24th Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 28) LSB #’s 508:1-4, 6-7, 832, 708
Text – 1 Thessalonians 5:1
Now concerning the times & the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.
TIMES & SEASONS
As Lutheran children of God, we’ve been taught, over & over again, that we cannot know the day when Jesus will return. So I ask, do you believe that Jesus will return in glory before you & your generation will die? If you don’t believe that will happen, the next question is this: Do you expect that Jesus will return in glory before you & your generation will die?
You’ve said it solemnly, right here in this place, over & over again, publicly for all the world to hear, especially now that we are live streaming our services, that you are expecting Christ to return. You have told me & all the world that you are waiting for the Day of the Lord.
Do you recognize these words? “I look for the resurrection of the dead & the life of the world to come.” Aren’t those words familiar? They should be, because we speak them at least two Sundays of each month as we confess our Christian faith with the words of the Nicene Creed.
So, unless you’ve been speaking lies here in God’s house, those words declare that you are already looking for Jesus to return in glory before you & your generation will die. The Day of the Lord will be that occasion when God puts down every evil, eliminating all injustice, sin & even death itself. After that day there’ll be no more shame & nothing to hide ever again.
I know in my own life, it’s something I’ve been thinking about more & more the older I get, & the more I am looking for it: “Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly!” And if you agree with me, know this, in that expectation you & I are not alone. Almost 2000 years ago the congregation in Thessalonica also was looking for the return of Jesus. As typical of sinful human beings, they had some misunderstandings, so Paul gives instruction regarding the 2nd coming of Christ & the proper behavior of God’s children in light of this coming Day. Given how corrupted by sin all of us are, it’s not easy to grasp how big a deal that Day is going to be. The consequences of getting it wrong will never ever come to an end.
But this is how the sinful mind that you & I have looks at things:
“Generations come & generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises & the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, & then turns north. Around & around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers & flows out again to the sea… History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, ‘Here is something new!’ But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, & in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” (Ecclesiastes 1:4-7, 9-11 NLT)
Those are words of the wisest sinful being to ever have walked this earth. He completely understood what sin has done to this world. “‘Absolutely pointless!’ says the preacher. ‘Absolutely pointless! Everything is pointless.’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2 AAT) That’s only the 2nd verse of the Book of Ecclesiastes.
If that was the opinion of King Solomon, is it a wonder that you & I struggle to grasp just how big a deal the last day of time is going to be? When you’re buying another car, you make sure you’re ready & there on time. When you have a hair appointment, you make sure you’re ready & there on time.
Concerning the Last Day, are you ready? Because God Himself is going to see to it that you are there on time! In the OT reading, the prophet Zephaniah spoke about that Day:
“The great day of the Lord is near, near & hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress & anguish, a day of ruin & devastation, a day of darkness & gloom, a day of clouds & thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast & battle cry against the fortified cities & against the lofty battlements.” (Zephaniah 1:14-16 ESV) Zephaniah may not have been as wise as King Solomon, but Zephaniah trusted in the Lord & believed in His Words, & took them to heart. Likewise for St. Paul, as he writes to the church at Thessalonica – words that also apply to us: “Now concerning the times & the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.”
Indeed, we do not need to be told that our world is in crisis. Global & national events cascade upon us, each bringing a series of actions & reactions. The Covid pandemic & associated lockdowns, combined with local & national political campaigns, have brought a great deal of fear in our “times & seasons.” They’ve brought us to the verge of an unknown future.
At least, that is what we are being tempted to believe. Yet, as King Solomon wrote, “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, ‘Here is something new!’ But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 NLT)
The truth is we never know what the next moment will bring, let alone the next day or the next year. Twelve months ago, no one had a clue what this year would bring. And in spite of that, nothing is ever new under the sun. Sin destroyed this creation long ago, & our heavenly Creator has been working ever since to rescue His creation from its evil condition.
Our world is in a predicament where everything is pointless, unless there is some kind of rescue plan in play. King Solomon had fallen away from believing in Jesus as his Savior & in that condition there was no hope. You & I can get sucked into that same mindset.
Just listen to the news here in our nation. The commentators cry for justice, but they deliver none. In fact, if justice were served, the commentators would be out of a job. There’d be nothing to rant & rave about on television, & I seriously doubt that anyone will be watching the six o’clock news in heaven. News commentators today, at all networks, are not much more than leeches who feed off of the worst things in our society. They have nothing to offer in the way of hope or healing. “History merely repeats itself. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” Human beings are hopelessly lost in our sinful condition if left to ourselves. Our nation, not the Covid pandemic, has brought itself to the verge of an unknown future.
Americans increasingly are turning their backs on the heavenly Father, casually blowing off the religion He gave us as irrelevant to their lives. The very 1st child, born into this world of sin, took that approach. His offerings to God were half-hearted at best. When younger brother Abel gave the first & best portion of his flock, it made Cain look bad – so he killed Abel.
People are still being murdered today for similar reasons, & that will only stop on the Day of the Lord. Every other kind of sin & injustice will also continue, stopping only on the Day of the Lord. It is then that Jesus will return to separate the sheep from the goats, & He has warned us that the Day will arrive as unexpectedly as a thief in the night.
The twist I’d never noticed before comes right after the sermon text: “Now concerning the times & the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.” Now comes verse 2: “For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
What that means is that people who are trusting in Jesus to make themselves right before God, those people know that He is returning & they are looking for it! They “…look for the resurrection of the dead & the life of the world to come.” Their saintly nature, created in them by the Holy Spirit, sees the signs of the times & the seasons.
They don’t need to be told that this world is reaching its end. They feel it in the heartache & suffering this sinful world brings into their lives & into the entirety of God’s creation. Think of the current pandemic! Think of all the jobs lost in connection with it. Think of the death of George Floyd & of all the police officers killed or injured since then. Think of all the shootings that go on any given night in all the large cities across our land. Think of all the Christians in other lands being locked up, or tortured & beaten just for daring to believe in the name of Jesus. The list of terror & heartache & suffering is endless.
Our world is in a predicament where everything is pointless, unless there is some kind of rescue plan in play. I hope you realize that neither the Democrats nor the Republican can put into action that rescue plan. The only plan that can save anyone in this creation is already accomplished, & you know the Author. He is Jesus Christ, the Son of the eternal God.
Since you are expecting Him to return & recreate all of creation, St. Paul encourages us in 1 Thessalonians to remember who you are, & whose you are. Then let that guide your daily decisions. Moment by moment, day by day, keep on watching. Keep on being ready. We do not know what day Christ will return, but do know that He will & we expect Him to.
And when Jesus returns He will judge all evil & restore complete & perfect justice to all who have ever existed. Heaven is that perfect justice for all who trust in Jesus. Hell is that perfect justice for anyone who does not. For unbelievers, God will come like a thief in the night, totally unexpected! That’s because they don’t believe His Words.
That does not apply to us if you believe what we say in the Nicene Creed. If you believe this, then live it out! Be alive! Be encouraged! To be alive is to be joyful while seeing clearly & with discernment. Even when life brings us to what seems like the unknown, such as the pandemic has done, Jesus will meet us there because He is with us always, to the end of the age.
The times & seasons may belong to crisis, but the Day belongs to the Lord! And because that Day belongs to the scar-healed hands of the crucified & risen One, even that unknown Day becomes a source not of fear, but of hope. We do not need some politician to tell us that our government is bringing peace & security” (v. 3). We already have that by faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior from any crisis that may arise. “Christ has already died & risen again. Christ will come again.” Our end, in more ways than one, is in Christ, & that is all we need to know for our peace of mind & eternal security, no matter what the times & the seasons of life may be. Amen.
Jesus shall reign where ever the sun does its successive journeys run: His kingdom stretch from shore to shore till moons shall wax & wane no more. Blessings abound where ever He reigns: the prisoners leap, unloose their chains, the weary find eternal rest, & all who suffer want are blest. Amen. LSB 832:1, 4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet