Posts Tagged ‘Final Judgment’

The King’s Judgment is Final!

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Last Sunday of the Church Year-HL, November 20th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church

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” Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. ” [Matthew 25:1-2]

cross theologyThe Last Sunday of the Church year always gives us hope; hope in the eternal life and the Paradise that is prepared and waiting for us. But inevitably some will always focus on the judgment and condemnation rather than the picture of hope. They seem to bypass the message of joy that awaits us when we join Jesus, our Christ and King, and instead they focus on the foolish or condemned, which is personified in verse 12 of our reading: “Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.”

So with this in mind let’s address immediately why Jesus says to one group that waits for His return that He does not know them.

Those who wait for eternal life can be divided into two different groups, the foolish and wise. What separates the two? In Jesus story it is the lack of or the presence of oil for their lamps.

Both groups of virgins wanted to be at the wedding banquet. Both had lamps and the desire to use them, but only the ones with working lit lamps actually made it into the banquet. Friends, the oil in the lamp represents God’s grace; His undeserved forgiveness for our many sins. And this oil or grace must be purchased or received only as God has determined. “But isn’t God’s grace free” you may counter? Well certainly it’s free, but you have to have it working for you in order to benefit from it! How?

Well in Jesus story, you had to by oil for your lamp ahead of time. If the oil represents God’s grace then the money to buy the oil represents God’s Word and Sacraments! Friends, in order to live within and under grace we must be in God’s Word, because it is only through His Word that you will be able to believe and live out the truth that God’s forgiveness and mercy are truly yours; that you are already judged righteous and worthy to enter Paradise. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of (Jesus) Christ!” [Romans 10:17]

The five wise virgins were proven wise because they acquired and used the oil. What would have happened if they bought the oil, but never used it? They too would have remained outside, separated from the wedding banquet. They would have been just as foolish as the other five. So the oil, or faith in Jesus is the evidence that your mansion in paradise is waiting for you. To understand what Paradise will be like let’s allow the Prophet Isaiah to show us.

Through Isaiah, God has given each of us a glimpse at His new heavens and earth; it’s a paradise that is so unique, so beautiful, so wondrous, that the “former things (of this world) shall not be remembered” (Is 65:17).

In this new creation, neither the sound of weeping nor the cries of fear nor pain will be heard (v 19). This glorious new life in Christ will never be cut short by death. Predator and prey will dwell together in harmony: “the wolf and the lamb shall graze together” (v 25). Carnivores would once again be herbivores: “the lion shall eat straw like the ox” (v 25). Once again, animals will live together in peace. People will live in peace. People and animals will once again walk together without fear of each other. Just as God had created the original creation, so there will be no destruction or violence in this new world. There will be no crime or terrorism. “They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,’ says the Lord” (v 25). In this creation, God will preserve mankind and the angels from falling into sin. Never again will sin, Satan, or death threaten God’s creation.

This new creation isn’t just a future hope, but it’s also a present reality. Christ has completed the work of the new creation upon the cross. Already, right now, you are a new creation. You’re no longer bound by sin and death. With new life created by the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament, the old has passed away for you. St Paul says it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” [2 Corinthians 5:17]

We live in the time of “now, but not yet.” God’s new creation is a present reality for us, but the totality of His new creation has not yet been revealed to us. As a result, the old sinful Adam still lives alongside your new baptized nature in a constant daily struggle. We can plainly see that we live in a world ripe with the consequences of sin, a world engulfed with the division and suffering that won’t exist in the new world. And as we experience the consequences of sin—sickness, suffering, pain, and death—all of creation groans right along with us as we await the redemption of our bodies. [Romans 8:22–23]

What the Lord describes through Isaiah is simply the mixing of the New Testament church in this world with the church triumphant in eternity. Old Testament prophets often viewed the future without distinctly specifying the first or second coming of the Messiah. It’s as if Isaiah saw the church as a great mansion with a massive courtyard around it. The mansion itself represents the home of the church triumphant and at rest, the eternal Jerusalem that waits for all believers. The courtyard is gated and walled because the Lord protects all within. Yet those in the courtyard have not yet entered the mansion. They wait because they represent the church in action, believers who still live in this world. God’s prophets see them both at once. But once we leave this broken sinful world where the courtyard exists and enter the King’s mansion in paradise, we won’t remember the former troubles and difficulties that we leave behind. We will be glad and rejoice forever! We know that this new Paradise restored exists and is waiting for us because God has said so. Although we wonder about it and sometimes have doubts while we wait in the courtyard, God has devised a way to help us wait in confidence. We wait by faith, which is always created by God’s Word and Sacraments and sustained in prayer.

We live sustained by the Word of God and prayer. We listen to the Lord as he speaks to us in His Word. When we face trouble, heartache, and danger, we don’t wait alone, but we wait together as the church, as a congregation, and we wait in prayer. Verse 24 provides powerful encouragement to pray; listen: “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.” As we believers wait in God’s courtyard, we call out to Him in every trouble. And He promises to hear our prayer and respond!

But as we wait we also have one eye always on the judgment of Christ the King. This judgment will always loom with a degree of fear, but God does not desire us to be afraid or uncertain about our own judgment but instead we are to be afraid for those who do not wait in the same faith that sustains us. This is why we gladly give our witness of God’s love to all who are willing to hear. So what does God’s Word say about the final judgment? Well…

The Final Judgment is just that… final!

There will be a day of judgment, “because (God) has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed.” [Acts 17:31] It will come for all of us, and on that day, Jesus the Son of Man “will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations.” [Matthew 25:31] Before Him will be gathered all peoples and all ethnicities. And all who are in their graves will arise and be gathered before Him.

This will be the final judgment. None beyond this will be held. There is no higher court so to speak, that a person may appeal to. That day “when God has endured with much patience” all the evil of the world will come to an end. There will be a separation forever from God for those who would not come to Christ, and the door to paradise will be closed forever.

And what about the judgment? Well, it will be carried out in accordance with the deeds we have done. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one (of us) may receive good or evil, according to what (we have done) in the body.” [2 Corinthians 5:10] But scripture also states that this judgment will be given out according to our faith in Jesus. For Jesus clearly says, “… he who believes in (Me) has eternal life.” [John 3:15] Whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish and will not be brought to condemnation.

There is no contradiction in this. Our deeds are the kind of work that we do by faith. Our works reveal whether there is faith or not. And among those things that God seeks of us and expects of us is that we should believe in Him and His Son, Jesus Christ Whom He has sent. When we ask what should we do to do the works of God, Jesus answers, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent.” [John 6:29] And to love God above all else, which is the chief commandment; this can only be done through Jesus Christ.

But we must remember that neither our love for God nor our love for our neighbor will ever be so strong that we can stand innocent of guilt before the judgment seat of God. This is why in Christ, God has atoned for all of our sins and has made it possible for us by faith in Christ to be partakers both of forgiveness and eternal life. To be found with faith in Christ then is first and foremost.

With Christ, life and good deeds will always follow. The thief on the cross could no longer do good, yet he was saved. But the person who has an opportunity to serve his neighbor for the sake of Christ will always do just that; it will simply be natural. A person of faith doesn’t think highly of his own deeds, and you won’t even bring it up on the day of judgment. You will be surprised and shocked when you hear about all of your good works that God was pleased with. But for now, we simply live life here in the courtyard as poor sinners who hope for mercy for the sake of Christ. And because of this grace centered thinking that is focused “on Christ,” we dear saints remember that in Christ there is no condemnation. [Romans 8:1]

And so we wait with one foot in the courtyard, which we can call the “church in action” and another foot in the King’s mansion, which we can call paradise, or the church triumphant and at rest. And while we wait, we are ever watchful because we do not know the hour that our King and Lord Jesus Christ will call us home and speak the judgment: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy (and rest) of your Master.” [Matthew 25:21]

Are You Ready For The Rending?

Monday, November 14th, 2016

Twenty Fifth Sunday After Trinity-HL, November 13th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church

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“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence” [Isaiah 64:1]

isaiah-42-1-o-that-you-would-rend-the-heavens-red-copyAre you ready for the rending; for Christ to come again? He has done everything to prepare you for that momentous day. For you the baptized who are fed His Word and Sacrament right here in this place, He has given you faith to see the day of His return as a day of joy. But for those who lack this gift of faith, for those who can not or will not find His grace sufficient as promised in His Word, the day that Jesus rends the heavens will be a terrifying day of judgment. On that day, the God that burned with anger on Mt. Horeb will return, and this time there will be no relenting in His anger and punishment.

In our Old Testament reading [Exodus 32:1–20] we find that the incredible blunder and sin of the people of Israel was almost enough to move God towards wiping out the entire lot of them, men, women, children, and even little babies from the face of the earth. He was ready to start over and only allow Moses to survive. Why?

Because they forgot. They forgot about the One true, only almighty God that had rescued them from severe bondage in Egypt. They forgot that God had been their God since the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They forgot the signs and wonders God used to accompany them through the wilderness so that they could gather around Mt. Horeb and receive the covenant promises of God. It is incredible that these people should forget so quickly the mighty work of their Savior-God. What happened?

Sin happened. All throughout God’s Word we are reminded that sin, our sin and other folks sin strikes when it is least expected, and often times it is committed by people who should know better; people who have experienced the Lord’s abundant mercy.

So in the midst of their sin of false worship, God speaks to Moses and says, “Go down to your people now and watch me destroy them.” With these Words, God is putting Moses to the test; He is seeing what the character of Moses’ faith is, and He is testing Moses trust in God’s call to lead the people. And Moses stands the test! He serves as a true shepherd and mediator between and angry God and a sinful people. “Why should your anger burn against your people,” Moses replies, “whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?” And finally Moses uses perhaps his most persuasive argument, “Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel….” Remember the promises you made to the fathers of this people! And the Lord who is faithful to all of His promises, “relented” and did not carry out His threat to destroy Israel.

God did not change His mind. The God of all grace, who has promised to hear the prayers of His children, wants them to hold Him to His Word of promise. He wants us to do the same in our time of need. St. Paul puts it this way: “No matter how many promises God has made, they are Yes in Christ. And so through Him the Amen is spoken by us to the glory of God.” What a comfort for us who trust in God’s mercy by faith. By faith we can turn to the same Lord in times of trouble and simply hold Him to His Word. This truth comes out clearly in our Gospel reading (Matthew 24:15-28).

In our Gospel lesson this morning Jesus warns His little lambs about a terrible day that will soon come after His return to heaven. It will be a day that signals that Jesus is coming again in anger to judge and punish the sinful world, and this time He will not relent..

In the year 70 AD the abomination of desolation occurred just before Jerusalem and the temple fell to the Romans. It took place when the Zealots, who held the temple under arms supposedly to protect from it Roman Army, allowed a non-Jewish group of rabble rousers known as the Idumeans entry into the temple. Once in, fighting broke out within the temple, even within the Holy of Holies and the blood of over 8,000 people was shed.

News of this atrocity spread quickly throughout the city, and because Jesus had warned His disciples of this event, most if not all the Christian-Jews within Jerusalem were able to escape the city before the Roman siege took place. And as history tells us, all of Jerusalem was destroyed, along with the temple and its way of worship. The Old Covenant religion given to man by God on Mt. Horeb had come to an end.

If we were to look for a physical sign of the birth of the Christian New Covenant Church that would exist throughout the world, this would be the time. Jesus knew all of this and warned His little lambs that the wrath of God, which He relented from at Mt. Horeb, would finally come and put an end to the Old Covenant promises; a covenant that the people of Israel had broken time and time again. But these new children of Abraham, who were children by faith would be safe because they trusted in Christ alone!

Christ has come and Christ will come again!

This was the mantra of the early church and it still is today. Christ will come again. Jesus has said so time and time again with promises like this: “Hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” And “The Son of man shall return in the glory of His Father, and then He shall repay every man for what he has done.”

This teaching is irrevocably bound together with the fact that Jesus is the Son of God who became man, who redeemed all things, and then rose again, and through all of this He brought forth a new humanity and a new creation. In the drama of salvation there remains only the final scene, His rending; His return in power and glory. This is what the Bible speaks of as “His coming again.”

When will His coming again happen? Jesus was very explicit in stating that no one knows the time, not even the angels in heaven. And none will ever know until it happens. We His disciples, His little lambs, have been warned that it’s coming; that we must live by faith. We must remain dressed for action and our lamps must always be burning. We are to be like servants who are waiting for their master, and we must stay awake so that we may open the door to Him immediately when He comes and knocks. And Jesus stresses this truth with these Words: “Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. In a time you do not expect the Son of man will appear. That day will come like a snare upon the whole earth.”

But you dear saints can rest easy in faith, because you know that God has indeed placed a limit on the amount of sin and suffering, and the time that this world has left; the earth will have its final day. And when this day comes, it will be the beginning of a new age, a new creation, and a new beginning in our collective history. This day of the Lord will “come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved by the fire of the Lord, and the earth and all that is upon it will be burned up, in a twinkling of the eye.” We know that God with a single Word and just a movement of His finger can destroy everything that He has created.

But why does God wait? Isn’t there already too much evil in this world? Yes, and all of it will meet its end when Christ comes again! The Bible has given us an answer to help explain why God seems to be taking His time: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” [2 Peter 3:9] This evil world remains because of the mercy of God. There is great reason to trust in God’s promises and have courage. We can be certain that God still has work to do among us. There are still souls to be won for Christ and saved for the Kingdom of God.

Dear saints, the church does not live in a vacuum; we can not deny the turmoil that our nation is facing right this moment because of a divided election that has taken place. But whether the person you voted for won or lost, you are not to identify with those emotions that are being poured out on the streets and the cyber-world of social media. You are to be above the anger, hate, and fear, because you serve the One true Saving God, Jesus Christ. You serve Him knowing that all will be well with you and those who also trust in His promises. So you have a message of hope and peace to declare in the midst of the turmoil.

The truth is, no one knows when Christ will come again. But there are signs that we are to look for; signs that will preceded His return. They will be the last phase in the battle between God and the forces of evil. Nation will rise against nation, people against people. Famine, war, and catastrophes will be upon the face of the earth, and brutality will increase. Hmmm… does that sound familiar?

Many people today and tomorrow will refuse to read these signs, and that is where you come in; you must help them by speaking of a forgiving God who is coming again very soon. They will try to reassure themselves through political action that soon enough if they work hard enough, everything will be alright in their world, but it really wont be; things will only get worse. So you are to remind them that we have a mediator who is greater than Moses: Jesus Christ, who “bore the sins of many, and made intercessions for the transgressors.” [Isaiah 53:12] And concerning this Jesus the very Son of God, the writer of Hebrews declares, “He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” [Hebrews 7:25] And when He comes again, when He rends the heavens, in an instant, He will raise the dead, transform the believers into His likeness and then bring to effect our final deliverance.

Let’s pray… O Lord Jesus, You have revealed to us the manner of Your return. Therefore we pray, keep us watchful for You so we do not follow those who seek to deceive us. Amen