I’m sure I’ve preached sermons that mention that the rapture is a false teaching, but I don’t think I’ve ever addressed it quite so head on. This week, with Jesus telling the disciples what the Holy Spirit will do, (lead them into all truth) and with a false rapture prediction for Saturday, it seemed a good time to discuss it.
It was merely a brief digression to my sermon. The rest is about the work of the Holy Spirit – how he brings Jesus to us, and so gives us the Father. Salvation: It’s a Trinitarian Thing.
For those too busy to listen, you can read it below. But I made changes in the pulpit that improved it greatly(As usual), so you really do want to listen.
Jesus tells the disciples that he is going away, and then he says, “it is for your good.” I’ve got good news, I’m leaving you. Kids, I’ve got good news, you get to clean your rooms. Students, I’ve got good news, you get extra homework. Faithful employees, good news, you get to work an extra two hours tonight. That’s the sort of good news this seems to be from Jesus. Bad news that Jesus says is good news. To the disciples, its devastating news. This isn’t at all what they want to hear. It isn’t at all what they think they need from him. After all, if he is God’s son, they need him around some more, so they can learn from him, so they can be close to God. Yet, he tells them he is leaving.
A quick digression : We are talking about Jesus leaving on the day after the world was supposed to end. For those of you who listen to the news, you know that a false prophet was predicting the end of the world yesterday. How do we know he was a false prophet? First of all – No one knows the day and hour. God tells us – if the prediction comes true – then a true prophet. If not, then a false prophet. There are only two kinds of prophets. There are no do overs with prophecy – and this was already his second failed attempt to predict the end, so we already knew he was a false prophet. As for his predictions about what would happen – the rapture, and so on, they don’t come even close to matching what the bible has to say about the end of the world. They are doctrines invented in the 1800’s by those who were looking for a more apocalyptic view of history a history that involved things that Jesus said he was not at all interested in. His kingdom is NOT of this world. The first sure sign we will have that the end is near is when our Lord appears and judges the living and the dead. As for the idea of “left behind,” are we to believe that the church for 1800 years unanimously missed this important teaching? Listen to what Jesus says, “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.” Notice how it was in the days of Noah – The unrighteous will be taken, swept away. The faithful will be left behind. We must be careful when we interpret scripture that we do not simply go hog wild with our own ideas and thoughts. Instead we must let scripture itself tell us what scripture means. This is where the traditions of the church are useful. Has it ever been taught that way before? Is it in our Lutheran confessions? What do Saint Paul or the Evangelists say about it? Does it point to Jesus as the savior of the world from sin, or does it somehow direct us to our own works and efforts? And of course, if a prediction is made, did it come to pass?
To tie this all in to the Gospel reading – Jesus is very clear – the work of the Holy Spirit is NOT to give some brand spankin’ new revelation every few years that no one has ever had before, and that totally contradicts what Jesus himself says elsewhere in black and white regarding God’s plan of salvation, and regarding the end of the world. So what is the work of the Holy Spirit? Jesus tells them – because he promises the Holy Spirit will come.
But the disciples don’t hear that. They get to the part about Jesus leaving, and they are devastated. They want him to stay. Is there anyone who is really a fan of goodbyes? Jesus is about to tell them that he will be gone for a little while – his crucifixion. Here he is telling them that soon he will go to the father, and so they will no longer have him sitting there, eating with them, talking directly to them as he has been for the last three years. Obviously this is terrible news. So, they are filled with sorrow. Jesus tells them that, if they really understood what was happening, they would be filled with joy. So also for us. If we truly understood God’s work in this world, we would see how the words of the apostle are true, “we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We would not be overcome with sorrow, as we often are.
And yet, in this world, we are often down about our prospects. We are often upset because of this or that or the other. We are often frustrated at how God handles things, and at the things he sends us, looking on them not as blessings, but as sufferings and trials. We are often filled with grief and sorrow over what is going on around us. What the church calls in one it’s collects “The changes and chances of life.” They weary us. They get to us. They bring us sorrow.
So, Jesus promises the disciples that, even though he is going to the Father, even though they will no longer see him, this is for their own good. Because when he goes – and only if he goes – he will send the Holy Spirit. The helper. The Greek word for helper is Paraklete. It means one who comforts. The holy spirit will comfort us.
How? He will convict the world regarding sin righteousness and judgment. The spirit convicts the world regarding sin, by bringing us God’s word of Law which shows us our sin, he convicts the world regarding righteousness because Jesus is the righteous one, and by his death, resurrection and ascension, he has shown himself to be righteous in the sight of his heavenly Father, and all those who believe in him are also made righteous. And he convicts the world regarding judgment, because by Jesus death and resurrection, the ruler of this world – Satan – has been judged. Satan has been destroyed by Jesus death and resurrection.
But that is not enough. If Jesus died and we did not have the word of God to hear about it, it would do us no good. If Jesus died and we had no way of knowing that the gift was ours, what benefit would his death be to us? We must hear, and more than that, we must believe.
The problem is that we can not by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to him. It is the Holy Spirit that calls us by the gospel, enlightens us with his gifts and sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith.
It’s not just that we have nothing to offer God. We have no way to even offer what we have. You want to give God your heart? What sort of gift for the almighty creator of heaven and earth, the holy and righteous judge, is a sinful heart? All our good works are like filthy rags. What must the heart look like that produced such filth? Filthy rags – a fine gift for a king. Even if we could offer him our heart, it is really nothing to be proud of that we did.
That is why we need God to save us, start to finish. The same God who created us, now redeems us, and sanctifies us – that is, makes us holy. God comes along, and sees the filthy rags, he picks us up, and HE makes clean. He takes us to be his own. He makes us worthy to receive the forgiveness that makes us worthy to be his. It is Jesus righteousness from start to finish. But without the work of the Spirit to bring us to faith, we couldn’t even believe.
It’s not just that we need to try harder, we need to dedicate ourselves fully to him, we need to really mean it when we give ourselves to him. No, no, and no. It’s that our will is totally corrupted, so that nothing good remains in us. We are sinful from the time of our conception. We can’t dedicate or consecrate or sanctify ourselves. We need God to do it.
How does God go about saving us? The death of Christ. How do we get the benefits of that death?
James said it in our Epistle reading, “The implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” You need to hear that word of God, and God needs to implant it in you. And then God needs to give the growth. The wheat can take no credit for growing. It is planted by another, watered by another, and it grows because God made it to be so. So also with us. God gives us the Spirit so that we would believe his holy word and live godly lives hear in time and there in eternity. We pray for that in the Lord’s prayer. But it is not us that do it to ourselves. It is The Father who sends his Son, who saves you, and then prays the Father to send the spirit so that you would believe. The spirit then, is given where the word of Christ is spoken, and the Spirit brings that word of Christ to you. A word given to him from the father. That is what Jesus means in the Gospel reading where he talks about the spirit speaking what is given to him, and Jesus giving what the father has given him. The spirit comes not for his own credit or work, but to bring to you the gift of the work of Jesus – his death on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins, his resurrection so that you could have life. And that death and resurrection of Jesus is the gift of the heavenly father, who desires all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.
Jesus goes to the Father so that he can send the spirit, who brings you Jesus. And in getting Jesus, you get the Father as well.
That’s why we pray in the Lord’s prayer God the Father would send his spirit so that we believe the word of His son.
It is our prayer every day of our lives, here in time, so we would be with him there in eternity. Comforting words in a hard world. May God grant it to each one of us.