vah were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the
breath of his mouth." And Gen. 2, 1 : "And the heavens and
the earth were finished, and all the host of them." It is the
common custom of the Scriptures to speak in this way of the
powers of heaven. And it is clear from these pasages that the
hosts or powers of heaven include all that is in them; in the
heavens, the sun, moon, stars, and other heavenly bodies; on
earth, man and beast, birds and fish, trees, herbs and whatever
else lives upon it.
32. The passage before us may therefore mean the powers
of heaven in both senses, probably chiefly the hosts of heaven.
Christ would say that all creatures shall be shaken and shall
serve as tokens of that day; sun and moon with darkening,
the stars with falling, the nations with w^ars, men with hearts
failing from fear, the earth with earthquakes, the waters with
winds and roaring, the air with infection and pestilence, and
the heavens with their hosts.
33. I do not know just what is meant by the moving of
the hosts of heaven unless it be manifestations like those of the
great constellation of the planets in 1524. For the planets are
certainly among the most important of the powers and hosts
of heaven, and their remarkable gathering together into one
constellation is surely a token for the world. Christ does not
say that all the hosts of heaven will be moved, but some of
them only ; for not all stars shall fall from their places, nor all
men be overcome with fear, nor all waters at the same time
be in noisy commotion, nor sun and moon be every day dark-
ened; for these are to be but signs, which can only occur at
particular times and in a few places, that they may be some-
thing special, and singled out as tokens from the great mass
which are not such. It is quite probable, therefore, that these
movements of the powers of heaven are such movements of
the constellations of the planets. Astrologers interpret them
to signify the coming of another flood; God grant that they
74 Luther's church postil.
may rather presage the comi'ng of the last day.
34. Let us not be mistaken, however, and think that these
constellations are the product of the natural course of the
heavenly bodies. As such Christ calls them signs and desires
us to take special note of them, appearing, as they do, not
alone but with a multitude of other tokens. Let the unbeliever
doubt and despise God's tokens and speak of them as simply
natural ; but let us hold fast to the Gospel.
35. There are many other signs elsewhere described in
the Scriptures, such as earthquakes, famine, pestilence, and
wars as in Luke 17, 20 and Math. 24, 7. We have seen much
of these for they have been common at all times. Still they
are tokens appearing by the side of others. It is a known
fact also that wars at the present time are of such a character
as to make former wars appear as mere child's play. But
since our Gospel of today does not speak of these, let us not
consider them further. Only let us consider them as signs,
great signs, signifying great things ; alas, they are already
despised and forgotten !
"And then shall they see the Son of man eoming in a cloud
with pozver and great glory."
36. Here power may again signify the hosts of angels,
saints, and all creatures that will come with Christ to judg-
ment (I believe this is the correct interpretation) ; or it may
mean the special power and might which will characterize this
coming of Christ in contradistinction to hi's first coming. He
says not only that he will come, but that they shall see him
come. At his birth he came also, but men did not recognize
him. He comes now through the Gospel in a spiritual manner,
into the hearts of believers. This also is not by observation.
But his last coming Avill be such that all must see him as Rev.
1,7 says, "And every eye shall see him." And they shall see
that he is none other than the man Christ Jesus, i'n bodily form,
as he was born of the virgin Mary and walked upon this earth.
He might have said they shall see me, but that would not
have clearly indicated his bodily form. But when he says:
''They shall see the Son of man," he clearly indicates that it
will be a bodily coming, a bodily seeing in bodily form : a com-
SE:C0ND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 75
ing in great power and glory, accompanied b}- the hosts of
heaven. He shaU sit upon the clouds and be accompanied by
all the saints. The Scriptures speak much of that day and
everywhere point to the same. This, then, is said concerning
the signs. The Saviour adds words of comfort for Christians
in the presence of these signs.
IL THE COMFORT CHRISTIANS HAVE WHEN
THESE SIGNS APPEAR.
"And when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and
lift up your heads; because your redemption drazveth nigh"'
37. Here you may say, who can lift up his head in the
face of such terrible wrath and judgment? If the whole world
is filled with fear at that day, and lets fall its head and coun-
tenance out of terror and anxiety ; how shall we look up and
lift up our heads, which evidently means, how shall we mani-
fest any joy in and longing for these signs ? In answer I would
say that all this is spoken only to those wdio are really Chris-
tians and not to heathen and Jews. True Christians are so
afflicted with all manner of temptations and persecutions that
in this life they are miserable. Therefore they wait and long
and pray for redemption from sin and all evil ; as we also pray
in the Lord's Prayer, "Thy kingdom come", and ''Deliver us
from evil." If we are true Christians we will earnestly and
heartily join in this prayer. If we do not so pray, we are
not yet true Christians.
38. If we pray aright, our Â«condition must truly be such
that, however terrible these signs may be, we will look up to
them with joy and earnest desire, as Christ admonishes:
"When these things begin to come to pass, look up." He
does not say. Be filled with fear or drop your heads; for
there is coming that for which we have been so earnestly
praying. If we really wish to be freed from sin and death
and hell, we must look forward to this coming of the Lord
with joy and pleasure.
St. Paul also says, in 2 Tim. 4, 8, "Henceforth there is laid
up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the
righteous judge, shall give to me at that day: and not only to
76 i.uthdr's church postil.
me, but also to all them that have loved his appearing.'' If
he gives the crown to those who love his appearing, what will
he give to those who hate and dread it? Without doubt,
to enemies, eternal condemnation. Titus 2, 13 says, "Look-
ing for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the
Great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." And Luke 12, 36,
"And be ye yourselves like unto men looking for their lord,
when he shall return from the marriage feast."
39. But what do those do who are filled with fear and do
not desire to have him come, when they pray, "Thy kingdom
come, thy will be done," "deliver us from the evil one?" Do
they not stand in the presence of God and lie to their own
hurt? Do they not strive against the will of God who will
have this day for the redemption of the saints? It is neces-
sary, therefore, that we exercise great care lest we be found
to hate and to dread that day. Such dread is a bad omen
and belongs to the damned, whose cold minds and hard
hearts must be terrified and broken, if perchance they might
40. But to believers that day will be comforting and
sweet. That day will be the highest joy and safety to the
believer, and the deepest terror and anguish to the unbeliever ;
just as also in this life the truths of the Gospel are exceed-
ingly sweet to the godly and exceedingly hateful to the wicked.
Why should the believer fear and not rather exceedingly re-
joice, since he trusts in Christ who comes as judge to redeem
him and to be his everlasting portion.
41. But you say I would indeed await his coming with
joy, if I were holy and without sin. I should answer, what
relief do you find in fear and flight? It would not redeem
you from sin if you were to be filled with terror for a thousand
years. The damned are eternally filled with fear of that day,
but this does not take away their sin; yea, this fear rather
increases sin and renders man unfit to appear without sin on
that day when it comes. Fear must pass out of the soul
and there must enter in a desire for righteou^^ness and for that
day. But if you really desire to be free from sin and to be
holy, then give thanks to God and continue to desire to be
Â»KCOND SUNDAY IN ADVE:nT. 77
more free from sin. Would to God that such desire were
so sincere and powerful in you as to bring you to your death.
42. There is no one so well prepared for the judgment
day as he who longs to be without sin. If you have suck
desire, what do you fear? You are then in perfect accord
v/ith the purpose of that day. It comes to set free from sin
all who desire it, and you belong to that number. Return
thanks to God and abide in that desire. Christ says his coming
is for our redemption. But do not deceive yourself and be
satisfied, perhaps, with the simple desire to be free from sin
and to await the coming of the day without fear. Perhaps
}Our heart is false and you are filled with fear, not because you
would be free from sin, but because in the face of that day you
cannot sin free and untrammeled. See to it that the light
within you be not darkness. For a heart that would be truly
free from sin will certainly rejoice in the day that fulfills its
desire. If the heart does not so rejoice there is no true desire
to be loosed from its sin.
43. Therefore we must above all things lay aside all
hatred and abhorrence of this day, and exercise diligence that
we may really desire to have our sins taken away. When
this is done, we may not only calmly await the day, but with
heartfelt desire and joy pray for it and say, "Thy kingdom
come, thy will be done." In this you must cast aside all feel-
ings and conceit, hold fast to the comforting words of Christ,
and rest in them alone.
44. Could he admonish, comfort, and strengthen you in
a more delicate and loving manner ? In the first place he says,
You will hear of wars, but you should have no fears. And
when he tells you to have no fears, what else does he mean
than that he commands you to be of good cheer and to discern
the signs with joy? Secondly, he tells you to look up; thirdly,
to lift up your heads ; and fourthly, he speaks of your redemp-
tion. What can comfort and strengthen you if such a word
does not? Do you think he would deceive you and try to lead
you into a false confidence ? My dear hearer, let such a word
not have been said in vain: thank God and trust in it â€” there
is no other comfort or advice if you cast this to the winds.
iÃ¶ I^UTHER S CHURCH POSTII..
It is not your condemnation but your redemption of which
Christ speaks. Will you turn his words around and say, It
is not your redemption but your condemnation? Will you
flee from your own salvation? Will you not greet and thank
your God who comes out to meet and to greet you?
45. He has no doubt also spoken this word for the faint-
hearted who, although they are devout and prepared for the
last day, are yet filled with great anxiety and are hindered
in taking part in his coming wdth that desire which should
be found at the end of the world ; therefore he calls attention
to their redemption. For when at the end of the world sin
will hold such sway, and by the side of sin the punishment
for sin with pestilence, war and famine, it will be necessary
to give to believers strength and comfort against both evils,
sin and its punishment. Therefore he uses the sweet and
comforting word redemption which is so dear to the heart of
man. What is redemption? Who would not be redeemed?
Who would have a desire to abide in the desert of sin and
punishment? Who would not wish an end to such misery
and woe, such perils for souls, such ruin for man? Especially
should this be the case when the Saviour allures, invites and
comforts us in such an endearing way.
46. The godless fanatical preachers are to be censured who
in their sermons deprive people of these words of Christ and
faith in them, who desire to make people devout by terrifying
them and v^ho teach them to prepare for the last day by
relying upon their good works as satisfaction for their
sins. Here despair, fear and terror must remain and grow
and with it hatred, aversion and abhorrence for the coming
of the Lord, and enmity against God be established in the
heart ; for they picture Christ as nothing but a stern judge
whose wrath must be appeased by works, and they never
present him as the Redeemer, as he calls and offers himself,
of whom wc are to expect that out of pure grace he will
redeem us from sin and evil.
47. Such is always the result where the Gospel is not
rightly proclaimed. When hearts are only driven by commands
and threats, they will only be estranged from God and be led
SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 79
to abhor him. We ought to terrify, but only the obstinate and
hardened; and when these have become terrified and dejected
also, we ought to strengthen and comfort.
48. From all this we learn how few there are who pray
the Lord's Prayer acceptably even though it is prayed un-
ceasingly in all the world. There are few who would not
rather that the day would never come. This is nothing else
than to desire that the kingdom of God may not come. There-
fore the heart prays contrary to the lips, and while God
judges according to the heart, they judge according to the
lips. For this reason they institute so many prayers, fill all
the churches with their bawling and think they pray aright when
in reality their prayer is: "May thy kingdom not come, or
not just yet." Tell me, is not such a prayer blasphemy? Is it
not of such a prayer that the Psalmist speaks in Ps. 109, 7,
"Let his prayer be turned into sin." How men are applying
all the w^ealth of the world to fill every nook and corner of it
with such blasphemy, and then are calling it a divine service!
49. Yet he who feels such fear must not despair, but
rather use it wisely. Pie uses it wisely who permits such fear
to urge and admonish him to pray for grace that this fear
might be taken away and he be given joy and delight in that
day. Christ has promised. Math. 7, 8, "Everyone that asketh
receiveth." Therefore those who are fearful are nearer their
salvation than the hard-hearted and reprobate, who neither
fear nor find comfort in that day. For though they do not
have a desire for it, they have a something within which ad-
monishes them to pray for such a desire.
50. On the other hand, he uses fear unwisely who allows it
to increase and abides in the same, as though he could thereby
be cleansed from sin. This leads to nothing good. Not fear,
which, as John says, 1 John 4, 18, must be cast out, will
remain in that day, but love which, St. Paul says in 1 Cor.
13,8, must abide. Fear is to be a power to drive us to seek
such love and pray for it. Where fear is not cast out it opposes
the will of God and antagonizes your own salvation; it thus
becomes a sin against the Holy Spirit. It is, however, not
necessary to say that the individual must be altogether with-
80 Luther's church postil.
out fear, for we still have human nature abiding in us. This
is weak and cannot exist altogether without the fear of death
and the judgment; but the spirit must be uppermost in the
mind, as Christ says, Math. 26, 41, "The spirit indeed is
willing, but the flesh is weak.*'
''And he spake to them a parable: Behold the ÃŸg tree, and
all the trees: when they now shoot forth, ye see it and know
of your own selves that the summer is now nigh. Even so ye
also, when ye see these things coming to pass, know ye that
the kingdom of God is nigh."
51. Pure words of comfort are these. He does not put
forth a parable from the fall or winter season when all the trees
are bare and the dreary days begin; but a parable from the
spring and summer season, when everything is joyous, when all
creation buds forth and rejoices. By this he clearly teaches that
we are to look forward to the last day with as much joy and
delight as all creation shows in spring and summer. What
is the meaning of this parable if in it he does not teach us this ?
He could have found others that were not so joyous.
52. In applying it, he does not say your hell or condemna-
tion is at hand, but the kingdom of God. What else does it
signify that the kingdom of God is at hand than that our
redemption is near? The kingdom of God is but ourselves,
as Christ says, Luke 17,21, ''For lo, the kingdom of God is
within you ;" therefore, it draweth nigh when we are nearing
our redemption from sin and evil. In this life it begins in the
spirit ; but since we must still battle with sin and suffer much
evil, and since death is still before us, the kingdom of God is
not yet perfect in us. But when once sin and death and all evil
are taken away, then will it be perfect. This the last day will
bring and not this life.
53. Therefore, my dear hearer, examine your life, probe
vour heart to ascertain how it is disposed toward this day.
Do not put your trust in your own good life, for that would
soon be put to shame ; but think of and strengthen your faith
in order that the day may not be a terror to you as to the
damned, but be your joy as the day of your salvation and of
the kinÂ£r<'lom of God in vou. Then when you think or hear of
SE;C0ND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 81
the same, your heart will leap for joy and earnestly long for
its coming. If you do not wish to pronounce judgment upon
yourself, then do not think that you would be able to stand
in that day even with the meritorious deeds of all the saints.
^'Verily I say unto yon, This generation shall not pass away ,
till all things he accomplished. Heaven and earth shall pass
away: but my words shall not pass away"
54. Why does the Lord so fortify his Word and confirm
it beyond measure by parables, oaths, and tokens of the gene-
ration which shall remain though heaven and earth pass
away? This all happens because, as was said above, all the
world is so secure and with open eyes despises the signs to
such a degree that perhaps no word of God has been so despised
as this which foretells and characterizes the judgment day.
It will appear to the world that there are no signs ; and even
though people should see them, they will still not believe.
Even the very elect of God may doubt such words and tokens,
in order that the day may come when the world is never so
secure and thus be suddenly overwhelmed in its security, as St.
Paul said above.
55. Therefore Christ would assure us and wake us up
to look for the day when the signs appear. We are to realize
that though the signs be uncertain, those are not in danger who
look upon them as tokens, while those who despise them are
in the greatest danger. Hence let us play with certainties
and consider the above-named signs as truly such lest we run
with the unspiritual. If we are mistaken, we have after all
hit the mark; if they are mistaken, it Is a mistake for eternity
56. Jesus calls the Jews "this generation." This passage,
therefore, clearly indicates that the common saying is not true
which holds that all the Jewes will become Christians ; and that
the passage, John 10, 16, "And they shall become one flock
and one shepherd," is not fulfilled when the Jews go over to
the heathen, but when the heathen came to the Jews and be-
jcame Christians at the time of the apostles, as St. Augustine
often explains. Christ's words in John 10, 16 indicate the
same, ''And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold;
82 i^uther's church posxii,.
them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and they
shall become one flock and one shepherd." Note that he
speaks clearly of the heathen who have come to the Jewish
fold; therefore the passage has been long since fulfilled. But
here he says, "This generation shall not pass away" till the
end come ; that is, the Jews who crucified Christ must remain
as a token. And although many will be converted, the gene-
ration and Jewish character must remain.
57. Some have also been concerned about how heaven and
earth will pass away, and they again call Aristotle to their
aid. He must interpret the words of Christ for them, and
he says, that heaven and earth will not pass away as to their
essence but only as to their form. How much they think they
are saying! If they so understood it that heaven and earth
will continue to be something, they would indeed be right.
But let us suffer the blind to go, and know that just as our
bodies will be changed as to their essence, and yet be remade
according to their essence, so heaven and earth at the last day
with all the elements will be melted v/ith fervent heat and
turned to dust, together with the bodies of men, so that there
w^ill be nothing but fire everywhere. Then will everything be
new-created in greatest beauty; our bodies will shine in bril-
liancy, and the sun be much more glorious than now. Peter
speaks of this day, in 2 Pet. 3, 10-13, ''But the day of the
Lord will come as a thief ; in the which the heavens shall pass
away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved
with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein
shall be burned up. But, according to his promise, we look
for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteous-
Paul also testifies to the same in 1 Cor. 3,13, that "the
last day shall be revealed in fire." And Isaiah 30,26, "The
light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light
of the sun shall be sevenfold as the light of seven days, in the
day that Jehovah bindeth up the hurt of his people, and heal-
eth the stroke of their wound." Likewise Isaiah 65, 17, "For,
behold I create new heavens and a new earth ; and the former
things shall not be remembered, nor come Into mind. But
SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. 83
be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create." There-
fore this passing away is not only according to form but also
as to essence; unless it be that you do not want to call it a
passing away, if things turn to dust until no trace of them can
be found, as the burned body turns to ashes and passes away.
58. But where do our souls dwell when the abode of every
creature is afire and there is no earthly dwelling place? An-
swer: My dear hearer, where is the soul now? Or where is
it when we sleep and are not conscious of what is taking place
in our bodies and in the world around us ? Do you think that
God cannot so preserve or hold the souls of men in his hand
that they will never know how heaven and earth passed
away? Or do you think that he must have a bodily home
for the soul, just as a shepherd has a stable for his sheep ? It
is enough for you to know that they are in God's hands and
not in the care of any creature. Though you do not under-
stand how it happens, do not be led astray. Since you have not
yet learned what happens to you when you fall asleep or
awaken, and can never know how near you are to waking or
sleeping, though you daily do both, how do you expect to
understand all about this question? The Scripture says,
"Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," and so let it
be. Meanwhile there will arise a new heaven and a new earth,
and our bodies will be revived again to eternal salvation.
Amen. If we knew just how the soul would be kept, faith
would be at an end. But now we journey and know not just
whither; yet we put our confidence in God, and rest in his
keeping, and our faith abides in all its dignity.
Hi. THE SPIRITUAL INTERPRETATION OF THESE
59. Finally, we must find also a hidden or spiritual mean-
ing in this Gospel. The sun is Christ, the moon is the church,
the stars are Christians, the powers of heaven are the prelates
or planets of the church. Now these earthly signs surely
signify what has long since taken place and is now taking
place among Christians; for they follow the service of sin
and threaten and manifest the punishment resting upon them.
84 i^uther's church postil.
60. That the sun is darkened no doubt signifies that Christ
does not shine in the Christian church ; that is, that the Gospel
is not preached and that faith is expiring from the lack of
divine service. This has come about through the teaching and
works of men. The pope sits in the churches in the place of
Christ and shines like dirt in a lantern â€” he with his bishops,