Sermon Date: November 23, 1903
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Scripture: I Corinthians 15:20-28
Jesus, Our Shepherd/King's Work Is Almost Done
Today is the last Sunday of another church year. Jesus’ return is that much closer again. But there are other reminders also. Jesus warned that because of the increase in wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. In addition there would be wars and diseases and economic collapse. Are we there yet? So, how are your retirement funds doing? Will the Iranians get their hands on nuclear bombs? Then there was this little piece in the news last week. You’ve maybe heard of E-harmony. It’s an online dating service. E-harmony was sued for not also catering to gays. They’re going to start now as part an out-of-court settlement. So, are we there yet? Is this world getting to where Jesus could appear at any moment?
Perhaps. Jesus said no man knows that day or hour. Also, think of what our grandparents went through – WWI, a flu that killed more people than the war, the great depression, WWII. Since what we’re going through is nothing new, maybe the end is still a ways off. But how does that make you feel? Happy we have more time here, or fearful for what might happen between then and now? There’s a third feeling I think a lot of Christians have – depressed. They see what’s going on and they’ve kind of given up. They’ve retreated into their homes, and they’re living their life-style as best as they can for as long as they can. If that describes you, St. Paul has some encouraging words for you. Don’t be depressed; don’t be fearful; but rejoice, because Our Shepherd/King’s Work Is Almost Done. 1. He defeated sin. 2. He is defeating the enemies of the Gospel. 3. He will defeat even death.
We read, “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” All of us because of Adam and Eve’s sin are by nature enemies of God. As a result, we all want to live life the way we want to live it, and we’re all reluctant to truly pray, “Lord, your will be done.” In addition we all want to take care of ourselves by the things we’re able to do and see; and we don’t like being in situations where we have to walk on water, so to speak, to get through till the next day. So, how do these wants make us enemies of God? What it all really boils down to is we want to be our own god. We want to trust and love ourselves above all things. But that’s idolatry. Furthermore, there’s only room for one God in this universe. And so, everyone who wants to be his own god has to leave, that is, die.
However, some might argue that none of this is fair. After all, we weren’t in the Garden of Eden, why should we become sinful and have to suffer on account of what our first parents did? Wait a minute! Isn’t arguing with God like this just another example of man wanting to be in God’s place? Isn’t this too idolatry? It is, however Jesus came to defeat all sin. This is how He did it. He became a man with us and in our place loved and trusted God perfectly. He prayed with all His heart and soul and mind, “Your will be done.” However, Jesus didn’t just pray this, He lived it. For example when He was in the wilderness and had nothing to eat for 40 days and nights, He was painfully hungry, but He still trusted the Father to take care of Him. He said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every world that comes from mouth of God.” All His life Jesus continued to obey perfectly. And then when it was God’s will, He suffered death and hell on the cross for everyone.
I said earlier that there’s only room for one God in this universe. In Christ it’s still that way. He is God, and in Him alone is salvation. He, by Himself has defeated sin, and so by Him God and man are reconciled.
This is the Gospel message. Unfortunately there are a lot people, who are enemies of the Gospel. For example there’s a growing movement toward a one world religion. What people have in mind is that all religions should agree to disagree, and that everyone accepts everything for the sake of world unity and the good of mankind. Have you heard about this yet? This philosophy is definitely out there, and it’s what’s behind a lot that’s going on, including this E-harmony thing. However, these one world religion people have run roadblock. It’s the cross of Christ! The cross of Christ proclaims that God’s standards of right and wrong are eternal, for why else would God’s Son have to die? Also His resurrection proves that all other ways to God are false. So, are you ready for this? More and more the world is looking at Christians as the enemies of mankind and as promoters of hatred and intolerance.
If that’s what the world thinks of us, what chance do we have of living a quiet, peaceful life? Also, how will the Christian church even survive in America when for example the courts come after us because we won’t have marriage ceremonies for gays? Well, maybe it won’t exactly be like that; my point is there is growing hostility toward the Bible.
But now what do you think God is doing about all this? He’s laughing. On the one hand He’s sad about it too, because He doesn’t want anyone to perish. Yet He’s laughing, because there is no way He’s going to let evil succeed against His Church or the Gospel. In fact just when His enemies are doing their worst, and just when they’re this close to silencing the Bible once and for all, God will somehow cause them to defeat themselves.
It’s always happened this way in the past to every evil force that’s come along. They have their time for a while. They make their boast that joining with them was the only reasonable thing to do; and then they’re gone. The only thing we don’t know this time around is will the “elite” fail because they shoot themselves in the foot, or will they be defeated by the brightness of Jesus’ reappearing? Either way Jesus is defeating the enemies of His Gospel. And so, don’t be discouraged by what’s going on in the world. Don’t give up serving Him. Instead let’s stay focused on what’s really important, and let’s pray and witness Christ every chance we get. Because who knows how many enemies of the Gospel will be conquered by the Gospel and become eternal friends with us?
However, until all enemies of the Gospel are finally defeated one way or the other, there’s yet one more thing that’s hard for us to face. Death! The prospect of losing a loved one or facing death ourselves is just plain hard. And sure, we can tell ourselves that everyone dies and death is just a natural end to living. But that’s a small comfort, and it’s not even exactly true.
Death is God’s judgment on sin, for we all sin and we all die. However, as we talked about before, Jesus defeated sin, and therefore death too will soon be defeated. At His reappearing, in a blink of an eye, we who are alive will be changed. Our bodies will lose all the consequences of sin – no more wrinkles, no more pain. And our bodies will have spiritual qualities like Christ’s did after His resurrection. This means our bodies will be imperishable, and yet we’ll still be able to eat or we’ll still be able hug each other just like now. Also, everyone who’s body has decayed to dust, or was lost at sea, or was cremated and sent into outer space, will be restored. Then all who believed the Gospel, both young and old, will live forever on a perfect earth God will create on the last day. Meanwhile all who put themselves on the devil’s side will stay with the devil in hell, never to bother us again.
When all of these things have happened, Christ’s work will be done. We read, “For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” This is part of the mystery of the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate persons, yet there is one God. Each person of the Trinity has a different job. The Father’s job was creator, ruler, and source of every blessing. But then man cut himself off from the God through sin. And so, the Son’s job was to reconcile God and man, which He has done. And now the Spirit’s job is to bring man to the Son through Word and Sacrament.
Soon the Spirit’s won’t need to do that anymore, because in heaven we’ll all have perfect faith and love. Soon the Son’s job of ruling the world for the good of His Gospel will also be done, because in heaven there’ll only be perfect harmony between God and man, and all people with all people, and even with all people and all creation. When this is so, Jesus will hand the reigns of creation back over to His Father, because everything will finally be as God had intended.
Are we there yet? Hardly! But as surely as we have sinned, and as surely as we die, and as surely as Christ came the first time to live and die and rise again, someday we are going to be there. And so, relax! Let’s trust God’s promises, and let’s make the most of each day for the good of others for the sake of the Gospel! Then sooner or later, when Jesus comes, all will see that He is not mankind’s enemy. He is God. He is Lord of lords and King of kings. Unbelievers will be terrified! But believers need not be afraid either of events leading up to end or of Judgment Day itself, for the Lord of lords and King of kings is our Savior and friend. Even so come quickly, Lord Jesus. Even so, let us serve Him until then. Amen.