"Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?
this same Jesus, which is taken from you into heaven, shall so come in
like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).
The Ascension into heaven of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the
beginning of the end of the world. However permanent this world may seem,
however impossible it may seem at times to resist the powers of this world,
the last days of the world are neatly bracketed by the Ascension of Jesus
Christ and by his return to the earth on the Last Day.
The end of the world is, as we say today, "a done deal." God has already
decided when the world will end, even if he has chosen not to share the
information about the precise time with us. He knows it, and his Providence
is at work bringing his work with this world to a close.
Godís most important work is, in fact, complete already. Jesus Christ,
the Son of God made man, came into this world to save it, and this he has
already done. He has died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins, atoning
with his own Blood for our rebellion against his Father. He has risen from
the dead to become our great High Priest, a glorified human being as well
as the Son of God, making atonement for his yet-to-be-glorified fellow
human beings that we may become by adoption and grace the sons of God in
him. He has already been taken into heaven, into the Holy of Holies not
made with hands, into the living presence of God his Father, to offer his
one sacrifice of himself for all sin, for all time, to his Father.
And now Jesus Christ is seated at the right hand of his Father, in the
place of the highest honor and glory, because his work of salvation is
done. Every human being who will ever be saved is saved by that one sacrifice
of Christ once offered. There is no other price for sin, no other savior,
no other hope of eternal life. There is nothing that we can do to add to
the pure gift of salvation that Jesus Christ has given to us and to all
who believe in him; and there is nothing that we can do, or that anyone
else can do, to save those who do not believe, except to pray to Jesus
Christ that he will intervene and save them, not by dying again, but by
giving them the gift of faith in his death, resurrection, and ascension.
Jesus Christís Ascension, moreover, is not only the means of our salvation,
since by his ascending he has gone to the one place where a permanent offering
for sin could be made. His Ascension is also the proof of our salvation,
since he is true man, as well as true God, and he has taken human flesh
and human life into the very presence of God. No one can ever say again
that there is no place for man in heaven or before the throne of God, because
man in Jesus Christ is already there. In Jesus Christ, mankind is fit by
salvation and grace for eternal fellowship with God, so that where Jesus
Christ is now, one day, on the Last Day, all of redeemed humanity will
gather before the Fatherís throne in their own resurrected and glorified
Until Jesus Christís return to judge the living and the dead, opening
the way for the redeemed to be judged righteous for his sake and to enter
the courts of his Father in their sanctified and risen human flesh, there
is only one main task before mankind, and that is getting ready for Christís
return and the end of the world.
Getting ready for the end of the world, however, has nothing to do with
attending so-called "End-times seminars." Since God has reserved the time
and the hour of the end to himself, talking about the end or trying to
predict the end is a complete waste of time. Getting ready for the end
of the world has nothing to do with filling our basements with food and
other supplies, as if we will need them when Christ comes to give the faithful
a new heaven and a new earth ruled absolutely by a good and gracious God.
And getting ready for the end of the world most certainly has nothing to
do with sitting quietly and waiting for the end to come.
Jesus Christ told us what to do in order to prepare for the end of the
world, and we heard what he had to say in our Lesson for the Epistle from
the Acts of the Apostles:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you:
and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea,
and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8).
Since the Holy Ghost did come on Pentecost, our work in the world, and
the way that we are to prepare for the end of the world, is to witness
to Jesus Christ everywhere from our own homes and towns to the uttermost
part of the earth. This witness is not merely "talking about Jesus," but
showing people Jesus Christ alive and at work in us by the Christian lives
that we are living in him.
The way that we work, pray, and do charity; the way that we stand up
for justice, especially for the weak; the way that we relax and amuse ourselves
as the children of God and not as the children of fallen Adam or of the
fallen angel; the way that we embrace the joys and the sorrows of our lives
with hope and grace: if we do these things in Christ, knowing that Christ
is alive and glorious at his Fatherís side and that our salvation is the
already accomplished work of the Son of God made man, then we witness to
Jesus Christ by our living. Then we are preparing ourselves and our neighbors
for the end of the world, whenever it comes.
As the angels who attended the Ascension told the Apostles, we do not
need to stare up at the heavens. What Jesus Christ has already done is
a sure and certain thing. We do not have to watch it to make it true. So,
also, is Christís Second Coming a sure and certain thing, making it completely
unnecessary to watch for Christís return as if watching will make it so
or change the timetable that God has established from before he created
God will have his way. He will have the redeemed as his image and likeness
in a fellowship of love forever. Jesus Christ has already made this so.
Our job is to start living that fellowship right now, as much as we are
able, knowing that God in heaven has already decided when he will make
our lives perfect by sending his Son in his glorious manhood to bring this
world to its perfect conclusion in him.
Please note: These sermons are offered for your meditation.
If you wish to use them for some other purpose or republish them, please
credit St. Andrewís Church and Dr. Tarsitano.