Left Behind?
Thursday of Easter 3
4 May 2017
The sensationalistic and unscriptural books in the Left Behind series depict a world left in the grip of the devil and awaiting final judgment. And while orthodox Christians are correct in rejecting their false end times scenario, sometimes we do feel like we are "left behind." There is great trial and tribulation in these latter days of the church as we await our redemption from this evil world (Gal 1:4). While we know the certain triumph of Christ our resurrected and ascended Lord, still we feel left behind by Him. He reigns in light inaccessible while we feebly struggle here attacked by the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. It is easy for the ascended Christ to turn aside the attacks of Satan. Christ has already triumphed over him and has prepared a hell for him for his final disposition (Rev 20). So what about us? We feel left behind under the harassment of our enemy.
 
Despite our feeling, the Lord has triumphed over Satan by His resurrection from the dead for our sakes. Whatever he undergoes or does, is undergone or done for us. So when Jesus rose He ripped the guts out of death and Satan. His ultimate power to plague us Christians was severely limited by Christ's resurrection. Defeat does a great deal to limit his ability to wage war against those whom Christ redeemed. Satan thought that he had swallowed up the weak little morsel of Jesus, the Son of Mary on the cross, and he found to his shock and dismay that he had ingested the almighty Son of God. No amount of Rolaids would help with this belly full. So while the liar from the beginning is still claiming to be able to wrest us from the power of the Mighty One, this is a completely unfounded claim; a total lie. It should elicit from us not fear but derision and mockery. What would victorious soldiers say to an enemy combatant who, although mortally wounded, claimed to have captured them? At best a sarcastic surrender, at worst biting laughter. Martin Luther recommended that we laugh at and mock Satan.
 
We have been baptized into the death and life of the One who has defeated Satan. We hear the living Word of the Lord of Life. So we are not at all left behind, but are following the one who is the Firstfruits. Since He is first, we follow. He was raised. We shall rise. The devil has already done his worst. And that didn't work out very well for him, did it? He is wounded unto death. We have the life of the triumphant Lord Christ. Left Behind? Not in a thousand years!

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
 
"But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man" (1Co 15:20-21).
 
"Paul now declares: 'Though we may be more wretched than any other people on earth, though we may be frightened by whatever will frighten and aggrieve us, death, hell, and every misfortune, and though these may become as severe as they can; now Christ has arisen, not from sleep,' he says, 'but from death; for He died and was buried the same as other people. But He came forth alive from the grave in which He lay and destroyed and consumed both devil and death, who had devoured Him. He tore the devil's belly and hell's jaws asunder and ascended into heaven, where He is now seated in eternal life and glory.' This is to be comfort and defiance. For on His name we are baptized, and we hear and profess His Word. After Him we are called Christians, and for His sake we suffer every misfortune and grief from the hand of the devil. For this is not aimed at us but at Him and His kingdom, whose enemy the devil is. He tries to destroy it, and he treats us so roughly and wearies us with pursuit, harassment, and death so that we might forsake Christ.
 
"But we will confront him confidently and say: 'No, you despicable, vile devil, you will not bring matters to such a pass that I surrender Baptism and the name of my Lord for your sake. If you can defiantly rely on and make an uproar with your death, fire, water, pestilence, and hell, we can defiantly rely on this Lord Jesus Christ, who has vanquished you. He can again destroy you and cast you into hell eternally-as He in fact will do-and wrest us alive from your jaws. Therefore devour us if you can, or hurl us into the jaws of death, you will soon see and feel what you have done. We, in turn, will cause such a great disturbance in your belly and make an egress through your ribs that you wish you had rather devoured a tower, yes, an entire forest. For you previously consumed a Person and put Him under the ground, but He was too strong for you. To your great disgrace you had to return Him although you blasphemed defiantly: 'He saved others; He cannot save Himself, etc.' (Mt 27:42). But now He defies you in return; He has become your death and hell. And soon He will overthrow you completely through us on the Day of Judgment.'
 
"You, of course, will say: 'It is easy for Christ to defy the devil and death, for He is enthroned on high where no one can harm Him. But what do I gain thereby? Or, how will I obtain that? As you can see, I remain behind.' St. Paul replies with one short statement, saying: 'Christ has been raised from the dead, the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.' For with the word 'Firstfruits' he implies that Christ is not the only one to arise but that others will follow later. You must not regard this Man as one who arose for Himself alone. We would be but poorly comforted if His resurrection had no sequel. Then we would derive no more benefit from this than if He had never become man." 

Martin Luther, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, 20-21
Revelation 20:1-15

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth --Gog and Magog-- to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You have crushed the head of our adversary by Your death and triumphant resurrection. Always send Your Word to us that we might know the life You have won for us. Keep us from despair. Free us from our fear of an eviscerated enemy. Help us to mock and ridicule him his hopeless ranting against your kingdom. You have not left us behind but are ever with us in your Word and sacraments. Send Your Holy Spirit to give us this confidence. Amen.
 
For Jill Stoneburner, that God her Father would watch over her and grant her healing
 
For Kyrstin Harvey, that the Lord would be with her and send His holy angels to watch over her
 
For President Dale Meyer of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and all its 2017 graduates that they might find joy in their labor for the bride of Christ
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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