Trinity 25 - The Sunday of the Great Tribulation
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
November 8, 2015
Central Passage
Matthew 24:15-28

In the name of the FATHER and of the + SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT.

Our Lord’s compassion for His people is without limits. And here the Lord is compassionately warning His people of two things: to flee when the Abomination of Desolation is set up in the Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, and to watch out for false christs and false prophets.

Most theologians agree that the chief interpretation of the “Abomination of Desolation” of which the prophet Daniel spoke of and to which Jesus is referring, happened in 70AD when the Roman general, Titus, entered the Most Holy Place of the temple in Jerusalem and erected a statue of himself.

The Holy of Holies, or Most Holy Place, had in it the Ark of the Covenant, which had the mercy seat and from which God ruled His people. The high priest offered the sacrifice of atonement on the altar just outside the Holy of Holies. When Christ was sacrificed on the cross the curtain that separated the altar and the Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom; God Himself ripping the dividing wall between His presence and His people who would enter the Holy of Holies by the blood of Jesus.

It is with purpose, then, that the epistle to the Hebrews is quoted in your bulletin every Sunday as we gather. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean form an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” This is the new Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant, which is Jesus Himself, resides. The altar before us is not one of atonement but rather it is the mercy seat from where Christ the Lord rules the nations in mercy and grace. The sacrifice we eat and drink is the sacrifice of Christ for us, an offering for forgiveness and a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Like Abraham, the altar is where the Lord visits us and where we call upon Him.

All the Old Testament rituals and rites were pictures of, types of Christ. And that’s really why you need to take the time to be in Bible class on Sunday mornings and to have your children in Sunday school, and why you need to set time aside daily to pray with and read the Bible with your families. We need to keep studying the Old Testament. It’s a window, and icon of Christ. St. Paul says the Old Testament was written for our instruction. Let us be instructed then. Let us say no to the world and to our own selfishness with time, and let us say yes to our Lord and give Him our time, not for His sake but for ours. For if we give Him our time now He will give us His eternity later, for whatever measure we use it will measured back to us.

The Holy of Holies itself was a type of Christ. It was a foreshadow of His name, Emmanuel, God with us. So when general Titus set up an image of himself, he was declaring himself God. His likeness in the Holy of Holies was an abomination. And that in the temple made with hands. How much more is it an abomination when we set up images of ourselves in the true Holy of Holies, the gathering of God and His people when we treat this like our place, our church, governed by our likes and dislikes, ruled by our golden calves made by us? We are no different than ancient Israel who built the Golden Calf, or General Titus. We want our gods to save us because our gods are like us. They don’t condemn us but then neither do they justify us. They truly are silent, good for nothing gods. It is no wonder that Jesus drove out the money changers or that Moses burned with anger. But I wonder if Moses were our pastor would we repent

because of his anger or would be furrow our brow and tilt our nose upward, wondering why he had to be so strict and so stubborn. Would we dismiss Moses because he was too fanatic?

The Lord tells His people to flee when the Abomination of Desolation is set up in the Holy of Holies? Why, because that marks the beginning of great persecution. But it’s not physical persecution that our Lord warns His disciples to be wary of. It’s spiritual persecution.

The Lord compassionately warns His disciples to flee spiritual persecution when false prophets and false christs arise and would lead even the elect away if that were possible. Don’t listen to them, He says. But it will be easy, it is easy to listen to them. False prophets and false christs are Abominations of Desolation because they are set up in the Holy of Holies. That is, they erect false gods in the gathering of the true God.

So, for example, all the many heretics the Church has seen through the ages, these are Abominations of Desolation. They proclaimed to be teachers of God yet did not teach the things of God but led people astray, away from the true God who gathers His people around Word and Sacrament and feeds them and guides them with these things.

False prophets and false christs are not a danger to those outside the Church but to those inside the Church. Those outside are already perishing. They will be taken while the Church is left, for the Church shall inherit the earth while the unbelievers will be cast outside where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

False prophets and false christs introduce and promote false worship. That’s what heterodox means: false worship. Orthodox simply means “right worship”. To worship God right, to be orthodox, we must do two things: we must tell the truth about God and about ourselves, and we must receive what He gives in thanksgiving. That’s it. That’s right worship. The word of God, the word of Christ guides us in orthodoxy, in right worship.

So the word of Christ must be adhered to with all diligence. We must desire Christ above all things, above comfort in this life, even above our relationships in this life. That doesn’t mean we abandon our relationships, our friendships and so forth. It means that we don’t let those things tear us away from Christ. If there is any tearing away let it be that the Lord tears us away from whatever would keep us from Him, from whatever would choke out the word planted in our hearts.

The Lord is full of compassion. And in His compassion He provides you His Divine Service weekly, even as often as you might want it. Focus your eyes and ears, your whole life on the Divine Service of God. Consider it the source of your faith and the source of your salvation, for so it is. From here, like from the Holy of Holies so long ago, the Lord God Almighty directs His people, receives His people, and lives among His people. From here, like from the Holy of Holies so long ago, the Lord God Almighty reigns the whole earth in mercy and truth, in peace and grace. Here the Lord God Almighty preaches and teaches, guides and instructs and leads us through this wilderness so that we would not hear false prophets or false Christ, but so that our ears would only be filled with His voice.

+ In Nomie Iesu +