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History reveals Luther's apocalyptic hope

First and foremost Martin Luther was a pastor and Bible scholar. He remarked several times that the Reformation he witnessed was not his work—but the work of God being accomplished through the power of the word.

In 1530, Philipp Melanchthon and other evangelicals presented the Augsburg Confession to the emperor, the face of the empire. Luther, already excommunicated, couldn't attend the meeting since he would likely be arrested. Instead he was hidden away north of Nürnberg in the Coburg Castle. A few months earlier, Suleiman the Magnificent had begun the Ottoman siege of Vienna.

For Luther and his evangelical companions, these were apocalyptic times. They were being persecuted by the power of the Holy Roman Empire, which itself was under attack by a strong outside army.

There, in the "wilderness" of the Coburg, Luther went to work. His first task was a German translation of and commentary on Ezekiel 39-40, interpreting the Ottoman Empire as Gog and Magog, "hoping that all the faithful might thereby draw courage and comfort from this passage."

Luther's complete translation and commentary on the prophets was published in 1532. His preface to that collection shares his belief that the prophets "bear witness to the kingdom of Christ in which we now live" while providing "strong comfort and comforting strength." He approached Revelation in the same way, saying, this book of the Bible "warns readers not to be deceived into despair."

Contemporary Lutheran Bible scholars carry forward this tradition of emphasizing apocalyptic hope. As Barbara Rossing, professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, says in The Rapture Exposed, commenting on Revelation 22:3-5: "At a time when Rome claimed to reign victoriously over the entire world, Revelation boldly proclaimed that God and the Lamb are the ones who reign — not the Roman Empire, not any other empire — and that God's servants also reign with them."

Check out this week's articles:

cover5This is the church the people built: (right) In Lisbon, Iowa, Seeds of Faith Lutheran is finally getting walls.

Balancing studies and sports: At Wartburg College, faculty mentors support student-athletes. 

Uganda: A horizon of hope: Lutherans help displaced Ugandans to reclaim their communities. 

We challenge you ...: Wisconsin children collect 5,000 food items; Georgia confirmation classes stuff bears for patients. 

Also: Fragile relationships.

Also: Teach kids to share.

Also: 'Lost' painting gets museum home.

Read these articles at our front page ...

This week on our blog:

soniaSonia Solomonson blogs about stories of ministries.

 


 

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