The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2


V. Various Signs of Second Advent Enumerated

Luther wrote rather comprehensively on the signs of Christ’s second advent, sometimes from Luke 21 and sometimes from Matthew 24. In 1532 he published Ein trostliche predigt von der zukunfft Christi und den vorhergehenden Zeichen des Jungsten tags (A Consoling Sermon Concerning the Appearing of Christ and the Signs of the Last day). PFF2 279.2

1. CELESTIAL SIGNS OF Matthew 24 as yet future

Luther even discussed the celestial signs of the end. But on these he was hazy and rather speculative. PFF2 279.3

“We find in this gospel [Matthew] two main points, first: the signs which shall precede His coming, and second: these signs are given to console the Christians, the true believers.... Now the first sign shall happen in the sky, in the sun, moon and stars; the second among men, they will wither away for fear.... Now I do not want to dispute whether these signs in the sun, moon, and stars have happened already, nor do I want to command the Christians to believe it. But my own belief and sure hope is, that the majority of these signs have happened already and that we have not to expect many more. If we want to believe it, we have seen enough with our own eyes in our own days. How many great darknesses have followed one another in a few years, which have never been experienced before.... But those who do not want to believe, would not believe even if the sun would be darkened every day and the stars would fall in bundles. PFF2 279.4

“And although the astrologers say that they can predict some of the signs, yet these [aforementioned] signs, especially when they appear in such multitude indicate some fearful events, as they [astrologers] do not deny.... Therefore let them be afraid and wither for fear, who know nothing else nor ask for anything else than this temporal life.... But let us be full of cheer and hope, because our life and our treasure is not here but hidden with Christ in God, and soon Christ will be revealed before the whole universe in His immortal being and His eternal brightness.” 42 PFF2 280.1


A thirty- page English translation of this work appeared, in 1661, under the title The Signs of Christ’s Coming and the Last Day. The discussion is quite full. The signs were to be literal. And despite the blindness and scoffing, there- PFF2 280.2

“undoubtedly must needs be some living in the time of these signs, who shall both know and acknowledge the signs, and shall also, as the Lord doth admonish, lift up their heads, and expect their redemption, though they cannot certainly know that precise day.” 43 PFF2 280.3

The return of the Jews was likewise alluded to. PFF2 280.4


The Papacy is clearly listed here as a sign. Thus, in the quaint spelling of the time: PFF2 280.5

“Neither is that which Matthew hath foretold, in ch. 24, touching that Horrible Abomination (to wit) Antichrist, a less certain Signs to me then [than] the former, namely that under his Kingdome, there should be and prevail, extream blindness, the most pernicious Errors, and the highest wickednesses. All which things do most wretchedly flourish in the Kingdom of the Pope, and that in the greatest impudency and tyranny that can be. Which Sign, (I confess) above all the rest, compells me stedfastly to be lieve, that Christ will not now stay long. For truly these wickednesses are more great and grievous, and these Blasphemies are more horrible, then that Heaven should long indure to behold them; for they do even provoke the Day of the Lord, and insult over his Divine Vengeance; that it cannot be, but it must needs come quickly upon them, as a snare.” 44 PFF2 280.6


In a similar treatise Luther declared: PFF2 281.1

“I will not permit any one to rob me of my opinion that the day of the Lord is not far hence. This conviction is forced upon me by the signs and by the admonitions of Christ himself.” 45 PFF2 281.2

After rehearsing the signs Luther approvingly cites Lactantius (a.d. 320) on the sign conditions before the end of the world—godlessness, strife, war, violence. 46 PFF2 281.3


Luther longed for the Saviour’s return, and in a family letter written in 1540, prayed, “Oh, come thou day of judgment.” 47 PFF2 281.4

“Oh, Christ, my Lord, look down upon us and bring upon us thy day of judgment, and destroy the brood of Satan in Rome. There sits the Man, of whom the Apostle Paul wrote (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4) that he will oppose and exalt himself above all that is called God,-that Man of Sin, that Son of Perdition. What else is papal power but sin and corruption? It leads souls to destruction under thine own name, O Lord! ... I hope the day of judgment is soon to dawn. Things can and will not become worse than they are at this time. The papal see is practicing iniquity to its heights. He suppresses the Law of God and exalts his commandments above the commandments of God.” 48 PFF2 281.5


Luther believed in the literal resurrection of the dead, to take place at the last trump, the soon-coming day of the Lord. But as the world scoffed at the impending destruction in the days of Sodom, so in his own time it scoffed at the soon-coming day of judgment-which cannot be stayed 49 And then the last trumpet of God will be heard; that is the last clap of thunder, which will suddenly destroy heaven and earth and all that is on it. After which we shall be translated, and this corruptible will put on incorruptioii and this mortal will put on immortality. All the reverberations we have to experience in our days are only a prelude to that last mighty peal. PFF2 281.6

And then he quotes Jerome: “Sive comedam, sive bib am, sive aliquid aliud faciam, semper vox ilia videtur sonare in auri-bus meis: Surgite mortui et venite ad judicium.” (If I eat, or if I drink or do anything else, that voice always seems to sound in my ears: Rise, O dead, and come to the judgment.) 50 PFF2 282.1