Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder
December 2, 2012, Pentecost XXVII – Advent I
Jeremiah 33:14-16, Psalm 25:1-10, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36
From the Book of the prophet Jeremiah:
Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
From the First Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians:
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men, as we do to you, so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.
We here in New England are blessed with four wonderful seasons. When we see buds bursting with color and flowers blooming; we know that it is spring. When the temperature climbs to 80 or 90 degrees we know that it’s summer. As the leaves on the trees explode in colors of red, orange and yellow; we know that it’s fall. And like yesterday, when we see the white fluffy snow; we know it is winter. These are signs and wonders of the seasons. These signs help us to know what is about to happen. Now we New Englanders can predict with almost 100% certainty that we are going to have these four seasons.
The Secular Christmas season is off and running with people hurrying to get the best bargains. The signs of the season are getting earlier and earlier, this year even before Halloween. Advent is a time of preparation, but preparation for what? Hopefully, by December 25th Christians will be able to settle down and realize the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is a time that we celebrate the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. There were signs of His first coming. The Prophets foretold of His coming; and when Mary gave birth to Jesus, there was a sign: A star in the East, which directed the shepherds in the fields and the Magi to the place of Jesus’ birth.
As foretold by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch, sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.’
The greatest blessing of all will be the Jews’ promised King reigning in righteousness! This certainly didn’t happen when the Jewish exiles returned to rebuild their temple and their city. Therefore, this promise is for the latter days. Then when people call Jerusalem “the Holy City,” the name will be appropriate.
But there will be signs and wonders of His second coming too. One only needs to read the book of Revelation to know the signs of Jesus’ coming again. As we all know, the book of Revelation is not necessarily the easiest book to understand. The book of Revelation, or Apocalypse, is a fitting close of the Holy Scriptures, for its final chapters depict the consummation toward which the whole Biblical message of redemption is focused. It may be described as an inspired picture-book which, by an accumulation of magnificent poetic imagery, makes a powerful appeal to the reader’s imagination.
Throughout the centuries the Apocalypse has been the object of widely divergent systems of interpretation. The book of Revelation comprises the substance of many visions which repeat with variety certain great principles of God’s just and merciful government of all his creation. Though the key to understanding some of these symbols has been lost, in other cases a comparison with the prophetic symbolism in the Old Testament, especially Daniel and Ezekiel, sheds light upon the author’s meaning.
Chapters 15-19 in the book of Revelation, describes the frightening judgment signs that God will send on the earth during the last half of the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7). This phrase describes the time of tribulation that will come upon the earth (Matt. 24:21-31). A frequent biblical symbol of suffering is a woman in labor (Jer. 30:6), and this image is used to describe the Tribulation in the end times.
When these things occur, it will be evidence that the Lord’s coming is near. The image of “waves roaring” describes nations rising and falling like waves in a storm (Rev. 17:15). It will be an awesome time, and the population of the earth will tremble with fear, but men will not repent of their sins and turn to God by faith (Rev. 9:20-21; 16:9-11).
Matthew (24:29) informs us that the sun and moon will be darkened and the stars will fall (Isa. 13:10; 34:4). He further states that “the sign of the Son of man” will appear in heaven. We do not know what this “sign” is, but it will produce fear among the nations of the earth. However, then Jesus Christ will appear, and every eye will see Him (Rev. 1:7). The nation of Israel will at last recognize their Messiah, repent, believe, and be saved (Zech. 12:10-14).
These awesome signs will bring terror to the lost people of the world, but hope to those who have trusted the Lord during the Tribulation period (Rev. 7), for these believers know that the Lord’s coming will be soon. Believers today look for the Saviour, not signs. However, as we see “coming events casting their shadows,” we believe that the Lord’s return is near.
Christ’s appearing will be sudden, glorious, and with great power (Luke 21:27). The image here is taken from the book of Daniel (7:13-4), which reads: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” This was a messianic passage that must have been familiar to the disciples. The angels promised that Jesus would return to earth in the same way He departed.
We read in the book of Acts that after Jesus told His disciples that it is not for them to know the times and dates that the Father has set for future things to come, “he was taken up before their eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? 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.’”
There are those who ignore and even ridicule the doctrine of the return of Christ. After all, the church has been waiting for the Lord’s return for 2,000 years, and He has not returned yet! But Peter pointed out that God keeps His promises whether we believe them or not, and that God measures time differently from the way men measure it. Furthermore, the reason He waits is so that unsaved sinners may repent, be saved, and be ready when Jesus comes. While His seeming delay is a trial to the church, it is an opportunity for the lost. Jesus is the good shepherd, and He wants every possible lost sheep back in the fold.
Before Jesus left His disciples, He imprinted a message on their hearts: “Know!” and Watch!” Know the signs, know God’s Word. And Watch for the signs, Watch and be ready for His coming and pray. As believers, this message applies to us today. The Word of God and prayer should go together.
The Prophet Samuel told the people of Israel, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way” (1 Sam. 12:23). Peter said, “But we the Apostles will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6;4).Paul had the same emphasis: “And now, brethren, I commend you to God in prayer, and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build you up” (Acts 20:32).
Jesus prayed for His disciples, just as Paul prayed for the Thessalonican Christians, that their faith would not fail (Luke 22:31-32). Paul prayed that his converts might stand blameless and holy before God at Christ’s return. Since all believers will be transformed to be like Christ when He returns (1 John 3:2), we will never face our sins in heaven, for they are remembered against us no more (Rom. 8:1; Heb. 10:14-18).
As we come to your most sacred table Lord; we remember Thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ; we remember His birth, death and passion; we are partakers of His most blessed Body and Blood; that this Bread and Wine are signs of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; that we may evermore dwell in Him and He in us, until His coming again.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives, and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.