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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

What Makes a Lutheran Look to the End?

Here we are, at the end of our newsletter series on "What Makes a Lutheran..." I hope you have enjoyed these inserts and that they have helped you clarify what it is you believe or that they have challenged you and sent you back to your Bibles to reexamine what it is that you believe. I hope that if you have questions about what you have read that you will come and talk to me about them (you may even get a free lunch out of the whole thing!). It is my prayer that we can always learn and grow in the Word together!

As this is the last of these articles, it causes me to think of how we Christians are constantly looking for the end. Today Christians are constantly talking about the end times. When will Jesus return? Will there be a rapture? Will Christ reign for a thousand years on earth or when he returns will set up eternity? We delve into the mysteries of the book of Revelation to see if we can find the keys to these and other such questions. Our heads spin, our minds wander, our stomachs turn as we study these spooky end times!

Well, as Lutheran Christians, we are prone not to deal with the end times in such ways. Jesus, in fact, is pretty straight forward when he says, "It is not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by His authority." (Acts 1:7) In other words, we are not to try and decipher when Christ will return, rather, we are to be prepared for it at ALL TIMES, even as you read this article! (Matthew 24:42) The time of Christ's return is a secret and will remain so until it happens. It will be a surprise to everyone as everyone will see Christ descending from Heaven with much heavenly acclaim! (I Thessalonians 5:1-2) As Christians, we should both anticipate this day and be ready for it at all times.

But it is what happens after Christ's return that we look most forward to. After Christ returns, we go to Heaven! People often wonder what Heaven will be like. I think the best place to look for this is in Genesis 2, before the fall of mankind! Heaven will not be a place where we sit on clouds and play harps all day long. No, in fact, Heaven will be like a return to the Garden of Eden (only better because there will be no potential for sin). When Christ returns, we will rise form the dead and be ushered into a new heavens and a new earth. We will live in the presence of God and worship Christ for eternity in a very real, physical sense! Our bodies will be perfect, free from any suffering or pain or sin. We often wonder if we will recognize our loved ones in heaven. Of course we will! They will have there same bodies back, but those bodies will be perfect, imperishable, flawless bodies! Eternity will be life on a perfect, physical earth in perfect, physical bodies. On my vicarage I used to visit a woman who was suffering with MS. She told me how she looked forward to Christ's return because she knew that when He comes back she would receive her perfect, spiritual body which would allow her to run and jump and dance again! (I Corinthians 15).

But most importantly, we will be in the presence of our perfect Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! We will have an eternity basking in the presence of our loving Father. We won't worry about falling back into sin because when Christ conquered sin on the cross, he conquered it for eternity! In fact, it is only when we get to heaven that we will fully realize what it means to live without sin! St. Paul says that right now as Christians we have a taste of what life with Christ will be like, but "now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we will see face to face. Now I know in part; then I will know fully!" (I Corinthians 13:12) It is with great anticipation that we await that day when we will fully experience the marvelous light of Christ our Savior!

Pastor Bob

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