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2nd Sunday of End Time
Matthew 25:31-46

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, It’s on your mind, occupies your thoughts, perhaps your dreams. Your heart beats a little faster. Excitement grows as the day gets closer and closer. A spark of happiness flashes upon your face as you think more about it. The anticipation builds. You don’t know what’s going to happen exactly, but you can’t wait to find out. Will it be this year?  Will that trophy buck happen to wander down the run in front of my stand? Will I finally get that deer that I’ve been waiting to get?  Finally get to pull that trigger and get the deer I’ve been waiting for? Will it happen? What will this season bring? What stories will I be able to tell? Anticipation. Even if you’re not a hunter, you know the feeling. We anticipate many things in life, don’t we? Graduation, a new job, our sports team winning, going to college, the birth of a child. We anticipate all kinds of things. What are you anticipating today?

There’s something else that as Christians we’re all anticipating to a certain extent and it could very well happen today. Have you ever thought of that?  Judgment Day could be today, could be before I finish this sermon?  I’m going to guess most of us don’t often think of Judgment Day. Perhaps we’ll think of it when we have readings like this one in church or when we hear about another person claiming to predict the end of the world. But do we anticipate Judgment Day?  Do we live like Judgment Day could be today?  God tells us in His Word, “It’s coming.” But it’s so easy for us to get lulled into the busyness of our lives and forget about Judgment Day. It’s so easy for us to get our priorities confused and become focused mainly on the things of this life. But consider with me: what if it were today?

Jesus assures us Judgment Day will come when we least expect it, like a thief in the night, suddenly as labor pains on a pregnant woman. So it’s important that we anticipate the Day of Jesus’ return so we’re not lulled asleep by this world, the busyness of this world, or the things of this world.

To wet our appetite for the coming of Judgment Day, Jesus’ gave us this parable before us in our text. A few days after Jesus spoke this text he would be arrested, beaten, bloodied, nailed to a cross and die a humiliating death. But just as surely as he would die on that cross, so would he rise to life and rise to the position of all honor and glory and one day return as King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus tells us, “When the Son of Man coms 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.”  Can you imagine that sight?  There will come a day, a day set in stone by God the Father, a day when Jesus will return to this earth visibly with all power, might, majesty, and glory. And all nations- every person- will be gathered before him. All those who died, their dust and ashes will be brought back to life, and everyone will stand before this world’s only King.

On that day, gone will be the idea that after this life there is nothing, gone will be the idea that all religions lead to heaven and we all worship the same God, gone will be the proud boasts of everyone who claims there is no God. On that day Jesus will be recognized by all as the Lord God and Judge of all the earth.

On that day Jesus is going to separate people on his right and on his left, like a shepherd separating sheep from goats. Well, who are these sheep and goats?  The sheep are those to whom King Jesus wills say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”  These are the children of God the heavenly Father, those whom he chose before the beginning of the world to be his own, those who in time he brought to faith in Jesus to live under Him in His kingdom and serve him in innocence and blessedness. Through faith in Jesus God has made them His own by grace and they will receive the inheritance of eternal life won by Jesus’ perfect life and substitutionary death on the cross for them.

And King Jesus goes on, “For I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me something to drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, needing clothes and you clothed me, sick and you looked after me, in prison and you visited me.”  But wait a minute…I thought we were saved by grace, not works?  Didn’t God say, “It is by grace you are saved and this is not from yourselves it is the gift of God not by works so that no one can boast?”  Yes, so what is God talking about here?  Well, remember we are at Judgment Day here; we’re standing before the Judge. Notice, He doesn’t mention any sins of his believers. Why not?  Because in Jesus, God has forgiven them all, removed them as far as the east is from the west. Notice also that He’s making a public judgment in the eyes of people and he’s displaying evidence. People can’t see faith, but people can see the evidence of it. We might say, “It must have rained last night for the pavement is wet.”  We know it rained because of the evidence it left. Likewise the good things a believer does is evidence of his or her faith, “For I was…” Notice also that the believers are a little confused, “When did we do all these things for you?”  And Jesus tells them, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

You did for me” that’s the key phrase. Think about it: you and I were corrupt, disgusting, worthless sinners and because of that we fairly deserve to be squished by God, punished by him for eternity in hell. But in his great mercy He sent Jesus. Jesus lived perfectly for you, suffered death on the cross to free you from your punishment, rose from the dead to assure you that your sins are forgiven, empowered His gospel message to work faith in your heart, giving you personally the forgiveness of sins Jesus won for you, washing you clean, giving you Christ’s perfect robe of righteousness, writing your name in the book of life, giving you peace in place of guilt, confidence in place of fear, joy in place of sadness, assurance of eternal life in place of certain death. And all of it GOD did for YOU and has GIVEN it to you as a free gift. When you hear that, know that, believe it, your life changes. No longer is life about me, it’s about serving my God. Life isn’t about getting more for me, it’s about helping others. Life isn’t about grudges, hate, getting even, it’s about showing love, forgiveness and grace to friend and enemy alike. Life isn’t about earning anything, it’s about living a life of thanks to God by going to work as if I’m working for Jesus, taking care of my family as if I’m taking care of Jesus, helping people as if I’m helping Jesus. You see, faith is not something that can be hidden away in the dark recesses of the heart as some lifeless possession. Faith naturally shows itself in acts of kindness and service to people out of gratitude for God’s grace.

But what about the goats?  “Depart from me you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  All those without faith in Jesus as their Savior will go to eternal fire for they rejected the one and only Savior there is. There is a hell, it does last forever, and it is horrible. It wasn’t prepared for humans who were meant to live in harmony with God forever, but for the devil and his evil angels. And, again, Jesus will present the evidence: they didn’t feed him when he was hungry, give him something to drink when he was thirsty, invite him in, clothe him, look after him. And you can even sense their self-righteousness, “When did we see you in all these things and did NOT help you?”  But all those things they thought they were doing, they weren’t doing it for Jesus, out of response to His love. Imagine your house burnt down and your neighbors all pitched in to give you clothes, furniture, and money. Then you heard of one neighbor who gave you something because he didn’t want to look stingy. How would you feel about his gift?  It certainly wouldn’t be the same as the others given from the heart, in fact, you’d probably rather not of even had the gift. Who were these people serving?  Really they were serving themselves. They spent their lives serving anyone but Jesus and God doesn’t accept any worship, service, or gift that has any other motive than genuine love for him.

And this is how Judgment Day will end: unbelievers will go to eternal punishment and believers, declared righteous in Jesus’ blood, to eternal life.

So, could it be today?  What a day it will be!  Mourning, wrath, and sadness unfortunately for many, all those who do not believe in Jesus. Joy, glory, and excitement for us who are in Christ. Could it be today?  Yes, it could. And since it could be, let’s anticipate it. And what does it mean to live in anticipation of that day?  Well, first it makes it clear to us what is important in this life and what is not. On the Last Day it won’t make a difference how much money you have, how many friends you have, how famous you are, how many toys you’ve collected, all that will matter is your relationship to the King. Anticipate the Day by seeing the most important thing in your life is to live to be strengthened daily in the truth of what God has done for you in Christ, to take hold of the reality of the inheritance that is yours by grace through faith, to live to be strengthened by prayer, live to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. Anticipate the Last Day by doing what Jesus tells us in this text and so much more. Not to earn salvation, but to view our lives as opportunities to serve others as if we are serving our Lord and Savior. Anticipate the Last Day with a sense of urgency.  Might there be people who need to hear about God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus?  Might there be somebody at work, a friend, maybe even a family member that needs to know that today might be the day?  Consider what’s at stake: eternal death in hell or eternal life. Consider what you know: the antidote to the cure for eternal death in hell, why would you not share it? Who in your life needs to hear God’s law that sin is punished?  Who needs to hear God’s gospel that tells of a Savior punished in our place, forgiveness and eternal life by grace through faith?

Yes we anticipate many things in life, but first and foremost anticipate that Last Day, it’s coming, it could be today, when God will say to you, “Come, take your inheritance prepared for you since the creation of the world!  For in my grace I rescued you from your sins, forgave you with my own blood, used my gospel to bring you to faith, and worked in you a desire to serve me by doing great things that I prepared in advance for you to do.”  Come, take your inheritance!  What an awesome day!  Anticipate it. Amen.