The Glory Has Departed

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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity, 2015.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

The Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity, 2015
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Today is our 46th anniversary.

The Hymn #514               God Moves in a Mysterious Way                   
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed             p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 268           Zion Mourns    

Johann Hermann lost all his possessions, many times, when Catholic forces repeatedly sacked his city during the Thirty Years War, one of the worst times for faithful Lutherans. He also wrote "Ah Holy Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken," #143, and "O God Thou Faithful God" #395.

Comfort about the End -  from Paul

The Communion Hymn #246              Holy, Holy, Holy 
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #649           Jesus Savior Pilot Me             

KJV 1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

KJV Matthew 24:15 

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: 17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25 Behold, I have told you before. 26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. 27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

Comfort about the End -  from Paul

KJV 1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 

The Apostolic Age was full of anxiety among the congregations, because the world was coming to an end, from their perspective. The greatest emperors had rule over Rome, and the empire was beginning to fade, but the complete dissolution took until 400 AD in the West and 1453 in the Christian Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire).

The Fall of Constantinople, still mourned today in Eastern Orthodoxy, meant that the Muslim armies were free to attack Europe, and they did. They were at the gate of Vienna in 1530 and continued to attack at various times. until 1683, when the Polish king and general Jan Sobieski, scattered the Muslim army - and discovered coffee for Vienna in the spoils of war.

At various times the world has appeared to be falling apart completely. Strangely, almost no one knows the history of the Byzantine Empire,  whose fate was so closely tied to Islam trying to engulf it and finally succeeding. 

The Apostolic Age was similar in the way the grandeur of Rome was decidedly fading. And many of the same players are involved today. Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians about the Man of Iniquity who is worshiped as a god - and sets himself up in the temple of God.

This feeling of everything coming to an end created problems. Why work? - the world is ending. Paul said, "If you do not work, you do not eat," good words for today.

The other anxiety is about death and the end of all time. So many key phrases are in this one verse.

They are brothers in Christ, through faith, which means they belong to the same family. He writes to them with a great feeling of closeness and sincerity.

He does not want them to be anxious but to know the truth - "not be ignorant..."

About those who are asleep. This changed the language of believers, because cemetery means a place of sleep, referring to this passage. In contrast, some made up a dogma of "soul sleep" to deny the immortality of the soul. How could they take so much discussion of the individual soul and decide that was not true? Like justification, every sound or healthy doctrine can be changed into the opposite, if the false teachers desire this change. I even had a supposed Lutheran ask, "You don't believe in the immortality of the soul, do you?" He was offended that I affirmed it was the teaching of the Bible.

Do not sorrow, as those who have no hope. Here is a distinctive difference that one can experience with many different people. Grief is not bad, but healing. for the Christian. For those without knowledge and faith in the resurrection of Christ, death is a grievous pain and burden. 

Believers still grieve, but not "as those who have no hope." It is a sign of our shallow society that friends and relatives do not allow grief to be expressed, as if it is a disease than one can catch. 

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also, which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him. 

Once again we can find some, or perhaps many, who argue for a Rapture event instead of reading the plain words about the end of time. 

First there is a conditional clause - if we believe. That is the condition which the apostates and mainline Leftists warn against. "No, do not allow an if - because that robs God of His glory." Then why does Paul use "if" here and in Romans 4:24?

So the sorrow is - what happens when some in our Christian family have died already and Jesus comes in His glory? The fear or anxiety expressed is - how can those asleep in Christ experience the final expression of God's grace? 

Paul answers - those who have fallen asleep in Christ will also share in the return of Christ.

John 5 is very clear about that.

John 5:25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.
26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;
27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
When Christ returns in judgment, everyone is raised from the dead. Those who died in Christ are raised to everlasting life.
Details about all this are sparse, which is good, because people would embroider even more tales if they had more material to work with. Notice how the Rapture salesmen work just like the Objective Justification mongers.
First, they start with a non-Biblical name for their dogma - Rapture. Next, every passage they can use is enlisted in their Rapture booklet. This 1 Thessalonians passage is one of them, although it is clearly about the Final Judgment, the end of all history.
But now the issue is - what is your position on the Rapture? Do you believe it will happen before during or after the Tribulation? Add to this the millenial reign of all Christians, ruling from Jerusalem. You are against the Millenium? Oh no.
Soon they are fine-tuning arguments about a new dogma that a tiny sect spread throughout America (Darby-ites). This came from Calvinism and was promoted by the notorious Scofield Bible. The Left Behind industry is connected with it.
Now, now far are we away from justification by faith in Christ, just by turning off on this road?

15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep.

Here we see clearly that no one is "left behind" even though that is a fear promoted by certain groups. "You will be in a bus and the driver will be raptured." Cartoons show planes going down, vehicles crashing.

This verse repudiates the whole scheme of the Rapture business - and it is a business - and yet they never notice the repudiation. Final Judgment includes the living and the dead. Those who are asleep in Christ are at peace, their souls with Christ, and yet the final act is not completed. Paul is addressing the end of all time, which is in complete harmony with Jesus in John 5.

There are many examples of this, where one writer in the Bible addresses the same issue with different words. This shows the unity and the harmony of the Word of God. The more we study, the more evident this is.

When people feel obligated to support a certain tradition of man, they get confused because the Scriptures clearly do not teach this fad. Rather than get upset by making the Word of God first, they follow human traditions and become fanatically loyal to that fad or fallacy. There is even a saying from Orwell about this.

I would not go back and reverse the conflicts caused by the Word of God, not to mention the punishment administered by various clergy creatures, because that is what taught me the real meaning of the Book of Concord and Luther.

Look at the irony today. So many people and clergy run after this new translation or commentary. The best one volume commentary on the Bible is the Book of Concord, where we can find concise, brilliant summaries of the Scriptures from some of the great Biblical scholars of all time. Their one qualification to teach in the Reformation was this - be a Biblical scholar: Luther, Melanchthon, Chemnitz, and Chytraeus are the Big Four. I add Gerhard as the fifth, because he worked in publishing with Chemnitz.

What is justification? Should I study the Apology of the Augsburg Confession on this topic? or an essay by Uncle Fritz Gesetzmacher? One is the confession of faith of Luther, who greatly admired Melanchthon's work. The other? - a political appointment.

About the desire for longer commentaries - Luther's sermons are this - commentaries on Biblical passages. I publish one almost every single week on Facebook and here on the blog. Someone who reads and understands one essay will know more about the Bible than the "conservative" seminary professors all put together. Luther is easy to follow and becomes even more powerful in time as he teaches us the Word of God.

Luther did not coach the congregation about time management and being happy. He did not promise to slowly boil them like frogs in a kettle. He taught the Word as it was then and remains true for all time. For that reason, everyone has access to Luther's sermons today, which remain the most read of that era.

His basic approaches to the Scriptures are:
  • The entire Bible is a sermon about Jesus, and it teaches faith in Him.
  • Justification by faith is the point of the Bible.
  • The Word of God is always effective, so the only way to accomplish God's will is to teach His Word.
  • The books of the Bible are in harmony with each other, so one will often explain the other passage we are trying to understand more thoroughly.
  • All of Christian doctrine is contained in the Bible, which judges all other books

16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

We know from many passages that this time is not revealed, and yet the signs of His Return are mentioned in various verses.

The efficacious Word of God will raise the dead first, which will show all the living that the time has come. That will be a moment of start terror for unbelievers, but a great joy for believers who trust in Christ alone for their salvation. The living will join the resurrected in the final consummation with Christ, and the unbelievers will be tormented by the knowledge of God but without His peace and comfort, which is Hell itself.

Obviously the Thessalonians were being upset by doubts, rumors, and stories, which will always arise among believers. Someone will say, "I heard that..." and that vague story becomes a new dogma. Those who are converted and learning are more likely to be disturbed and derailed, as all of us have been at one time or another. 

Luther wrote about being struck with doubts when writing about the Real Presence in Holy Communion. It would have been easier to give that up to appeal to our human reason. And yet the magisterial use of reason (a good insight from Sig Becker) places the Word above all human reason. So if the Word is the master, then we have our human abilities to study and see why this or that article of faith is true.

I am certain of this - the more we are challenged about doctrine, by events and by those who oppose the Word, the more we will appreciate and understand what is revealed. That makes the treasure of the Gospel more valuable to us and impossible to take away.

All the signs say we are in the end times, but we do not know how long they will last. We are certainly closer than ever before. Why would God delay the coming of His Son? More are converted by the Gospel, and the Father's timing is His alone - not ours. Jesus was clear in saying, "No one knows, not the Son, only the Father." Mark 13

Given the utter transformation of the world - heaven and earth will pass away - and the permanence of the Word, we should rest our hopes and our peace in the Word of God, not in anything else.