The Day is surely drawing near, and it shall dawn upon everyone on earth, the living and the dead. Just as the sun rises and shines on both the evil and the good, so shall the Sun of Righteousness arise: with light and warmth and healing for those who fear, love and trust in Him, and with the fiery heat of vengeance upon the arrogant and all perverse and evil men, all workers of wickedness.
The rising of that Sun for the Day of Judgment is more sure and certain than the rising of the sun tomorrow or the turning of the seasons. For the heavens and the earth will pass away, but the Word of the Lord will not. All that He has spoken, and all that has been written by His Prophets and Apostles, shall be fulfilled. And all those who despise and reject His Word, who shut their ears and harden their hearts to it, will be consumed by fire and trampled under foot like ashes, so that nothing will be left for them but the utter darkness and death of eternal damnation.
In order to prepare you for that Day, and for the coming (the Advent) of the Christ, He sends to you His preachers of repentance in the spirit and power of Elijah. By their faithful preaching of the Law and the Gospel, they turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers — restoring fundamental human relationships by the reconciliation of God in Christ.
Remember the Law of Moses: the threatening and terrifying thunder and lightning, the fire and the smoke of Mt. Sinai, but also the Covenant that God the Lord established with His people by His grace (established by His Word and saving work, and sealed unto them by the blood of sacrifice). Consider the first four commandments, in particular, and how you are to fear, love and trust in the one true God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and how you are to honor your father and mother.
You are to live in the faith and worship of the Holy Triune God alone, allowing nothing else and no one else to come before Him, nor even to stand beside Him. And in such faith, you are to love your neighbor as yourself, even those who hurt you and persecute you. Do no harm, but help.
This preaching of the Law, which calls you to repentance, to fear God and love people, precedes and accompanies the Sun of Righteousness, the Christ, who rises with healing in His wings for you. But where and how does He rise and shine upon you? It is in the preaching of His Cross.
So, then, pray that this Word of the Lord would spread and be glorified, also unto you.
And know that the Lord is faithful to do this very thing. Not only that, but He will strengthen and protect you by His Word and preaching — from the old evil foe and from all harm and danger.
Therefore, do not despair, and do not even attempt to defend yourself! Rather, speak the wisdom and utterance of Christ by confessing His Word. That is to confess His Cross by word and deed.
Therefore, do not grow weary of doing good, but do your work quietly and eat your daily bread.
Sounds good, right, and relatively “easy enough.” But you’ll be tried and tested by tribulation on all sides, within and without; tempted to pride on the one hand, to doubt and despair on the other.
Precisely in such tribulation — when you are at your weakest, flailing about and falling apart, not at all sure which end is up, nor how on earth you’re going to make it from one day to the next — just there, in that turmoil, in that toil and trouble, you are given the opportunity for testimony, for the confession of the Cross of Christ. Not only in what you do and say, but in what you patiently suffer, in what you pray without ceasing in the confidence of the Lord’s Resurrection.
You can be sure of this much: It gets a whole lot worse, until it gets better. There is the Cross first, and then, by the way of the Cross, there is the Resurrection from the dead. Thus, with Christ Jesus, your Savior and your God, you enter into His Glory through the suffering of His Cross.
So, yes, there is great distress; not only in others, in the world around you, but in yourself, in your heart and mind and body and soul, in your life on earth, and in your dying from this vale of tears. Truth be told, everything really is falling apart and perishing. Creation itself is in turmoil, and is dying, on account of man’s sin. Along with that, you may well find yourself betrayed by your nearest and dearest loved ones and kin, and hated by all, perhaps even put to death.
You long to see the Son of Man, but where do you look? And how shall you find Him, or even know that it’s Him, if and when you do?
Many pretenders come in His Name, and they actually can seem far more authentic and real than Christ Jesus Himself! They can look like the church, like a properly glorious Temple of God on earth, adorned with impressive beautiful stones (whether of architecture or flashy performance).
But do not be misled. And do not chase after anyone or anything but Christ and Him Crucified, who is alone the Cornerstone of the Church, the foundation of God’s City, eternal in the heavens, but established here on earth by His Cross.
Leave the city of man, turn your back on Sodom and Gomorrah, and flee to the City of God. Run to the hills, to the Mountain of the Lord of Hosts. Follow the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, on which the Son of Man comes with the power and great glory of His Cross.
Okay, so, that sounds great, but what does it all mean? Where are you supposed to go? What are you supposed to do? Who and what can you possibly believe? And how shall you endure until the end and stand before the Son of Man? How on earth shall you live?
First of all, understand and take to heart that the Cross of Christ is the beginning of the end, and already its resolution and fulfillment. In His voluntary suffering and death, He has become the Desolate One. He has suffered the wrath and vengeance of God, and He has redeemed you from sin and death forever. As He is lifted up in death, your Redemption draws near, and as He is now lifted up by the preaching of the Gospel of His Cross, so is the Kingdom of God near to you: here!
Therefore, do not flee the Cross, but flee to the Cross. That is where Christ is, and that is how He is with you now.
Behold that Tree, and know that its leaves are for your healing, for the clothing of your nakedness and the covering of your shame. And its fruits are for your nourishment and health. Where the leaves and fruits of the Cross are found, there is the summer and the sunshine of God’s love.
Cling to that Cross of Christ by hearing the Word of the Gospel (which shall never pass away), and by eating and drinking the fruits of that Tree, the body and blood of Christ Jesus, at His Word.
No matter what threatens you or befalls you, whether you are surrounded by armies or trampled underfoot, do not be terrified. And do not defend yourself, for the Lord Himself defends you, fights for you, testifies on your behalf, and saves your life.
Whatever you may suffer, He has already suffered for you. And whatever sins you may be guilty of, He has borne your guilt, atoned for your sins, and redeemed you in both body and soul. As He is risen from the dead, and lives and rules to all eternity, so shall He vindicate you from sin and death and every evil.
Not only does He number the hairs of your head, but He will not allow any one of them to perish forever — no matter what may happen to your body in this life on earth.
His life of perfect faith and love, His humble obedience, even unto death on the Cross, and His Resurrection from the dead — these are your endurance, by which you shall not perish but live.
All that He has done for you, all that He has accomplished and fulfilled, is now given to you freely by the Ministry of the Gospel. That is what is here set before you, and preached into your ears, and traced upon your forehead and your heart, and put into your hand and mouth, into your body.
This is the Apostolic Ministry of Christ, which surpasses even the Prophetic Ministry of Moses and Elijah, for all things have already been fulfilled in Christ Jesus. And it is all for you, for free.
As the Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed you by His holy and precious blood, purchased and won you by His innocent suffering and death, and as you are justified and righteous by His grace, through faith in His Resurrection, so then, live an orderly and disciplined life in faith and love. Not so to justify yourself, but in the sure and certain hope of His perfect righteousness. For even now you live under Him in His Kingdom, in His righteousness, innocence, blessedness and purity.
Sure, there seems to be no end to the apparent worries of this life on earth — you name it — but none of these worries undo the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus; nor can any or all of them separate you from the love of God in Him. Do not give yourself over to pride or despair, but be on your guard and keep on the alert by listening to the Word of Christ and by availing yourself of His Gospel. Hear and heed His Word, receive and trust His good gifts, no matter how you feel.
Enjoy the many good gifts of His Creation, for they are His, and it is good. Receive His benefits in faith and with thanksgiving, sanctified by His Word and prayer. Even so, do not “get drunk” on any of His good gifts, whether alcohol or whatever else you may receive from His hand, but let your grip on this world be light and easy. Don’t throw it all away, but hold on loosely, and be ready at any time to let go of anything and everything that is not Christ Jesus.
After all, look around you, and notice that everything in this world is passing away. This is not your future, nor your true and permanent home. This is a pilgrimage in a foreign territory.
But your dear Father in heaven has opened His heart to you in Christ Jesus, and He has His eye on you in love. His Kingdom is your fatherland. His holy city is your hometown. His house and castle is your real home, where you are welcome, where you belong.
And He is with you, here and now, in the Word of the Cross, and in the fruits of that Tree.
Thus, He grants you the strength to escape all perils, to stand before the Son of Man in His glory, justified by His blood and redeemed by His victory, to live by His grace, mercy and peace, both now and forever. Amen, and Amen.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.