What does Scripture teach about the end of the world, the final judgment, and Christ’s second coming? These last three weeks of the Church Year give us great insight into the events of the Last Day. Today Our Lord teaches us about the signs that lead up to the Last Day. He does not do this to scare us, but to prepare us. Really, Jesus is helping us understand the times in which we live. Can any of us hear Gospels like today’s and wonder if Our Lord’s return is imminent?! He makes it plain to see that He is coming soon. And although that may sound like a thing to fear, as St. Paul revealed to the Thessalonians, it is not. Quite the opposite! It’s something we should use to encourage and edify one another. Christ is coming soon! Those are words of grace and promise.
Jesus tells us what signs will accompany the End Times. We know well what Scripture says about physical signs, and we are no stranger to them. How many of them have we seen in just the last few months—wildfires, a mass shooting, public hatred of prayer in the aftermath of disaster. In addition to these events, Jesus tells us of wars and rumors of wars, nation against nation, famines, and earthquakes. As bad as it is two thousand years after Christ’s Ascension, Jesus Himself says “All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Mt. 24:8). And, anyone can see the evil of these days, whether they are Christian or not. Anyone on the streets can tell you that natural disasters are increasing in intensity and frequency. They can tell you that the divisions between people are worse than anyone has ever known. However, our Readings that prepare us for the End Times don’t focus on these things because the Church is more concerned with our spiritual life. So our attention is placed on the spiritual signs that come with the end of the age. Our Lord tells us what to expect so that we will be prepared, and He reminds us that the only comfort we will have is to be found wherever His Body is present to strengthen us.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.