Sermon Notes for 2nd Sunday in Advent, 7 December 2014 Anno Domini (Pearl Harbor Day)
In honor of the inordinate number of Navy men killed at Pearl Harbor, I offer this prayer from the 1928 BCP:
For the Navy.
O ETERNAL Lord God, who alone spreadest out the heavens, and rulest the raging of the sea; Vouchsafe to take into thy almighty and most gracious protection our country’s Navy, and all who serve therein. Preserve them from the dangers of the sea, and from the violence of the enemy; that they may be a safeguard unto the United States of America, and a security for such as pass on the seas upon their lawful occasions; that the inhabitants of our land may in peace and quietness serve thee our God, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
29 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; 30 When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. 31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. 32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. 33 Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
The text today is comprised of two parts:
Firstly, a solemn prophecy of Christ as to those things which we shall see near the end of this world, and,
Secondly, a Parable relating the signs accompanying the consummation of the space-time continuum in which we exist.
In the verses preceding our text, beginning at verse 20, we have an account of the destruction of Jerusalem and the utter ruin of her occupants:
‘And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. 22. For those be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days ! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. 24. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
“The ‘sign’ of her ‘desolation’ was to be the advance of the enemy to her walls. Armies had been many times encamped round her, and many times been scattered; but this siege was to end in capture, and no angel of the Lord would stalk by night through the sleeping host, to stiffen the sleep of the enemy into death, nor would any valour of the besieged avail.
Their cause was to be hopeless from the first. Flight was enjoined. Usually the inhabitants of the open country took refuge in the fortified capital when invasion harrowed their fields; but this time, for ‘them that are in the country’ to ‘enter therein’ was to throw away their last chance of safety.
“The Christians obeyed, and fled, as we all know, across Jordan to Pella. The rest despised Jesus’ warning — if they knew it, — and perished.” Dr. Alexander MacLaren
This destruction will occur in recorded history only three or four decades after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. (arnd 70 A.D.)
The Commander of the Roman Legions, General Titus, will encompass the city with numerically superior numbers of well-armed and well-trained, hardened soldiers. They will erect battlements and breachments against the walls of the city, and when this does not completely avail, he will demolish the walls with mighty catapults and rams until they crumble before him.
Amazingly and for unknown reasons (perhaps to engage another enemy threatening the Empire), Commander Titus withdraws his forces suddenly after the first year, but only for a short time of a few days after which he returns to the encirclement. Such withdrawal affords the people of Jerusalem an opportunity to comply with the following warning of Christ, but many ignore the opportunity.
“Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. 22. For those be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
This process requires approx 2 years to effect. The inhabitants are starving and in their ravenous and mindless want, even eat their own babies after all livestock, dogs, and rats have been consumed. 23. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days ! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
There was never a comparable time of wanton deprivation in the history of Jerusalem. This destruction and fall was consummated in 71-72 A.D. 24. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
The men and able-bodied boys were slaughtered. The women and children were taken into captivity as slaves. The population was dispersed and scattered among all the known nations of the world – and so it is even today. These are the same Jews and their children who, in the courtyard of Pontius Pilate, had cried for the crucifixion of our Lord.
Matt 27:24-25 24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. 25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.
God is warning America and all nations today to get ready for judgment. If we believe the warning in Lev. 18:22 to the end, we must know that judgment will come full and mighty. God always provides a means of escape as He did for Noah and his family, but we must be watchful and waiting.
It is a very pleasant thought to read that Christ will return in the clouds. “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” It was a cloud that received Him at the Ascension, and He will return likewise. “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)
Christ seems to often be associated with clouds – He was that fiery Cloud by night, and smokey Cloud by day that followed His people in the Wilderness. Moreover, His presence was symbolized by the Glory Cloud above the Ark of the Covenant. That Glory cloud is represented on the Great Seal of the United States hovering over the great eagle and contains thirteen stars – one star for each tribe of Israel including the tribe of Levi that was dispersed among the other twelve. You may verify this by referring to the obverse side of one-dollar bill where the Great Seal (front and back) is displayed.
It is a cause for sorrow to remember how this nation was once a favored vessel in the hand of the Lord. We can be so again, but we certainly are not at this present time.
We witness today a form of terror unknown to the world in previous centuries and from the Creation of the World. It even parades under that name “Terrorism”. It does not respect the lives of innocent men, women or children, but kills its victims viciously and in abandonment of all mercy.
Seeing these things coming upon the earth should not lead to a lack of faith, but should be an encouragement to us to persist in faith for we only have a short distance further to endure. This is when the Lord has chosen to bring a final stop to the wickedness we observe in our modern day.
Again, 27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
The Lord then provides us a Parable full of signs for our spiritual edification:
“Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.”
Christ gives us a natural sign for our wisdom and warning. It is a sign from Nature itself.
His Parable is based upon common sense and observation. When we see the fig tree and others put forth green shoots, we can be assured that it is not the beginning of Winter, but a promise of the soon approach of Summer. Note this is a sign of approaching events and not the complete fulfillment of them.
The evils of this world are multiplying. We are identified, not only by our own works, but also those people with whom we associate. If our friends are vulgar and without ambition, so shall we become. If they take a dim view on moral behavior and language, so will we. Even our ambition to succeed in education or profession is dictated by the friends we keep.
The Christian occupants of Jerusalem, when they saw the signs of Christ’s prophecy being fulfilled, they immediately separated themselves from the people of the city and fled to the wilderness. Perhaps, we are being warned by signs in our own lives that we must separate from our evil associations and flee to safety. Can you read the signs?