Signs and Warnings
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
We have begun the countdown to the end of the Church Year, when the Church turns its attention to the Second Coming of Christ and to the new heaven and the new earth. But until that day arrives, the Lord warns that there will be false messiahs and false prophets running around in this world, seeking to deceive God's people and steal them away from Him. So He warns you not to believe it when you hear preachers who point to some messiah who is not the real one. As sincerely as you warn your children away from strangers, hear the Lord's warning today. His Words will save you!
The thing about false prophets is that they try to look and sound like Jesus and His preachers. Every day people are fooled by preachers and religious leaders who sound like they are preaching Christ but really are not. People especially fall for what looks like miracles and signs done by those who claim to be Christ or represent Christ. The devil’s greatest tactic in opposing Christ is not by sounding like he's against Christ—though he does that too. But more effective is when Satan tries to sound like he is Christ. Consider the golden calf. The people made the calf, and then Aaron said, “Tomorrow is a festival to the Lord!” It was an idol, a false god, but the Lord's name was attached to confuse the people and lead them astray! So it is with false prophets today: they'll sound a whole lot like Jesus and Christians—so much so that many will follow their lies.
But there is a difference between false prophets and the true Christ. The True Jesus is the Son of God who is also true man who saves you from your sins. Did the golden calf rescue the Israelites from Egypt? No; the Lord did! Jesus Christ is true God and true man who died and rose for our salvation. That is not what you will hear from false teachers. False prophets will tell you what your itching ears want to hear: that the life of Christians is a life of ease, that God wants you to be wealthy in the things of this world, that your best life is now. What you won't hear from the false preachers is that Christ came to be made sin for you. On the cross, He was cursed for your sins. Your sins are so awful that the Son of God had to shed His blood and die to get rid of them. Christ does not save you by showing you how to live or by teaching you some path to inner peace or anything else like that. He is your Savior hanging the cross on Calvary and bleeding and dying for sinners—for you. He rose from the dead to raise sinners—to raise you. His death and resurrection for sinners set Christ apart from every impostor.
So how do you tell the difference between the impostors and the real deal? Christ has given you His Word and Sacraments; by those alone you know Him. By those alone you have His forgiveness. Christ tells you to hear and believe His Word, not look for miraculous signs. If a preacher doesn't preach Christ crucified and risen for the remission of sins, then run from him. If a preacher denies Baptism's power to save you, run away! If a preacher doesn't point you to the body and blood of Jesus given in His Supper, then close your ears to what he preaches! A false preacher will direct your attention away from God's Word in the Scriptures, away from Baptism and Absolution and the Holy Supper. The false prophet will astound with his exciting teaching, his wonderful and fake gifts of prophecy and knowledge, his wealth, his charisma—even with miracles which seem to confirm that he is authentic. But if he does not preach Christ crucified for sinners, then don't believe him! Run away! Close your ears! My brothers and sisters in Christ: the Lord has given you His Word. He gives you forgiveness at the font in Baptism and from the lips of your pastor and at the altar of His Supper. Cling to those things, and you will not be led astray.
When Christ returns, you will know it without a doubt. Until then, the devil and his preachers will impersonate Christ and try to fool you. But don't be fooled! You are washed in water and the word, fed with the body and blood of Christ, and declared forgiven! Only the true Jesus who has made you His own gives that to you. He will keep and protect you from all the devils out there who will try to steal you away from Him. Devils will fill the world, eager to devour you. Jesus says there will be. But resting in His Word, they will not overcome you. Until that great and glorious day when the new heavens and the new earth will come, the Church prays with the saints of all times and places: “Amen! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.