Our Advent Prayer--Lord, Help Us Always to Be Prepared for Jesus' Second Coming!
O Lord God, our heavenly Father, we come before You this day to confess our sins, to hear a message from Your word, to sing Your praises, to lay before You our prayers and petitions, and to partake of Your sacrament. Watch over and bless us as we worship. Assure us of our forgiveness by Your divine grace, instill within our hearts a better understanding of Your will, and move us to follow You with faithfulness as we await the return of Your dear Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
God sent His Son Jesus into this world to be His Prophet and to reveal to us His eternal truths. As we await Jesus’ second coming, let us listen to His truths, while avoiding the many false prophets in this world who would mislead us!
The Bible is the inspired word of God, which the Spirit uses to bring us salvation. It equips us thoroughly for every good work and enables us to overcome the challenges of the world as we await Jesus’ second coming.
Text: Luke 17:26-36
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”
In Christ Jesus, whose admonitions concerning His second coming we would be wise to heed, dear fellow redeemed:
The motto of our United States Coast Guard in “Semper Paratus”—“Always Prepared.” The Coast Guard must always be prepared to go into action should their services be need to rescue boats in distress along our nation’s coastlines. Since 9-11, however, the Coast Guard has become increasingly important in our national attempts to safeguard those coastlines and especially our seaports. They must always be prepared to intercept and defend our nation from terrorists.
It would be wise for every one of us here today to adopt the motto “Semper Paratus” when it comes to Jesus’ second coming. We Christians are always to be prepared for that event, for it will surely occur as God has promised. Yet, true to His word, no one knows the time it will occur except God the Father Himself. Consequently, as we consider Jesus’ admonition contained in this text may this be OUR ADVENT PRAYER—LORD, HELP US ALWAYS TO BE PREPARED FOR JESUS’ SECOND COMING! Help us avoid the world’s example. Help us remember our heavenly future. Help us realize there will be no second chance.
Already in the decades following Jesus’ ascension into heaven people were questioning whether or not He would indeed return and whether or not this world would end. The apostle Peter states in his second epistle that such people “willfully forget” that God controls the history of this world. He created the world and at one time destroyed the world through the flood. When He then says that He will one day destroy this present world, that destruction will happen. The only reason it has not up to now, Peter says, is because God is “longsuffering…not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (cf. 2 Peter 3:5-9).
My dear friends, the “nays-sayers” have only grown in number since then, and the practical result is that our world ignores God’s word and its warnings regarding the end of time and the second coming of Christ for judgment. Jesus recognized that would be the case already during His ministry on this earth. That is why He describes in our text the attitudes of most people in this world as the day of His return approaches as being one of indifference—just like the people “in the days of Noah” and “Lot.” The people then were unconcerned about Noah’s warnings of a coming flood and Lot’s warnings of a coming fiery destruction. Rather, they were busy living their own lives and pursuing their own dreams. “They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage,…they bought, they sold, they planted, they built”—all without any thought or concern about spiritual, much less eternal things—but then judgment came and “destroyed them all!”
Notice that when Jesus describes the activities of these unbelieving people, He does not mention the gross violence and immorality that was certainly present in the world before the flood and within the city of Sodom as the Bible so clearly testifies. Rather, He speaks of those simple, every day occurrences in our lives as human beings that can prove ever so distracting. My dear friends, people will not lose their souls on judgment day because of gross immorality. Jesus, after all, died to pay for all of the sins of the world—all the big ones and all the little ones as well. But people will lose their souls because they neglected the spiritual issues of life. In other words, they will die because of simple unbelief.
Let us not expect the world to share our concern about spiritual matters or our expectation of Jesus’ second coming. We cannot look to them for encouragement, but rather must expect from them the frequent condescending smile and even occasional ridicule. Above all, we will want to pray during this Advent season that God’s Spirit help us avoid the world’s example. If our celebration of Christmas has become one marathon shopping spree and our source of Christmas joy is found wrapped in big boxes under the tree, let us pray that the Spirit work repentance in our hearts. If our lives have become too busy to take time for worship and personal Bible study, so that we are unable as Luther suggests to invite the dear, holy Christ Child to make a bed within the quiet chambers of our hearts (cf. TLH 85:13), let us pray that the Spirit move us to recognize the importance of the peace we are missing. To possess the truth, but then to lose its blessings would be tragic indeed. Let us, therefore, pray OUR ADVENT PRAYER—LORD, HELP US ALWAYS TO BE PREPARED FOR JESUS’ SECOND COMING! Help us avoid the world’s example!
Help us remember our heavenly future! This is the underlying sentiment of Jesus’ words when He says, “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” Remember Lot’s wife—she was the one in the Old Testament story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, who as she escaped the destruction of those cities defied God’s command and looked back longingly to the comforts of her lost life in Sodom. The result was that she turned into a pillar of salt. She had become so attached to the things of this world, that she forgot the even greater rewards of God’s grace that lay ahead in the future God is planning for all of His believers with the apparent result that she lost both.
My dear friends, our Savior God has blessed us mightily in our day and in our country. He has provided much more than the “food and clothing” with which the apostle Paul suggests that we be content (cf. 1 Timothy 6:8). He provides us with toys and entertainment, with furniture and appliances, with vehicles and homes, with investments and retirement accounts. Yet, let us pray that all of these blessings never blind our eyes to what is truly important—a healthy relationship with our Lord and Savior.
The greatest blessings, after all, that you and I possess are those spiritual blessing the world so readily overlooks. We are by nature as we confess sinful in thought, word, and deed. We deserve God’s judgment, but in its place through His love we have received a promise—a promise of a Champion to come, a Savior to deliver us from the claws of Satan and the destruction of hell. That Champion has come, as we all know, in the form of that little Child of Bethlehem. That Christ-Child, the very Immanuel—God with us, grew up to be the Prophet of God announced in our Old Testament Scripture lesson. He has revealed through His gospel word the fact that we have been reconciled to God. He was the sinless One who became sin for us (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:12-21). He then reveals His Father’s plan of mercy and blessing—we are saved by God’s grace through faith and given the gift of eternal life. Dear friends, can we possible compare a new train set, or new plasma television, or new Lincoln Continental to the blessings that await us in heaven? Yet, millions upon millions upon millions of people chose the former rather than the latter. Let us always be ready, wherever we are—let us never be pre-occupied with the things of this world to the point that they become more important to us and more precious to us than our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, let us, therefore, pray OUR ADVENT PRAYER—LORD, HELP US ALWAYS TO BE PREPARED FOR JESUS’ SECOND COMING! Help us remember our heavenly future!
Help us realize there will be no second chance! Jesus ends His admonition with these stark and sober words, “I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.” These words of our Savior are often misunderstood and used to support a false teaching called the “rapture.” People, who believe mistakenly that Jesus and His followers will one day rule for a thousand years on this earth prior to its destruction at the end of time, claim that prior to that thousand year period of rule, all believers will be unexpectedly snatched from the earth, leaving only a world filled with unbelief. Such claims are not true. They do not have firm biblical support and, in fact, contradict the clear teachings of Scripture concerning the end of time. What these words do affirm, however, are certain truths we want to bear in mind.
First of all, the Bible distinctly tells us that the time of Jesus’ second coming is unknown and that it will occur without warning. There will not be a series of news bulletins on our radios or televisions. Internet news sources will not provide advance notice. The trumpets will simply sound and Jesus will appear (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Secondly, when Jesus does come people will be performing their normal tasks in life—sleeping, cooking, farming. They will be doing so with believers and unbelievers alike at their sides. Believers at that moment will be separated from the unbelievers and will be taken to their Savior’s side to enjoy the bliss of heaven, while the unbelievers will be left behind to be sentenced to hell. Jesus, later in His ministry, described this scene in a similar but slightly different way, yet emphasizing this same idea of separation. He tells us, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but he goats on the left” (Matthew 25:31-33).
Thirdly, it is imperative that we remain watchful and spiritually alert, for when Jesus’ comes there will be no second chance. Such a thought should send a chill down the back of our “old Adam”—our sinful flesh, which would have us think lightly of our relationship with our Savior God. God has done everything necessary for our eternal salvation. He offers it as a gift and has sent His Spirit to place faith within our hearts through the preaching of His gospel. God tells us all “to seek the LORD while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6), which means right now, while we are living that this world’s end has not come. He urges us, as He did through Paul’s words in our New Testament lesson, to cling to the gospel word for it is able to make us “wise unto salvation” (cf. 2 Timothy 3:14). Let us pray that the Spirit of God help us realize there will be no second chance! There will be no second chance when the trumpets sound and our Savior appears in His glory. Let us, therefore, rejoice in our Savior, gladly hear and learn His precious word, receive the Lord’s Supper with thanksgiving, and rest assured that our Savior God “who has begun a good work in (us) will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Yes, may this ever be OUR ADVENT PRAYER—LORD, HELP US ALWAYS TO BE PREPARED FOR JESUS’ SECOND COMING! Amen.
Soli Dei Gloria!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting