The Last Day: When? 1 Thess. 5:1-11 (Proper 28A)
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Jesus will return in glory on the Last Day! That is certain and sure. Jesus Himself promised it in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. At His ascension the angels told the disciples in Acts 1:11 “that this same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Yes, there will be a Last Day! Jesus will be revealed in glory. And He will judge the living and the dead. He will separate the sheep from the goats.
When will this take place? Can I give you the exact day, month or year? No. Because Jesus doesn’t! He says categorically: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” (Matthew 24:36). You can’t calculate when the Last Day will take place. And so the apostle tells us: “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you.” In other words, WE’RE NOT GOING THERE! DON’T EVEN ASK US!
But that day will come. And it will come “like a thief in the night” just as Jesus Himself preached in Matthew 24. What’s the point? You can’t calculate when the Last Day will come!
So it’s time to knock off all the guessing of when! And it’s high time you stop listening to all the false preachers on the TV, radio, blogosphere, and in books that predict when the Last Day will take place! Seriously! Any preacher or Bible teacher that says the Last Day will take place at such and such a date IS A FALSE PREACHER! A FALSE TEACHER! A WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING! So stop listening to them! And start listening to the Lord and His blessed apostle who writes: “for you very well know that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
When everyone least expects His coming in glory that’s when it will take place! And the Last Day will hit the world hard! Like when the agonizing labor pains hit the expectant mother! Boom! The pain hits! And the delivery is at hand. So too on the Last Day! “While people are saying ‘Peace and safety – all is well – nothing to worry about – got everything under control – DESTRUCTION WILL COME UPON THEM SUDDENLY!”
“Suddenly!” All of a sudden! With surprising suddenness God’s inescapable wrath will come upon all unbelievers! They didn’t want to believe in Jesus as the Savior! They refused to receive Holy Baptism! They purposely closed their ears to the preaching of the Gospel! They lived as if Good Friday and Easter Sunday were nothings!
Too busy living only for the now! Too caught up in the idolatry of themselves. They hear a preacher – a false one! And the preacher is their own voice! They lie to themselves: “The preacher at church is an idiot! I will not listen to him! I’ll do what I want! Who does he think he is warning me about my unbelief? I’ll show him! I’ll stay away, worship myself, and call myself the most religious person on the earth! After all, I’ve built a pretty good life for myself. I’ve accomplished quite a bit!”
And so unbelievers ignore our Lord’s warnings about the Last Day to their eternal detriment – their eternal damnation!
Therefore the judgment will be as Jesus says in Matthew 25:41, 46a, “Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels … Then they will go away to eternal punishment.”
In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians he says about this punishment for the unbeliever: “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and SHUT OUT FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD AND FROM THE MAJESTY OF HIS POWER,” (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
Both Jesus and His apostles speak of hell and damnation as real! So here too be warned! There is a hell! There is damnation! But one of the most popular, trendy, jeans and polo shirt mega church preachers in the United States, Rob Bell, of Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan, teaches that there is no such thing as hell or eternal damnation! He wrote a best-selling book about it called Love Wins. He too is a false teacher. A false preacher! Do not listen to him or other mega church wanna be preachers! And warn others about this wolf in sheep’s clothing!
For those who refuse to believe in Jesus and receive His gifts of salvation – for those who would insist of forgiving themselves and be their own god — the Last Day judgment will be damningly hellacious! Paul says in the text: “they will not escape.”
Now, what about you? Well, you have observed from the text that the Lord’s Last Day coming does not call for calculating curiosity BUT VIGILANCE AND SOBRIETY. For nothing less than your salvation – your eternal life with or without Christ — is at stake too!
And so what about you who are died for and baptized Christians? Listen to Paul’s words! His exhortation! For they are based on the Lord’s own words in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. “You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled … putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Are you living as sons of the light? Sons of the day? Or are you asleep? That is to say, have you become spiritually insensitive? Bored with God’s Word? Are you apathetic to the preaching of Christ’s death and resurrection for you and for your salvation? Would you rather be doing something else than receiving the most holy Body and Blood of Jesus with His promise of forgiveness?
Do you live outside your Baptism by doing dark deeds? Dipping your toes in the pool of the dark side? Gratifying your sinful nature at every turn? If you don’t know what I’m talking about then I’ll let Paul say it. He spells out the dark deed in Romans 13: “orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, debauchery, dissension, and jealousy.” Penn State anyone? Lindsay Lohan anyone? Kim Kardashian anyone?
Before Jesus reveals Himself in glory on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead, there is still time. Still time to repent!
This is precisely Paul’s point when he says: “We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.”
There is time, before it is too late for you to repent. To daily turn from your sin – from gratifying your sinful flesh 24-7-365 – and daily turn to Jesus who died and rose from the grave for your salvation.
You, for whom Jesus died and to whom He has given His Spirit, are to battle against your sin that so stubbornly hangs around your neck. And it is a battle to the death. Your sin is to be daily put to death! Your old Adam – your old Eve is to be drowned and die with all sin and evil desires. And so Jesus has given you armor and a helmet in this serious struggle. The breastplate of “faith and love” and the helmet of “salvation’s hope.”
“Faith and love.” “The hope of salvation.” The faith is faith in Jesus. Faith is the new man – the new woman – the new creation – wrought by Christ’s Word! He has won your salvation on the cross by taking all you sin in His Body and answering for it. Until you die and are buried six feet under or if you’re alive on the Last Day you are to use Jesus, the hope of your salvation, against your sin!
You do that by hearing and believing His Word of forgiveness for your sin. And for that He has given you His Name in Holy Baptism and He continually gives you His Body and Blood in the Sacrament with His certain and sure promise that you are forgiven!
And when you go the Lord’s Supper you stand before the White Throne Judgment of Jesus. The Sacrament of the Altar is judgment day ahead of time. It is judgment day in miniature. For at the altar Judge Jesus comes! He comes with all the angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. And He renders a judgment! What is it? It is this: “You are forgiven! I died for you! Proof is my Body and Blood with the bread and wine!” It is the foretaste of the heavenly feast to come!
“God did not appoint us to wrath” the text says. He is not angry with you. He loves you for Christ’s sake. You will only receive His wrath if you insist on it. You know, like the guy in the parable today who buried his talent and sadly believed that his master is unjust. “God did not appoint us to wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So come to the Sacrament! There, “with repentant joy we receive the salvation accomplished for us by the all-availing sacrifice of His [Jesus’] body and His blood on the cross,” (Prayer of Thanksgiving, page 161, Lutheran Service Book).
No wonder then that Paul says: “Encourage one another and build each other up.” Encourage your fellow members of Trinity, your family and friends, to come to the divine service. Here is the edification needed. Both now and forever. “So that whether we are awake or asleep, [when Jesus returns in glory on the Last Day] we may live together with Him [Jesus]” in the everlasting life and light of heaven.
In the Name of Jesus.