And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. Romans 13:11
Today is the beginning of a new church year, and we begin with the Advent Season in which we focus on preparation and readiness for the coming of the Christ — not only for His first coming but also and especially for His second coming as King of kings and Lord of lords when He will judge all the peoples and nations of this world and establish His eternal kingdom of glory (Rev. 19:11ff.; 20:12ff.).
John the Baptist was sent ahead of Messiah Jesus at His first coming to prepare the people to meet Him. John called upon all to repent of their sins and to look in faith to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29; Matt. 3:1-6; Mark 1:4).
Jesus, too, called upon all to repent and look to Him and His cross in faith that they might receive God’s pardon and forgiveness (cf. John 3:14-18; Mark 1:14-15). And before his ascension into heaven, Jesus commissioned His apostles, saying, “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46-48).
Though Jesus warned of the coming judgment and the consequences of not believing in Him (John 8:24) and even wept over Jerusalem and the judgments which would come upon the people there for their unbelief (Matt. 23:37-39; Luke 19:41ff.), Jesus did not immediately judge the world. He has been “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
But, the next verses in 2 Peter 3 say: “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” (v. 10-12).
We also heard in our epistle lesson for today the words of Romans 13:11-14: “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”
And last Sunday, in the Parable of the Ten Virgins, we learned the importance of continuing in the Word of God and the Sacraments that our lamps not go out but that our faith be strengthened and preserved through the gracious working of God’s Spirit through the Means of Grace.
And why is this so important? When Jesus returns on the Last Day in judgment, the time of the Lord’s grace will have run out. There will be no more opportunity for repentance and faith.
It is as it says in Revelation 1:7: “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.” Cf. Matt. 24:29ff.
And why will the nations weep and mourn? Because it will be too late and the time of their judgment will have come. Those who remained impenitent and unbelieving will be condemned to the eternal fires of hell because they continued on in their sinful and rebellious ways and did not turn from their sins to faith in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross! Cf. Heb. 10:26ff.; 2 Thess. 1:6ff.
What about you? Are you ready for His coming? We don’t know the day or the hour, but it is nearer than when we first believed.
Don’t think that you can be ready for that day by your own works or in your own righteousness! And, don’t think that you can continue on in your sinful ways and still be ready! Those who continue on in their sinful ways and fulfill the desires of the flesh will weep and mourn on that day for they will not be ready to meet the Lord Jesus! They reject His words, and they will be condemned forever to the fires of hell! Cf. John 12:48.
The prophet Joel warned the visible Old Testament church: “The day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it? Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil” (Joel 2:11-13).
Isaiah likewise wrote (Isa. 1:16-20): “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”
Peter preached: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts. 3:19).
Jesus is coming! The day of His coming is sooner than when we first believed. On that day, all will confess: “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 23:39; cf. Phil. 2:11). And, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! We praise You, Christ Jesus our Savior, and pray that You would come and establish Your everlasting kingdom and reign over us as our God and King. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]