06. November 2011
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