Lord God, heavenly Father, by Your Son You have revealed to us that heaven and earth shall pass away, that our bodies shall rise again, and that we all shall appear before the judgment seat: We beseech You to keep us in Your Word by Your Holy Spirit; establish us in the true faith, graciously defend us from sin and preserve us in all temptations, that our hearts may not be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, but that we may ever watch and pray and, trusting fully in Your grace, await with joy the glorious coming of Your Son, and at last obtain eternal salvation; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;
26 “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken.
27 “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
28 “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”
29 Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees.
30 “When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near.
31 “So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.
32 “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place.
33 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.
35 “For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36 “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Lk. 21:25-36 NKJ)
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed,
The apostles were gathered together with Jesus, and all of a sudden they saw Jesus ascend to heaven. The apostles lifted their heads to watch Him go, and then a cloud received Jesus out of their sight.
With their heads still raised, two angels appeared among them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Jesus who was taken from view by a cloud in His ascension, will in a cloud come with power and great glory.
And when the signs of His coming point to His coming on that Day, like a fig tree pointing to the coming of summer, they ought to look up and lift up their heads.
So in these days between Jesus ascension and His return, what are we to do? Look down, or look up? In what way shall we live our lives?
The meaning of the angels message to the apostles was basically, “Jesus will return, so you will have work to do! And the Holy Spirit will prepare you for this work. Do the work of the ministry! Do as Jesus commanded, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all things that He had taught you. Also break bread with one another in the holy Sacrament of the Altar, for Jesus said, “Do this.” And encourage the people in the good works that are the fruits of their faith. In this way you will prepare them for Jesus’ return, so that when He draws near they may confidently lift up their heads and welcome their Redeemer.”
So too, we must keep our heads down (and I don’t mean to be worldly), we are to be about the faithful use of the ministry, and the life of love that flows from the faith the Holy Spirit has created and nourishes in us. And in this way we will be prepared to look up and lift up our heads for the end of the world and Jesus’ return.
For you are redeemed. That means you have been bought back. The holy and precious blood and innocent suffering and death of Jesus Christ was the purchase price to save from your fallen condition and from the curse of the law for your sin, by which you belonged rightfully to Satan and his kingdom. You are redeemed from the futile ways of the fallen world. You have been saved from this generation, which is those who remain in sin and unbelief and rebellion against God. For this generation will remain here until Christ returns, but they will pass away, just as the heavens and the earth will pass away. Therefore you have become strangers here. You remain in the world, but you are not of the world. Rather you are of Christ, sons and daughters of God, heirs of the new creation which is perfect, incorruptible, where you shall dwell with God forever. Your inheritance will never pass away.
And so we do not look to heaven to find the source of this redemption and life. But we turn our heads down here, where Christ says He will be. We hear the Word, repent of our sins and believe the gospel of Christ’s free forgiveness for you. We receive the Sacrament of the altar. We make use of the ministry which Christ established and sustains for the nourishment of His Church, which He redeemed. You know Christ has redeemed you and forgiven you all your sins, and won for you a glorious righteousness that justifies you before God. And desiring these things, you don’t look up to heaven for them. You go to your Bible. You go to the pastor and hear Him speak to you, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” You go to the altar, and receive the body and blood of Christ given and shed for you.
And as the Redeemed of Christ, we know that our true and better portion is with the Lord in the life to come. We look forward to His coming to take us to Himself. Yet, we remain in the world, and live as Christ’s redeemed in the world. Since we are redeemed from our sins, from selfishness, pride, and greed, and given new life of righteousness and love, we then live as God’s redeemed and holy people in the world, and in the places in which we live. The love He has shown to us, we reflect and show first to our fellow believers, and then also to the world. In your homes, in your workplace, at church, at the store, wherever you are, we show the love of Christ to others, keeping the commandments in fear and love for God.
And in this way, keeping our heads down here in the ministry of the gospel, and living in love and service for our neighbor, we live heavenly minded and are ready for Christ’s return.
But beware, for down here all around us, and at all times are things to weigh us down. There are the cares of life and vices that would distract us and consume us. Our sinful flesh might lead us to drunkenness, sexual immorality, greed, and other vices, that we eventually be consumed by these things, that we may no longer be repentant of these, no longer seek the forgiveness of Christ and amendment of life, until we again are members of this generation that will be condemned. Or there are the cares of life, family, money, sports, health, work and so on that would also consume us and weigh us down that the treasures of this fleeting life become more important that the treasures in the life without end. How pleased is the devil, when we come up with so many excuses for missing church, and leaving our Bibles unread?
Those weighed down by these vices and cares of the world, the people of this fallen generation, will not be lifting up their heads when they see that this broken world they so loved is literally falling apart. It will be a terrifying time for them as the heavens are shook and the laws of nature break apart, and when Christ comes their heads will be bowed down in dread and shame.
So repent lest you be weighed down also by the vices and cares of this life, and thus be caught by Jesus unprepared. Repent, because Christ has redeemed you, and saved you from this generation, and from the corruption of the world. The heavens and earth will pass away, but the word of the Lord will not pass away. And so look down here. These are the sure and certain words of everlasting life: “You are forgiven all your sins.” Here is the meal that gives you everlasting life: Take and eat, receive the body and blood of Christ given and shed for your forgiveness, partake of the wedding feast of the Lamb that continues forever.
Keep your eyes down here, and look around you at your neighbors, whom God has called you to love and serve.
God has blessed us with this life as His redeemed, the baptismal life, the life of repentance, and live lived under Christ’s continual forgiveness and righteousness.
And so then, when we see the creation falling apart, it will be terrifying. And even now we are seeing some of it with death, decay, and wickedness increasing around us. We are not surprised. This world must pass away. But that means that Christ is near! With Christ’s forgiveness and righteousness, with clean consciences, and confidence, we will look up, lift up our heads, for our Redemption draws near! God will make all things new, and we shall enjoy our eternal home with Him. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.