VDMA – The Word of the Lord Stands Forever

Revelation 14:6–7 6Then I saw another angel flying in the middle of the sky. He had the everlasting gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth, to every nation, tribe, language, and people. 7He said with a loud voice: Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the sky, the earth, the sea, and the springs of water.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father— to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Galatians 1:3–5)

It is always good to know a few Latin phrases that you can use to season your conversations.

“Carpe diem” = “Seize the day.” Use this phrase when you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal disease. You aren’t going to waste time meaninglessly, so you seize the day.

“Veni, vidi, vici” = “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Use this phrase when you are facing any huge obstacle – cancer, an athletic event, or that huge pile of laundry in your son’s bedroom.

“Semper ubi sub ubi.” My high school Latin teacher taught me this three decades ago. It was good advice then. It is good advice now. “Always wear underwear.”

One of the most important Latin phrases for us as Lutherans to know, though, is “Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum.”  It means “The Word of the Lord Stands Forever.” This phrase is often pictured as an acronym of a Greek cross with the letters VDMA surrounding it – one letter in each quadrant of the cross.

“The Word of the Lord stand forever” comes from Isaiah 40:8: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” In the first 39 chapters of Isaiah, the prophet declares God’s judgment on faithless Judah. The people of the southern kingdom of Judah longed for a savior or a deliverer who would rescue them from their national enemies. But, instead of turning to the Lord for salvation and deliverance, they turned to strong political and military allies – only to quickly have to pay tribute to them and eventually suffer their attacks and invasions.

In the midst of their unfaithfulness, the Lord promised the unchanging faithfulness of His Word. The Word of the Lord is inerrant. It is efficacious. It is eternal.

By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, St. Peter quotes Isaiah to explain how this mighty, eternal Word of God changes hearts, souls, and eternal destinations. All of us have been born from our father’s seed and given life. That life is short, fleeting, and soon ended. That’s because we are born of perishable seed.

St. Peter explains that God’s Word does what no earthly father could ever do – change lowly, dying sinners into immortal and imperishable saints. “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For ‘all men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever’” (1 Peter 1:23-25).

Martin Luther began the Reformation when he posted his 95 Theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517. Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum quickly became the official motto of the Lutheran Reformation, and the VDMA symbol became the official symbol of the Reformation, even before Luther’s rose.

Already by 1522, Luther’s prince, Frederick the Wise of Saxony, began using VDMA. He ordered VDMA be sewn onto the right sleeve of the official clothing worn by all members of his court – from the lowest servants to himself as the prince. The motto was used by Frederick’s successors, his brother John the Steadfast and his nephew John Frederick the Magnanimous.

Later, in 1531, it became the official motto of the Smalcaldic League, which was a defensive alliance of Lutheran cities and territories. The Lutheran princes formed the league in case Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, attacked them for their Lutheranism.

VDMA was used on flags, banners, swords, helmets, uniforms, cannons, and all manner of objects. VDMA was a symbol for the Lutheran laity who struggled to defend their beliefs, communities, families and lives against those who were intent on destroying them (Preface to the Book of Concord, p. 28, A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord).

The motto is seen on coins of the Reformation era.

It is displayed over a doorway in Braunschweig, Germany.  

It is on a clock of a church in Kronstadt, Germany.

One of the coolest uses is found an a half-shaffron – a horse’s war helmet – from 1553. This protective armor is in the Metropolitan Museum.

This Latin motto of the Reformation is as important to us today as it was to the early Reformers 500 years ago.

False doctrines and fake preachers will oppose the truth of the gospel, but God promises that “the gates of hell will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18).

Demons and enemies of the gospel will “hate, steal, hurt or kill,” but they can harm us none. They’re judged. The deed is done. One little word can fell them.

The devil and his antichristian beasts are warring against God’s saints. We are in the midst of that war right now (Revelation 13)! Our enemies want to make us desert God, so they can place their destructive mark on our foreheads and hands (Revelation 13:16). Their mission is to destroy the preaching of the gospel. The devil, the antichrist, and the beasts make the earth a terrifying place for God’s people.

St. John emboldens us against God’s demonic enemies in Revelation 14. He reminds us that we have received the mark of God the Father’s name written on our foreheads at our baptism. Marked as God’s saints destined for salvation, St. John explains his vision of the first angel: “Then I saw another angel flying in the middle of the sky. He had the everlasting gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth, to every nation, tribe, language, and people” (Revelation 14:6).

God will not abandon the earth to Satan and his beasts. God’s gospel is good news. It will be proclaimed to the ends of the earth. God’s gospel is eternal. It is good news that can never be dismantled or destroyed. The angel bringing the gospel is flying in midair where no enemy can harm him, or hurt, hinder or halt his work. The angel is flying to demonstrate the speed the gospel spreads to every nation, tribe, language, and people. God uses His gospel to reach down to the earth with great love and carefully searches every nook and cranny for the lost.

God’s gospel could not be silenced by papal decree or Emperor’s threats. God’s gospel cannot be overcome by Satan and his demonic forces. God’s gospel will continue to spread and save souls until all the 144,000 are claimed as God’s own (Revelation 14:1).

We are living in a world where rapid change is the norm. People are basing their decisions on feelings, instead of facts. Those feelings fluctuate and falter. New technology is purchased and is immediately outdated. If you don’t like the weather in Wisconsin (where I live), wait 10 minutes and it will change. The only constant we have in our lives is God’s Word. It is the everlasting gospel.

No matter how old you get; no matter what changes you see – the eternal gospel remains the same.

No matter how many times you have disappointed your spouse; no matter how often you have failed your children – the eternal gospel remains the same.

No matter how heavy is your past guilt; no matter how chaotic is your present; no matter how uncertain is your future – the eternal gospel remains the same.

We are living in a culture and time that is opposed to Christianity and its spread. Violence is threatened against Christians as protestors shout down pro-life advocates; as every form of decadence is promoted on college campuses and Christian decency is demoted; as evil men walk into churches to maim and kill.

Still, the eternal gospel baptizes, catechizes, teaches, preaches, communes, and saves. That eternal gospel may have been slowed, but it cannot be stopped. It may have been damaged, but it cannot be destroyed. It may have been sabotaged, but it will always work salvation.

The eternal gospel – the Word of the Lord that stands forever – this is Jesus the Christ. Jesus is the Word that God the Father used to call the universe into existence (John 1:1-2). Jesus is the Word made flesh who made His dwelling among us (John 1:14). The divine flesh was put on the cross to redeem us from our sins. The divinely human flesh was laid in the grave to sanctify our graves. The Word made flesh was pierced for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. He was punished to give us peace. He was wounded to grant us healing (Isaiah 53:5). That couldn’t happen if Jesus was only the divine Word. But when the voice of God, the second person of the Trinity, took on human flesh, then He could suffer and die. Then, we who are flesh could be ransomed and redeemed.

This is the eternal gospel!

The good news that God died to give you life!

The good news that God suffered so you might be saved!

The good news that God took away hell to give you heaven!

The good news that your past guilt is covered by the blood of Christ; your current chaos is calmed by Christ’s open tomb, and your future is made certain by Christ sitting on His Father’s throne.

This good news will never change. The angel is still flying in midair with this eternal gospel. He will continue flying till the end of time.

There are other Latin phrases that are important for us to remember as Lutherans – “Sola Gratia” – “Grace alone”; “Sola Fide” – “Faith alone”; “Sola Scriptura” – “Scripture alone” – “Solus Christus” – “Christ alone”; “Soli Deo Gloria” – “To God alone be the glory”. There are still others.

The Latin phrase that became the motto of the Reformation is one you need to remember, celebrate, and proclaim. VDMA – The Word of the Lord Stands Forever.

The Word that stands forever was poured over your head at the font. It is preached into your ears and believed in your heart. It is placed onto your lips. It is a blood-soaked Word of Christ that cries out, “It is finished!” It is a reassuring Word of Christ that comforts, “You are forgiven.” It is a resurrected Word that calms, “Do not fear.”

This gospel will never pass away. It is enfleshed and verbalized to us in the Word made flesh – Jesus Christ. His Word of mercy and forgiveness won upon the bloody cross and in the darkened tomb.

His Word changes hearts. It shapes lives. It saves souls. His Word that began a Reformation 501 years ago and is still bringing forth a reformation in hearts, lives, and churches today. This is the Word of the Lord that stands forever. Amen.

“Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and might belong to our God forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 7:12)