Now, In These Last Days

Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 27:45 mark.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Although it’s been said many times, many ways: Happy and Blessed Mass of Christ! Okay, that’s probably not what most people say. But that’s what the Scriptures say: In many times and in many ways, God spoke to the fathers of old by the prophets. But now in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son (Hebrews 1:1).

Literally, it says, “in many parts and many ways, God spoke to the fathers of old by the prophets.” In many ways: by dreams, and direct revelation; by signs and symbolic actions; by suffering and persecution. And in many parts: the full revelation was not given to any one of God’s prophets. It was a part here and part there; a promise that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent; a promise of a virgin birth here and a promise of a suffering servant there; a promise here of one like Moses, to whom God’s people must listen; a promise there of God’s mercy lasting through all generations, while His anger lasts only a little while; a promise of the return of Yahweh to Zion, and rejoicing; the coming of Elijah promised before the great and awesome day of Yahweh. Everywhere the promises in all their parts, more than can be contained in one word or by one prophet at one time. In many parts and in many ways, God spoke of old to His people by the prophets. “This is He whom seers in old time chanted of with one accord, whom the voices of the prophets promised in their faithful word. Now He shines, the long-expected; let creation praise its Lord evermore” (LSB 384:3).

This is the definition of the mystery of God, “hidden for ages and generations” (Colossians 1:26): something intended, planned, orchestrated, and willed by God, which was unclear until God revealed it. Christ is the mystery of God, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:2). “The world may hold her wealth and gold; but thou, my heart, keep Christ as thy true treasure” (LSB 372:6).

So in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, who is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact impression of His Being. He is not only the Word by whom all things were spoken into existence, but He still upholds the universe by the Word of His power. In the beginning was the Word, and God spoke all things into existence by the Word, and the Word was made flesh to dwell among us, that we might hear God speak. At Sinai, when the people heard God’s voice, they were terrified, and they told Moses not to allow them to hear God’s voice anymore. And God said they were correct. So He would speak to them by another: one in whose mouth He would put His words and who would speak as the very voice of God.

In ancient days, He spoke by Moses, or another prophet, or even by those whom He chose who were not of His people, such as Balaam. But all of that was preface, prelude, preparation for the single Voice of God from a single human mouth: the Word was made flesh, conceived and born from the Virgin. “The Word becomes incarnate and yet remains on high, and cherubim sing anthems to shepherds from the sky” (LSB 383:2). “The virgin Mary’s lullaby calms the infant Lord Most High. Upon her lap content is He who keeps the earth and sky and sea” (LSB 382:3).

In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. The entire revelation, all the prophecies, all the promises, all the patriarchs and the priesthood—all of it has been wrapped up and given in the flesh and blood of Jesus. Among His people of old, God spread out all His words, giving one part in this way, and another part in that way. It is only after Jesus appears that the apostles know how it all holds together. Only after Jesus appears can Matthew speak of this passage or that passage being fulfilled in the coming of Christ. Only after Jesus’ resurrection can the apostles be continually in the temple, blessing God (Luke 24:53), because now they know what all those words and sacrifices and festivals mean. There were some explicit promises, but now it is apparent that the entire thing, every word, is spoken in Christ. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have life, but all those prophets testify of Jesus. In Him you have life, and therefore those words are life-giving words.

In these last days. We are constantly searching for some other word of God, for some other speaking. Some people have it literally: “God is still speaking.” Or, “never put a period where God has put a comma.” According to the letter to the Hebrews, God is still speaking, but His speaking is entirely in His Son, Jesus. And Jesus is not a dead man, whom we quote approvingly, but the living Son of God, risen from the dead, speaking to us the words that He revealed through His prophets and apostles. Do not put a comma where God has put a period. And He has put a full stop following the revelation of His Son in flesh. In many parts and many ways, God spoke by His prophets to the fathers of old; but now, in these last days, He has spoken by His Son to us.

And not only has He spoken to us, but He has spoken for us. “Good Christian, fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading. Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you” (LSB 370:2). The Word that was made flesh, to suffer, die, and rise is the Word who pleads for us, who intercedes for us with the Father on the basis of His own perfect obedience (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). He brings to an end the judgment against us by bearing the cross, nailing to the cross our record of debt (Colossians 2:14). “Softly from His lowly manger Jesus calls one and all, ‘You are safe from danger. Children, from the sins that grieve you you are freed; all you need I will surely give you” (LSB 360:5).

These days are the last days, with the last and full revelation of God in His Son, in flesh and blood among us. His presence for us is no longer in the womb of Mary, no longer in the manger, no longer in His house in Nazareth; it is not just with His disciples, or on the cross, or in the empty tomb. But the presence of God in the flesh and blood of Jesus does continue with us. Jesus is ourImmanuel; our God with us. Is He still speaking? Yes, in the same ways He has spoken since His ascension and glorification in the flesh. He still speaks through His prophets and apostles. He still speaks when you hear that your sins are forgiven. He still speaks when you hear His words: this is My body and blood for you to take and eat and drink, for your forgiveness. He still speaks when anyone is baptized. These are His words, and He puts you into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. He still speaks not because He changes what He said before, but because He is the Word who is living and active.

“All blessing, thanks, and praise to Thee, Lord Jesus Christ, be given: Thou hast my Brother deigned to be, Thou Lord of earth and heaven. Help me throughout this day of grace to praise Thy love and seek Thy face; and when I stand before Thee forever to adore Thee” (LSB 378:3). Come, let all His faithful adore Him now and forever! Let us worship Christ, the King, where He is present with us: at the font, from the lectern and pulpit, and around this altar. O come, let us adore Him!

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.

– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 12/23/22

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