Luther on the End Times

Martin Luther
Wednesday, June 13th 2007
Sep/Oct 2001

For we, who are Christians, should hope for the coming of this judgment and desire it with our whole heart; as we pray for it in the words; Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, deliver us from evil; so that we may also hear the glad and welcome words: Come, ye blessed, into the kingdom of my Father. This is the verdict we await; for this reason we are Christians, and just for the sake of this hope we are so severely oppressed, first by Satan and by our own flesh, which would not have us believe this and rejoice over it; then by the tyranny and enmity of the world. For we must constantly see and hear the maliciousness which Satan and the world practice against the gospel. There is so much misery upon the earth that we ought to be tired of this life and cry aloud: come, dear Lord, and deliver us.

For there are certainly souls who are joyfully and with a good conscience awaiting the judgement of Christ; for they are in the rank and fellowship of those who believe in Christ, and who show fruits of faith through charity and beneficence toward the poor, or through patience in suffering with them. For, as I have said, he who does not have faith will not do works of mercy to Christians, but he who does them, will do them because he believes that he has a faithful Savior and redeemer in Christ, who has reconciled him to God. Therefore he must have also a kind, loving heart toward his neighbors, even toward his enemies, and serve them in every time of need. Yea, he endures also, as I have just said, those things which come upon him from the world and the devil on account of his faith.

Whosoever is thus minded, I say, let him be joyful and of good courage; for he has already the blessed and joyful verdict: come, thou blessed one, for thou hast also been one of the least of my brethren, who has thyself suffered hunger and thirst, or who hast served the other hungry and thirsty ones, and hast shown mercy, as I have done.

Excerpted from "Luther's sermon on the twenty-sixth Sunday after Trinity," in Sermons of Martin Luther, ed. and trans. by John Nicholas Lenker, 8 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1983), 5:379-395.

The Lord speaks very clearly: "So when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand." He does not say: When this begins, then interpret this to mean that the hellish kingdom of the devil has come, but that the kingdom of God is near. He says this to indicate that the kingdom of the devil is to be destroyed. For we live here among ungodly, wicked, deceitful, avaricious people, who revile the gospel and deliberately cause all kinds of misery. Now we have to see and hear this and daily reckon with the evil. "From this," says Christ, "I want to free you by my coming, so that you no longer have to endure such wantonness." For this is exactly what happened to Lot; he lived at Sodom with innocent eyes and ears in the midst of vile people who did him much hurt by their lewd conduct and tortured his righteous soul; as St. Peter says (2 Pet. 2:7), he had to see their sins and hear their filthy conversation, things not fit to be repeated. But when the sins became ripe like a boil and God could no longer hold back, two angels came to lead pious Lot out of the city. Then a terrifying spectacle occurred, as the heavens grew dark along with thunder and lightning; the clouds broke open, fiery brimstone rained down, and the earth opened and swallowed up everything. Without doubt Lot became terrified and thought his experience to be as painful to him as to the city. But his consolation was that he knew that this horrible spectacle did not affect him as it did the Sodomites, the wicked, wretched scoundrels who did not believe and did not want to reform. Because of this rain of fire they not only experienced paroxysms of horror but also were destroyed and plunged into the abyss of hell. To Lot, however, that fire was like a beautiful tree which buds and now begins to green. For in this he experienced God's help and merciful deliverance from the ungodly.

If we live that long, the same will be our experience on Judgment Day. It will be awesome to see heaven and earth set ablaze, and ourselves suddenly carried away and changed. That is terrifying. But Christ says that we are not to keep our eyes fixed on what is happening but to listen to what he is here explaining, namely, that it is a beautiful bloom, a fine, succulent branch. For this reason we are to keep ears carefully attuned to how he explains it and not to what it appears to be. True, no human being will escape being terrified by what will happen. But one must rivet his heart on the Word and, bracing himself against his reason, say, "We must not be terrified. The signs are but beautiful blooms announcing that my Redeemer and redemption are near. So, welcome, O God, my beloved Lord and Redeemer, and come, as I have often prayed that your kingdom should come to me." Whoever can welcome the Lord Christ in this way will in a trice be transported into a glory like that of the sun where he, too, will shine as brilliantly as the sun.

In this way our dear Lord Christ teaches us how to discern Judgment Day correctly, to know what he means for us and why we hope for and await his return…. To the ungodly and the unbelieving he will come as judge and punish them as his enemies and the Christians' foes, who have afflicted Christians with all kinds of misery. But to the believers and Christians he will come as a redeemer. This we should believe firmly, rejoicing in his coming and taking care that when he comes, as St. Peter says, "We shall be found in faith and godliness, walking before him in peace and without blame." To this end my God grant us his grace. Amen, Amen.

Excerpted from: "Second Sunday in Advent: Luke 21:25-36 (Second Sermon, 1533)," in Sermons of Martin Luther: The House Postils, ed. by Eugene F. A. Klug, trans. by Klug, et al., 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1996), 3:44-51.

Wednesday, June 13th 2007

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
Magazine Covers; Embodiment & Technology