Sermon audio here.
As the end of the Church year draws ever nearer, so does the end of the world. Salvation is nearer to us today than it was yesterday. And that’s really the goal of the End: salvation, the setting free of this creation from its bondage to corruption.
The end of the Church year is upon us. Next week is the final Sunday of the Trinity season, and in just two weeks, Advent will begin. And so it’s fitting that the Church would, in these final days of the liturgical calendar, draw our attention to the final days of life as we know it.
The End Times is a subject that fascinates people. It’s also big business. When it comes to having a fundraiser, nothing beats a predication of the end of the world. Cults, in particular, are fond of date setting. After all, if the end of the world is coming, you won’t need your money anymore, so you can give it all to them!
This is common in some of the mainstream cults like the Seventh Day Adventists, who base their doctrine on the private visions of Ellen White. We also see this with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose founder, Charles Taze Russell, claimed that the Bible would remain dark apart from his writings. So much for Scripture alone!
According to one report, in 1925 many Jehovah’s Witnesses “gave up their businesses, jobs, and even sold their homes in the expectation that they would soon be living in an earthly paradise.”
1843 was a crucial year for the Seventh Day Adventists. When Christ didn’t return, it became known as the “Great Disappointment.” Not ones to give up easily, they bumped the date to October 22, 1844. Jehovah’s Witnesses were similarly let down when Christ didn’t return in 1874 or 1914. You’d think our Lord’s words, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only,” would prevent some of this, but they can’t when you’re more interested in what a cult leader has to say than Christ (Mat 24:36).
The false doctrine known as “rapture theology” has also brought in tons of cash, thanks to the Left Behind books and movies. According to this fiction, Christ will secretly return to “rapture” the faithful, or bring them to heaven. But after that there will be a second chance for everyone who didn’t make the cut during a 7 year period of tribulation.
The problem with all of these teachings is that they don’t agree with Scripture. You would think with all of the interest in the End Times, people would pay really close attention to the words of Daniel and Christ, especially those words recorded in today’s Old Testament reading and Holy Gospel. Not so much.
Christ couldn’t be any clearer: these are the End Times. Those who look for signs and try to match them up with the book of Revelation are doing exactly what Satan wants. There’s a big difference between the foolish and wise virgins. One group is caught up in looking for signs while the other’s getting ready. This is what our Lord has to say about signs: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah,” (Matt. 12:39).
According to Christ, on the Last Day, everything will seem completely normal—a day just like any other. People will be carrying on as usual and that Day will come like a thief in the night. Our Lord says,
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot–they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all– so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed,” (Luke 17:26-30).
The Christians who lived during the first century knew well they were living in the End Times, and that was 2,000 years ago! They were so attuned to the coming of the End that some were worried they’d missed it! There was no wondering on their part when the End Times would begin; they knew they were living in them. There would have been no going through the motions on their part had they confessed the Nicene Creed. They actually looked for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
But we’ve heard enough false doctrine already today. You need to know about the lies of the cults so you can spot them and guard against them, but we especially need to hear what God has to say about the End. In today’s Old Testament reading and in the Holy Gospel, Daniel and our Lord provide us with two different views of the same event. Both tell us about the End.
Notice where Daniel starts. He says, “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took His seat.” Now that’s odd, Daniel sees “thrones.” That’s important because of what follows: he sees the destruction of the beast, whose body is destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. There are other beasts, too. Their dominion, we are told, was taken away—but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
So there’s good news and there’s bad news. The beast has been destroyed. Jesus accomplished this by His suffering and death on the cross. Satan no longer has dominion over you. That’s the sign of Jonah. Jonah spent three days in a place of darkness and death in the heart of the sea before being restored to the land of the living. Christ suffered and died for your sins before rising again on the Third Day.
Satan’s dominion has been taken away, but the life of the beast and his minions has been prolonged for a season and a time. That explains why the world is such a dark place, why Paris massacres happen. It explains the profound hurt you’ve experienced, and more than once. Why should the psalmist have to cry out for salvation in the first place? Why would he ever doubt that God hears his prayers? Why does the darkness often seem to be greater than the light?
Our Lord has left the weeds and wheat to grow together until the End—but the End is coming. The days of darkness are numbered. God delays the End because He is merciful. He is not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
The Son will come again in glory, but there will be no mistaking it. It won’t be a secret thing that could happen without you noticing. So be ready! Be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish. That means seeing Christ in those around you: “as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me.”
That means when you get angry with your spouse or child, your brother or sister, you got angry with Christ. When you spoke that unkind word about someone, you spoke it about Christ. When you did not welcome that visitor at Church, you did not welcome Christ. When you paid little attention to the sermon, the liturgy, the hymns, and the Supper, you paid little attention to Christ. When you did not support the Church with your efforts and money, you did not support Christ.
We know Christ is Immanuel, God with us, but what we can forget is that His communion with us is so intimate that when you sin against others, you sin against Him.
But that’s pretty convicting, so we immediately start looking for loopholes. We think, “Nobody else is perfect, so it must be okay that I’m not, either.” But Jesus says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Compare yourself to Him. After all, you have been called not to imitate sinners, but to imitate Christ.
If you absolutely have to compare yourself with something, compare your interest in feeding the hungry with your interest in feeding yourself. Compare your interest in clothing the naked with stuffing your own closets. Compare your interest in hearing God’s Word with… well, just about anything else, and repent.
Life isn’t easy. We struggle with our own sin and the Lord’s call to repentance is painful, but He’s preparing you for an entire weight of glory beyond all comparison. The sufferings of this present time aren’t worth comparing to this glory that is to be revealed.
Remember the thrones Daniel saw? There’s one there just for you. Jesus said so: “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Heirs receive a throne. Christ promises to grant His saints to sit with Him on His throne even as He overcame the world and is seated at the Right Hand of the Father.
This isn’t some afterthought on God’s part. It’s the culmination of His purpose since before the foundation of the world. He prepared hell for no one except the devil and his angels. It causes God profound pain that some for whom He died insist on following their lord down to hell, but He will give them what they want. For you He has prepared the Kingdom from eternity.
Christ is coming quickly. His rescue is so certain that the psalmist speaks of his deliverance in the past tense, even while he is still suffering:
[God] has delivered me from every trouble,
And my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.
This is the cry of faith. Faith knows salvation has been accomplished, and it clings to the victory already given to you at the font, pulpit, and altar. Faith looks for deliverance in Christ’s triumph at the cross and empty tomb. Your enemies are Christ’s enemies, and He has overcome them all. In the End, the Light wins.
Soli Deo Gloria
 Tucker, Another Gospel, 128.
 Asburry, Trinity 26.
 Tausz, Trintiy 26.