Midweek Advent 1: Now, The Christian’s Hope Awaiting the Return of Jesus

Readings: Psalm 16, Jude 1-25, Mark 13
Hymns: 334, 658, 585

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Our Advent series this year is called “Now, At the Last, and Unto Eternity.” This series fits in with the Advent message of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The particular focus with this theme is on Christ’s coming on the Last Day.

Tonight’s long Scripture lessons speak of the Christian life in this world as the great Day of Judgment approaches. They speak of the great challenges Christians face, not only with the world around us, but also with the temptations of the flesh.

Satan does not want us to have joy and peace in believing. Satan does not want us to be children of God. Satan does not want us to be released from the clutches of eternal death. So Satan will tell us whatever lies he can come up with, hoping that some of his lies will resonate with us so that we begin to replace God’s truth with lies.

One of the lies of the Devil is to make you feel like you are all alone. On his part, it’s a brilliant tactic. But on our part, we must see it for what it is—a lie. You see, as we continue to be faithful Christians, resisting the ways of the world, the devil wants us to think we are in the wrong. He wants us to join the large crowds of unbelievers who are deceived into darkness. He wants us to consider all forms of sexual immorality as normal or good. He wants to sway us by the winds of public opinion or the shifting sands of modern thought.

But when he’s unsuccessful as getting us to reject true Biblical doctrine, that’s when he plays the loneliness card. Satan speaks lies into our ears, saying, “Are you sure you are so right that you disagree with most of your friends, much of your family, the scientific community, sociologists, psychologists? Are you sure you have interpreted the Bible correctly? No one believes as you do anymore. You’re all alone.”

So what do you do? Do you join the crowd? Or do you maintain your position based on the Word of God? Of course, you do the latter, by listening intently to the Word of God.

In fact, you are not alone at all. You are joined in the faith with millions of Christians. You are joined in the faith with the countless multitudes who have gone before you. You are joined in the faith with your brothers and sisters in Christ here in Grace and in our sister congregations. Remember these words of Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

You see, we are never alone. We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses—saints who have fought the good fight of faith and now rest from their labors. And plus, remember Jesus is with us. He is our Immanuel. He took on human flesh and tabernacled among us. He is with us always, even to the end of the age. Jesus loves us to the extent that He bore our sins in His Body and died on the cross so that we can be forgiven.

Even when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and tried to be alone by hiding from God, He refused to let them have their sinful way. God called out for them. He sought them. And He promised to them the Messiah who would atone for their sins.

When we adhere to the faith once delivered to the saints, we go against the grain of public opinion and modern thought. Satan then wants you to trust in what you see. He’ll whisper these lies into your ears, “Look around you. Which of your friends believe as you do? How many family members still hold to those old teaching that you’re holding on to? Why bother with it all?”

Or, we will see the things Jesus warns. Peoples’ hearts failing as they witness wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes; brother delivering brother to death, the father his child, and children rising up against parents; and being hated by all for Christ’s name’s sake.

Faith, however, does not cling to what we see, even as Christians experience many evils in this life. Instead, as Hebrews 11:1 teaches, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Whenever we see unbelief all around—whenever we see sin and immorality taking place—whenever we begin to think that our old system of belief may not suffice, then we remember what faith truly is. Our faith is not in what we see, but in what is unseen. For it is written, “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).

Our hope is not in this world or in the fleeting things of the world, but in the promise and blessings of Christ. He has overcome death and the grave, for He rose from the dead. Jesus had descended into Hell to proclaim His victory and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. He earned our forgiveness through the shedding of His Blood on the cross. He reigns as our King.

And Jesus will come again with great power and glory. He will judge us Christians to be righteous. He will acquit us of our sin and grant us everlasting life. This is sure and certain, for Christ, the Word made flesh, declared, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31).

We do not know when Jesus will return. The signs which we see indicate that He is indeed coming. So, as Jesus says to all: “Stay awake” (Mark 13:37). Jesus also declared, “The one who endures to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13).

Endure to the end. This involves hard work, suffering, and even difficulty. The Christian life in this world is a battle against the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature. It involves contending for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

And it is all worth it. The Christian life involves one of hope—confident hope—knowing that Jesus Christ our Lord will return. He will read our names in the Book of Life. He will deliver us from the valley of sorrows to Himself in Heaven. He will come and make all things new. He will usher us into His eternal kingdom, where we will dwell with Him to all eternity. This is all ours, given to by our merciful Lord by grace, who shed His blood in our place and lives and reigns to all eternity.

And so we firmly and confidently hold fast to these words of Scripture: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us…  We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:18-25). Amen.            

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting.  Amen