Posted on August 13th, 2012
“From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.” Thus the Apostles’ Creed summarizes the teaching of God’s Word on the end of days, the end of the world, the Day of Judgment.
Be not deceived: The judgment of Jesus is coming. On that day, your deeds will be judged. The things done in darkness will be brought to light; there is nothing secret that will not be exposed.
In today’s Gospel, as He approaches Jerusalem, Jesus anticipates the coming judgment on that city. In less than four decades, the city would be burned, the stones toppled, the temple looted and razed, blood running through the streets as water. Jesus’ prophecy came to pass in the year 70 when Titus conquered Jerusalem.
All this Jesus sees, and weeps. He is not joyful about the coming judgment. He is not glad, and sees it as no victory over His enemies.
Jesus mourns the judgment that would come upon Jerusalem, and also laments the coming judgment of the world. It is one reason that the judgment is so long delayed. For as I have repeated so often to you, God made the world out of love. The Son of God came into the world out of love. He redeemed the world out of love. The Holy Spirit came upon the Church for the preaching of the message of love, namely, the forgiveness of sins.
And still, God loves humanity. The end of the world and the day of judgment has not yet come because the number of the redeemed is not yet fulfilled. Still He wishes for all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, to come to the resurrection to life. That is the time we should always have in view.
We are surrounded, bombarded by false messages regarding time. There is one idea that everything is cyclical, repeating over and over. “All this has happened before. And it will all happen again.” There is another idea of constant progress, a persistently upward evolution only held back by ignorant bigots. We could create heaven on earth if only you would get rid of your antiquated morals and unenlightened religious superstitions!
At the same time there is the persistent fear of an apocalypse, and not only from false prophets predicting a rapture. Overpopulation, climate change, depletion of resources – there is no shortage of secular prophets crying out that the end is near.
How are we Christians to view time? The early chapters of Genesis tell us a story, and it is an interesting story, but also a history of who we are as the human race, where we have been – and where we are going.
In brief, God made our first parents, and in them was the entire human race. They fell, they rebelled, and we fell and rebelled in them. Things have gotten technologically better, but morally worse. Culturally, there is a worldwide decline from our apex. Our athletes are stronger and faster, but music, painting, sculpture, literature, and poetry are trite and banal, brutal and not beautiful. When the Augsburg Confession explained why priests should be allowed to marry, the reformers said to the emperor, “Seeing that man’s nature is gradually growing weaker as the world grows older, it is good to be on guard to make sure no more vices work their way into Germany.” One wonders what they would say about modern Germany, or if they could even imagine American hedonism and excess!
It is our duty as citizens to consider whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney can save the Republic, while from the broader perspective of history, and particularly from God’s Word, you must recognize that the Republic of these United States cannot be saved. Every past empire lies in ruins, and the day is coming when these walls, as the walls of the Jerusalem Temple, will crumble. Christ Jesus ascended into heaven, and “from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.”
That God will judge you means you are a responsible being; your actions in time mean something, they have eternal repercussions. (Peter Elliot) The Lord sees and knows your idolatry, how you have not, just this week, feared, loved, trusted Him as you should. How you misused His name, forgot about His Word, dishonored authorities, disregarded your neighbor, neglected your marriage vows, did not think and act chastely; He knows how you were not a good steward with what He put into your hand, how you grumbled and complained, and were not content.
There is a judgment coming, and God has given you His Word, and sent me His unworthy servant to give you again and again this warning. But also that you would know and be reminded that the Jesus who foresees the judgment weeps over it and earnestly desires that it would not come upon you. The warnings of the coming judgment tell us that God is a personal God who takes you, your life, your thoughts personally, seriously, and loves you as a Father loves His children.
This view of time means that your life has meaning and purpose. God has made you and all creatures. God the Son has redeemed you with His own blood. God the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel. You are the bearer of His image, and your life has significance beyond the fatalistic cycle of seasons, and far beyond the atheistic lie that you came from unexplained sludge by the action of no intelligence, as an accident, for no meaning or purpose, and at the final exhale of your breath there is nothing for you but a dark, eternal emptiness.
When Jesus weeps over Jerusalem, He laments that the people did not know the time of their visitation. “The visitation” refers to the time of help, of grace and pardon, of forgiveness. When there is a disaster, the governor or president will fly over the area surveying the damage, then talk with the people. He promises them help, aid and comfort. He consoles those who mourn. All this, in a much greater, divine sense, is what Jesus is doing in the incarnation. The King visits His creation, and surveys the damage. He heals the sick, cleanses the lepers, restores sight to the blind, makes the deaf to hear and the lame to run, raises the dead, feeds the hungry, comforts those who mourn over their sins with the Gospel of forgiveness. And in response, the people said, “We do not want what you offer. You are upsetting our priorities.” Thus they rejected the One who visited them.
In cleansing the temple, Jesus announced that the church is not a money-making enterprise, but a place of charity, a house of prayer for all people, where the forgiveness of sins is freely dispensed.
Today that forgiveness was poured over Walter and made his own. Today the day of visitation dawned for Walter. The day of visitation has came upon you at your baptism, and continues throughout your life of hearing the Word and receiving the Sacraments. Through these means the Lord is reorienting your sense of time, saying to you, “What chiefly matters is not your next mortgage payment or the next election, but repentance. Know the time of your visitation. Know that the end of all things is at hand, the judgment is coming, your life may this night be demanded of you. What then will come of all your possessions? What then will all your worrying and anxiety matter? Repent and believe the Gospel. Know the time of your visitation. Prepare for the judgment, prepare by confession. Live by the Lord’s Prayer, live from the Eucharist, get ready for death, prepare for the resurrection.”
That is our Christian sense of time. We live in view of the day of judgment. We live in hope and joyful expectation of the resurrection. We live in love toward our neighbor, for they can take nothing that our Lord does not Himself supply. From where He ascended, our Lord will come again in judgment. From there we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. +INJ+