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The GREAT TRIBULATION

November 4, 2018

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All Saints’ Sunday                             Trinity Lutheran Church

4 November 2018                             Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

Revelation 7:9-15

 

Buckle up folks. Fasten your seat belts. Hang on tight. Here goes.

 

“These are the ones coming out of the GREAT TRIBULATION. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Yes, the redeemed in Christ that are now in heaven worshiping Jesus and enjoying eternal Sabbath Rest have come out of the GREAT TRIBULATION of this troubled world! They in glory shine! With palm branches and white robes they give all glory and worship to Jesus: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!” They’ve come out of the GREAT TRIBULATION.

 

Tribulation? That doesn’t seem to be on our radar screens at all. With the freedom God has given for so many years we’ve become so decadent. Self-indulgent. Self-centered. Tribulation? Our biggest concerns are: the internet is too slow; the stock market lost 3% today; my smart phone screen is cracked; my coffee is too cold; my life is so hectic; should we vacation in Colorado, Florida or Italy? We’re so clueless about TRIBULATION — suffering on account of Christ in any way. We even take great care so that our lives are not inconvenienced or interrupted by the church bell calling us to be served by the Lord Jesus with His Word and Sacrament. So, we’d better hear the text again. “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

 

Your biggest concern should be the worship of Jesus and no one else. Only Jesus is Lord. Trust Him for salvation. Ever ready to risk anything and everything – suffering any tribulation — to hear His Word of forgiveness and to eat and drink His salvific Body and Blood. No matter what the cost, the hassle or aggravation. No matter what has to be put off for just an hour or two while you still have the freedom to do so.

 

In the early church Christians did and even to this day Christians do indeed risk all. Under incessant attack. Not just mocked or ridiculed but arrested, imprisoned and even violently murdered. In Egypt, China, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Iraq, most of the Middle East as well as other parts of the world. As it was with Jesus so it goes with those that follow Him. Who confess Him Lord! Who are His hangers on! The church on earth suffers. She lives under the cross. Jesus said that to follow Him means the denial of self and bearing your cross.

 

Suffering for confessing Jesus is most likely a cross we will soon have to bear. Why? Well, the rule of law in this country is morphing into a ruthless and destructive lawlessness. The fabric of our country is unraveling before our very eyes. Truth, facts and due process are being thrown to the wind. Hordes of anarchists can now dress up in masks and do anything they want (destroy both public and private property / intimidate and bully with vulgar slurs / beating people in public) and call for anything they want (revolution and even murder). And the authorities order law enforcement officers to stand down. The civil authorities appear to be all in on systematically transforming the country in which we live in a most lawless way.

 

Consequently, I fear that the freedom to be a citizen and a Christian is in jeopardy. The liberty to gather freely to worship Jesus, to receive holy baptism, to hear a pastor’s sermon or holy absolution and to eat and drink the Lord’s body and blood may be coming to an end in this country if prominent people in the capital, bureaucracy, news media, and universities have their way. Many powerful folks in the United States despise Christianity because they say it is a white man’s religion and with that, they say, comes oppressive white supremacy and systemic, institutional racism and bigotry.

 

So, Christianity is blamed for every problem in history from slavery to war, to every social inequality and injustice imaginable. Consequently, Western civilization and the country in which we live must be deconstructed. What IS must be destroyed so that a perfect utopian civilization can be constructed. Consequently, the Christian construct must be torn down and Christians … eradicated like termites. Either legislatively, tyrannically or genocidically – OR ALL OF THE ABOVE! This is not an exaggeration. After all, we live in the end times. So this should surprise us.

 

When pretend divinities militantly support the killing of the unborn, the infirm, the handicapped and the elderly to create a quixotic society, do you really think that they will have any misgivings about killing faithful Christians? Let’s not forget that Jesus said that His trust-ers will “be hated by all for my name’s sake.” We do not despair, however, because Jesus promises: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved,” (Mk 13:13). And in today’s Gospel reading Jesus gives us a blessing: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

 

In John’s day when he wrote the Book of Revelation faithful Christians lost their reputations, jobs, families, citizenship and even their lives. Why? Because they were Christian! Because they believed that Jesus rose from the dead; that Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life; that their salvation rested only on Good Friday Dead On The Cross Jesus rather than Rome or on Caesar. Christians worship Jesus! Not the emperor. Jesus is Lord and God.

 

For faithfulness to Jesus and His promise of salvation early Christians suffered immensely. Revelation 7 calls it the “great tribulation.” I’ll give you a few examples. The apostle John, as he writes the Book of Revelation, is in prison on the island of Patmos (1:9). A fellow believer named Antipas at the church at Pergamum “was killed” or martyred (Rev 2:13). In Revelation 6:9 the apostle John sees “under the altar the souls of those who had been slain [from all ages] for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.”

 

That would include people like Abel murdered by his brother Cain. Isaiah the prophet who was sawzall-ed in two at the temple. The apostle James was beheaded (Acts 12:2). So too was Paul.  Peter was crucified upside down.   Polycarp, the disciple of St. John refused to deny Jesus. And so at the age of 86 he was burned alive. Many early Christians were thrown to savage wild beasts. Others were put on beds of spikes that would be pulled apart. “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

 

For the saints in heaven salvation is brought to consummation. No more daily dying to sin and fighting the old Adam to death day after day. No more fighting against the temptations of the world and Satan. No more suffering discrimination, abuse and persecution for trusting Jesus. They live in pure victory as they chant with the angels, archangels and the whole company of heaven: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” The saints in heaven enjoy the pure bliss and holy pleasure of the marriage feast of the Lamb. What the saints in heaven now have by sight we have by faith.

 

In the meantime, we, saints on this earth – holy ones only by the gift of forgiveness by the Blood of the Lamb — wait for heaven. As we live on this earth we sing with a heavenly homesickness:

 

Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine

We feebly struggle, they in glory shine

Yet all are one in Thee for all are Thine

Alleluia! Alleluia!

 

In addition, we eagerly attend the foretaste of the feast to come, the Lord’s Supper. It is our heaven on earth until we enter heaven. So, really, you don’t have to wait until you die to go to heaven. Every time Jesus gathers you around Himself to give you His Body and Blood in the Sacrament you’re living a heavenly life on earth and an earthly life in heaven. That is precisely why we sing the Sanctus with “angels, archangels and all the whole company of heaven.”

 

Oh yes, on earth the church suffers. There is GREAT TRIBULATION. More is coming. And it will get worse. After all, we live in the last days. The end times. However, we trust Jesus. “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!”   His promise to you is this: “The one who endures to the end will be saved,” (Mk 13:13). And: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved,” (Mk 16:16). And: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Jesus will take you out of the GREAT TRIBULATION of this world and take you to heaven. Forgiveness of sins leads to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

 

Do you believe this? Well, do you? Good! As you believe so you have!

 

Time to unbuckle, pray, and receive heaven in the Lord’s Supper with all the angels, archangels and the whole company of heaven.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

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