“Drawing Near” (Hebrews 10:11-25)

Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost
November 18, 2018

“Drawing Near” (Hebrews 10:11-25)

“The day is surely drawing near,” we sang in our opening hymn. And our Epistle reading today, from Hebrews 10, closes with similar words: “as you see the Day drawing near.” “The Day”? What day? Notice, it’s “the” Day. Sounds important. So let’s find out what that “day” is. And let’s also consider what the implications are for us as we see that day approaching. For our text also tells us about another type of “drawing near.” It says that we should “draw near.” “Let us draw near,” it says. Thus our theme this morning: “Drawing Near.”

The day is drawing near. Which day? Scripture tells us that it is the day of Christ’s appearing, his “parousia.” The day that’s drawing near is the day of Christ’s return, his second coming at the end of human history. That day is called the Last Day, Judgment Day, the day when our Lord Jesus Christ “will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead.” On that day all of humanity will appear before the judgment seat of Christ the King, and he will separate the sheep from the goats, the righteous from the wicked. The righteous will enter into eternal life; the wicked will go away into eternal punishment. That is the day that’s drawing near. It is the same one we heard about in the reading from Daniel 12, where it speaks of that time when God’s people will be delivered, and there will be a general resurrection of all the dead. Some shall awaken to everlasting life, but others to shame and everlasting contempt. That is the day being spoken of in our text, when it says, “as you see the Day drawing near.”

That day is coming, be assured of that. It may seem like it’s a long time in coming, but it will come. God’s Word leaves no doubt about that. It will be a day of wrath, a day of mourning, for this evil world. Judgment must come upon this world, and we see the signs all around us of its impending doom: murder, mayhem, death and destruction, terrorism, natural disasters, hurricanes and wildfires, wars and rumors of wars, political and economic upheaval, religious deception, the persecution of Christians, the decay and decline in morals, our culture now calling good evil and evil good. This world is falling apart. It’s coming apart at the seams. How much longer will God hold off on lowering the boom one last time? I don’t know. You don’t know. No one knows the day or hour. Apparently, God has more people he wants to hear the gospel and believe in Christ before the final day comes. But the day is drawing near.

Judgment, wrath, mourning–that is what will come on this world on the day of Christ’s return. Will you be able to stand in that day? I can tell you this: It will not be because you are such a good person. It will not be because of your inner goodness or your outward good works. Nor will it be because God is an old softie, sweeping sin under the rug and winking at bad behavior. No, the judgment on that day will not be like that. God’s justice demands more.

Where will you flee? Where will you turn? How will you stand on the day of judgment? Turn to Christ. He is your only hope. Only Christ Jesus, the Savior of the world, can save you on that day, so trust in him now.

Here is how Christ won your salvation: by taking away your sins. Hebrews puts it in terms of a priest making a sacrifice. The priests of Old Testament Israel made many sacrifices, the same ones over and over again. Those sacrifices could never fully and finally take away sins. But then Christ came, the one those priests and sacrifices were pointing ahead to. Jesus became our great high priest, making the perfect and final sacrifice, the one that really does take away sins. Our text says that Christ “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins”: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

Dear friends, that is how you will be able to stand in the day of judgment! Because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice on your behalf! It’s nothing you did; it’s what Christ did for you! Jesus is our great high priest who made the once-and-for-all sacrifice for sins. The Son of God did this when he offered himself into death, shedding his blood for you and for all sinners, on the cross. “Himself the victim and Himself the priest.” Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of world. Only God could save you, and he has, in Christ. Trust in him. Take your refuge in Jesus your Savior, as you see the day of judgment drawing near. In him you have forgiveness, in him you have hope, according to God’s promise: “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” The day is drawing near, and we will stand secure on that day, because Jesus our great high priest made the perfect sacrifice and won forgiveness for our sins.

So now what are the implications of this for us, between now and then, as we see the day drawing near? Our text tells us, again using the language of priest and tabernacle: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near. . . .”

“Let us draw near.” Christ has opened the way for us. Previously, the way was blocked. Our sins kept us out. We could not approach the holy presence of God. But now we have confidence to draw near. Our confidence is in Christ. He ushers us in to the throne of grace. We come to God through Christ, and that gives us confidence and boldness to draw near.

“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” This is the way of repentance and faith, the way of Baptism, of Confession and Absolution. “Let us draw near with a true heart.” You heard that at the start of today’s service, when we were invited to confess our sins to God our Father. And God is faithful; he does forgive us, for the sake of his Son. Does your conscience accuse you? Do your sins weigh upon you? Then draw near to God and find in the baptismal waters God’s promise to cleanse your conscience and purify your heart.

The day is drawing near, so let us draw near. Confessing our sins, receiving God’s forgiveness, our hearts cleansed and our bodies washed, now we are ready to speak aloud the hope that fills us. We confess our faith to one another and for all the world to hear. Our text continues: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” So first, let us draw near. And second, let us hold fast our confession. The faith we confess in the Creed–this is what we will hold fast, even when the world mocks our faith and doubts assail our soul. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope. Our hope is the sure hope of everlasting life, as sure as Christ’s own resurrection. Our faith is rooted in the faithfulness of God. His promises are sure. The Lord God remembers his promises. And all his promises are “yes and amen” in Christ. Let us draw near to God, and let us hold fast our confession.

And third, “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” That’s another exhortation given here to Christians who see that the day is drawing near: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” You, dear Christian, you are not an isolated individual, who has to try to live the Christian life all on your own. No, you are part of a community, the church, God’s own family that meets together and encourages one another and stirs one another up to a life of love and good works. You cannot do that on your own. You need your fellow Christians, and they need you. The church is God’s plan. There is no Plan B. There is no such thing as, “I believe in God, so I don’t need to go to church.” That is absurd and ridiculous. No, we were made for each other. That’s how God made us as Christians. We are meant for community, brought together by God to be his own people in the world, in this family, in this community called the church.

“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some,” our text says. Even back in the first century, apparently, they had a problem with some Christians skipping out on church. Missing church is a bad thing. How can we “stir up one another to love and good works” when we don’t even show up? How can we receive the encouragement we need when we don’t show up? Answer: We can’t. In fact, it is discouraging and demoralizing to our brothers and sisters when we don’t show up. They see an empty space where our body ought to be. Or to put it more positively, it is encouraging, it lifts our spirits, it builds up the body of Christ, when we do show up and we all meet together. Your very presence in the pew is encouraging. It is an encouragement to your brothers and sisters. Your voice, added to the chorus of voices singing the hymns and speaking the Creed–the very sound of your voice is an encouragement to others. My brothers and sisters, we need one another here in this family of God called the church. Your physical presence here every Sunday is more important than you realize.

We help one another in this family, the church. When you or I find out the needs that our sister or brother has, then we can help that person in practical ways. This can only happen when we show up and meet together and get to know one another. “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Dear friends, the day is drawing near, so let us draw near. Let us draw near to God, in full assurance of faith, through the way opened for us by our great high priest, Jesus Christ. It is he who gives us confidence to stand on the day of judgment. Let us draw near. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope, bold to speak our hope in Christ. And let us stir up one another to love and good works, continuing to meet together, which in itself is a great encouragement.

The day is surely drawing near. For us who trust in Christ that day will be a day of great joy, when our Lord and Savior returns and takes us home to live with him forever. As we see that day drawing near, let us this day ourselves draw near, near to God and near to one another.

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Published in: on November 16, 2018 at 11:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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