Mark 13:28-29 "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.
We are coming to the end of the church year, next Sunday is the Feast of Christ the King, and after that, the year begins again, with Advent. The theme of the end of the church year is end times, last year, with all the talk about y2k, there was plenty of attention on end times, some expected the end of the world, others said, no – just an end to civilization as we knew it. If you asked someone in those days, what do I need to be saved? The answer would come it terms of things required for survival, dried foods, large supplies of fuel, and of course your own personal generator – an optional accessory, was a gun and ammo to protect yourself. Perhaps we can laugh about all the uproar, this year - and perhaps we can see, that while there is nothing wrong in being prepared for things which might happen – there is a limit on what we can actually accomplish.
So what’s the point? The point is this, in the chaos and confusion, to know that God is near, and that such things will take place before Christ’s second coming, but God is still very much in control. We know that wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, and great persecutions will occur along with false prophets and many other things. The question is why does God tell us the signs, but not the time? Answer – we need to be ready all the time, ready to tell the good news, for the end will not come until the gospel is preached to all nations, and we are the people whom God has called to bring the message to those who do not know.
We need to be ready all the time, because if you wait, you will be too late. You see, if you find Christ at your door, you can’t have him stay there until you get your house in order. You see, by ourselves we will never get our house completely in order, there is always something more that could be done. This is why it is important that we know how we are saved – we are not saved because we are prepared, or because we have done everything necessary – we are saved by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. That is we are saved by the gift of God. For grace is a gift of God. Faith is a gift of God. Salvation is a gift of God. Forgiveness is a gift of God. Eternal life is a gift of God. Peace is a gift of God. If we are saved, all the credit goes to God. The good news is that God wants all people to be saved. Some, however will perish, because they reject the gift of God in Jesus Christ.
Now, there are some things which occur at the end of time, which are pretty scary. Our text talks about the sun being darkened and the moon not shining, and stars falling from heaven. It is a picture of deep darkness, but God doesn’t reveal this to us to scare us, but to comfort us. Why is it comforting, in means that Jesus is about to come. Why is it comforting, because God will then send his angels to gather the elect, that is, all believers.
And that pictures is a picture of what the church has always been about – for it has always been God who calls gathers enlightens and sanctifies his church on earth. He might use us as the messengers, but it is the holy spirit working through the word that works faith in the heart.