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November 25, 2018   Attracted, Alerted, Assured   Mark 13:24–37  

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Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,

Today, our church year comes to a close, & we hear again Jesus’ vital teaching on Judgment Day, when we will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power & glory. This teaching was a big deal to Jesus = one of the ‘big 3’, & what faith & salvation is all about: #1= believe in Christ & live the faith; #2= share & support this gospel~good news; #3= keep watch for His Return. This is a child-like, trusting faith; if we’re not doing these 3, we’re not Christian.

The Bible makes clear that Jesus Christ is coming again to gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven itself! It is fundamental to confess with the Creeds that The One thru whom creation happened, who has redeemed the fallen world by his death & resurrection, is coming back to judge the living & the dead in perfect justice.

To US, it seems like He’s taking a long time; but for many, they live like they don’t believe that Day will ever come. But Mark 13 gives a very vivid picture. Jesus promises to return in visible glory & with great power; ALL will see & be aware of Jesus of Nazareth == the very one who lived 2,000 years ago, who died on the cross, was buried, & rose again.

It will be clear that HE is the Messiah, the very Son of God, & Lord over all.

What is written will be proved true: He was & is God~incarnate, whose cross & blood paid the penalty for our sin, whose resurrection destroys death’s power over us, whose ascension puts him in a position to rule over all things. His return IS a big deal; / it’s His finale~work for us; / the culmination, the pinnacle & apex. Not anything else ~ but HE alone brings the end of life as we know it, and He brings the new beginning.  To that Day we are attracted, alerted, & assured.

FIRST, we’re ATTRACTED. In Mark 13, Jesus puts it all into perspective. Because of sin, the created world is now winding down == like US, its days are numbered. Our life reminds us of this: Gray hairs, /weak knees, /forgetting things, /losing friends; // the house falls apart, /machines break, /new technology goes out-of-date. We get tired of fighting this losing battle. *Is this all there is?    That there would be more attracts us.

So, Jesus & his disciples were in Jerusalem for what would be our Lord’s last Passover. In the verses before our text, as they left the temple, the disciples admired its beauty;

the temple was a magnificent architectural achievement. The Jews took great pride in it.

It was the central place of their worship, in bringing sacrifices & offering prayers to God.

In the temple, God had promised to dwell with His people. This ‘dwelling’ had now changed as Messiah arrived; the kingdom of God had come in-the-flesh, & His body is the new temple. Jesus knew the future, so his disciples must know about the end times. The temple was grand, {He said} but, in the not-too-distant future, the whole thing would be thrown down, and not one of the giant stones would be on top of another.

This news would be like someone telling all the residents of Paradise, CA =a year ago= that sometime in the next year they would all be chased out of town by a wildfire, & all their homes would be destroyed.   What Jesus said upset the disciples, & they asked when it would happen. Jesus proceeds to tell them about the future destruction of Jerusalem, and He also  tied it in to the end of the world.

For all humans, the end of the world holds a certain attraction. Like the disciples, we all want to know WHEN is Judgment Day; it’s an attention-grabber! For the worldly, it represents a dramatic adventure & cataclysmic battle between good & evil that simply must be pondered. *Who can count the number of books & movies produced to portray that Day? BUT for believers, Judgment Day & the end of the world is the incredible fulfillment of the promises of God centered in Jesus; it’s the joyful end when we finally fall into the arms of our victorious Savior, who defeated sin, Satan, & death; and we begin Et.Life.

That’s the attraction. For some it’s entertainment; for others it’s a hunger to spend eternity with God. With such a world-wide event, some want to be credited with predicting the details of what & when; & they’re ALL wrong.   In truth, we know only what He taught, and nothing more.      The main signs we have are increasing evil & decreasing faith. And then, ‘all of a sudden’, with the command of the archangel & the trumpet of God, Jesus arrives, & every eye will see him.   At his appearance, in the twinkling of an eye, ALL people will be gathered before The Son-of-God, all dead bodies are raised to rejoin their souls.

All this we know, Biblically.     But there are other things about Judgment Day we don’t know, especially WHEN it will occur.

Throughout history, there have been so many who have predicted when the end of the world would take place. ALL of them have been wrong in the past; and ALL of them will be wrong in the future. For what Jesus says is absolutely true: “Don’t believe them.” He says: “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven.”

This mystery is part of why we are attracted to the Last Day.

       SECONDLY, we’re ALERTED. Instead of giving us all the answers, Jesus gives us ‘the heads-up’; & this supports our faith. It is far better to be alerted, than to know ‘when.’

He says, “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake.”

Our Lord wants us to be alert, & to keep in mind that He’s coming ~ at any time.

In this illustration, Jesus is the ‘man’ who went away; the Church is the ‘house,’ and we believers are the ‘servants.’ The servants don’t worry about ‘when’ the master returns;

it’s enough to focus on being faithful at all times.   It was natural & fitting that the 1st century Christians believed Jesus would return in their lifetime. They lived in that hope & expectation. They kept waiting & watching & longing for His appearing.

Even 20 centuries later, the message to US is the same as back then: We don’t need to know when He’ll return; we only need to serve & stay ready. Faith is patient & satisfied that God’s plan is up to Him.  In Lk 21, Jesus says: ‘But you watch yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with bad-behavior, with drunkenness, laziness, distractions & and the worries of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.”   *Are those some things that could keep us from being alert & ready? {absolutely!}

It’s bad enough that our sinful nature is distracted, but there’s even more distraction because we are Christians. We are not just expected to avoid bad things, we must also be active in the good things, and the world stands in our way. But the Lord’s expectation is the same: watch yourselves; be on guard; “The one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Fortunately, this is the same Lord who said: ‘I am with you, always, to the end.’

He is with us by His Spirit-filled Words that /encourage, /correct, /teach, /& guide us.

He is with us thru His Church & thru His people.

We are able to endure, because we’re not alone; we have his promises, & we have a place waiting for us in his home, which the world cannot take away from us. He alerts us to the fact that we will be tempted to get distracted; he warns us so that we will be on our guard; and He is with us.     We have a lot to do in this life, but *are we also alert & paying attention?

*Are we flowing along with the spiritually-asleep world OR are we fighting the good fight of faith? NT writers, Paul & Jude, talk about always putting on ‘another layer’ of armor for this most precious faith; to protect our salvation.   Be alert.

And finally, regarding that Day, we are not only Attracted & Alerted, but also ASSURED. Our Christ is coming = He cannot be stopped! In the end, it’s all about Christ Jesus, who is the Alpha & Omega, the Beginning & the End.  It’s not about US, what we know or don’t know, it’s about HIM, & it’s for all who trust Him. Says 1Cor.2: “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love… HIM.” == 1 Cor 2

For those with a Triune-faith, & washed in His baptism, who trust in the One Savior alone, this IS wonderfully assuring, not alarming or frightening. *How could we not be comforted & assured to meet this merciful One face-to-face?   How can we not be ready to be done with sin & wickedness; with sickness, anger, abortion, dirty politics, war & terrorism; *who doesn’t want to be done with sorrow & death? HE has become our assurance; with Him comes life, light, forgiveness & hope. He is bringing the Eternal Day, & our faith can hardly wait.

BUT, since we do not see Him yet, we wait. These promises of His make us ready,  His teachings make us good & holy people, and His Church makes us active servants with plenty to do together while we wait. Our Lord gives us strength for each day, with blessings  to count, & gifts to be thankful for, & words of correction to keep us walking straight.

We truly have everything we need. And we have more than enough to say, ‘this is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.’  

To that end, we are to put on the armor of God. +As you have been forgiven = so forgive. +As you are loved by God = show & share that love with others. +As he serves & cares for you = so serve & care for others.  +As you have received the Good News of salvation in Christ = so support His faithful church & its mission that others, too, may know Him & join His family, and also be assured for that Day.

The 3 ‘A’s of the Christian life, and our Biblical view of the end times & of Judgment Day: Attracted, alerted, & assured.

The Day of the Lord is coming; & all the signs are here. It’s not easy for believers to live faithfully in an unbelieving world; but we are not afraid, because He is with us.

God’s people are to fully enjoy His blessings for this life, and at the same time, we pray that Christ will return soon, because that will be far better.   It’s because HE is our good news, & our comfort.   He is our forgiveness & peace now, and our hope to come.

We close with words from Jude: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, thru Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, {who is} before all time, and is now, and {will be} forever.   Amen.”