The 2nd Sunday in End Time: Last Judgment November 11, 2018
Text: Matthew 25:31-46 CW Three Year Series A 18:2093
Theme: I’m Looking Forward To Judgment Day
I hope that the Last Day will come soon. It’s getting hard to live in our world. The darkness of sin and unbelief grows thicker daily. A gunman enters a club and shoots 12 unsuspecting patrons to death. Politicians call on supporters to harass their opponents: “Chase them down…break down their doors…kick ‘em wherever you find them,” they cry. I never thought I would hear and see such hateful words and acts in our American society!
Violence grows; wickedness increases; a “me-first” attitude abounds. People live and act like pigs devoid of reason. Where are faithful and godly servants of the Most High God? Snuffed out by the power-hungry! Evil runs rampant around us. It makes me want to cry with the souls already under heaven’s altar: “How long, Lord, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth!” (Rv.6:10) How can you bear it much longer?
But soon a voice will thunder: “Look, He comes!” And Judgment Day will fall. “He will judge the world in righteousness” (Ac.17:31). “Surely, the day is coming. It will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire” (Mal.4:1).
What an oven that will be! There the fire never goes out; the heat never cools! Those who are unprepared will be shoved like straw into it. What a horror it would be to hear the Judge say: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt.25:41).
Are we ready for that day? Its coming draws us to the brink. Will it find me in heaven or in hell? Will I be looking forward to it or dreading its arrival? “Be ready,” Jesus said, “because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you least expect Him” (Mt.24:44).
I. I’m looking forward with joy.
The world tries to close its eyes to this truth of a Last Day when the Lord Jesus will appear in judgment and all people will be gathered before Him. Sometimes it seems like people treat this whole matter as if it were a story, just an ancient superstition at which to poke fun. But when it comes, there will be nothing funny about it. “The day of the Lord will come….The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” (2Pt.3:10f).
That’s not funny. No wonder people avoid it and want to deny it. Even for Christians who are looking forward to it, sometimes thoughts of Judgment Day are just too hard to handle.
Weren’t you ever frightened by the images raised of Judgment – the darkness and gloom, the fire and brimstone, the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, the frantic cries of the doomed for the mountains to fall and the hills to cover them? An appointment before the holy God awaits when one must give an account of one’s life. “The books will be opened” (Dn.7:10). What will they reveal about me? So it is that from one point of view, if I take God’s Word seriously, that I think of the Last Day and final Judgment with fear in my heart for my sin is ever before me (Ps.51:3). And its wages are death (Rm.6:23).
I know this should be true for I have not done all those things of which Jesus speaks in our lesson today – feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, helping the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, visiting the prisoner. I’ve done some, but have I done enough? Any omission would earn God’s judgment for the missed opportunity that He set before me to minister to Him, for He said, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you have done for me.”
As the Lord sees it, when I look into the face of the hungry, the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, I am looking into the face of Christ Jesus Himself. To look into the face of Christ and turn away is not acceptable. To those who have He says, “Depart from me.” I have turned away too often when I could have done something.
If that were the end of my story, what hope would I have? Thank God it’s not the end! There is more; thank God there’s more so that can I look forward with joy and not trepidation.
Eternal life or death is not judged on the basis of the works I did or didn’t do. It’s not as if God walks around with a clipboard, putting a check mark behind everything I’ve done and not done in life – adding up the points and deciding where I spend eternity on the basis of what I did. What do the Scriptures say about this?
“The righteous will live by faith” (Ro.1:17) And again, “It is by grace you have been saved through faith and this not from yourself; it is the gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast” (Ep.2:8). And again when someone asked the Apostle Paul what should be done to be saved, Paul replied: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” That means on Judgment Day, if God were to walk around with a clipboard, there would only be one thing behind each name. It would say, “Believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as his only Savior from sin and hell,” or it would say, “Rejected the Lord Jesus and trusted in himself.” It’s either faith or unbelief.
So then Judgment Day is not as much a time for tabulating results as it is making a declaration of that which already happened. Either I go through life and pass it clinging in faith to the Lord Jesus as my Savior, the only One who has already wiped away my sin on the cross, or I go through life and pass it rejecting His redeeming work and instead trusting in myself.
But I believe in Christ and His work for and in me! Thank God for the Savior! And so I’m looking forward with joy to that day. It will be the happiest day of my life. What great surprises await!
II. I’m looking forward to great surprises.
For when my Savior returns, I’ll have the chance to see Him in full glory with all His angels around Him. The Lord on His throne of glory, my Savior! What will it be like to “see Him as He really is” (1Jn.3:2)?
You see, that is something that the world at large has never seen. The last time the world’s people saw Jesus most of them saw anything but someone glorious. And they treated Him like something far, far less than glorious.
“Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” the majority shouted when He stood before Pilate, hands bound, head crowned with thorns, body bleeding from the wounds, His garments sticking to Him. Then they dragged Him to a hill outside the city where they hung Him on a cross for hours. At the end Jesus cried out with a loud voice and gave up His spirit (Mt.27:50). For most people it was the last time they saw or heard Jesus of Nazareth. The lasting image was one of humiliation, defeat, and death.
Won’t those people and more since then be shocked to see Jesus come again on God’s appointed last day in full glory, to destroy this corrupted world and to raise up a new home of righteousness for those who believed in Him (2 Pt.3:13)? It will be the same Jesus they saw on the cross, this time coming “in glory with all His angels with Him.” Who could have imagined that, based on that which was seen and heard on Good Friday? What a great surprise!
But not to those who cling to Him in faith as the Savior. This is the reason God gave His only begotten Son. To die for sin. But not just to die, to rise again for our justification and life. And “whoever believes shall not perish but have everlasting life. “He came that we may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn.3:16; 10:10).
So then, when at last His glory bursts upon my vision and I find it actually happening before my eyes – really seeing Him who all these years I have loved but have not seen – do you think I will be disappointed? No! Won’t it be a sight more striking than I could ever have imagined?
Think of the glorious surprise it must have been for the blind beggar whose eyes Jesus opened outside the city of Bethsaida. He was totally blind all his life. But in an instant the Lord Jesus gave him sight and he looked directly into the kindly face of his Savior. What a thrilling delight that must have been! (Mk.8:22f)
Something like that, only far more thrilling will be our first real look at Jesus. For on that last great day when the Son of Man comes in all His glory, the blindfolds of time and sense will drop from our eyes and we shall indeed “see Him as He is.” Don’t tell me that won’t be a breathtaking surprise!
And I will thrill to hear Him say, “Take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, thirsty and you gave me something to drink, a stranger and you invited me in, needed clothes and you clothed me, sick and you looked after me, in prison and you came to visit me.” I think I may respond, “But when did I do that, Lord? I haven’t done as much as you say.” And in the marvel of His grace I will hear Him respond, “Whatever you did to the least of these, you have done for me.”
I still don’t know when and how, and I’m not keeping tabs on it. I don’t see it. I wish and pray I would do more. And that’s the way it should be, otherwise I’ll be trying to add up points and rely on myself for salvation. So, what a great surprise it will be to hear Him say, “Come, the kingdom is prepared for you who believe.”
And so I’m looking forward to that day – Judgment Day. How about you? In Christ we do. What joy, filled with great surprises, shall fill our hearts then – all by grace! And in that grace we live for today and we gladly work today to proclaim the Gospel that others may also believe and look forward in hope. God grant it to us in faith for Jesus’ sake. Amen.