to repentance and preserving them in true faith. By this gracious working, we are justified before God, receiving adoption of sons, and the promised inheritance [Gal 3:19].

Not only that, His Spirit will sanctify us, that is, make us holy in love and all good works [Eph 1:4]. He will protect us from the devil, world, and our own flesh. He will rule and lead us, lift us up when we stumble, comfort us when under cross or in temptation, and preserve us forever. This work which He began in us at Holy Baptism, He strengthens and supports in those who cling to His Word, pray at all times, abide in God’s goodness, and use the gifts they have received [Matthew 25:14-30]. Finally, He will eternally save and glorify in life eternal all whom He has elected, called, and justified.

All this must be included in the doctrine of election or you will fall into error. Those who refuse to hear the Word and receive the Sacrament can no longer find comfort in election. Those who reject the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit will find no help when they refuse to repent. Those who reject their baptism will show up to the feast ashamedly naked and damned.

There is still yet a sticky wicket. How can we know and why or how can we perceive who are the elect and thus receive this doctrine for their comfort? Only the elect, whose names are written in the book of life are saved [Revelation 21:27]. We cannot use our reason or appearance who are the elect. We cannot plunge the murky depths of God’s hidden will.We turn to He revealed will made clear in Christ [Eph 1:9].

St. Paul tells us that “those whom He predestined [elected] He also called” (Romans 8:30). God calls through His Word, when repentance and forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in His name [Luke 24:47]. In today’s parable, the King called the guests that He wants to have at His Son’s wedding through the minsters He send out. He calls at the first, second, third, sixth, ninth, and even the eleventh hour.

This doctrine only bothers us if we fail to remember that the preaching of repentance and the promise of the Gospel are universal, belonging to all people. Thus, we preach to all nations. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son (John 3:16). Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)! Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). He does not wish any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). God will work through His Word in the people He calls to enlighten, convert, and save them. The Holy Spirit wills by the Word to work salvation. It is God’s will that all receive the Word, believe it, and obey it.

You hear His voice. He knows you and you follow Him. You gladly hear the Gospel, believe in Christ for salvation, pray and give thanks, are made holy in love, with hope, patience, and comfort in suffering. All this may be weak in you and yet you hunger and thirst for righteousness. He has begun the good work in you. He will preserve it to the end, granted that you do not turn from Him, but hold firmly to Him unto the end. This is God’s revealed will in Jesus Christ.

Christ said “strive to enter through the narrow gate” (Luke 13:24). And in today’s Gospel parable He said: “Many are called, but few are chosen.” This does not mean that while God calls everyone He only means to save a few. He desires all to come to saving knowledge and faith. He desires none to be damned. Our God is loving and He is merciful in Jesus. This is certain and true. This is His will and promise for you. This is why He not only gives to you the promise of salvation in the Gospel in general but attaches it to testaments of Baptism and Lord’s Supper. As the baptized, you know the Gospel is for you. As you eat bread of life that is His flesh you receive the life of the world (John 6:51). The blood of Christ cleanses you of all sin (1 John 1:7).

This is why our churches have retained private Absolution. It is God’s command that you believe such Absolution. Jesus said you are truly reconciled to God as though you heard a voice from heaven, even though it sounded like your pastor [John 12:28-30]. This opportunity to hear the Gospel personally applied to you grants the certainty of Christ’s Word. He has elected you and has called you in repentance and faith.

Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit effective through the Word preached, heard, and considered, all are heathens. Some simply despise God’s Word, rejecting the invitation just like those of the parable. Others make great excuses about their farm or business and thus thrust aside the Word. And still others are openly hostile to the Word, blaspheming it and persecuting the church and her messengers. So, hearing the Word refuse to take it to heart, hardening it in sin. Some resist the truth they have learned by the Holy Spirit. Others persist in sin without repentance. Some make an outward show but truly do not believe. And still others try to find righteousness and salvation outside of Christ [Romans 9:31]. The heart of flesh is inclined towards nothing but evil.

The challenge of the doctrine of election for us is that God allows man to reject Him. The Holy Spirit calls, enlightens, and converts the elect through the Word [Romans 10:7]. He justifies and saves those who in true faith receive Jesus. In the same way, He hardens and condemns those who reject the Word and resist the Holy Spirit, even while the Holy Spirit is working in them through the Word. They are like the man of the parable who want the benefits but do not desire to be clothed in Christ’s grace.

Few receive the Word and follow it. Most despise the Word of invitation and will not come to the wedding (Matt 22:3-6). The cause of their contempt is not God’s foreknowledge or election but their own perverted will. The human will rejects the means of the Holy Spirit. The fallen will hates the Word preached or the Sacraments given. How often the Christ would gather by the Holy Spirit but many will not allow Him. People willfully turn away from Christ and His gifts, even after receiving them with joy. They instead love the filth of the world and redecorate their hard hearts to be homes for the devil.

This is as much as the Scriptures reveal to us on the mystery of election. If we abide by this teaching, it is useful, saving, and consoling. We are justified and saved without works or merits of our own, but purely out of God’s grace for Christ’s sake. Even before the foundation of the world was laid—even while we could do no good—we were chosen by grace in Christ for salvation, all according to God’s purpose.

God wants to know He is greatly concerned about your salvation. He provided for it from before the world was made and will preserve it in you until the end. You can be certain even while weak in spirit, tempted by evil, or even tormented by devil and the world, that this eternal purpose cannot be overthrown. Your salvation is sure in Jesus Christ, from whom no one can snatch you. Jesus will give you patience, consolation, hope, always working for the good even in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation. Not even the gates of hell can topple the church nor you His bride.

In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church
Dyer, Indiana