Rev. J. Herbert Larson
1975 Synod Convention Essay
Titus 2,11–15: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men,
Teaching us that. denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world:
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ:
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”
From Him who is coming, to those who await His coming, grace, mercy and peace.
It began in the eternal counsels of the foreknowledge of God, that He would forever hold out to man, His foremost visible creature, a blessed hope, that centers in His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. That theme is carried through the pages of the Old Testament’s sacred record. The thread is picked up in the Gospels, Epistles and Revelation of the New Testament. The ringing sounds of the clear trumpet of the Scriptures are of “a blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
He came first in humility, through His conception by the Holy Ghost and His birth of the Virgin Mary. As a Man who “had not where to lay his head,” Matthew 8,20, He came preaching and teaching, performing miracles, and prophesying of things yet to come. He was despised, scorned, rejected by most, who had taken counsel together that one man should die for the people. Stirred to fever pitch on the morning of that day which we have come to call Good Friday, they crucified Him. He died and was buried. He had reconciled the world unto God. On the third day He rose again from the dead, for our justification. Forty days later He took His disciples to the Mount of Olives, immediately to the east of Jerusalem, from which He ascended into heaven, disappearing from their view. Seeing the fearful looks of their faces, an angel bade them not to be fearful and assured them that “this same Jesus which was taken up from you into heaven, shall so come again in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven,” Acts 1,11. Until the coming of that “great and terrible day of the Lord,” Joel 2,31, they, in obedience to His charge to them were to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” Matthew 28,19-20. Together with all who had heard His voice, and who would hear it through those whom He sent, the disciples were to be watchful and pray that that day would not come upon them unawares, Together with all who make up the Bride of Christ, the Holy Christian Church, they were to prepare themselves for His return, when He would come in all the fullness of His glory to judge the living and the dead.
The disciples did as Jesus had commanded them. They went preaching the Gospel of Christ’s Kingdom, determined with a consecrated determination “to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified,” 1 Corinthians 2,2. Of them, and their fervent evangelistic activity, some said that they had turned the world upside down, Acts 17,6, and they didn’t like it! Others, who did receive the apostles’ ministry in Christ’s name, as it was, in truth, the Word of God, the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation to all who believe, rejoiced in their hearts at the coming of this Divine Light which would ever after lighten their hearts and their paths on the course of an earthly sojourn, that, by God’s eternal and saving grace, would bring them eventually into the heavenly mansions prepared for all those who love His appearing.
Through the effectual working of God’s Holy Spirit, blessing their speaking as the oracles of God, the apostles left spiritual fruit behind them, when the time inevitably came for them to depart and to be with Christ eternally. There remained in their stead other faithful men of God, whom they had taught, and thus the saving Gospel of a crucified and risen Christ continued its long history of being transmitted from one generation to another.
As the centuries rolled on, the Word of the Lord continued to be heard and believed, but not without opposition from that one who is a liar and the father of lies. The sacred, pure teachings which had their origin with God, and which had been brought to earth by His Son, accepted and preached by His chosen band of disciples, carried on by their spiritual progeny, carried still further into the history of man by their followers.—These sacred and pure teachings came to be discounted, despised and rejected by more and more who fell under the tempting voice of that one, who, as a roaring lion, walks about seeking whom he may devour. The reasonings of men began to be valued more highly, even in the churches, than was the Holy and Eternal Word of God. Darkness descended. Rationalizing scholasticism dominated the theology of the Middle Ages.
The Lord has never left His people forsaken. They have never been entirely devoid of His Truth. As He had done during the Old Testament period of the Judges, when He raised up men who defended Israel from their oppressors and delivered them again into the hands of their Almighty God, the Lord brought Martin Luther into the light of His Word and sent him forth to do battle with the forces of darkness, again to restore the Scriptures to their rightful place in the Church. “Do we also thank God for Luther and the Reformation?” A sainted pastor of our church-body, the Rev. M. Fr. Wiese, asks that question in an article in the Evangelisk Lutherske Kirketidende (June 25, 1880, pages 402 ff.); the official organ of the old Norwegian Synod. Pastor Wiese discusses Luther and the Reformation at some length, gathering all that he says around that question and pleading with the Lutherans of his day to appreciate Luther and the work which he was privileged to do in Christ’s Church. Wiese’s question belongs very much in this introductory portion of our essay: “Do we also thank God for Luther and the Reformation?”
As Luther feared, when he passed from the earthly scene to enjoy heavenly bliss, another period of consternation followed, in which his writings were neglected, which he could have borne; had not the Gospel itself also fallen into disuse again. Darkness threatened to descend upon the still young Lutheran Church and to snuff out the Light which it had kindled. The Lord was not willing that such calamity occur. He gave courage to those men who eventually brought forth that remarkably faithful exposition of Scripture in the form of the Book of Concord, embodying the confessions of the Lutheran Church. The thread of that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, though it had been stretched thin, and here we speak as men, was not broken. Never, however, has it been without its foes.
Martin Luther, and the “second Martin,” Martin Chemnitz, were survived by men who saw the same light which had guided them. These post-Reformation teachers and defenders of the Truth carried on the rich traditions of Scriptural truth of which they were heirs.
The 18th century saw another threat arise, this in the form of Rationalism. In the same Saxony, in Germany, which had cradled the Reformation in the 16th century, the Lord was again preparing another of those rare men, possessed of deep insight into the Scriptures and possessed with the aptness to teach which is required of the Lord’s servants and possessed with the courage to hold firmly to them in the face of opposition. C.F.W. Walther was being schooled by the Lord, at the same time as he grew to manhood exposed to the emptiness of the then prevalent Rationalism. In 1838, Walther joined a group of emigrants from Saxony to America. They arrived eventually in Perry County, Missouri, and began to build a church that was truly Lutheran. Though Walther passed from earth to heaven, we may confidently believe so, in 1887, “he being dead yet speaketh,” Hebrews 11,4, through the wealth of the writings that survive him, and through the spirit of orthodox, confessional Lutheranism that survives him, though honesty and experience compel us to say that again that arch-enemy of God’s Truth has made his presence and his influence felt in suppressing in many hearts that same love of God’s truth which motivated Walther.
A few years after Walther’s arrival in Missouri, but at about the same time, more and more Norwegian Lutherans began corning to America. They came to Muskego and Koshkonong, in Wisconsin. They crossed the Mississippi and settled in Allamakee and Winneshiek Counties, in Iowa. Seeking spiritual fellowship on the solid basis of God’s Word, our “fathers,” among them Jakob Aall Otteson, Herman Amberg Preus, and Ulrik Vilhelm Koren, found it with Walther’s Lutherans.
Through such men, and always entirely by God’s grace in Christ, truly orthodox, confessional Lutheranism has survived to the present. We are among its present heirs. Wonder of wonders! Divine favour unsurpassed! Responsibilities and challenges lie before us for which we pray the Lord that He will keep us truly appreciative of the richness of the heritage that has come down to us, sensitive to its evangelical truth, courageous in upholding it, zealous in spreading it.
We too are “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of our great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” Before we have passed into our heavenly home, may God in His grace permit us the joyful privilege of leading many who are still strangers and foreigners to the Kingdom of God, to that same blessed hope!
I The Basis for Our Blessed Hope
A. The Testimony of Scripture
We would know none of the things which now capture our attention had not God revealed them. The blessed hope which our Lord has given us of the great and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior is another of those things which the natural eye of man has not seen, nor his ear heard, neither have they entered into the heart of man, cp. 1 Corinthians 2,9, except by Divine revelation. The Bible records the beginnings of things and it tells of the end of things. The Bible records the past, and since it is God’s Word, it is infallible in recording the events of history, as it is in its interpretation of history. Similarly, the Bible predicts the future, and eternity will show it to have been infallible also in this. Dr. Franz Pieper (died 1931), seminary professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, summarizes: “Scripture teaches that, in divine majesty and surrounded by the hosts of His angels, Christ will return visibly, in the sight of all men, for the purpose of the final judgment of the world and the induction of His Church into eternal glory. Luther: ‘He will then not be bedded in the manger, nor ride on an ass, as He did in His first advent, but burst forth from the clouds in great power and glory.’” (Christian Dogmatics, Volume III, page 515–516)
As He neared the Cross toward which His entire life in the flesh was directed, our Savior addressed Himself more and more to the teaching of that group of twelve disciples whom He had called to follow Him, and whom He had said He would make “fishers of men,” Matthew 4,19; Mark 1,17. If they were to go into the world of men and make disciples of them also, they had to know the whole counsel of God, all the things which were to comprise their message of life and hope to a world which even then was perishing in the darkness of sin and unbelief. He, who knows and who sees all things, knew that the light that would alone dispel the darkness was “All things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Unveiling more of these things as time ran out for Him. He left the city of Jerusalem early in His last week, to go toward the Mount of Olives. With Him were those men in whose hands, humanly speaking, the future of His Church lay. Behind them, in the dusk of the evening, was the city of Jerusalem. Jews, and among them, of course, those twelve, felt a justifiable pride in their chief city, Jerusalem. The site on which Jerusalem is built had been the focus of extremely important and dramatic moments in the history of their people. David had made it his headquarters for thirty-three of the forty years he ruled as king, first over Judah and then over all the nation. Late in life, he had seen the comfort of his own home and the comparative humility of the Lord’s house, the tabernacle. It became his ambitious plan to build a suitable home for the Lord also, in Jerusalem. Again, the prophet Nathan spoke to him in the name of the Lord, and told David that he would not build the Lord a temple, since his background had been one of a military man, but his son, Solomon, would. Destroyed later by the hordes which swarmed down from the north under the mighty Nebuchaddnezzar, the temple was rebuilt during Nehemiah’s time. Destroyed again, and rebuilt again, this time under the direction of Herod the Great, the temple from which Jesus had just come stood on the skyline in all its resplendent beauty and impressive majesty. Perhaps “just then the western sun was pouring his golden beams on top of marble cloisters and on the terraced courts, and glittering on the golden spikes of the roof of the Holy Place,” (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Alfred E. Edersheim, Volume II, page 430). God was worshipped and served in the temple, with sacrifices of the Levitical Law, all of which prefigured that one, later sacrifice which the Lamb of God Himself was to make in perfect, complete atonement for all the sins of all the world for all time. Jerusalem, Zion, God’s holy hill, matchless in the estimation of the Jew; a place which excited his imagination and inspired his loyalty.
As they went from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives, the Savior began to speak of the end of things. Peter and James, John and Andrew, asked to know more. Jesus began to speak of the corning destruction of the city, claiming that not one stone would remain on top of another, all would be over-turned, in a city besieged and destroyed; amid the most cruel suffering. Though His words seem to have direct reference only to the coming destruction of the city, His questioning disciples had also asked about signs of His coming and of the end of the world, and all that Jesus says about Jerusalem’s end coming has to be taken in the context of the final Day of Judgment.
As outlined in the 24th and 25th chapters of St. Matthew, the 13th chapter of St. Mark, and in the 21st chapter of St. Luke, this sequence of events, or signs, can be expected before the end. Spiritual distress and tribulation shall come. Wars and rumors of wars will be almost constant, with nations and kingdoms rising against each other, in spite of repeated alliances, leagues and unions of nations, whose avowed organizational goals would be the abolition of war. The Church itself can expect to experience tribulation, from without and from within. There will be a falling away from the faith, and as often happens, those who have fallen will themselves be visited by hosts of evil spirits and their opposition to the Church will be severe. False Christs will appear upon the earth and deceive many. Religious teachers will travel the earth, be quoted in the world’s press, purchase broadcasting time, address large assemblies of people, some of them alleging that the Christ who came from Nazareth had failed in His mission, and that the Lord God in heaven has appointed another to complete the work of Christ. Lawlessness and lovelessness will grow to terrifying proportions. Betrayal and hatred will fill many hearts. Iniquity will abound and with it the love of many will grow cold. In His mercy, the Lord Himself will shorten these days, lest even the elect grow faint-hearted. While all of this is taking place, the Gospel of Christ’s Kingdom will be preached in all the earth. Not that the entire world will believe, because the Gospel operates in a climate that is hostile to it, for it must overcome the enmity of the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh of those who hear it. The Gospel would nonetheless be preached to the uttermost parts of the earth, so that they at least have the chance to believe, for “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” Romans 10,17.
During these increasingly trying times, the Church is to pray that its flight not come in the winter or on the Sabbath. It is to be watchful in prayer. It is not to trust in every spirit that comes forward claiming to be spiritual guide to Christ. The abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, will make his appearance. Seducers, false teachers, within the church will make their appearance. The Antichrist will appear. Nature itself will provide premonitions in the form of famines and pestilences, earthquakes in divers places; the sun and the moon darkened. Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, at an hour when ye think not, as He says, Christ will come, as suddenly as the lightning flashes across the sky from the east to the west. Early warning signals will not react quickly enough to spread news. Satellite TV, or on-the-spot news reporters will be unable to flash pictures on special news alerts.
Christ will have stopped human history on the earth, as He once entered it.
The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, in all His glory, to judge the living and the dead, is capable of several reactions on the part of those who hear of it through the preaching, reading and teaching of the Scriptures. 1) To some, the news of Christ’s coming is greeted with the same yawning indifference with which all spiritual things are received by the natural man who cannot receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him. 2) To others, the possibility, or the threat, of Christ’s return is remote, since so long a time has already passed since He left the earth to ascend into heaven. 3) To others, the news of an eventual, even imminent, return to judgment by the glorified Christ is received with the dread fear of those who have spent their lives outside the pale of the Kingdom of God, and who, sensing their error, yet not repenting of it and entering the Kingdom through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, can only dread the Day when they will have to stand before the Lord’s throne of judgment and hear Him say to them: “depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” Matthew 25,41. 4) To those who have loved the Glorious appearing of their great God and Savior, the Day of His Return in triumph is a Day of anxious expectations. May we be found among that number to whom He will finally say: ‘Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,” Matthew 25,41.
B. The Confirmation of Scripture by the Lutheran Confessions
It is our belief that the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, as contained in the Book of Concord are an accurate and faithful interpretation of the Scriptures. To demonstrate that this is the case, look next at their witness to these things.
The three universal or ecumenical creeds of Christendom have these references to that Day:
“…from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead,” Apostles Creed;
“…and He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead,” Nicene Creed;
“…from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give an account of their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire,” Athanasian Creed.
The Book of Concord has these statements:
“The same Christ shall openly come again to judge the quick and the dead, etc., according to the Apostles’ Creed,” Augsburg Confession, Article III, paragraph 6, page 45.
“Also they teach that at the consummation of the world Christ shall appear for judgment, and will raise up all the dead; He will give to the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, but ungodly men and the devils He will condemn to be tormented without end.
“They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils.
“They condemn also others, who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed,” Augsburg Confession, Article XVII, p. 51.
“The Seventeenth Article the adversaries receive without exception in which we confess that at the consummation of the world Christ shall appear, and shall raise up all the dead, and shall give to the godly eternal life and eternal joys, but shall condemn the ungodly to be punished with the devil without end,” Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XVII, page 335.
The Smalkald Articles, The First Part, page 461, IV, have this concerning Christ: (He) “will come to judge the quick and the dead, etc., as the Creed of the Apostles, as well as that of St. Athanasius, and the Catechism in common use for children, teach.
“Concerning these articles there is no contention or dispute, since we on both sides confess them. Therefore it is not necessary to treat further of them.”
In the Large Catechism, discussing the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed, p. 687, Dr. Luther says: “… until finally, at the last day, He will completely part and separate us from the wicked world, the devil, sin, death, etc.”
We see in the Augsburg Confession’s seventeenth article, a positive and a negative side to the Lutherans’ confession concerning the Last Things. On the positive side, Lutherans believe that Christ will come visibly with power and great glory. His coming will be for purposes of judgment. It will be the closing chapter of the world’s history. It will be a general judgment, encompassing every person who has ever lived on earth prior to His coming, or at the time of His coming. It will be a wise judgment, according to God’s Word. That Day will see the most glorious fruition of all the Gospel promises for believers and that Day will be the most damning Law for unbelievers, with the deeds of everyone being interpreted by the Omniscient Judge as having manifested faith or unbelief. The dead will be raised on that Day, as the Scriptures teach. That Day will be the consummation of God’s plans with reference to believers.
On the negative side of this Scriptural teaching, as taught by the Lutheran confessors at Augsburg, is the rejection (as contrary to Scripture) of the doctrines of 1) Anabaptists, and, 2) Chiliasts (or, Millenarians), in whatever form they manifest themselves.
II Scripture against error
No doctrine of Scripture has been immune to attack, to misunderstanding, misinterpretation. Nor has this doctrine of the Last Things escaped the machinations of that one who is the enemy of the Truth. A brief discussion of some of these departures, in fairly broad generalities, will be pertinent.
The Seventeenth Article of the Augsburg Confession has this sentence: “They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils.” Scriptural refutation of the error is found in Revelation 14,11, where the inspired exile, John, writes: “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.”
The same Augsburg Article condemns “also others, who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed.” This is the Lutherans’ rejection of all chiliastic teaching.
In our own day, it is possible to hear or to read expressions of opinion as to what the Scriptures teach, that are their direct opposite, in the form of Chiliasm (which derives from the Greek word for “one thousand”), or of Millennialism (which derives from the Latin word for “one thousand”).
The words “chiliasm” or “millennialism”, which are used interchangeably, broadly include the belief, supposedly grounded in Scripture, that at some future date in time, the Lord Jesus Christ will return to the earth, in glory, to raise from the dead all those who have died as martyrs for the Christian faith since the beginning of the Christian era; that the many forces of wickedness and ungodliness will be suppressed by the Lord Jesus; that, in company with those who have taken part in this imagined “first resurrection”, Christ win establish some sort of kingdom upon this earth, over which He will reign, and under whose personal, earthly reign, heaven will literally be set up here upon the earth, a reign which will feature full, perfect. and complete peace upon the earth, a reign which will last for a period of 1,000 years, as the terms “chiliasm” or “millennialism” suggest. At the end of this 1,000 years, a final, great battle will be fought on the plains of Armageddon, between the forces of good and the forces of evil, which will end with the successful victory of the forces of good, after which the so-called “second resurrection” will occur, and the dead in Christ will rise to reign with Him eternally in the heavens; and those who have died without such faith as is required to enter heaven, will hear the Savior say: “Depart from me… into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” Matthew 25,41.
The return of Christ to the earth, for judgment purposes, was taught to the disciples who gathered with Him on the Mount of Ascension, as we have noted. The imminence of Christ’s return was anticipated already mid-way through the first century A.D. by the Christians in the Grecian city of Thessalonica. Paul addressed an epistle to them to instruct them concerning this momentous event, so that they would not be overly concerned and terrified by it, and so that they could be comforted by its teachings and implications. In the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians, Paul says:
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, (those who have died before Christ’s return) that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede, go before) them which are asleep (dead). For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words,” verses 13–18.
This is one of the places in Scripture from which chiliasts, or millenialists, derive their belief in a so-called “first resurrection,” followed by a period of time elapsing before those who are alive and remain upon the earth at the time of Christ’s coming will finally be taken up in a cloud and forever be with the Lord.
The interpretation of Scripture to include belief in a millennial reign of Christ is by no means new. Some of the “church fathers” of the post-apostolic age of church history taught a chiliasm in one form or another. Through their writings which have survived the passing of many centuries, we can become partly familiar with them.
One such church-father of antiquity was Irenaeus (c. 130–200 A.D.), who writes in his Adversus Haereses (Against Heresy), about Papias, a contemporary of the apostle John, this rather interesting, and at the same time fanciful description of the conditions which millenialists expect to prevail, at least to some extent, upon earth eventually:
“This blessing (sc. of Isaac, Genesis 27,27-29) indisputably refers to the time of the kingdom, when the righteous shall rise from the dead and reign; when creation, renewed and liberated, shall produce food of every kind in abundance, thanks to the dew of heaven and the fertility of the earth. The presbyters who saw John, the Lord’s disciple, recall hearing from him that the Lord taught about this time in these words: ‘The days will come in which vines shall grow, each with ten thousand shoots, each shoot with ten thousand branches. each branch ten thousand twigs, each twig ten thousand clusters, each cluster ten thousand grapes; and each grape when pressed shall yield twenty-five measures of wine (about 225 gallons). And when any of the saints shall take hold of one of the clusters, another cluster shall call out, ‘I am a better cluster; take me, and bless the Lord through me.’ Likewise a grain of wheat shall yield ten thousand ears, and each ear ten thousand grains, each grain ten thousand pounds of pure white flour. And fruits, seeds, and grass shall yield in like proportions. And all the animals, enjoying these fruits of the earth shall live in peace and harmony, obedient to man in entire submission”
Irenaeus says that:
“The authority for these sayings is Papias, who belonged to an earlier generation, who heard John speak and was a companion of Polycarp. This passage comes from the fourth of his five books. He adds, ‘These things are credible to believers. And when the traitor Judas was sceptical and asked, ‘How will the Lord effect such produce?’, the Lord said, ‘Those who come to that era shall see’ ”, The Early Christian Fathers. edited and translated by Henry Bettenson, Oxford University Press, 1956, pages 137-138.
Another church-father of that long ago era, Tertullian (flourished about 200 A.D.) wrote:
“For we also hold that a kingdom has been promised to us on earth, but before (we attain) heaven: but in another state than this, as being after the (first) resurrection. This will last for a thousand years, in a city of God’s making, Jerusalem sent down from heaven which the Apostle also designates as ‘our mother from above’ (Galatians 4,26) and in proclaiming that ‘our Politeuma’, that is, citizenship, ‘is in heaven’ (Philippians 3,20), he surely ascribes it to a heavenly city. Ezekiel knew that city (Ezekiel 48,30ff.). and the Apostle John saw it (Revelation 21,2ff.), and the Word of the New Prophecy which dwells in our faith witnesses to it so that it even foretold the appearance of the likeness of that city to serve as a sign before its manifestation before mens’ eyes. In fact this prophecy was just lately fulfilled in the course of the eastern expedition. For it is a fact attested even by the heathen that in Judea a city was suspended from heaven for a short space in the early morning during a period of forty days… We say that this is the city designed by God for the reception of the saints at the (first) resurrection, and for their cherishing with abundance of all goods, spiritual goods to be sure, in compensation for the goods we have despised or lost in this age. For indeed it is right and worthy of God that his servants should also rejoice in the place where they suffered affliction in his name. This is the purpose of that kingdom; which will last a thousand years, during which period the saints will rise sooner or later, according to their degrees of merit, and then when the resurrection of the saints is completed, the destruction of the world and the conflagration of judgment will be effected; and we shall be ‘changed in a moment’ (1 Corinthians 15.52–53) into the angelic substance, by the ‘putting on of incorruption’ and we shall be transferred into the celestial kingdom.” (Adversus Marcionem), ibid, pages 226–227.
Only two quotations from church-fathers, in support of their belief that the Scriptures do indeed hold forth a millenialistic hope for believers in God and in His Son. The broad features of chiliasm can be noted in the two quotations. They are broad generalities only. Prof. Franz Pieper is joined by others in saying that the specifics of the supposed chiliastic reign of Christ on earth have almost as many varieties as supporters.
Fascinating and interesting as their excerpts are, our concern in referring to the church-fathers is to ask whether they did teach a doctrine which is, in truth, taught in the Scriptures.
The Lutheran Confessions answer “no!”, as we have heard. Lutherans of later times who have remained true to the Confessions likewise say “no, there is no basis in the Scriptures for teaching millenialism in any of its forms.” C.F.W. Walther discussed the teachings of these church-fathers: Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolyte, Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria, Melito, Barsedan, Commodian, Victorinus, Methodius, and “particularly the renowned Lactantius,” before saying: “Thus we have shared with our readers in the foregoing the chief points concerning the 1 ,000 year rule which have come to us from the writings of the patricians… We believe… that no Lutheran who accepts the 17th Article of the Augsburg Confession without a reservatio mentalis (mental reservation), can demand tolerance or authorization in our churches of the chiliasm of the church-fathers. Because, that the church-fathers, who were chiliasts, have indulged in gross chiliasm is undeniable.” (Lehre und Wehre, Jahrgang 18, No.4; April 1872).
Pastor A.K. Sagen, of the old Norwegian Synod, prepared an essay on Chiliasm for a pastoral conference at La Crosse, Wisconsin. which he later published in booklet form in 1896. Pastor Sagen likewise discusses the church-fathers with references to their having taught chiliasm, and concludes with this belief: “That which should be drawn from this discussion is therefore this, that the chiliastic interpretation is false and dangerous, first, because it contradicts the nature and essence of Christ’s Kingdom; second, because it contradicts the analogy of faith; and third, because it has no basis in Scripture.” This is a good, clear, brief analysis of Chiliasm.
When the Rev. Christian Anderson read his essay on De sidste tider (The Last Times) to the 1937 convention of our church-body, which met in Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Madison, Wisconsin, he echoed the “no” to Chiliasm, saying: “These, as well as many other clear places in Scripture show that we are not to believe that Christ will first set up a kingdom on earth over which He shall reign for a thousand years before He Comes to complete the judgment,” (Synod Report. 1937, page 16).
The Rev. Albert Barnes, not a Lutheran, but familiar to many pastors especially through his Notes on the books of the Old and New Testaments, has included in his “remarks” on 1 Thessalonians 4,13–18, a convincing argument for not believing that the Scriptures espouse Chiliasm. Barnes believes that any doctrine that has to be based upon the fanciful reasonings of chiliasts cannot possibly be Scriptural. He thinks that if the Holy Ghost, by whose working the holy writers wrote, had intended there to be a chiliastic strain to the New Testament, that Paul, or some other holy writer, would have been provided by that Holy Ghost with a completely clear and absolutely sublime and rhapsodic description of the earthly reign of the Savior. But there is none.
During the early- and mid-19th century, when various small Lutheran bodies in America were going through the process of finding spiritual brethren, in hopes of merging and establishing a larger fellowship, the question of millennialism was one of the points which, in some instances, prevented the declaration of spiritual fellowship existing. Then, as before, and as later also, not all church bodies believed it necessary to be too fastidious in establishing such full and complete doctrinal agreement before announcing to one another and to the world that they could establish a larger union. One of the points of contention between the General Council and our Norwegian–Missouri–Wisconsin Synod “fathers” was Chiliasm. General Council statements on the subject did not satisfy, for example, a man such as U.V. Koren. In his article, “The First Meeting of the General Council,” he writes; “We will not allow ourselves to comment on the doctrine of the so-called thousand-year-reign (Chiliasm), except that every Lutheran catechumen should know that it is clearly and undeniably taught in the Holy Scripture that when the Lord comes to earth the next time, that it will be to judge the living and the dead; that we have the command to be prepared at all times for the Lord’s return, that the Christian Church here upon earth will always be militant, and that according to God’s Word there is therefore no place for this dream, that before Judgment Day the Lord will reign here upon earth with the elect in glory and gladness for 1,000 years,” (Samlede Skrifter, Volume III, page 72).
In this portion, we have been discussing abuses of the Scriptural doctrine of the Last Things, so far with specific reference to chiliasm. There is another matter which can concern us briefly.
It has to do with the signs which Jesus says will precede His coming, and the date of His coming. From time to time we are told by various religious persons or groups that the Lord Christ will return to earth on a specific date, at a specific hour. Whatever the source of their information, we know that they do not know what they are talking of, for we have this word of Christ in answer: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only,” Matthew 24,36.
Are the signs of Christ’s Return being fulfilled? Even a casual questioner asks it. Dr. Pieper has this: “Like Luther, we must, on the one hand, speak guardedly on this point; on the other hand, however, we shall have to say with him ‘that the greater part of these signs have already occurred and not many others are to be expected.’ These signs, it should be added, are purposely so designed as to make computing the exact time of Christ’s return impossible, with a view to keeping Christians constantly alert. The Lord warns (Matthew 24,42); ‘Watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.’” Christian Dogmatics, Volume III, page 519.
III Looking Unto Our Blessed Hope
That it is a blessed hope toward which our expectation of the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ points cannot be denied by believers. Nor can it be questioned that the world about us is in need of receiving such hope, with its blessed assurances, now, at this time in mankind’s history, as before.
We are challenged by the Scriptures, and by our own understanding of them, and by God’s love for a fallen race of men, and by our Savior’s Great Commission, and by our loving obedience to Him, to make these glad tidings of great joy known unto the uttermost parts of the earth. For without it, without the blessed hope to which we are directing ourselves, great masses of humanity, still strangers and foreigners to the commonwealth of spiritual Israel, are being swept along in the tides of ungodly and anti-godly philosophies toward a destruction that is as inevitable, as terrible and terrifying, as eternal; as that towards which Christian hearts are turned, is precious.
The return of Christ to judge the living and the dead will be that, a judgment. It will be a just and a righteous judgment, for all that our Lord does is just and righteous. Christ the Judge will come to judge the Jiving and the dead on the basis of whether they possess or did possess at their moment of death a true faith in Him as their Lord and Savior. He will make no mistakes, no misjudgments, no misinterpretations, for He it is who “searcheth the reins and hearts,” Revelation 2,23. He it is who knows all things, yea, the secret and deep things of the human heart, which the prophet Jeremiah says is “desperately wicked,” 17,9. The returning Christ of judgment will look beneath the surface, beneath the sins that often are obvious to the eyes of mortals. With the eyes which we possess, we may know of the same sin having been committed by two different people. To the eye, both are guilty, both could be condemned with perfect justice. The Lord, however, sees deeper. He looks upon the heart. He will see in the one case that the sinner has erred in weakness or ignorance, that the sinner is experiencing that struggle between knowing what is right and pleasing to God, and doing it. The Lord will see the repentant heart of the one sinner, pleading the mercies of God upon himself for the sake of all that Christ is and has done. For them that are in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation, Romans 8,1. There is forgiveness, grace, mercy and life. The other sinner may be guilty of the same thing, the same offense against the holy and righteous majesty of God, but this other sinner has turned himself into a vastly different and telling contrast to the direction in which the first sinner has been turned by the Lord. This second sinner has hardened himself to the point where he boasts of things of which he ought to be ashamed. This second sinner counts it a small thing that he is guilty of many, or most, of the things of which everyone else is guilty. In his, or her, mind the things of the spirit of God count for little, or nothing. He is on the broad way that leads to destruction, in company with so many others, with no desire, no thought, of getting off that road onto the path that leads to life, though it be strait and narrow. The sins have not condemned him (they can be forgiven), but unbelief has. “… he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16,16.
Upon him the wrath of God will have to descend in all its terrible and terrifying fullness. He will know the thirst which parched the tongue of the Rich Man in hell, as Jesus told in the Parable, Luke 16,24. This sinner will find to be true what the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” 10,31. This sinner will know the lake of fire burning with brimstone, Revelation 19,20, et al. This one will know, and know it too late, that hell is not just a rough life on earth, but more, eternal separation from God. The coming of Christ on the Last Day will be a day of dread, of indescribable horror, to too many; and here we speak as those who love the souls which Christ has redeemed.
If sinners are to live in peace during their lives on earth, and if they are to depart in peace, it can never be in the peace of this world. The world gives even little of its peace. The mood of the times has to be described by such words as these; ugly, unsure, uncertain, apprehensive, suspicious, fearful. When the world speaks of peace, it is of a dream that does not come true. It is a word that is almost empty of meaning. There is so little living in peace in this world and there is no chance of departing this life in the world’s peace and entering into the heavenly peace. The world itself will pass away and the love of the world and of the things of the world is not of the Father. The world cannot and does not contribute to the blessed, peaceful departure of anyone. Yet, having only the world as their teacher, uncounted souls are perishing each day, a sober fact which ought to prompt those who themselves are looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of the great God and Savior Jesus Christ, to devote themselves to doing all that is within their power to turn as many as possible unto that path which leads to life, in the fu]ness of that life, as we have discussed, and as we shall continue to discuss.
In a brief novel, the Russian exile, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, describes One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Ivan is a prisoner in a Russian workcamp in the cold north of the Soviet Union. His day is typical, consisting of working amid almost inhuman conditions, surrounded by fellow-prisoners, not all of whom are pleasant to live with. They are prisoners of a system that exerts its next-to-almighty power and influence over every aspect, every moment of their lives. The cumulative weight of the experience, and of the novel, is close to oppressive. Ivan knows some small joys, even during this typical day, but they are few and really inconsequential. The novel closes with this gloomy thought: “There were three thousand six hundred and fifty three days like this in his sentence, from reveille to lights out. The three extra ones were because of the leap years,” It must be something like that one day in the life of Ivan Denisovich to live in this world without the blessed hope that the great and glorious appearing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, gives to those who believe.
There is a strong sanctifying influence in the Christian’s belief in the blessed hope which is before him. The salvation which Christ brings teaches His people to deny ungodliness and worldy lusts, to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, as Paul speaks of it to Titus. There is a strong sustaining power in it, for whatever troubles, persecutions, afflictions, which they may be called upon to endure in their lifetimes here, those lifetimes are short in comparison with eternity, and their sufferings not worthy of mention in comparison with the joy that is set before them. The gain is so great that physical sufferings and sufferings for righteousness’ sake, pale in comparison. “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life,” Revelation 1, 10b, says our Savior to the church which was at Smyrna.
When the Day arrives, when Christ shall descend from the heavens in all of His glory to judge the living and the dead, believers, Christians, will be reunited in body and soul and then they shall forever be with the Lord. The apostle says we are to comfort one another with these words, cp. 1 Thessalonians 4,13-18.
It is the New Jerusalem which is before us now and which will receive us finally. It is to the final consummation of our blessed hope which we address ourselves. When we attempt to contemplate the New Jerusalem, we attempt to rise above ourselves into a place of which we now know only in part, I Corinthians 13,12. When he later wrote of this City of which he had been permitted to have a glimpse, Paul said: “I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell; God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter,” 2 Corinthians 12,1b-4.
When the aged elder of the Church, St. John, was given a similar glimpse into the New Jerusalem, he wrote as the Lord supplied him with his words: “I, John, who am also your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; … After this I looked, and behold a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter,” Revelation 1,9-11; 4,1.
In his eleventh chapter, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of Abraham and says of him: “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” vs. 10. When this same writer has listed the heroes and heroines of faith, he says of them: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city,” verses 13-16.
We are in this same place on our way, if we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that we have this blessed hope of the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, that we declare plainly that we also seek a country, the city which God has prepared, the “city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
The goal of our blessed hope, the City in which we already have citizenship when we believe that Jesus Christ “was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification,” Romans 4,25, the City to which we believe that Christ will eventually bid us enter, is described in the Revelation of St. John the Divine, chapters 21 and 22. Beautiful and moving as his words are, we realize that no human language can adequately communicate its splendors, that the best we can expect to receive on this side of it, is only an inkling.
Similarly, any attempts to describe the final and full appropriation of that blessed hope will fail to picture it adequately. The lack is in ourselves, in our own inabilities in this life to grasp fully the life that is to come. The lack is not in God, nor in this City, which He has both founded and built. A number of questions rush naturally into the minds of those whose thoughts are in the New Jerusalem, on that blessed hope, while their bodies remain below.
Because of his understanding of spiritual things and because of the clarity of his writings, we turn to Dr. Martin Luther for just one of his answers to questions which we ourselves are asking. In his exposition of Galatians 4,7, Luther says that the blessedness awaiting us beyond death is indescribable:
“This heritage of ours is, as Paul says elsewhere (2 Corinthians 9,15), inexpressible. And if anyone could believe with certain and constant faith that he is a child and an heir of God, and could comprehend the magnitude of this fact, he would consider whatever there is of power and wealth in all the realms of the world to be contemptible and filthy in comparison with this celestial heritage of his… Then, too, he would eagerly desire with Paul to depart and to be with Christ, and nothing more pleasing could happen to him than an early (praematura) death. He would embrace this as the most joyful peace; for he would know that it is the end of all his evils and that through it he comes to his heritage, etc. In fact, the man who believed this with a perfect faith would not stay alive long but would immediately be consumed by excessive joy.” (What Luther Says, Volume II, #1900).
Who are the eternal residents, the favored citizens of this City of all cities, those in whom this blessed hope has been kindled by God Himself, and preserved in them? and how have they come there?
We know the names of some of them, as we know the means by which they have arrived safely there. The aforementioned eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews lists some of them:
Abel, who “By faith… offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous,…”
Enoch, who “By faith… was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”
Noah, who “By faith… became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”
Abraham, who “By faith… looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
Sarah, who “Through faith… received strength to conceive seed. and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.”
Also there, by the testimony of God Himself in His sacred record, are Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel. They are mentioned by name.
“The prophets” are listed as a group, of whom the writer of the Epistle says: “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith,…” We know their names and we know the faith to which they testified. There is Job, who wrote the stirring, immortal words: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another’ though my reins be consumed within me,” 19,25-27. There is Isaiah, of the brilliant 53rd chapter: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed,” vs. 5. There is Jeremiah, who wrote of the Lord: “For I will forgive their iniquity; and I will remember their sin no more,” 31.34. There is Ezekiel, who recorded this word of the Lord: “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will given them a heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God,” 11,19–20. And on through the list of prophets.
Paul is there. He has to be, for he has written so convincingly of Christ and of His victory over death, and so confidently to Timothy: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing,” 2 Timothy 4,7–8.
Peter is there, for it is he who has written of his and of our redemption: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,” 1 Peter 1,18–19.
Do we doubt that Martin Luther is there, having heard his words that seem almost to breath the air of that blessed hope? On February 17, 1546, he lay in Eisleben, the German city in which he was born. Life was leaving his frame. His long-time colleague, Dr. Justus Jonas, put his mouth close to Luther’s ear and asked him: “Reverend father, do you remain fixed in faith in Christ and in His doctrine as you have preached it?” “Yes,” answered Luther, loudly and clearly. (cp. This is Luther. Ewald Plass, p.382).
But these are noted figures of the past. Myriads of lesser known believers who looked for that blessed hope have found it to be true that Jesus is correct in saying to His disciples: “In my Father’s house are many mansions,” John 14,2. They were known and loved by their families, their neighbors, their friends and associates; but unknown beyond the confines of their own localities. They have been and are known by the Lord, and their names have been inscribed in the Book of Life, written there in the Father’s hand.
Those who look for that blessed hope and glorious appearing know, as the Apostle knew, that “henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness…”
“A crown of righteousness.” God offers it. Believers receive it. It is Christ’s sinlessness, more than enough to cover their sins. It is eternal life, the gift of God, given by our righteous Lord, to all who believe in Him. This, to hope for, instead of fearing death, which is the wages of sin.
“I am ready! I am among those who look for this blessed hope!”
Are the words an empty boast, a presumptuous error, on the part of people who have been deceived? Is it assuming too much for a person to think he knows ahead of time where he is going to be in eternity? Is this Christian who lives in such faith, and then dies in it, to be pitied for a lifetime of Christian faith and for his or her hope of this glorious bliss? Will he be, in eternity, one of those most miserable men, for whom Christ was of use only in this life, but not in the next? No. Not if the Bible is true. Not if we believe what it teaches and pray with the psalmist: “Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed,… O keep my soul, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee,” 25,1-2.20.
Such faith inspires prayers and hymns, among them:
“Now opens the Father’s house above,
The names of the blest are given;
Lord, gather us there; let none we love
Be missed in the joys of heaven.
Vouchsafe Thou us all a place with Thee;
We ask through our dear Redeemer.
“O Jesus, draw near my dying bed.
And take me into Thy keeping.
And say when my spirit hence is fled;
‘This child is not dead. but sleeping.’
And leave me not, Savior, till I rise,
To praise Thee in life eternal.”
— Lutheran Hymnary, #506, sts. 6 & 7
“Here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come,” Hebrews 14,14. This truth is evident at every funeral. That “time to die” of which wise Solomon wrote (Ecclesiastes 3,2) does come. Death has passed upon us all because of sin. But the story does not end there. Through His Son, our Lord has given us a blessed hope.
Though we sorrow at the death of Christian loved ones, it is not to be, and it need not be, the sorrow of those who have no hope. Though there be tears, we expect that the Lord will wipe them away, according to His promise, (Revelation 21,4). Though there be lonesomeness for the departed, we do not wish them with us again, because their passing has brought them gain that is incomparable with anything that earth can offer.
We are blessed in believing in the hope of our true home, the eternal residence of God’s faithful pilgrims. He has prepared an eternal home for His people. Moved by His love and compassion for a sinful world “He gave his only begotten Son, so that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3,16.
“Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever,” Romans 9,5; 2 Corinthians 11,31. The Lord gave His Son “a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,… and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father,” Philippians 2,9–11. And “if we with our mouths confess the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in our heart; that God has raised him from the dead, we shall be saved,” Romans 10,9, to live in the glorious fulfillment of our blessed hope, at the dawning of that Great Day of the Lord.
It is not by works of righteousness which we have done that we live in this blessed hope, or eventually gain admittance to that blessed home. It is solely by God’s grace through faith in Christ, who was crucified for our sins and raised again for our justification. God’s children live now by faith and they will be eternally with Him, in full realization of the blessed hope, which the Holy Spirit has planted, watered, and increased in their hearts through the preaching and teaching that is done in Christian congregations where the things which have occupied us now have been the regular fare served up by faithful pastors and teachers. Here too, a negative and a positive side are to be seen. The negative is a refutation of chiliastic dreams. The positive is an appreciation of what we already possess by God’s grace. Dr. Pieper is again pertinent: “In short, according to the explanation which Scripture itself offers, the promises in Holy Writ to which Chiliasm appeals, are consummated in all that the church of the New Testament already has by faith in the Gospel, and looks forward to in heaven,” (Christian Dogmatics, Volume III, page 523).
The eternal destination is the Father’s house of many mansions, prepared by the Lord Jesus. It is indeed a City whose Builder and Maker is God. It is a City of great size, for it must accommodate all His faithful people of the centuries, who, coming to the end of their earthly pilgrimage with Him, need a place in which to continue in company with their Lord. It is a City of Beauty, for it is the City of God. His shining light makes the light of the sun dim by comparison, and unnecessary. It is the City in which the faithful join in singing loud hallelujahs to the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Into this City come God’s faithful pilgrims, people who did not expect their life on earth to continue forever; people who did not want to live on earth forever, because God had given them hope of something better, at the glorious appearing of their great God and Savior, God’s faithful pilgrims,
“Den store hvide Flok…”
the “…host arrayed in white,…
Lo, these are they of glorious fame
Who from the great affliction came
And in the flood of Jesus’ blood
Are cleansed from guilt and blame.
Now gathered in the holy place,
Their voices they in worship raise.
Their anthems swell where God doth dwell.
In angels’ songs of praise.”
— Lutheran Hymnary. #492, st. 1
Martin Luther leads us in prayer: “May our Lord Jesus Christ perfect His work which He has begun in us, and may He hasten that Day of our redemption for which, by the grace of God, we long with uplifted heads and for which we sigh and wait in pure faith and with a good conscience. In these we have served an ungrateful world, which is the incorrigible enemy of its own salvation, to say nothing of our salvation. Come, Lord Jesus! And let him who loves Thee say: Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.” (What Luther Says, Volume II, #2185).
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely… He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly: Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Revelation 22,17,20–21.