He Breaks and Hinders Every Evil Plan
Rev. Kurt Lantz Midweek Advent 2 3rd Petition
December 07, 2022 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
The passages of apocalyptic Scripture are a source of fascination among Christians. The Book of Revelation is often the most requested topic for Bible Study in the church. There are so many graphic descriptions of vibrant imagery that they seem to promise to answer all of our questions, if we can just solve the riddles. Last week we heard of the four terrifying beasts in the vision given to the prophet Daniel, showing what would take place among the kingdoms on earth leading up to the appearance of the Messiah and the coming of His everlasting kingdom.
Often our focus is directed to identifying these beasts, or the precise person to whom that little horn of the fourth beast refers who will speak great things against God. Similarly, we get caught up in the detailed description of Jesus in His glory in order to show our superior knowledge about what His golden sash and His feet of bronze refer to. We want to have the answers to these puzzling details as if that will set our minds at ease as we contemplate the terrifying images in the apocalyptic writings and the terrifying realities that we see in the world around us.
But our true comfort is not in knowing all of the deep meanings of the mystery of God. When the Ancient of Days wanted Daniel to know what something meant He told him, often through the angelic messenger Gabriel. Similarly, when Jesus wanted John to know the interpretation of the Revelation he received, an angel was present to explain it to him. Therein lies our comfort. When the Lord wants us to understand, He gives us the meaning.
Neither Daniel nor John explain every detail, because not every detail was explained to them. It was not necessary for their comfort in the terrifying times they faced. When they tried to take it all in, they were greatly disturbed, the colour left their faces, they fell down as though dead. The comfort did not come to them in knowing all of the details. Their comfort came to them in the things that the Lord did reveal, the things that they in turn reveal to us, so that we too may have comfort in terrifying times.
In answer to Daniel’s prayers, the angel Gabriel came to him to give him insight and understanding, not to understand everything but to have enough insight to be comforted by the things that were explained to him. Gabriel came to him in answer to his prayers because he was dearly loved by God. God does not want to see us in distress and despair. He does not want us to be terrified by enemies or any circumstance in our lives.
Daniel was truly frightened because he was well aware of his own sins and the sins of his people. They had been taken into exile, Daniel himself too, because they did not remain faithful to the Lord. And then, when the exile should have been coming to an end (according to the prophet Jeremiah), Daniel found himself still in Babylon and the people who were returning to Jerusalem were being harassed and persecuted and prevented from rebuilding the city and the temple. Because God dearly loved Daniel, Gabriel was sent to give him insight to the visions he had received.
Likewise, Jesus had an angel at John’s side throughout most of the revelation given to him, to answer his questions or to tell him not to ask so many. It was not because John needed to suffer in spiritual ignorance and despair while he was exiled to the island of Patmos, but because he, like Daniel, was dearly loved. During the revelation John, at times, fell on his face in fear and dread, but the Lord or His angel would touch John and speak to him words of love and strength so that he would come to know what was needed to know for comfort.
The epistles of John to the Church show the great love that he had for his children in Christ. They are tender and full of concern and care. They mirror the way that John heard Jesus speak to the churches, like the church at Philadelphia. The Lord knew them on an intimate level. He knew what they did and what others were doing against them and He gave them tender promises, with enough explanation that they could find comfort and with enough mystery that the comfort could be ours as well.
If you ask who are those of the synagogue of Satan to whom Jesus refers in the letter to the angel of the Church in Philadelphia, there are numerous possible answers. Which one is the right one? Do we need to know? Did John know? Did the Christians in Philadelphia know? Does not knowing take away the comfort that Jesus would make these enemies bow before their feet and learn that He loved His people? Not at all. In fact, not knowing a precise identification adds to the comfort since the loving promise stands before them (and before us) whenever any enemy lashes out against us.
Likewise, the hour of fiery trial coming upon the whole world is not defined. Neither they nor we know when that hour will come, or if it is here. But the comforting word of promise endures “I will keep you... I am coming soon” (vv. 10, 11).
The hour of God’s fulfillment was given to Daniel in terms of weeks, or sevens. In 70 weeks it would all be accomplished. In some seven weeks something would happen, and then for 62 weeks something else would happen, and then a final week during half of which there would be desolations before the end of the Desolator. We tend to find more questions than answers in Gabriel’s explanation.
If God had wanted it all to be understood as an exact itinerary, he would have sent Daniel an personal assistant and not an angel. But this was to be an answer to Daniel’s prayer for forgiveness and restoration, an answer that would assure Him of God’s grace no matter what conditions appeared to be from Babylon or from Jerusalem or from St. Catharines, Ontario.
In the years leading up to the Lutheran Reformation, the desolations that came to the fore were not only from foreign armies and natural disasters. There was a spiritual desolation of faith. People were constantly told to do more and more things in order to be sure of their salvation. The Apology to the Augsburg Confession describes it like this:
Satisfactions and the enumeration of sins were a torture for consciences. Our opponents never mentioned faith, by which we freely receive the forgiveness of sins. All their books and sermons were silent about the exercise of faith in its struggle with despair and about the free forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake. In addition, they horribly profaned the Mass and introduced much wicked worship into the churches. This is the desolation that Daniel describes. (AP XXIV. 46-47)
This does not mean that Daniel’s vision referred only to the medieval Roman Catholic abuses in the church, but it does mean that Daniel’s vision includes the desolations that these abuses brought upon the consciences of God’s people. It means also that the consolation and comfort that God gave to Daniel about these desolations being removed from God’s people included the deliverance and restoration of hope and comfort to sixteenth century Christians and to all ever since who have been oppressed and harangued by such desolations.
Yes, God looks upon you as His dearly loved and He hears your prayers for forgiveness and restoration and He answers them. He has set the times and appointed the means by which forgiveness and restoration will come to you through His anointed one, the Messiah. He set a time to send His Son, and “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law” (Galatians 4:4).
He set a time for the rebuilding and renewal of the spiritual life of His people in the holy Christian Church. He has set a limit to the opposition and persecution that His enemies unleash (that synagogue of Satan or however else they may be identified). And when it all reaches its limit, when those 70 weeks have transpired, there will be an end to the desolations and an end to the Desolator.
The Lord hears the prayer of His dearly loved people. That is you. He has revealed that much to you for your comfort. He loves you and He forgives you and He restores you. That is why He sent His Son, Jesus the Messiah to fulfill all of these comforting prophecies, the depths of which we are unable to comprehend. But He has revealed enough for us to know that we are loved and that all those who try to disconnect us from the love of our God will be brought to an end. God’s saving purpose for us will be fulfilled.
This is why we confidently pray as our Lord has taught us, “Thy will be done.” God’s will is done in answer to the prayers of Daniel and John and the Christians in Philadelphia, and in answer to our prayers. His will is done as He has promised in the apocalyptic prophecies to His people. “God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come, and when He keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will” (Small Catechism. Lord’s Prayer. Third Petition). And He has revealed it to you in answer to your prayers and for your comfort.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.