in Sermons

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

When God plans to destroy what He has created, He first brings warning by one of His holy angels. He does not desire the death of the wicked but that they repent and turn to him in faith, looking to God for grace and mercy. When God speaks by His messenger, listen. Pharaoh and his host were given ten warnings to repent and listen to the Word of God. The Lord is long-suffering. His prophet Moses’s repeated proclamation was rejected and denied. Pharaoh hardened his heart to God’s Word and was in the end destroyed.

Great is the hardness of the sinful will against the Word of God. According to your flesh, you hate both God and His commands. A brief consideration of your heart’s desires against the Holy Ten Commands will reveal how far from God we walk.

No matter whether you think your sins great or small (and for everyone born of the flesh—they are great), the wages of sin is death. That is, everyone of you knows the judgment of Christ. Everyone knows what God thinks about every transgression, for we all know death. We’ve seen this enemy take our spouse or child. We’ve seen the enemy take friend and foe alike. We hate this enemy. We hate this judgment we deserve, preferring rather to gloss over our sin.

Job confessed this truth. Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. He comes out like a flower and withers; he flees like a shadow and continues not… Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one. Try as we might, we cannot hide or sin or escape its just punishment.

Christ warns us today of a great horror that began in His day and continues to this very time. He warns of the “abomination of desolation” to the Temple as foretold in Daniel 9 and 11. 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.

In that 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.

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. Your fallen will still desires to dethrone Christ from your heart and place instead other idols to rule and govern your thoughts and deeds. You are consumed with the material of this world that you worship your “stuff” more than Christ. Repent. Turn back to Christ and live.

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. Repent. Return to Christ and live.

You may 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. Repent and live.

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.

Dear Christian, you know that you are in the death throes. You daily struggle against our foes—sin, death, and Satan himself. The battle has been long. The great tribulation is upon you. Yet, the prophet, too, has a promise. If those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for your sake, the elect, those days have been cut short.

This present darkness will find its end in death. Death is judgment, to be sure. But 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. Yet, 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.

Heed the warning, therefore. No one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s coming in judgment. No one knows the day or hour of their death. They are the same. Call out: Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors… in your righteousness deliver me, incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily!

And it is so. 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 our sin and our future death, we 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. Therefore, I do not want you to be uniformed, brothers, about those who have died.

We do not grieve as others who have no hope. For everyone who has died in Christ now rests from their labors. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep… for the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so will always be with the Lord.

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. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord! … Therefore encourage one another with these words.

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

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