The Last Judgment
Grace, mercy, and peace be yours in abundance from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, dear friends in Christ, It’s sudden, it’s unexpected, it’s irreversible. He walks in the field carefully and yet unsuspectingly. To him it’s just another day, just another walk through the woods, just a brisk walk on a cool crisp morning. Perhaps he even saw some signs: a scent in the air, a twig out of place, an extra presence in his forest. Perhaps he’s walked this very same path many times before, but this time is different. Although there could be many signs indicating something isn’t quite right, in a breath, in less than a millisecond, there’s nothing that can be more unexpected, more sudden, more unstoppable, more irreversible, for that deer than a bullet from a rifle in a tree. Unsuspected, unseen, unnoticed and the results are permanent. Perhaps, if that deer could think, it would have been thinking things like, “peace” and “safety.” When in reality it had no peace, no security, and no safety. It’s sudden, it’s unexpected, and it’s irreversible. Those adjectives also describe how it will be for the person who’s unprepared for the Last Judgment, the Last Day, the Day when Christ will return to this earth in all power and glory to judge all people. The question our text asks and answers today is, “Are you prepared?”
God wants us to live prepared for the Last Day. God wants us to live our lives with a focus on the Last Day. The Last Day, the Last Judgment is something that we don’t often think about. For example, think about the past week. How many here honestly, seriously thought about the Last Day this past week for more than 5 minutes? Anyone? (Now admittedly, I did, but that’s just because I was preparing this sermon). God wants us to be prepared. To live our lives as if the Last Day could come at any moment. Maybe the Last Day will come before I finish this sermon. So how are we prepared for the Last Day?
The apostle Paul first wrote this letter to the Christians in Thessalonica. He answered some of their questions regarding the last times. So how is one prepared for the Last Day? Well when you are looking to prepare for something it’s convenient to know the deadline, the due date, when is the Day of the Lord going to come so we can be ready for it? A practical question, right? What’s the answer? Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come” (Mark 13:32-33). But throughout history and throughout even our own lives there never ceases to be people who call Jesus a liar and propose that they’ve discovered when Judgment Day will occur.
So Paul wrote, “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write you. For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” You see, the trouble with burglars is that they don’t tell us when they are coming. Burglars are not in the customary habit of sending warning postcards in the mail to tell you when they are going to rob your house. When a burglar strikes he does so unexpectedly at night and during a time when the homeowner is asleep. In the same way Christ is going to return to this earth suddenly and unexpectedly. Although we can’t control the time when a thief might rob our house we can be prepared. We aren’t careless with the earthly stuff we have- we lock our doors, lock our windows, activate our security systems. If we are that concerned about being prepared and protecting our earthly stuff that we won’t have past our lives, how much more important is it for us to be prepared spiritually for the second coming of Jesus, to be spiritually alert and self-controlled?
Now the Thessalonian Christians were recent converts to the faith. They were new believers but were facing persecution from those who did not believe, they were being attacked for their faith. So Paul says, “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” There are still people in this world who live as if the end will never come, as if they will never be called to account for their evil actions. I know people, I’ve worked with people and they weigh heavy on my heart who have a very American practical view of spiritual things. And it goes something like this: I’ve been through a lot in my life and I’ve always seemed to be able to figure it out, when I’m facing death or the afterlife, well, I’ll figure that one out too when it comes, but for now I’ll keep living as I am, enjoying my life free from church and spiritual things. But the problem is Judgment day will come sudden and unexpected like an unsuspecting deer walking through the woods and it’s unavoidable like a pregnant lady going into labor. The unbeliever and the scoffer will be totally unprepared for the Lord’s coming.
But we haven’t answered the question yet. How are you prepared? How are you prepared for Jesus’ second coming? Well, first of all we are NOT in the dark; we know the end is coming. “But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” The coming day of the Lord is not going to surprise us, we aren’t going to be caught unaware.
Why are people surprised when a burglar breaks in? Because he comes unexpectedly in the cover of darkness and he comes during the time when the homeowner is asleep. The burglar comes at night so you can’t see him coming and he comes when most people are asleep. If someone is awake during the night he’s probably at a party, perhaps even getting drunk. Paul says, “For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.” So darkness, sleep, and drunkenness all cause someone to be unprepared for a thief in the night. But if the thief would come during the day time the homeowner would be alert, watching for his coming and be prepared. So, spiritually speaking will Jesus come during the day or the night? That’s the vital question. But the question isn’t for the time, but for the person. Are you a person of the day or a person of the night? Are you spiritually awake or spiritually sleeping? Those who live in the dark or are spiritually sleeping are not ready for the Last Day and will be taken by surprise.
The darkness has a way of hiding things. People do things in the dark that they normally would never do in the light. We only fool ourselves if we think we can do things in the dark, in the private, when no one is looking and get away with it. Even if we think we’ve fooled everyone around us, it is impossible to hide our sinful actions from God who sees all things. We only fool ourselves if we think we can hide jealousy, anger, pride, impure thoughts deep down in the dark places of our hearts and minds and think that God doesn’t see it. God can look right through us and see every single shameful thought, word, or deed that we’ve ever done. Nothing is hidden from God’s sight. And then there are some sins that we know are wrong yet we hold them so close and refuse to let them go and fall into the same temptations and sins again and again and it ought to scare us to death that the Lord may return at any moment and Judgment Day could come at any moment. So, am I prepared? Are you prepared? Are we ready for the Last Day??
What’s the answer? Solely by God’s grace you know the answer. God tells you, “You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.” By God’s grace He has brought you into the light of faith in Jesus. He says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph 5:8) and “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). By God’s grace we are not spiritually asleep. Not spiritually lethargic. Not unprepared. God has convinced us of the truth that because Jesus came, lived, and died for our sins, when Jesus returns as King of kings and Lord of lords we have absolute confidence that because of Him and what He has done for us we will be standing on the sheep side in front of Jesus.
Now the sad fact is that the devil doesn’t want anyone to be on the sheep side, doesn’t want any to go to heaven, he’d much rather see you and me receive the same sentence as him. He’d love for us to become unprepared for Jesus’ coming. The devil would love for us to lose interest in God’s Word, to lose interest in the Sacraments, to become spiritually lethargic and sleepy. Yet God doesn’t want that. He wants us to be prepared so He’s given us the armor to be prepared with: “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” Faith- the confidence that God will do whatever He promises, love- faith in action that lives each day as an expression of thanks to God, and the hope of salvation assures us that we have a place awaiting us forever in heaven.
So, are you prepared for Judgment Day? Are you apprehensive about that Day? Are you afraid that on that Day you’ll be surprised? If you feel any question or doubt or apprehension about the Day of the Lord, look to these final verses of our text: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Are you ready? Yes, absolutely. Look forward to that Day with joy! Look not to who you are or what you’ve done rather look to your Savior who died for you, in your place, as your substitute, who died your death for you so that you might live His life in heaven with Him forever. When Jesus returns He will do so to bring you to live with Him forever in heaven. Yes, you, child of the light, are prepared!