Jesus, Your Redemption, Is Drawing Near

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“Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
The story of the boy who cried wolf is intended to teach an important lesson. If you don’t speak the truth, you become known as a liar. And when you have a reputation for tall tales it doesn’t take long before no one will listen to you. The boy in the fable amused himself by crying, “Wolf! Wolf!” when there was no wolf. Then when there was a wolf, no one would help him.
This story has a vital lesson, but it also has an application to the Church and our teaching on the end times. The preacher sees this text and he wonders: Are the people going to listen? Or are they going to think I’m just “crying wolf”? Have they been conditioned to just dismiss it and say: “Yeah, yeah—the end is coming. We’ve heard that before! Tell us something we can use now!”
We accept the Scriptures in their entirety as the inerrant and infallible Word of God. We agree with the teachings about the end times we hear in church. We look forward to the day when Christ returns to bring us home. But rarely do we give it much consideration in our everyday lives. The sun comes up every morning and goes down every night, without Jesus making His return. After a while we just take it for granted that the same thing will happen tomorrow.
Indeed, how long can the Church and her preachers speak of the imminent return of Christ Jesus and the destruction of the current heavens and earth before they are completely ignored? And how long will the people of God be forced to discern between the faithful interpretations of Scripture and the sensationalizing of God’s Word for profit? The boy-who-cried-wolf syndrome is repeated any time a false teacher comes forth with a new teaching about the imminent end.
As well-meaning as they might be, churches and preachers who insist that Jesus is coming back in our lifetime because of blood moons, Bible codes, or the ongoing situation in the Middle East, are in fact turning the whole Christian Church into the boy who cried wolf. Each false prophecy of the end times leaves the impression that no one speaks the truth, that no one speaks with authority. A generation comes and goes, the end has not come, and Christians are left with egg on their faces in the eyes of the unbelieving world. The end times are simply a tool, says the doubting world, for keeping people in line. If you threaten people with the stick of destruction and everlasting punishment or hold out the carrot of a blissful afterlife you can control them. That is the accusation of the world against all “organized religion”; and unbelievers consider themselves vindicated every time another false teacher comes through with a false prediction of the end.
But Jesus wasn’t fooling around when He warned of the things to come. He warned His disciples to flee Jerusalem when the armies surround them, for that will mean that the city’s destruction is near. Pregnant women and nursing infants will be particularly distressed. Many will fall by the sword and others will be led out as captives, scattered among the nations. All Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles. All this desolation is punishment for the sins and unbelief of the people in fulfillment of what was written in the Old Testament.  
It is likely that many of the people who heard Jesus’ words that day were still living when this came to fulfillment. The Jewish historian, Josephus, tells us that in 70 A.D., the Romans put Jerusalem under siege. Great mounds of earth were set up to breach the walls, and the entire city was surrounded. The starving people left inside the walls grew so desperate they even resorted to cannibalism. Over 1,100,000 Jews were put to the sword and another 97,000 were taken to Rome as part of the triumphal procession into the capital. The great temple and the wall surrounding Jerusalem were destroyed.
But as terrible as that day in Jerusalem was, the signs of the end of the world will be even more upsetting as God begins to withdraw His longsuffering patience from the wicked human race. Things will occur that will cause fear and trembling in everyone on earth—the godly and ungodly alike. And it will be more than the wars and natural disasters that are already plaguing God’s creation. The sun, moon, and stars will be shaken, the seas will roar, as the whole universe comes unglued. These signs are judgments of God on man’s sin and unbelief. They are a call to repentance, a warning to prepare for that great and awesome day of the Lord.
Many will not heed the warnings, thinking it’s just another cry of “wolf.” Only the Christians will realize that this is a call to repentance. Only Christians will know that the day of the Lord and repentance are not fearful things, but things to be embraced and prayed for. For Christians, repentance is the way of life. For with repentance, comes forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. This is why Christians continually gather to hear the call to repentance and faith as they receive God’s gifts in Word and Sacrament. It’s been God’s message ever since the fall, when He called the first couple out from hiding and promised them a Savior in the Seed of the woman, the One who would defeat sin, death, and the devil.
Our Old Testament lesson continues that message as God calls Israel to repentance through Malachi. After warning of great destruction to all who failed to heed God’s call, Malachi foretold the coming of John the Baptist who would prepare the way for the Savior, turning “the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (4:5). And sure enough, John the Baptist “went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance to the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). His message was simple: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!” (Matthew 3:2) and “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8).   
Jesus’ message and ministry was also one of repentance and forgiveness. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” He warned the Pharisees and teachers of the Law (Luke 5:32). Later, He declared: “I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7).
After His resurrection, Jesus opened the minds of His disciples so they could understand His ministry, passion, and death in light of God’s holy Word: “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:46-47). Following Christ’s example and commission, the apostles began to preach this same message. When the crowd at Pentecost, were crushed by the Law and asked, “What shall we do?” Peter replied: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38).
Did you notice? That’s the same message we hear in our worship service: “Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins into God our Father, beseeching Him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.” But how long can the Church and her preachers proclaim repentance and forgiveness before no one listens? Not very long, when you consider what Jesus says next: There will be “people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
It doesn’t sound as though these things will be greeted with enthusiasm, does it? To be sure, for the non-Christians and those who have fallen away from the faith, the coming of the Son of Man will not be a joyous occasion, but one of weeping and gnashing of teeth. For they will bow before Him, not in reverence, but under compulsion as they are condemned before His seat of judgment and cast forever into hell, where the worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched.
But Jesus tells us Christians not to fear, for when all of this comes to pass, we are to know that our redemption is drawing near. Our fear will quickly be turned into joy, as we bow the knee before Jesus with gladness and humility, and are caught up with HhhHim in the air for the dawn of the new heavens and new earth. That’s what Malachi means when he continues, “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall” (4:2).
Yes, the events Jesus describes in our text are terrifying. They are God’s judgment on man’s sin, and beyond man’s ability to control or understand. As the end approaches, the confident become fearful and the fearful become confident. The big difference is faith in Christ. Only the believer will have the right view. He listens to Christ and His Word. Amid all troubles he lifts up his head and is constantly watchful. He repents and looks expectantly for his redemption.
This redemption of which Jesus speaks here is not the redemption from sin—this redemption we already have through Jesus’ blood and the forgiveness of sins. We already have such redemption now through the perfect life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. It is already ours through faith, given to us by God’s grace in the water of Holy Baptism and His holy Word. The redemption that will be drawing near, however, is the redemption from the consequences of sin that remain with us—namely our own sin and death.
As sinners, we still must differentiate between the now and the not yet. We have now the forgiveness of sins. We have now salvation by grace through faith. We have now the promise of everlasting life. We have such things already through Christ Jesus who comes to us and is present with us here today. But we still await the perfection that will come only when our souls are delivered from this world, and the Last Day when our bodies are raised to eternal life.
In the meantime, we will continue to suffer the consequences of sin in the world—sickness, suffering, and finally, death. Conceived and born in sin, our bodies must return to the dust from which they came. But be assured, that your redemption from these things is drawing near. The same Jesus who died for your sins and rose again to conquer your death, will return as your Redeemer.
The office of Christ as Redeemer illustrates beautifully what He did for you and for me; and it is more specific even than Savior. For He saved you not by simply showing you the way or serving as a mere example for godly living—He redeemed you. When He came the first time, He bought you back from the power of Satan as He shed His blood and died upon the cross. And when Jesus comes again, He will redeem you from the power of sin and its consequences. There will be no more sin, no more sadness, no more suffering, and no more death.
Until that great day, the Church will continue proclaiming that message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. As your Lord comes to you with His gifts in the present age, be comforted in the knowledge of His love and of the redemption that He has won for you. Continue to live in your baptism through daily contrition and repentance. Come often to receive the very body and blood of your Redeemer for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. Come each week to repent and hear this Good News: Straighten up and raise your head. Your final redemption is drawing near! You are forgiven for all your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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