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LUKE 21:25-36 When God created the heavens and the earth, he created order.

He separated the light from the darkness. He divided the water from the dry land. He did this by speaking his Word. “He spoke, and it came to be, he commanded, and it stood firm.” On Judgment Day, God's eternal Word, Jesus Christ, will dissolve all creation. “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.....the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” The unbelievers who “loved darkness and would not come to the light, Jesus Christ, because their deeds were evil” will find themselves eternally plunged into the darkness they preferred to Jesus. The waters will roar and foam, for the Lord of hosts will make the mountains give way. On that day, glorious for us but dreadful for them, “They will call on the mountains, 'Cover us,' and to the hills, 'Fall on us.'” Jesus has words of warning for us: we can lose our faith and fall away from him. We can lose the salvation he so dearly purchased and won for us with his holy, precious blood and with his bitter sufferings and death. “Be careful,” says Jesus. The unbelieving world wants to tear you away from Jesus. The world that hates Jesus and lives in the darkness tricks and traps us with its temptations: “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.” Jesus tells us: “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” “This generation” refers to the type of people who refuse to look at the certain signs that Judgment Day is coming, the ilk of people who reject Jesus. Such people will be around as long as the world endures, all the way to Judgment Day. But Jesus calls on us, his Church, to “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves that and know that summer is near. Even so,w hen you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” Did you notice what our dear Lord Jesus calls his return: “the kingdom of God is near.” Those are the words with which Jesus began his ministry: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near.” The way to be ready for the kingdom of God is to be in the kingdom of God now. So, we come to the most important questions in all of Christian teaching: What is God's kingdom? Where is God's kingdom? How does God's kingdom come? How do we individually get into God's kingdom, and stay in it? Dr. Martin Luther gives one of the best answers even written. In his Small Catechism, he writes: “God's kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives his Holy Spirit, so that by his grace we believe his holy Word and lead a godly life, now on earth and forever in heaven.” So, how does God give his Holy Spirit? “Faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars,” says Jesus. The sun, moon and stars were created by God on the fourth day of creation week. Now, God already had said, “Let there be light” on the first day. The light was already there. The sun, moon and stars were created to be the light bearers, so that people would be able to discern the times. In a spiritual sense, our pastors are the sun, moon and stars. They are the light bearers who bring to us Jesus Christ, the light of the world. In them are the signs, that is, they proclaim the Law and the Gospel, so that we are prepared by repentance and faith for Jesus' coming. Jesus said it on the night

before his death: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.” We enter the kingdom of God, and remain in it, when we hear the Gospel of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, and, by faith worked by the Holy Spirit through that preaching and hearing, trust in Jesus as our Savior. Satan will unleash every temptation in his evil arsenal to tear us away from that saving faith. Jesus specifically refers to those temptations by which the devil, the great impersonator, mimics the work of the Holy Spirit. He says, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of life.” Dissipation and drunkenness give us a deceptive, temporary “high.” The devil tries to lead Christians to believe that temporary exhilaration that comes from worldly pleasures is more satisfying than being filled with the Spirit through the Gospel. Like Pharaoh's magicians, the devil deceives by creating hollow imitations of the works of God. But Jesus tells us to “Look at the fig tree and all the trees.” When the trees bear fruit, you know that the summer fruit season is on the way. In the same way, you know by the pastor's fruit whether he is helping you stay in God's kingdom or not. If your pastor is telling you that you're a sinner, and that your salvation is given to you as a gift from Jesus, because he died and rose again for your salvation, then he's sprouting the proper kind of leaves and fruit. Each tree bears the fruit proper to it. The proper fruit of the preaching of the Gospel is Christians, who resist the devil's lies and remain faithful to Jesus. Jesus assures us: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. Jesus tells us that on that day of judgment, when the unbelievers are trying to hide and escape, filled with apprehensive fear, we will “stand up and lift up your heads, because our redemption is drawing near.” Standing up and lifting up your heads carries the picture of someone who used to be stooped down, bent over under a burden. Living here on earth is a heavy burden for us to bear. “Our citizenship is in heaven,” writes Paul to the Philippians. We carry the burden of being “aliens and strangers on earth.” On Judgment Day, we will unkink our bowed backs and shake the arthritis out of our necks, because we'll be looking up into the sky with eager joy. We'll see Jesus returning to set us free from our temporary exile here on earth and bring us – finally – to our real home, where we belong. Until that day, Christian, be faithful in using the Means of Grace. Come regularly to hear God's Word and to receive the Lord's Supper, the blessed means the Holy Spirit uses to keep your faith in Jesus alive and growing. The Gospel in the Word and Sacraments is the water and food the tree of your faith needs to stay alive and healthy.