Confidence in Christ Despite Scoffers

Sheep and Goats
Jesus returns and separates the sheep (believers) from the goats (unbelievers) (Matt. 25:31-46). From a book by Martin Luther interpreting the Epistles and Gospels, 1544.

Lessons: Daniel 7:9-14, 2 Peter 3:3-14, Matthew 25:31-46
Hymns: LSB 872, 508, 513, 639, 355, 701

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

      “Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’” Thus writes St. Peter in his second epistle (2 Pet. 3:3-4). We are in those last days and scoffers all around are following their sinful desires. People are seeking escape with drugs, gambling, and sex outside marriage. Many couples are unwilling to work toward fulfilling their marriage vows and preserving their marriages. Many are refusing to work. Others are so driven by greed and wealth they forget to spend quality time with their families. Many are following their sinful desires. They want to eat, drink, and be merry for they do not consider the reality that our Lord will return like a thief in the night—at a time many do not expect.

      The scoffers will not allow the Christian remnant to be at peace. They will mock and jeer at Christians for their beliefs. They will try to make Christians look silly and seek to make Christians unsure of their beliefs. The scoffers will do what they can to whittle away at Christian virtues and values.

      Scoffers will mock the faithful Christian who awaits in patience our Lord’s return by saying, “Where is the promise of His coming?” Nothing has changed. Generations rise and go. Yet Jesus continues to wait. They’re a bit like Elijah who mocked the prophets of Baal, suggesting their god is asleep (except Elijah, of course, mocked the false gods, while scoffers today are mocking the true God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who created all things, redeemed us, and sanctifies us to be His people).

      These scoffers don’t see the promise of our Lord’s coming, for they no longer see God’s own handiwork. They don’t see God’s hand in the ways the world works—how all of nature works together. They don’t see God’s handiwork in the miracle of life. They don’t see God’s handiwork in the heavens and on the Earth. For they overlook the reality that God created the heavens and the Earth. They don’t see the evidence of a great earthly Flood as a sign of God’s work, including His judgment, His power, and His love to save.

      For those who question God’s coming, assuming it will never happen, need to look at the evidence that God has visited His creation and has left many marks concerning His judgment. For God saw that the wickedness on Earth was great and the people committed only evil all the time (Gen. 6:5). He sent the Flood. The water vapor canopy that surrounded our Earth (and prevented rainbows) unleashed torrents of rain. Water contained in the ground came gushing up. And, fulfilling His Word through the Flood, God destroyed the Earth as it had been known. We see signs of the Flood everywhere. Seashells and other sea fossils on mountains. Sandy beds from great seas from years gone by in unexpected places. Cataclysmic destruction. Great canyons carved by huge amounts of water runoff.

      You want evidence that Jesus is coming? It’s all around you. St. Peter urged the Church to remember what God did at the Flood to serve as a reminder that God will certainly return, as He promised. God not only brought about destruction at the Flood, but He also saved His creation. Noah and his family were saved—eight souls in all. They built the Ark and God sent two of every kind of creature into the Ark to carry on His creation. Afterward, God gave the rainbow to show that He will never bring about worldwide destruction through a flood again. This means you have God’s Word of promise. In fact, God now uses water for your salvation. Water not only sustains your physical life, but God brought you into His family through the waters of Holy Baptism. You now belong in the Ark of Christ’s Church. He will keep you in safety until He returns, using all things for your good. Jesus has never failed you. He has kept all His promises. He has perfectly fulfilled His Father’s will. He will return. He says so.

      You see, God is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). That God is waiting (delaying) to return is for our good. On the other hand, we want Him to return now to end all this craziness and usher in the New Heavens and the New Earth. We lack the patience God has. We want quick results and quick rewards. That’s why we buy lottery tickets and send in for various sweepstakes. Instant reward. We’re much more like the Hare in Aesop’s Fables than the Tortoise. We’re so confident that we will get our instant gratification that we lose focus on the race, fall asleep, and miss out.

      But God remains patient. And so He tarries (He waits). He delays so that more and more can hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ—so that His Word will have free course in our land and throughout the world—so that the Good News of Jesus Christ can be spread to the ends of the Earth. Jesus delays not because He’s busy elsewhere or because He’s somehow absent. For even though Jesus ascended into Heaven, He is still in our presence. He is not gone at all. He is present right now in our midst. He is present in His Word. He will be present in the Sacrament. Jesus, though we may not see Him in the flesh, can be seen through His handiwork and through His Word of promise.

      God does not want you to perish. He wants you to reach repentance. He wants you to turn from the sins your flesh desires and turn toward Him. For Jesus died on the cross to take those sins away. You have been united to His death and resurrection; therefore, who are you to continue in sin? In Christ, you have died to sin and have arisen to newness of life.

      That way, when the Lord returns, you will be ready for His appearing. You, living in repentance and faith, will look up and lift up your eyes as your Redemption draws near. You will rejoice to see that Day of the Lord, for Jesus is your Lord and your Shepherd, and He is coming for you.

      When Jesus returns at the appointed time, the heavens and the Earth as we know it will be no longer. Sin will finally be destroyed. Death will be no longer. Life will live. We will live. Our bodies will rise from the grave and He will make them glorious, imperishable, and incorruptible. God will refashion the Earth and we will dwell with Him to all eternity. It will be nothing but good as we praise our Lord and dwell in His presence.

      Many surmise that they will find life in the world to come to be boring. They figure this life is much more interesting. They take little delight in singing God’s praises now, hearing His saving Word, or meditating on the deeds of Christ. And because these are of such little interest to them, they cannot fathom how these things will be nothing but delightful when we are in heavenly bliss. This is so because their thoughts are still centered on this fallen world and their joys are not centered on Christ. May God have mercy on all who think so little concerning the things of God! God grant that we, having tasted and seen that the Lord is good, would delight in the saving Word of Christ. God grant that we would sing boldly His praises. God grant that we would diligently teach the faith to the next generation and boldly give testimony of Christ’s deeds to our neighbors!

      Throughout four verses, St. Peter instructs us, as the children of God, to be holy and godly, that we may be diligent to be found by our Lord without spot or blemish, and at peace (2 Pet. 3:11-14). Yes, we are to give attention to our conduct. As Christians, we do not ignore our Lord’s command to engage in good works. After all, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

      And while our Lord certainly calls on us to love God and love our neighbor, keeping the Law, the way to true righteousness and holiness is found in Christ Jesus. Our faith is not in our works but in Jesus. When Jesus came the first time, He bore our sins in His Body. He went to the cross to shed His innocent Blood on our behalf.

      Many are terrified when thinking about our Lord’s return. They dread the thought of Jesus coming to judge. They don’t realize Jesus is coming to acquit His own and bring the righteous into eternal life. Instead, they think about God’s judgment to condemnation, fearful that they may be going away into eternal punishment.

      God calls on us to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). He wants us to be confident of our standing with God, not in self-confidence and self-security through self-righteousness, but by trusting solely in our Savior, Jesus. He alone paid for our sins. He credits us with His very righteousness by grace through faith. In Him we are reconciled to our Father in Heaven. Through Him, we will be judged not guilty on the Last Day. In fact, He will even say, “I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you brought Me in. I was naked, and you clothed Me.” We will even ask when we did these things, for we, as God’s children, do not keep track of our good deeds. We keep no score or tally of the things we have done. In fact, when we have done all that we were commanded, we will simply say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10).

      And Jesus will say to us, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). He joyfully receives us. He justifies us. He is the Faithful One. And He will do it. Amen.

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