INI + AMEN.
We confess the Nicene Creed quite often. There’s a lot to unpack in that Creed. It simplifies and boils down all of Scripture into a short statement of what Christians believe from the Bible. Our Gospel text today gives us the chance to look more closely at one line. “He will come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.” That’s what Jesus is talking about in our Gospel. When Jesus talks about the end of all things or when the Last Day is brought up in other parts of the Bible, we begin to wonder about these things and ask some questions. When will Jesus return? How will He return? Why will He return?
((3.)) When will Jesus return?
Well, of all the questions that we could have about the Last Day, the day when Jesus will return, this one doesn’t actually have an answer. We can learn a lot about the Last Day in the Bible, but this is one thing that isn’t answered. We don’t know, but we do know something. From what Jesus tells us today, we know that the time is short. The signs tell us that Jesus’ return will be soon. I’ve got to make something clear before we look at these signs, though. When we look at them, it’s easy to see that Jesus’ return has been soon from the moment He ascended into heaven!
So, what tells us that Jesus will return soon? Well, nations and kingdoms will rise up and replace and conquer other nations and kingdoms. There will be earthquakes, famines, and things like locusts that wipe out crops, beetles that kill trees, diseases like zika, cancers, and whatever else. These sorts of things have been happening for centuries. Like I said, since Jesus ascended.
But we know Jesus will return. You can count on that. It’s sure and certain. Just like He was born of a virgin, as promised. Just like He suffered and died for the sins of the world. Just like He rose from the dead on the third day for your justification. Just like He ascended. Just like the Apostles were handed over, persecuted, and killed, as Jesus said today. Just like the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, as Jesus prophesied in our text.
From His birth, death, and resurrection for you even to His ascension for you, we know He will return. We know He makes good on His promises, and He promised to return. The signs point to it being soon, but we don’t really know when.
That leads us to our next question,
((2.)) How will He return?
Well, He’ll come back the same way He went. That’s what we know from the angels at Jesus’ ascension, but Jesus Himself also says it: He will descend from heaven on the clouds. Jesus says, “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud.” Jesus, “the Son of Man,” will come riding on the clouds, which is a completely different way than when He came to earth in His incarnation.
When He came to save us, He was “was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.” He was just like us. Born. Grew up. Then He “was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried.” He came humbly before. In weakness. As a baby. But not when He comes again. He will not only come “in a cloud,” but our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ will come “with power and great glory.” He will come with all the power and glory He has because He is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.”
“The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.” At the coming of their God, the sun, moon, and stars will be shaken, the seas will roar and foam, and the earth will shake. Every person alive on that day will also be greatly disturbed, terrified, afraid.
So, whenever it is that Christ Jesus returns this way,
((1.)) Why will He return?
Well, it’s like we confess in the Creed: “And He will come again in glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.” He will return to judge. Other parts of Scripture describe those who reject Jesus as wanting mountains to fall on them to hide them from Jesus. Let’s be honest, the idea that Jesus will return with such power, might, and glory as Judge makes even us nervous. Think about it: Almighty Jesus on His glorious throne to judge.
Take heart, dear Christians. Listen to what Jesus says about His coming again for you: “when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” “Your redemption is drawing near.” Your trust in Jesus now isn’t misplaced. He won’t renege on His promises. He won’t be Savior now, condemning Judge later—not for you! The judgment against you’s already been paid, as He declared, “It is finished.” Those with faith in Him can take heart! He comes to redeem them, to save them. He’s lived, died, and risen for you. He baptized you: His promise of eternal life. He gives you the Bread of Heaven—His body and blood. His redemption is yours. He will make it yours on the Last Day too.
Yes, those who reject Him now will meet Him as Judge, but for you who trust Him, He comes for no other reason than to take you to Himself, to save you, to redeem you. That’s what we know from our Gospel text:
JESUS WILL COME AGAIN…IN GLORY…FOR YOUR REDEMPTION.
We don’t know exactly when. It’s soon. Like it has been for 2,000 years. He will descend from heaven “in power and great glory.” He will come to judge the living and the dead, but more importantly for you, dear Christian, He will come to save you. His baptizing you is His promise to do exactly that. Don’t cower. Don’t fear. “When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Jesus will come to save you. It’s why we also joyously confess: “I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”
INI + AMEN.