They day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. It will come on quickly as labor pains come upon a woman full with child. To those who are living in darkness, the return of Jesus will come as a complete and utter shock, mostly because they don’t expect Him to return at all.
That might seem like a little bit of a “duh” statement. If you don’t believe that Jesus is God, or you don’t believe that He even existed, then you certainly will be flabbergasted when He returns in glory. They are not looking for Him to appear so it is really going to freak them out when Jesus shows up out of heaven.
And what happens when Jesus shows up unannounced? It will be destruction for those who are not looking for Him. As we heard from Amos last week, the day of the Lord will be darkness, calamity, death, for those who have no faith in Christ.
Jesus will return as the judge of the world. He will be the vengeance of God, the agent of wrath upon those who persist in rejecting God’s great and abundant mercy.
This is, of course, all just a fancy way of saying that when Jesus returns, those who have not been waiting for Him, those who are not expecting His return, will go to hell. They will be separated from the love of God forever. They will be placed in the land prepared for the devil and his demons, made ready for eternal torment and everlasting death.
But we, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness. We are not destined for wrath, judgment, or destruction. The day of Christ’s coming should not, and will not, surprise us at all. In fact, when Jesus comes pouring over the clouds, our reaction should be, “Hey, there He is, just like we have always hoped!”
We have been destined by Jesus Christ for salvation. We have been brought, by God’s grace, out of darkness and into the light. And it happens at the darkest day the world has ever known.
On Good Friday, as the world turned dark, the light had won. The Sun was eclipsed, but so was the power of death. And on Sunday morning, when the stone was rolled away, when the Sun broke over the horizon, the Kingdom of Light reigned supreme. Darkness was destroyed.
The death and resurrection of Christ has opened the kingdom of the light to us. His blood erases the sin of those who dwell in the dark, even those who love the dark.
Jesus brings us into the realm of light by applying his death and resurrection directly to us. In baptism we are buried into His death and resurrected into His life. In the Lord’s Supper we eat and drink the sacrifice of Christ in real time. The body that died, the body that lives, that gives life everlasting, is placed in our mouths.
Daily, through contrition, the remorse over sin, and through repentance, receiving forgiveness in faith, the Light rules over us. God forgives us every day for the sake of Christ, and draws us out of darkness and into light.
The coming of our Lord Jesus should then not catch us off guard. We are ready. He has prepared us. He has given us everything we need to be ready both today and every day. Every grace, every blessing, is your in Christ Jesus. You lack no spiritual gift. You lack not one single ounce of the Light. So act like it.
Those who dwell in darkness live as drunken fools, aimlessly stumbling from one depraved sin into the next, until they pass out on the doorstep of the wrong house and fall asleep in their own vomit.
Rather, because we live in the day we are called to sober lives. Christ has freed us from the nonsense of living in darkness so that we might live in the light, live sober and awake.
Because we belong to the kingdom of light we wear the armor of light. And that armor, Paul says, is the breastplate of faith and love, and the helmet of the hope of salvation. Faith, love, and hope are the pieces of armor we wear as citizens of the light, to protect us from the darkness.
The Spirit of God gives us faith so that we might receive the blessings of the death and resurrection of Christ and trust them fully. It is nice to say that Jesus died, even that He rose. But that does me no good without faith. Faith catches the flaming lies of the devil and snuffs them out.
By faith, born of Word and Spirit, God gives us repentance. He gives us forgiveness, life, and salvation. He gives us all the treasures of heaven. Faith trusts whole-heartedly the promises of God, that this Christ who has died, who has risen, has done so for you, for me.
And through that faith God also gives us love and hope.
Love seeks to serve others. Love lays down its own life. It lives for others.
As Paul says elsewhere: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” As citizens of the light we live in love.
Faith also gives birth to hope. If we need to make a distinction between the two, we could say that faith looks back to what Jesus has done for us in the past. Faith trusts that Jesus has suffered and died for us.
Hope, then, looks forward to the future. It trusts the promises of God that Jesus will return, that He will raise the dead, and that He will save us from sin and death forever.
Hope does not disappoint. Hope is not the weak, flighty thing we have often thought. No, hope is certainty. It is confidence, unwavering firmness, that God will do what He says, what He promises.
These three remain. These three protect us as we live as citizens of the Light. Faith keeps us anchored in Jesus and what He has already accomplished at the cross and empty tomb. Love keeps our hands busy here and now serving God and our neighbor. Hope keeps our eyes fixed on the world to come, literally looking forward to the future when Jesus will return and fulfill all His promises.
We are not in darkness brothers and sisters. We have been drawn by God’s grace into the Light. Jesus’ return will not catch us off guard. It will not surprise us.