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“And this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent and the day is at hand. Let us, therefore, cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in lewdness and wantonness, and not in strife and envying. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and do not make provision for the lusts of flesh.” Romans 13:11-14

Even though we confess it almost every Sunday in the Apostles’ and the Nicene creeds, we often forget the fact that the day of our Lord’s return to judge the living and the dead is drawing closer each and every day. “The night is far spent and the day is at hand” (Rom. 13:12).

Truly, it is high time to awake from the sleep of our sin-darkened minds and make ourselves ready for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is God Himself in the flesh, the judge of the living and the dead!

Rather than be lulled into the false security of thinking our Lord’s return and the day of judgment is far off and thinking we will have time later to repent and prepare ourselves for His coming, now is the time to “cast off the works of darkness and … put on the armor of light” (v. 12). Now is the time to “walk honestly, as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in lewdness and wantonness, and not in strife and envying” (v. 13). Now is the time to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and … not make provision for the lusts of flesh” (v. 14).

While we may not see and recognize it, not only is our salvation threatened by the temptations of the devil and of the world around us, our own flesh – our old nature, inclined to sin and wickedness (cf. Rom. 7:18-19) – threatens to turn us away from Christ and back into the sinfulness and rebellion from which Christ has set us free.

The Bible tells us that our own hearts are “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9) and that “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21).

We ourselves cannot overcome sin and drive it out of our lives. Thus, the Word of God directs us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ – to place our faith and hope in Him – and not provide the opportunity for our old sinful flesh to drag us back down into the muck and mire of sin. We are exhorted to “lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:1,2).

St. Paul warns us: “Shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound? By no means. How shall we, who are dead to sin, live any longer therein? … For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:1,23).

As the light of God’s Word shines upon our hearts, we are reminded that Jesus is coming and coming soon! He endures the wickedness of this world a little longer only because He desires all to repent and come to the knowledge of His grace and mercy in Christ Jesus. It is as St. Peter writes in his second epistle (2 Pet. 3:9): “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is patient toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

The Apostle Peter, in Acts 3:19-20, said: “Therefore, repent and be converted so that your sins may be blotted out, and that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send Jesus Christ, who before was preached to you, whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”

So now is the time for us to repent and look in faith to Christ Jesus and His blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world, that we may obtain His mercy, forgiveness, and life everlasting!

It is as John the Baptist testified: “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life, and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:35-36).

O coming Savior, grant that I not be lulled to sleep in the darkness of sin but repent of my sins and wickedness and look to You for mercy, forgiveness, and the eternal joys of heaven You have prepared for all who trust in You. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]

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“But in those days, after that tribulation, ‘the sun shall be darkened, the moon shall not give her light, the stars of heaven shall fall,’ and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then they shall see ‘the Son of man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory. And then he will send his angels and will assemble his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.” Mark 13:24-27 (Read Mark 13)

Today, I tell you: “Watch, for the end is near!”

I say this, not because I know the day of Christ’s return. As Jesus said, “But of that day and that hour no man knows, not even the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). I say the end is near because those things the Scriptures say will happen before Jesus returns have happened; and Jesus said, “when you see these things come to pass, know that it is near, even at the doors” (v. 29).

The four kingdoms in Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7) have risen and fallen. The little horn which comes out of the divided fourth kingdom has come and, though exposed at the time of the Reformation and losing much of his dominion, continues to speak pompous words and to war against the saints (cf. 2 Thess. 2:1ff). The tribulation described in the beginning of Mark 13 has come. The temple was destroyed and Christians have been and continue to be persecuted around the world. There have been wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines and troubles – “the beginnings of sorrows” (Mark 13:8). And, of even greater significance, the Gospel has been preached to nations around the world (v 10; cf. Matt. 24:14).

Therefore, I tell you: “Watch, for the end is near!” Jesus could come back at any time to judge the living and the dead and establish His everlasting kingdom in which only those who have heeded His Word and turned from their sinful and rebellious ways to Him for mercy will dwell. Don’t be caught off-guard and living your life in disobedience and sin. Don’t be found unprepared and faithless at His coming!

How can we be ready? How can we be prepared for that day when Christ suddenly appears in the clouds of glory?

The answer is repentance – to hear God’s Word and acknowledge our sinfulness and rebellion and to look to Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for mercy (Acts 3:19ff.; Ps. 32:1ff; 1 John 1:7 – 2:2). It is to look to Jesus in faith that He died for our sins and rose again and that God, for Christ’s sake, forgives, cleanses and counts us forgiven and righteous in His sight through faith in Jesus’ name (Eph. 1:6-7; John 3:14f.; Rev. 7:14ff.).

O dearest Jesus, grant that we be ever watchful for Your return and always ready through faith in Your shed blood for our salvation. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]

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“Bless the LORD, O my soul. And all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits.” Psalm 103:1-2 (Read Psalm 103)

It’s so easy to neglect to thank and praise the LORD God and to forget that it is He who has so richly blessed us with all that we have and need. And, when we do speak words of thanks, it is so often only an outward expression and not the true and sincere response of heart and soul.

For this reason, David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, calls upon his own soul to bless the LORD and not forget all His blessings.

What are the benefits with which the LORD God has so richly blessed us? He gave us His own dear Son to suffer and die in our stead; and, when we look to Him in faith, He forgives us all our sins and iniquities for Jesus’ sake.

He is the one who heals all our diseases. He redeems our life from destruction. He crowns us with His loving kindness and tender mercies. He fills our mouths with good things and renews our youth. He executes righteous judgments for the oppressed. And through His Word, He makes known to us His ways and His mighty acts.

What a reason for us, as believers, to join with the psalmist and bless and praise the LORD God from our very souls! He forgives our sins, removing them as far as the east is from the west, and accepts us for Jesus’ sake! Instead of judging and condemning us, He deals with us in mercy, provides us with all that we need, and assures us that His mercy is “from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him”!

Stop and consider all the blessings which the LORD God has provided for you, beginning with His great mercy and forgiveness toward you for Jesus’ sake. Then, with the psalmist and believers around the world, bless and thank the LORD God with all your heart and soul!

O LORD God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I thank and praise You for Your great goodness and mercy toward me, a sinner, for the sake of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Amen.

Psalm 103
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul. And all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits. 3 It is he who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, 4 Who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies, 5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. 6 The LORD executes righteousness and judgment for all who are oppressed. 7 He made his ways known to Moses, his acts to the children of Israel. 8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in mercy. 9 He will not always chide, neither will he keep his anger forever. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so is his mercy great toward those who fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 Like a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are as grass. As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. 16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place shall know it no more. 17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, 18 To those who keep his covenant, and to those who remember his commandments to do them. 19 The LORD has prepared his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. 20 Bless the LORD, you angels of his, who excel in strength, who do his commandments, listening to the voice of his word. 21 Bless the LORD, all you hosts of his, you ministers of his, who do his pleasure. 22 Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version.]

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Epistle – 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
1 But of the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need that I write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord comes even as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety,” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape. 4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that the day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all children of light and children of the day. We are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore, let us not sleep as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep in the night, and those who are drunken, are drunken in the night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, so that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. 11 Therefore, comfort yourselves together and edify one another, even as you also do.

Gospel – Matthew 25:1-13
1 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten virgins who took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps, but took no oil with them. 4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6 And at midnight there was a cry made, ‘Behold, the bridegroom comes. Go out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps have gone out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Not so, lest there not be enough for us and you. But rather go to those who sell and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came. And those who were ready went in with him to the marriage. Then the door was shut. 11 Afterward, the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Therefore, watch, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of man comes.

Are you ready for Jesus Christ to return on the Last Day? Jesus told this parable to admonish us to be watchful and ready at all times for His return.

Jesus here compares the kingdom of heaven to ten virgins who “took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.” The wise virgins took extra oil for their lamps so that they would be ready even if the “bridegroom tarried.” The foolish took only the oil in their lamps and did not consider the possibility that their lamps would go out before the bridegroom arrived.

As a result, these foolish virgins were not prepared and ready when the bridegroom came; and they did not, with the wise virgins, enter with the bridegroom into the marriage feast.

With this parable, Jesus warns us against being foolishly unprepared for His return on the Last Day.

It is foolish for us who believe in Christ today to fall asleep and not be watching for His return. It is foolish not to have our faith continually nourished and kept burning through the regular use of the Word of God and the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). AC V; FC, SD, XI, Par. 14-22; John 6:63; 8:31-32; Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 3:14-17; Phil. 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:23-25; 2:2-3.
If we do not make such provision through the continued use of the Word of God in our homes and Word and Sacraments in our church, we may find our lamps empty and gone out (our faith dead) at Jesus’ coming.

Those who have no living, saving faith in Jesus Christ when He returns in Judgment will be shut out of heaven, for it will be too late to rekindle faith at that time! But those who have wisely provided oil for their lamps — those who continue to nourish their faith by remembering their Baptism, using the Word of God, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ given and shed for the remission of sins, that the Holy Ghost may through these means keep their faith burning and give and assure to them the forgiveness of all their sins and of life everlasting for Jesus’ sake — these will enter into heaven with Jesus and enjoy its blessings forever (cf. 2 Thess. 1:4-12; Psalm 16:11; 17:15; Rev. 19:7-9; 21:1ff.).

With my lamp well trimmed and burning, swift to hear and slow to roam, watching for Thy glad returning to restore me to my home. Come, my Savior, Come, my Savior, O my Savior, quickly come. Amen. (John S.B. Monsell, 1863, The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #606, Verse 4)

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, he will sit upon the throne of his glory. 32 And before him all nations shall be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in. 36 I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? 39 Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, since you have done it to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you have done it to me.’ 41 “Then he will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food. I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. 43 I was a stranger and you did not take me in. I was naked and you did not clothe me. I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they will also answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, since you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.” Matthew 25:31-46

On the Last Day, when Jesus Christ returns with all His holy angels to judge the living and the dead, He shall separate the believers and unbelievers from one another as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats, putting the sheep on the right hand and the goats on the left.

The unbelievers, those who have not trusted in Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death for the forgiveness of their sins and everlasting life, “shall go away into everlasting punishment.” But those who truly trust in Christ and believe that they are forgiven and have eternal life only for Jesus’ sake – because Christ died for them and rose again – will go into “life eternal.”
If it is through faith in Christ that one goes to heaven, and if it is through unbelief that one is damned and spends eternity in hell (cf. Mark 16:16), why does Jesus here speak of the works of believers for Him and the lack of works in unbelievers?

Jesus is not saying that those on the right hand go to heaven because of their works; it is only through faith in Christ and His sufferings and death that they are acceptable in God’s sight and are given eternal life (Eph. 1:6-7). But since they have been brought to faith in Christ and are saved by God’s grace, they now love their Lord and Savior and gladly live for Him and serve their fellow man (cf. Eph. 2:8-10).

They, those on the right hand, are not depending on such works to gain God’s favor; they are not even aware of the many times they have served Christ by serving their brethren. Rather they love and serve their brethren because Christ has first loved and served them by winning for them eternal salvation (cf. 1 John 4:9-11,19).

Those who do not have saving faith in Jesus Christ cannot love and serve Him. Even when they outwardly perform many of the same charitable works as Christians, they are not done for Christ; for “without faith it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6).

O Jesus, who my debt didst pay and for my sin wast smitten, within the Book of Life, oh, may my name be also written! I will not doubt; I trust in Thee, from Satan Thou hast made me free and from all condemnation. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #611, Verse 5)

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version.]

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