This plea briefly explains several chapters in Hebrews concerning a "future" generation which will exasperate God just as the Jews did for 40 years in the wilderness. This "future" generation should take a serious warning lest they, too, fall in the wilderness of faithlessness. The author is sending this to several LCMS pastors in hopes that their spiritual passions will be awakened to the point of courageous battle against the forces which have infiltrated our churches and perverted our faith.

Luther points out that the proper rendering of Hebrews 3:10 is: "I will loathe a generation." Compare Psalm 95:10. Luther states that this loathing certainly pertains to a future generation with which God has drawn close "by anger." "The prophet meant that in the future there will be a similar people {like the Jews in the wilderness} which displeases God just as that people displeased God. For by the very manner of speaking, these words, "I will loathe a generation," without the addition of "this" or "that," give expression to the annoyance of the speaker, as if he disdained to point to a specific generation. For this is how people are accustomed to speak about something that is very annoying."

The author of Hebrews explains how God is so disturbed and angry with this "future" generation that they will not "enter My rest!" Luther explains that the Holy Writer uses a Hebrew idiom out of respect for Divinity, lest he come out and say God will destroy this future generation. The idiom replaces the words: "Let Me not live, if they will enter," or Let Me be a liar." Luther states that "because this should not be thought, much less spoken, about God, it is properly left unsaid." If Luther's understanding is Spirit-discerned, then this proclamation, "To whom I swore in my anger: If they will enter My rest," is awe-inspiring and gut wrenching.

Why would God be so provoked with this future generation? We find the answer to this question in the text surrounding the judgment.

1. This "future" generation "neglected such a great salvation." (Hebrews 2:3) This has been neglected by looking to Christ primarily as an example instead of our suffering sacrifice. "Generation F," which I will call it henceforth, neglected faith and looked primarily to their own works, rather than submitting to God's work, which is to "believe in Him whom He has sent" (John 6:29). Luther quotes I Peter 2:21 wherein it is stated that "Christ suffered for us (insofar as it is a sacrament), 'leaving you an example.' The sacrament of Christ's Passion is His death and the remission of sins. The example, on the other hand, is the imitation of His punishments. Therefore he who wants to imitate Christ insofar as He is an example must first believe with a firm faith that Christ suffered and died for him insofar as this was a sacrament. Consequently, those who contrive to blot out sins first by means of works and labors of penance err greatly, since they begin with the example, when they should begin with the sacrament. Therefore the Gospel is neglected through unbelief of the heart."
Bear in mind the warning of comparison with that past generation who had the "message declared by angels" and were justly punished—all but three were laid to waste in the desert—for their unfaithfulness. The writer proclaims: "HOW SHALL WE ESCAPE"—especially this "Generation F!"
2. "Generation F" despised suffering, in that they lost the whole point and purpose of the cross of Christ. Luther explains how Christ was exalted "above all things when God cast Him down below all things. For Christ's very Passion was a 'passover,' that is, a passing over to the highest glory." Luther gives the true meaning of 2:7: "Thou madest Him to be forsaken and deserted by God or the angels, and not for a long time but for a little while, yes, less than a little while, that is, for a very short time, namely, for three days, because Thou didst deliver Him over into the hands of sinners."
The writer goes on to explain in the next few verses how Christ made our salvation perfect through His suffering. It is most reasonable to consider that "Generation F" is loathed by God because they hold in low esteem what God holds in high esteem. This generation obviously is not willing to suffer, but exalt pleasure to the exclusion of "dying daily" to the flesh—which includes, especially, false ideas about godliness. There is no worse death than the death of an idea, especially about spiritual things, which one holds dear and esteems highly as wisdom.
3. "Generation F" will esteemed life over death, even though it was through "death that Christ destroyed the devil who has the power of death." This generation would esteem life so highly that they would not cultivate a fearless and honest contempt of death. We know from passages like Ezek. 18:32, Ps. 30:5, and I John 3:8, that death is not a work of God and is quite displeasing to Him. But this makes God's power and wisdom so much more wonderful in that He destroyed the giant, death, just as David destroyed the giant Goliath with the giant's own sword! For this reason it is paramount that His children prize death and the great liberator from sin. Luther states: "For in this way God promotes and completes His work by means of an alien deed, and by His wonderful wisdom He compels the devil to work through death nothing else than life, so that in this way, while he acts most of all against the work of God, he acts for the work of God against his own work with his own deed."
For this reason Luther makes the bold statement that "he who fears death or is unwilling to die is not a Christian to a sufficient degree; for those who fear death still lack faith in the resurrection, since they love this life more than they love the life to come. Properly speaking, they are those about whom Ps. 106:24 says: 'They despised the pleasant land.' Those who truly deserve to be mourned are those who still fear death and shudder. For God makes death, judgment, and hell manifest in order to show the power of faith in Christ, so that a Christian may overcome these through faith. For those dreadful things are nothing else than exercises through which faith should become 'strong as death and hard as hell' (Song of Sol. 8:6). Death alone puts an end to sin and slays it. Therefore death, the murderer of sin, should be loved as much as sin is feared. The battle we fight is with greed, with lewdness, with anger, with ambition. There is a perpetual and troublesome struggle with carnal vices, with worldly allurements. The mind of man, besieged and surrounded as it is on all sides by the assaults of the devil, barely opposes and resists one of these. Death, then, is the knight in shining armor for the Christian. The soul suffers so many persecutions every day, the heart is beset by so many dangers and delights in lingering long here amid the devil's sword, when one should rather desire and wish to hasten to Christ with the aid of a speedier arrival of death."
  4. "Generation F" will lose its confession and heavenly call (Hebrews 3:1-2). Luther explains that the "apostle draws them to Christ by calling them "holy" and, as it were, flattering them. Here he teaches us that we should not preach Christ with fury or with a tempest of words. Indeed, Christ can be preached in no other way than peacefully and calmly. For roaring talk pertains to the Law, as has been pictured in Ex. 20:18. But the Law should be revealed with thunderbolts to those who are foolish and stiff-necked, but the Gospel should be presented gently to those who are terrified and humbled. Therefore Is. 41:1,3 says about Christ: 'Behold, My Servant… A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not quench'; that is, He will prefer to console the timid and the afflicted."
Our confession is none other than our great sin and our tremendous need for a Savior. Our whole work is a confession, as Ps. 96:6 says: "Confession and beauty are before Him" (that is, in His church). Psalm 111:3: "Confession and magnificence are His work." Luther states that the "meaning of these verses is expressed in Ps. 145:5: 'They will speak of the magnificence of the glory of Thy holiness, and will tell Thy wondrous works,' which states that everything they say and do is praise, confession, magnificence, and sanctification, with which they praise, confess, glorify, and sanctify Thee. Yet all this is Thy work in them, as Ps. 8:2 says: 'Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings Thou has fashioned praise.' The confession of sins and of praise is one and the same confession."
5. "Generation F" will grow to glory in many things except in the Lord. Paul says that if anyone glories, "let him glory in the Lord" (2 Cor. 10:17). This generation lost the courage to glory in the cross of Christ to the end, and instead took shortcuts to glory in and among themselves and their work instead of Christ's work. Luther: "If the glorying is in ourselves, it is empty; but if it is about us in Christ, it is genuine. Glory is characteristic of one who makes progress and triumphs; but complaining or sadness is characteristic of one who fails and falls down. Thus Rom. 5:3 says: 'We glory in tribulations.' The apostle says this here because he had called us the house that Christ 'builds.' The construction is nothing else than tension, pressure, and in every way the cross and the sufferings that are in Christ. Therefore he wants us to know that if we are to be built and constructed, we need firm confidence and the glory of hope in Him, lest we fail and suffer worse destruction while the building takes place."
This generation came to glory in so many other empty things because they refused to "hear His voice." This generation must be active participants instead of neutral hearers. As Luther states: "The word 'hear' is taken in a neutral sense. Thus it means 'when you will have become hearers' or 'when you will have had the hearing,' namely, 'in His voice,' that is, 'through His voice.' It is as if Christ were saying: 'When He Himself will speak and make you hear, do not harden your heart.' One should note that this is the one, and the greatest, thing God requires of the Jews, yes, of all men, namely, that they hear His voice. Therefore Moses impresses so many times throughout Deuteronomy (Deut. 6:4): 'Hear, O Israel.' Thus no one is able to cooperate with Him unless he adheres to the Word. This takes place through faith, just as a tool does not cooperate with a workman unless it has been taken hold of with his hand. Therefore, it is perverse in the extreme for one to hasten to works before God works in us, that is, before we believe.
"Just as when a potter fashions a vessel out of clay, it is impossible for him to preserve the previous form of the clay and at the same time to fashion a vessel, since the previous form resists, and lacks the form of a vessel. Consequently, it is impossible for the natural state, the wisdom, prudence, purpose, or good intention of that man with whom and in whom God works to remain as it is or to move forward. For all these are the raw material and the unformed clay, as it were, which gives place to the direct opposite when God has begun to work. Here, therefore, those who rely on their own counsel and "do not wait for the counsel of the Lord" harden their hearts to their own immeasurable harm and impede the work of God in themselves. For God works beyond strength, beyond perception, beyond intention, and beyond every thought, as Is. 55:9 says: 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, says the Lord.' For He is the highest. Therefore His work is also the highest.
"From this one now understands who the people are who annoy, irritate, exasperate, and contradict, as Scripture rather frequently speaks of them, namely, the people who do not believe the Word of God and are impatient of the work of God, since, like a horse and a mule (Ps. 32:9), they follow their master as long as they are aware of visible things to rely on. If these things fail, they fail too. Therefore faith in Christ is an exceedingly arduous thing, because it is a rapture and a removal from everything one experiences within and without to the things one experiences neither within nor without, namely, to the invisible, most high, and incomprehensible God."
6. "Generation F," like Israel in the wilderness, will see and despise the great works of God, thereby blaspheming God by their gross unbelief. The Psalmist puts it well: "My spirit is anxious within me, and my heart within me is troubled. {But this is what I shall do!} I remembered the days of old, I meditated on all that Thou hast done; I mused on what Thy hands have wrought. I stretched out my hands to Thee, my soul thirsted for Thee like a parched land "(Ps. 143:4-6). Luther comments: "Therefore it happens that the faith of the fathers who preceded is gain and strength of faith for those who come later; and for this reason the more remarkable the faith of the ancient fathers was, the more it was strengthened by the support of fewer examples, and the worse the unbelief of those who came later, the more it is not strengthened by the support of more examples. But the unbelief of Christians who, because of what so many martyrs and saints have encountered, now shudder at the very sad way of faith and refuse to take it is detestable in the highest degree."
This takes us to the climax of this chapter which is our starting point-this "future" generation which has so annoyed God that He will disallow them from entering into His Rest. May God strike fear into hearts. Let us continue.
7. "Generation F" will develop an "evil heart." There is nothing any more crucial than a pure heart, as Psalm 51:10 declares: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." "It is as if," Luther says, "he were saying that cleanness of the works of the body is nothing unless there first is cleanness of the heart. But this uncleanness of the heart is so deep that no human being is sufficiently aware of it, much less can purge it away by his own strength, as Jer. 17:9-10 says: 'The heart of man is deceitful and inscrutable. Who will search it out? I the Lord search out the heart and reins.' Therefore the heart becomes pure and good only through faith in Christ, as we read in Acts 15:9: 'He made no distinction between us and them, but purified their hearts by faith.' For faith in the Word purified, because just as the Word of God is completely pure and good, so it makes him who adheres to it pure and good like itself. Whatever it has and is able to do it shares with him who adheres to it and believes it. Ps. 19:7 says: 'The Law of the Lord is unstained, changing the souls.' Thus, he who is separated from the Word of God or departs from it will necessarily remain in wickedness, in uncleanness, and in everything that is opposed to the Word of God. 'He who trust in his own mind is a fool' (Prov. 28:26), which is a statement against his own confidence. Therefore the apostle says in Titus 1:15: 'To the impure nothing is pure, but their minds and consciences are corrupted.' This is what the apostle means here when he speaks of 'falling away from the living God.' For one falls away from the living God when one falls away from His Word, which is alive and gives life to all things, yes, is God Himself. Therefore they die. He who does not believe is dead. But falling away comes about through unbelief. And thus it is clear what an 'evil heart' of unbelief is. It is a heart in which nothing is good, but everything is evil, because it departs from everything that is good."
8. "Generation F" will grow lukewarm in the absence of Word-centered exhortation, Hebrews 3:12. They allowed allurements, cares, business affairs, and activity to take them away from the pure Word and in the process infected themselves with an impure heart. Luther speaks: "We must exhort ourselves with all zeal and, so to speak, stir up our sluggish spirit by means of the Word of God, by meditating on it, reading it, and continually listening to it, as the apostle admonishes here. Without this we are swallowed up in slothfulness and lukewarmness of spirit, the greatest of all dangers. For as often as we forget the Word of God, so often do we fall back into the love of things and are polluted.
9. "Generation F" will be hardened by the deceit of sin, 3:13. Luther: "Unbelief arises in the following way: First one overlooks the Creator, takes pleasure in the creature, and clings to it as though it were good. Every man desires to know nature, but he does so in the wrong way. Next the habit of loving it is established, and thus the heart is hardened toward the Word of the Creator, who calls it back from affection for the creature. Then unbelief follows. Therefore he rightly calls this 'the deceitfulness of sin,' for it deceives under the appearance of being good. But this deceitfulness of sin must be understood as including even one's own righteousness and wisdom. For one's own righteousness and wisdom deceives most of all and hinders faith in Christ, since we love the flesh and the sensations of the flesh, likewise property and riches, in a similar way. But we love nothing more passionately than our own feeling, judgment, purpose, and will, especially when they have the appearance of being good."
Luther continues and explains this hardening: "This 'hardening' means absolutely every thing that makes it difficult to believe. 'Hardening' has the same meaning that 'disinclination' or 'ineptitude' has. The metaphor is taken from wax, which, when it is hard, does not take the figure of the seal but, when it is soft, is easily shaped into everything. Thus the heart of man stands at a place where four roads intersect. For when it clings to God, its nature melts through the Word, softens toward God, and hardens toward the creature. But when it clings to the creature, it hardens toward God and softens toward the creature. For continually the human heart is now hard, now soft with regard to different things. For this clinging is the very faith in the Word. Indeed, it is that tie of betrothal about which Hos. 2:20 says: 'I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,' according to the well-known statement in I Cor. 6:17: 'He who clings to God is one spirit with Him.' It follows as a corollary that faith in Christ is every virtue and that unbelief is every vice. For through faith a man become like the Word of God, but the Word is the Son of God. In this way it comes about that everyone who believes in God is a child of God, as John 1:12 says, and for this reason is without any sin and full of every virtue. On the other hand, he who does not believe is of necessity full of every vice and evil, namely, a child of the devil and of iniquity."
10. "Generation F" will replace the "substance" of the future life with the fleeting "substance of this life—they trampled the precious Substance of Christ under their filthy feet. Essentially, they prayed amiss when they prayed the Lord's prayer, especially the phrase, "Give us this day our daily bread"—the "substance" of our salvation. Luther explains that in "Greek the bread is called 'supersubstantial,' that is, the bread that transfers us into a new substance and creature in the Spirit. Through faith Christ is called our 'substance,' that is, riches, and through the same faith we simultaneously become His 'substance,' that is, a new creature."
It is interesting that after this discussion of the substance of Christ, the apostle again warns this generation not to harden their hearts as those rebellious ones did in the dessert, dying in their rebellious quagmire in the arid, desolate emptiness. It is imperative that this future generation that Christ would spew out of His mouth consider the horribleness of the Exodus. For they 'all passed under the cloud and were all baptized into Moses, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink'. They all made a good start, but were still overthrown in the wilderness. Luther: "The apostle is speaking to those who have attained 'the beginning of the substance of Christ.' To persuade them to persevere he sets before them the example of those who all made a good beginning but did not persevere. Therefore they did not arrive either. 'Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall' (I Cor. 10:12). This means: When you see what happened to them, persevere with fear what you have begun, lest you fall in like manner. Since we have become sharers in Christ and have the beginning of His substance—that is, since we have begun happily, just as they had—let us fear, lest by defecting we abandon 'the beginning of the substance,' as they abandoned it and deserted. Be warned that 'some who heard rebelled, but not all'—that is, not all rebelled when they came out of Egypt, but all were believers at that time, as Ex. 12:50 says and as is stated above in I Cor. 10:2 that 'all were baptized.' Accordingly, all began the exodus well through Moses, but later they failed to make progress; therefore He says: 'For 40 years I was provoked.' What is more by far, however, they did not arrive. Therefore he says that God swore to those defectors that they would not enter His rest."
11. "Generation F" will celebrate Belshazzar's wanton feast. They were weighed in the heavenly scales and were found "wanting," that is deficient, disappointed, and disregarded. Like Belshazzar, "This night their soul with be required of them. Lo, I come quickly and My judgment and reward is with Me—a Reward to soft-hearted believers and judgment to the smug who refused to consider the error of their way. Luther: "This means let us fear, lest while we abandon the promise because of unbelief, God's rest also abandon us because of God's wrath. For this is what happened to those who were overthrown in the wilderness. And the words 'remain' and 'to be found wanting' are spoken for the sake of a beautiful, though frightful, antithesis."
Again the admonishment: "Therefore, while the promise of entering His rest remains let us fear lest anyone of you be judged to be found wanting" (Hebrews 4:1).
12. "Generation F" will hear without hearing. They didn't take seriously Christ's admonition, "Having ears they hear not." The true Word Incarnate spoke before them but their spiritual senses were not keen, but were overrun by their carnal sensations. Therefore Christ warned them more sternly: "It will be more tolerable for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah than for you!" They were most unwilling to let go of their perceived righteousness and come empty-handed to the righteousness of the cross. Luther: "But the Word of hearing did not profit them, when those who heard were not united to the faith by those who had heard. For these three—faith, the Word, and the heart—become one. Faith is the glue or the bond. The Word is on one side; the heart is on the other. But through faith they become one spirit, just as man and wife become 'one flesh.'"
13. Generation F" will be discontent with God's "rest" (4:3) and went about to establish their own "rest." This generation thought they could work their way into "rest," instead of waiting for God's rest to come to them with no effort on their part. They did not see by faith that rest had already been prepared for them—rest that had been prepared for them BEFORE any of their working. The god of this generation is not at rest, but frantically working for this or that. The true God is not resting in them "because of His GIFT."

Addressing God's rest, Luther states: "In order that we may grasp in some measure the nature of that rest, it is necessary to note that man, like Noah's ark, "has three chambers" and is divided into three men, namely, the sensual, the rational, and the spiritual man. Man is called a microcosm, that is, a smaller world. Every one of those men rests and is disturbed or troubled in a twofold way, namely, either inwardly or outwardly. In the first place, the sensual man rests outwardly when he takes pleasure in something that is perceptible. On the other hand, he is disturbed and troubled when that which is perceptible is disturbed or removed. But he rests inwardly when because of the work of the rational man he has no work or nothing perceptible to be occupied with, as is clear in the case of men who think and speculate. On the other hand, he is disturbed inwardly when, alongside the disturbance of the rational man, he is confused, as is clear in the case of those who are sad and melancholy. In the second place, the rational man rests outwardly in his rational and speculable objects if they are pleasant. But he is disturbed outwardly if they are sad. He rests inwardly when he ceases from his work, and the spiritual man occupies himself with faith and the Word. But he is disturbed inwardly when, alongside the disturbance of the spiritual man—namely, when he is in danger of losing faith and the Word—he himself is also disturbed. For this disturbance is the most horrible of all, since it is most profound and is very close to hell. In the third place, the spiritual man rests outwardly in the Word and in faith as long as the object of his faith, that is, the Word, remains fixed in him. But he is disturbed outwardly when his faith is in danger—as has been said—and when the Word is withdrawn, as happens when faith, hope, and love are tried. For this is the man who "lives by the Word of God" (Matt. 4:4). He rests inwardly when he is lifted up by faith and the Word into the essential work of God, which is the very birth of the uncreated Word, as He says: "This is eternal life, that they know Thee, the true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent" (John 17:3), that is, the procession of the Son from the Father. And here there is no inward disturbance, for this seventh day has no evening by which it could pass over into another day."

Instead of "hastening to God's rest," they hastened to their own destruction by creating a rest that made sense to their own minds (4:11). This generation, despite all that had been spent on them by God, hastened faster and faster and faster until they rushed headlong over Deviled Ham's Bluff. They had no concept of "hastening with spiritual feet." Unlike Paul, their desire was not to "depart and be with Christ" out of a simple, unfeigned faith. They had no understanding of Psalm 120:5: "Woe is me, that my sojourn has been prolonged!" They did not understand, to the point of being most zealous to give it up, that for the saint of God this life is "weariness and sickness." "These people prove they are not believers because they still have a taste for this life. It is said of these people: 'Men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days' (Ps. 55:23), because they do not get enough of this life. Therefore it should be the one desire of Christians to die to this life more and more every day and, because they are weary of it, to hasten to the life to come. Otherwise they will be numbered with those about whom Ps. 106:24 says: 'And they despised the pleasant land.'"

THEREFORE, "Generation F" will be slain by the sword of their own making—the sword they have convinced themselves is the very Sword of God. But it is a weapon of their own making, of their own minds, and of their own smugness, and it will be turned upon their own necks for all the violence they have done to the faith once for all delivered to the saints and all their hellish blasphemy!

Based on Luther's interpretation of Hebrews 4:12, this verse is a "threat of cruel punishment for unbelievers." It relegates each and every individual to an eternal cutting who did not allow the Word to divide spirit from flesh, God's thoughts from his thoughts, and his reason from God's wisdom. Luther: "It will fall upon those inflicting cruel wounds and fatal cuts. And it is true that these horrible blows are understood only by those who in some way have experienced them, men like David, Hezekiah, and many others. For no punishment is on a par with the punishment which the godless endure from the mere presence of the angry countenance of God, as Ps. 21:9 states: 'Thou wilt make them as a blazing oven at the time of Thy angry countenance.' And 2 Thess. I:8-9 states that 'those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ shall suffer eternal punishments in their ruin, away from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His power.' Therefore since the Word of God is above all things, outside all things, within all things, before all things, behind all things, and therefore everywhere, it is impossible to escape to any place. But since it is 'powerful' and potent, it is impossible to resist it. Because it is 'sharper than any two-edged sword,' it is impossible to hide or to be concealed. And thus the unbelievers will be tortured with endless, eternal, and incurable cutting. From this punishment there finally follows 'the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow,' the cutting, the disturbance, and the confusion of all internal and external powers, according to the statement in Eccles. 9:10: 'Neither work, nor reason nor wisdom nor knowledge shall be in hell.' Here, therefore, there is that trembling and confusion about which Scripture speaks very frequently. Therefore Is. 2:10, 21 counsels: 'Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust (that is, believe in Christ the crucified) from the face of the terror of the Lord and from the glory of His majesty… when He rises to terrify the earth.' This is the kind of counsel the apostle gives here, too, with regard to the announced punishment when he exhorts to approach the great High Priest.

"Having, therefore, a great High Priest"—Jesus Christ the Crucified! "Generation F" considers the "dust" of Christ to be too insignificant and sets about to create a "rock" of their own devising. But this "rock" will fall upon them and crush them into utter confusion if they do not HASTEN to the "Dust" of Christ. This "Dust" seems just too weak and impotent to this generation; but to the Godly, it is the greatest strength and blessing; for it proceeds from the Triune God of all wisdom and mercy. Yea, it proceeds from the wounds of the Word in Flesh Who died that those who flee to Him in His suffering, by His grace assume His suffering and cross, and endure the ridicule of the world, shall be sheltered by the great High Priest.

"For those who have been terrified in consequence of the fear of that eternal judgment and that horrible cutting and division, no other refuge is left than that one sanctuary which is Christ, our Priest, in whose humanity alone we are protected and saved from a judgment of this kind, as Ps. 91:4 says: 'He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge.' And Mal. 4:2: says: 'For you who fear My name the Sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in His wings.' And He Himself says in Matt. 23:37: 'How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen, but you would not let Me.' Hence there is that frequent statement in the Psalms (Ps. 63:7): 'I will exult in the cover of Thy wings.' Likewise (Ps. 27:5): 'Thou hast protected me in the secret place of Thy tabernacle.' Thus in Song of Solomon (2:14) the bridegroom says about the bride: 'O my love in the clefts of the rocks and in the caves of affliction.' Therefore the apostle introduces Christ here more as a Priest than as a Lord and Judge, in order that He may console those who are frightened."

I believe the past and the "future" have converged into the present; that is, the church of this generation will endure frightful discipline for its smugness. The church today lives in security, ignoring its need to consider the wrath of God and the warnings and examples God has displayed for its benefit. The heart of this church has grown fat and its ears have become filled with the hot wax of greed, ease, and indolence, that it neither can hear nor wants to hear the true meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the midst of so much talk about faith and grace, this church has lost the meaning of justification by faith alone, and has turned to human reason, will worship, and works (character and morality) as the essence of their salvation. In the midst of so much talk about the preeminence of the God's Word, God's Word has been essentially placed on a back room shelf where it gathers dust and accrues for them the wrath of God.

This "shelf" is actually the mind of men who claim to love God and serve Him. This shelf was built by human ingenuity beginning with Adam in the Garden and continued by Zwingli in Geneva and it continues today by Christians who have become godless, faithless, and good for nothing but to be thrown out like salt that has lost its savor.

Satan has saved his very best trickery for this last generation. In the midst of so much talk about faith and the Word, he has taken both from us in such a way that we believe that we hold it more and more firmly. He not only transforms himself into an angel of light but has, most impressively, passed himself off as the legitimate god to the very Church of Christ. The elect have truly been deceived—if that were possible. The words of the Son of Man Himself have come to haunt us: "When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?"

Amidst the hoopla of the new millennium and the expectancy of Christ's return, the church is full of itself, full of error, and full of doctrines of demons; and there is virtually no wall of defense to protect the church. Even the very few who hold, love, and teach pure doctrine do little to establish it into the hearts of their hearers. Nobody seems willing to pay the price for the teaching and practicing of the faith once for all delivered to the saints. The cost is too high; ears itch too much.

For 500 years the church has been apostatizing. For 500 years faith has been eaten by the brimstone blackbirds from hell. For 500 years truth has eroded from the church. For 500 years the true meaning of the Word has faded away into the confusion of the minds of vain, impious men who say they have come from God, but have run without being sent. For 500 years the most holy name of Luther has been tarnished, spat upon, and ridiculed even by his "own" church.

Hence, my gravest concern and where my heart began to be gravely disturbed. I make no apology for believing that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has been the true church of God, for they have most closely followed the teachings and the spirit of the great reforming Gift of God. It is obvious they have fallen away from this "spirit" and have become polluted by the winds of this age. At the very least, the pastors of this once great body, are guilty of allowing their "listeners" to maintain ideas about so-called godliness which Luther himself fought so hard in his day to eradicate in the minds of the enthusiasts, sacramentarians, and factious spirits. What Luther tried to destroy out of his great love for the church of his Jesus has become the cornerstone of even his own church. I believe any LCMS pastor would be horrified if they knew how much the minds of their people have been polluted by sectarian dogma. I assume they do not want to know for this knowledge would be too terrible for them to process.

My thesis: Christ provided His church with the most precious gift of the true and purest meaning, humanly possible, of His Word through the moving of the Spirit and the instrumentality of the pen of Luther. As a consequence, Satan mustered all his forces to destroy, crush, and pollute this meaning in whatever way possible. For 500 years he has feverishly labored to this end; it seems his mission has been accomplished.

I was grafted into this once-glorious church five years ago and was spiritually overcome with the truth, power, and efficacy of its message. While I labored to learn the true and proper meaning of the Word, I also learned that our churches had become filled with "private interpretation." I learned that, at best, the saints were being edified with an extremely small amount of solid teaching. I praise God that there is a vehicle whereby some can learn somewhat of the form of true religion, but I shudder that so many take this form to be the fullest substance.

From my perspective, I have been shunned by three LCMS congregations because I fell in love with the true faith once delivered to the saints. I have been fired, ridiculed and my name soiled because of my concern for the watery substance they give their people for solid meat. My family has been left out in the cold because they have had the courage to follow their husband and father into the battlefield of persecution for the Gospel.

The reader may assume I am perverted, arrogant, and extreme. The reader may even say, "What makes you think you are the only one who is right? Do you really think you are the only one?" Well, the devil's crowd has said this of FAR better saints than myself. This I know: There are at least three churches who defecate on the Word of God, making no attempt to follow even Matthew 18, much less any other portion of the Word of God. If I am wrong, why do they not fully investigate my doctrine, opinions, and heart?

I do not care one bit about my person. My only concern is for the welfare of Christ's church. I pray fervently for purity of doctrine, fervency in practice, and the unity of saints. I would give anything except my faith for the establishment of these things. But I know that only the Spirit can give these things, for they are truly only spiritually discerned. I know that the Spirit will knit the church of Christ together in a most marvelous way. I know that Christ will prevail even against the gates of hell—the very gates which are keeping people from the pure, spotless, truth of the Word of God.

It is my hope that others will read this and be inspired to take up the cause of standing in the gap for a generation who is about to be severely disciplined. As Luther says, the small dog is whipped that the big dog will take heed. Interpretation: God will hold this "future" generation of Christians accountable for the erosion of truth these past 500 years. He will chastise us and this chastisement will only be a prelude to what He will do to the heathen. The small dog will be whipped so as to be made ready for Heaven, but the big dog will be destroyed so as to be made ready for Hell.

My heart is deeply troubled and in anguish over the condition of the church and even those who call themselves the church. For many months I have tried to get my Baptist friends and family to consider the importance of Luther. What have I gotten? Alienation. Everyone believes they are so right that they will not even consider an exhortation from a long-time, faithful friend. Instead of considering the possibility that I am right, they have written me off as a fool. Even my sisters have forbade me from sending them statements from Luther. Close friends call me Christ-less and hateful. I do rejoice that my mother has received the truth and that my wife's mother is open to considering the possibility. Other members of even my wife's family scoffed at her pleas for them to consider the error of their ways. This scoffing is coming from a family that doesn't chide one another.

What am I to think? For five years I have observed LCMS pastors exhibit a diminutive view of Luther in one way or another; at one time my own wife thought I was trying to start a cult; my friends will not even discuss Luther with me; and the families of both my wife and myself count us as heretics or inventors of new things, or on a new-craze bandwagon. Several LCMS pastors marveled at my wisdom and understanding until it was time for them to step up to the plate.

What other conclusion am I to draw in light of this, other than, metaphorically speaking, the writings of Martin Luther are a modern-day ark wherein we must enter to be saved from the wrath to come? How can it not be obvious that Satan hates this teaching so much because it is indeed the unveiling of the true meaning of Scripture? Is there no one willing to listen? Even the History Channel listed Luther the third most important person in the last 1000 years.

Well, I will go one better. Luther is the greatest gift to the church in nearly 2,000 years. Why? Because the greatest gift had to be given for the worst of times. May God preserve you as you enter the coming distress to the extent that you tremble at His Word and draw nigh to Him in humility, contrition, and confession.

Praise to You, O Christ!

Timothy Vance
October 31, 1999