Are You Ready for Judgment?
Last Judgment Sunday
Are You Ready for Judgment?
Text: Matthew 25:31-46
Oh boy. Here we go. The father steps up to the mic. He’s been waiting for this moment for a very long time. But he’s ready. He knows what to say. He has lots of heartfelt words for his daughter and her new husband at this wedding reception. But of course, he would be remiss on this wedding day if he didn’t show at least a few pictures. The pictures pop onto the screen. Everyone laughs while the blushing bride becomes just that. Daddy was kind enough to share pictures of his young daughter in the bathtub, pictures in diapers, and even a few pictures kissing some other two-year-old boy. “Daaad!” How embarrassing!
Old friends stop by. You haven’t seen them for ages! How fun to catch up on old times! “Oh let me tell you—did you ever know what he was really like back then?” Your friends proceed to tell your spouse some not so great stories about some not so great things you’ve done. How agonizing!
But can these embarrassing and shaming moments of life even compare to what we hear about today? Daniel painted the picture first: Thrones were set in place. The Ancient of Days too his seat. His clothing and hair were white. His throne was flaming with fire. A river of fire was flowing from before him. Tens of thousands encircled him. And the last sentence said: “The court was seated, and the books were opened.”
Then we heard Jesus describe what he will do on that Last Day in the verse two verses of the gospel today: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”
It’s one thing to be embarrassed by childhood stories. It’s another thing to have an old friend reveal some skeletons hanging in your closet. But this Judgment Day scene is beyond what humans could ever understand. Could you possibly imagine being there on the last day?
You are standing before God almighty, white as wool and shining like the sun. His throne is blazing, a river like molten lava is pouring out from his throne. Tens of thousands of mighty angels are attending him. You are surrounded by billions of people—every person that has ever lived. And then the majestic and mighty Judge begins the court session of his judgment. The books are opened with everything you have ever done. Everything. Ever.
There’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. There’s no changing the subject or fast talking your way out of this. God has a record of all your actions and he will be judging you on it all, separating you to his right for heaven or to his left for hell. That’s more than embarrassing or agonizing. That’s terrifying!
It’s terrifying because I know how I match up to Jesus’ description. Here’s what Jesus says will happen. Verse 34: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; 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, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”
But I know that my response would be exactly the same as the one Jesus predicts: “Lord, when did I do these things for you?” “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Whenever we did these kinds of things for other people, we were also doing them for Jesus. Yet then comes my shameful response, “But Lord, I haven’t really done these things for other people either.”
Feeding the hungry and giving the thirsty a drink? Yeah, I give away my gross cans of beans and corn. I even donate a can of soup here and there. But while people starve around the world and even here in America, I’m pigging out on Big Macs, Doritos, and Diet Coke.
Inviting strangers in? Well I turn off the lights and run and hide when the Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door. And with so many school children around and so many horror stories, we often send away quickly the homeless who stop by our church.
Clothing those who are needy? Whenever I get around to it once a year or so I’ll pick out some hand-me-downs to give away. Now then I’ll drop a garbage bag off at Goodwill. Meanwhile most days I stand in my closet with a confused look, trying to decide what to wear of my 10 pairs of shoes and dozens of pants and shirts.
Looking after the sick? Only if it’s a family member! I don’t want Ebola! Visiting those in prison? No thanks. I have zero time and zero desire for that.
Today we see the picture and hear the description of the Last Day, a day when we will meet our Maker and stand before our Judge. He will open the books and judge us based on what we have done and the love that we have shown to others, sending us either to heaven or hell based on that.
That is terrifying because I already know what the book will say. I know what I’ve done. I know my sins. And I know I haven’t shown the kind of love Jesus describes here. While he’s talking about showing love and compassion for other people, I know that I’ve spent a lifetime loving myself.
When it comes to food and drink and clothing, I’ve spent a lifetime acquiring the things that I want and buying for me first. When it comes to showing care and compassion, I’ve spent a lifetime helping numero uno first.
That brings us back to the scene described for us today. Christ our King is seated on his glorious throne with tens of thousands surrounding him. Every person ever is standing before him waiting for judgment. The books are opened. And I feel sick knowing the judgment I deserve. I don’t think I’m ready for this judgment!
But then I listen more closely to what my King says on this last day, because it is very important. Look again at Jesus’ words to us in verse 34: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
We note how Jesus does not say, “Come on in to heaven, you people that heave earned it! You’ve really impressed me! You’ve been so loving! You’ve lived such better lives than other people! You really deserve life with me forever! Way to go! You did it!”
That’s not at all what Jesus says. In fact, what Jesus says has absolutely nothing to do with what we have done for God. His words are all about what God has done for us.
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father.” The blessing of eternal salvation comes from God alone. “Take your inheritance.” An inheritance is not something that you earn or deserve. An inheritance is a gift that is given to you. “[Take] the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Heaven is not a prize I earn or a trophy I win. It is a kingdom that God has prepared for me—and he’s even had it ready for me since the very beginning of time when he created this world!
It seems implausible! It seems impossible! How could I be blessed by God and be given this inheritance of eternal life when I’m not even close to fitting the description of being “righteous” like he describes here?
That’s when our great and mighty Judge Jesus steps off his majestic throne, his seat of judgment, and comes down to our level to reveal a miracle to us: Not only is Jesus is our great Judge, but he is also our great defense attorney. The Bible calls Jesus our intercessor to describe this.
So there stand guilty before our holy and righteous God. An eternal death penalty awaits. But then our defense attorney speaks. He takes the attention away from me and my life. He speaks of a different life—his own. Defense exhibit “A” is his life that was filled with love and compassion, with mercy and help for the poor, the needy, and the helpless. The evidence is a spotless record, a book with no marks in the “sin” column and an endless column of deeds of love for his Father and for his neighbor. Jesus our defense attorney presents exhibit “A” as a perfect life to take the place of our own.
Then Jesus speaks to the punishment, the death penalty that I the accused deserve. He presents defense exhibit “B.” It’s a different death—not mine, but his own. It’s a death suffered for the full bill of crimes—every sin and all guilt. It’s a death that he died as true man but he paid for as true God. Jesus presents exhibit “B” as an innocent death to take the place of our own.
And with such great evidence in this eternal courtroom—with a perfect life and innocent death now credited to our record—Jesus the Judge is now able to declare us “Not guilty.” As far as God is concerned, we are innocent, we are holy and righteous.
This is why the King can say to us on the last day: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” The blessing of our Father is the inheritance of eternal life—a gift won for Jesus and planned for us since the creation of the world.
That brings us back once more to the scene described for us today. Christ our King is seated on his glorious throne with tens of thousands of angels surrounding him. Every person ever is standing before him waiting for judgment. The books are opened. And I don’t feel sick or scared anymore. I feel confident. I feel joyful. I am ready for this judgment.
I’m ready for this judgment because my Judge himself has made me ready. He has erased my record and replaced it with his own. So when Jesus welcomes me to heaven for feeding and clothing and helping and loving others, I’m ready with a response. It’s not, “Lord when did I do this?” My response is, “Lord, thank you for doing this for me.”
Then Jesus will tell us the most marvelous news. It’s not just his life that is credited to my account. Jesus has taken note of our own deeds too. You see, my actions, otherwise tainted with sin, have been cleansed so that what I have done even pleases my Master. God takes note of every little deed that I do and credits it to my account as a beautiful fruit produced by faith.
So when you bring canned foods for our Thanksgiving food drive to feed those in need, it pleases Jesus. When you drop off your clothing at Goodwill or our annual rummage sale, or just pass them off to the next family to save them a few bucks, it makes our Lord so happy. When you write that card to someone sick, or visit that person hospitalized, it brings great joy to our God.
You stop to help the mother who drops her groceries while juggling her children. You cut the grass for your elderly neighbor. You buy an extra turkey for a needy family at Christmas. You buy a cup of coffee to cheer someone up. You stop talking about yourself to simply listen to someone else’s problems. Or you just give a hug to someone who really needs it.
Each deed so seemingly small. Yet each deed pleases our dear heavenly Father as yet another fruit produced by a faith that loves our Savior so much. Each deed seems so small. Yet each deed is marked by our Father in his eternal books. One column in our books is for sin—and it’s completely empty because of Christ’s forgiveness. One column is marked for righteous works and it is chalked full of things we have done in faith.
This pictured that is painted for us today, this scene of the eternal courtroom, is a breathtaking one. Unbelievers ought pause and consider carefully what will happen to them at the end, because this last judgment will not at all be good for them. To be counted a goat and sent away to eternal punishment is the worst thing anyone could ever imagine.
But this scene of the Last Judgment today is breathtaking for us for a different reason. That Last Day will be a day of triumph and victory for us, a day of great rejoicing. For us, this will be the day when Jesus our judge takes note of every fruit of faith we have ever done—not as things we have done to earn his favor but only as fruits offered in thanks to him. This will be the day when our Jesus declares us innocent forever and says with great happiness, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” God lead us on safely to that great Day.
Posted on November 11, 2014, in Church, Sermons and tagged Active Obedience, End Times, Fear, Fear of God, Judgment Day, Last Judgment, Matthew, Matthew 25, Prepared, Sheep and Goats, Terror, Watch, Watchfulness. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.