Last Judgment Sunday
Grace and mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, who will come to judge the living and the dead, dear friends in Christ,
Tolle lege, tolle lege. He heard a child singing that while in a garden in Milan. It was child’s song in Latin for “Take it and read, take it and read.” Up to that point he had led a life of sin, drinking, and sex and thought Christianity wasn’t something for a scholar like him. But at this defining moment of his life, he happened to pick up a Bible, opened it to Romans 13:13-14 and read, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” He never forgot that moment, it changed his life and his life took on a new meaning. It was a real defining moment for him. That’s a true story about St. Augustine who later became a great Christian theologian in the 300s AD. Have you ever had a defining moment? From time to time people experience an insight in their lives that becomes a defining moment. The experience has the ability to change their filter on life and the way they view things. All of a sudden something that might have been confusing in life becomes incredibly clear. Some call it a defining moment. Have you had any “defining moments”?
Today, in our text, Jesus gives to us a truth that if we take it to heart will define our day to day life. And here it is: Live in light of the Last Day. How do we do that? By listening to God’s Son and looking forward to His verdict.
In our text, Jesus has just healed someone who had been an invalid for 38 years. It happened that the day on which Jesus did this was a Sabbath day. But instead of taking the miracle to heart, the leaders of the Jews opposed Jesus, “How dare he heal on the Sabbath day! No one is allowed to do work on the Sabbath day!” And Jesus told them, “God is always working, every day, and so I am also working every day.” They caught the hint that Jesus was making Himself equal to God. In fact, Jesus goes on in the first part of this text explaining just how equal He is with the Father- what the Son does, the Father does, what the Father does, the Son does, the Father raises the dead, the Son raises the dead, the Father entrusts all judgment to the Son. Why? So “that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” Who is Jesus? Jesus is God’s Son, He isn’t the Father, yet He’s 100 percent equal with God the Father. All who want to honor God must honor Jesus.
The Jews in our text thought they were very religious, devout, and sincere. In fact, if you had lived back then, you would have thought these Jews were extremely pious and devout in their religion and devout to God, but they had one huge problem: they rejected the Son, they rejected Jesus and so, they rejected the true God.
For the most part in our world today it’s ok to believe in God as long as you don’t specify too closely who that God is. The athlete can thank God in the postgame interview and that seems to go over ok. The president can ask God to bless America and that seems to be ok. You can tell your co-worker that you’ll be praying for her in the ordeal that she’s going through and that seems to be ok. But, just try crediting Jesus Christ as the only way to life eternal, insist on praying in Jesus’ name, or telling your coworker that Jesus is the only answer to sin and guilt and see what happens.
The Last Day is coming. Will a generic religious devotion save someone on the Last Day? No way! True faith in God must include true faith in His Son. Jesus taught the Jewish religious leaders and us today that He is the only Son of God from eternity and it’s vital that He be honored as such. He is one in essence with the Father, they share the same work, have the same purposes, are one in action, worthy of the same honor. If someone is to be saved on the Last day he must know and believe in Jesus. Many, if not most, in our world do not. They are unprepared for Judgment Day.
What about us? Judgment Day could come at any moment, like a thief in the night. And God describes Judgment Day: Sun will be darkened, moon not give its light, stars fall from the sky, blood, billows of smoke, a loud trumpet call, the voice of the archangel. It’s a scary day to think about if you’re not ready! Are you ready? How important are the words of Jesus in your life? Are they important only if you have time? Are Jesus’ words simply one compartment of my life that I can take out one day a week and then put on a shelf and live differently the rest?
God wants each of us to live in light of the Last Day. How so? By listening to God’s Son. “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” Notice three things here: First, hear Jesus’ Word. Jesus comes from the Father, was sent by the Father, shares with us the Father’s plan of salvation, if we are to be ready for the Last Day we must hear Jesus’ word. Second, believe that word. That doesn’t mean just let the words pass through one ear and out the other, it doesn’t mean having a Bible sitting on the shelf in my house, it means trusting that Word as truth and relying on it for our day to day life, that Word must be the foundation upon which our entire life is built. And third, the content of that trust is the one who sent Jesus. We don’t just have faith in faith, our faith must firmly rest in Jesus and the God’s plan of salvation through Him.
Living in light of the Last Day means listening to Jesus, making His word foundational to our lives, trusting it and shaping our entire lives by that word. And notice what Jesus says happens then, “he HAS eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” Did you know you’ve already passed through judgment? You and I were born spiritually dead, sinful, rotten corpses fit only for decaying. That was our natural condition. But the powerful Word of God came and worked faith in your heart and brought you to life, spiritual life.
Jesus has two things: the right to give life and the right to judge. And His judgment and life are given now and in the future. Judgment and life are now in the spiritual sense and are in the future in the physical sense. Believe in Jesus and you are already not condemned. That means you’ve already stood in judgment and have been declared not guilty. How so? Because Jesus suffered and died on the cross for you, your sin has been paid! Jesus rose from the dead, you’ve been declared innocent! You were spiritually dead and are now spiritually alive! You’ve risen from the dead and live in Christ! And you will continue to forever. In fact, you live even though you die! Physically dying means going from living here to living with Jesus in heaven! But Jesus also says, “A time is coming when all those who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good (only believers can do good in God’s sight) will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” What is now spiritual and hidden reality will be made visible when Jesus returns. We are already declared innocent and will be publicly and visibly declared innocent on the Last Day when Jesus will raise our bodies and give us new glorified bodies fit to live forever in heaven.
You see, living in light of the Last Day defines our lives. First, it influences our actions. I want to know where I’ll be standing on that Last Day, so I want to make every effort to listen to God’s Son, hear His Word, take it to heart, and conform my life to what God wants for me. There’s a story about the old west where a horse was spooked and bolted off with a wagon behind it and a little boy in the wagon. Seeing the danger a young man immediately rode after that wagon and rescued the boy. The boy grew up and lived a life of crime and one day murdered someone and was caught. He had a moment’s relief when he saw that the judge was the same man who had rescued him many years ago. And so he pleaded for mercy reminding the judge of that time he rescued him. But the judge silenced him and said, “Young man, many years ago I was your savior, today I am your judge, in the name of justice I sentence you to death.” How will you and I live in light of the Last Day? May we live our lives listening to and living according to the Word of our Savior!
And secondly, living in light of the Last Day gives us incredible peace and confidence as we think about the future. Since we have a Savior who already won us salvation we know what the verdict is and will be: not guilty. There’s another story about a time long ago where a group of pioneers were traveling in a wagon train when they noticed billows of smoke in the distance, soon the whole horizon was full of fire as a wild fire came closer and closer. It was a certain death. Then the leader had them set the grass on fire in a large spot and after it cooled they all gathered in the middle of the burned area. As the fire came closer a young child yelled out, “Are you sure we’re not going to be burned?” And the leader said, “My child, the flames won’t reach us here for we are standing where the fire has already been.” And that’s exactly what happened, the flames rolled around them and they were safe. Judgment Day approaches, and God’s wrath is like a raging fire consuming all sinners. But know this: Jesus has taken your sins on Himself. And He endured the full fire of God’s wrath when He died on the cross. Your sin was completely burned up in that fire. In Christ we stand in the charred remains. Even if the fires of Judgment rage around us, we stand safe and secure and at peace in Christ Jesus. We have eternal life. We are not condemned.
St. Augustine had a defining moment in his life. May living in light of the Last Day define your life as you listen to God’s Son you’ll be reminded how He paid your sin in full and so you don’t have to cringe in fear but live your life with joy to glorify Him and look forward to the verdict of not guilty. You are ready for Judgment Day, Jesus has made you perfectly ready. Come quickly Lord Jesus. Amen.