Sermon from November 13th, 2016

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“What Happens When We Die? #2 - The Return of Jesus and the Final Judgment”

1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; Matthew 24:30-44

By Pastor John Bent

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Sermon Text
Good morning and welcome to worship! First, let’s have our veterans stand. Thank you for your service and sacrifice on behalf of our great nation! You are deeply appreciated.

Like every generation before us, America faces great enemies whose purpose is to destroy us. These enemies rise up from within and without. But the greatest enemy we face is our own sinful nature. More laws, less laws, more money, less money, more social program, more politicians, less politicians, more religion, less religion will never defeat this enemy.

Our only hope is in the Lord and in the repentance, intercessions, prayers of God’s people. It was at a terrible time in the history of Israel that the LORD said to his people, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Neither Republicans nor Democrats nor Donald Trump will save America from her sins. That’s something only God can do and there is much work to be done before Jesus returns. This morning we continue our study of “What happens when we die!” 

Last week we learned that when a Christian dies, our spirit goes immediately into the presence of Jesus in a place called Paradise while our bodies return to dust until the day of resurrection. Those who reject Jesus go to a place of horrible torment called Hades or Hell.  Where they will remain until Jesus returns. You can review that message on our website.

Our topic for today is - “The Return of Jesus and the Final Judgment.”   For those who love Jesus, the Second Coming will be the most thrilling event they have ever experienced.  But for those who reject him, it will be the most terrifying.
Let’s open our Bibles to Mt 24:30-31 Jesus warns us that there will be a great tribulation before his return. Scholars disagree about whether we are in those days or if they are still to come. Perhaps both are true. In any case, some will long for his return, others will fear it. Some will be ready, some will not. But everyone will have been warned.

Jesus said, “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” Mt 24:30-31

Paul writes “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.” 1 Thess 4:16-18

Rev 1:7 says, “Look, he is coming with the clouds and every eye will see him. Even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be. AMEN” Rev 1:7
It won’t just be believers who see Jesus coming on the clouds; it will be everyone. When the trumpet sounds, everyone who has ever lived will be resurrected to see him as he really is.

In John 5, Jesus says “Truly I tell you, 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.  For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.  And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man…

“…Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.”  John 5:25-29

When Jesus returns, believers, living and dead, will rise to meet him in the air.  All evidence of the brokenness of this creation will be gone and we will rise! Crutches, hearing aids, bad breath, glasses, MS, muscular dystrophy, mental illness, sickness, will all be left behind!

Then we will follow him from our gathering in the sky back to earth where he will take the throne as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Just like what happened on Palm Sunday!  Except this time rather than subjecting himself to the twisted judgment of men, he will be the judge and every human being who has ever lived will stand before him.

 No wonder Jesus warned us to “Be ready!”  In Mt 22, Jesus tells the story of a great king who invited everyone in his kingdom to a great party. A wedding banquet he was preparing for his son. Guess who the king is?  Our Heavenly Father! Guess who the king’s son is?  Jesus!  Guess who the bride is?  It’s people!  But a problem develops here…

In Jesus’ parable, many people ignore the king’s invitation. They refuse to come. They say they are too busy. So the King sends more messengers to invite them again. But the people abused and killed them. So the king sends his army to destroy the murderers.

Then he said, ‘Go out into the street corners and invite everyone you can find to the wedding banquet.’ In Jesus’ parable the messengers are the OT prophets. The people who killed them were the ancient Jews as well as the religious leaders of his day. The people of the street are the Gentiles. Question:  Are we building our new sanctuary for ourselves or for the sake of those who aren’t here yet? What would Jesus say?
Jesus goes on, “The king was pleased that his banquet hall was filled, but then he saw a man who was not wearing a wedding garment. ‘Friend’, he said, ‘How did you get in?’  The man had no answer.

Wedding garments were provided free for every guest at the door, but this man refused to wear his.  Why? Maybe he wasn’t there to celebrate the wedding. Maybe he had other motives. Like picking up a free lunch or stealing the wedding presents. I don’t know. But the king determined he was up to no good so he bound him and threw him out.

The wedding garment is the righteousness of Jesus. Remember, the Father takes our sin and puts it on Jesus on the cross. Then he clothes our nakedness in Jesus’ robe of righteousness. The wedding garment is free, but you have to be willing to wear it.  The only way we can stand before the righteous judgment of Jesus is by being clothed, not in our righteousness, we have none, but by being clothed in Jesus’ righteousness by faith.

In Mt 25, Jesus gives another picture of the final judgment. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his (earthly) 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.” Mt 25:2

If you were raised around livestock you know exactly what this is about. But even if you weren’t you still know how to separate the good from the bad. You do it every day.

“Then the King (Jesus) 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.  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 invite me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Mt 25:34-36

…  And the righteous will answer, “When?  When did we do these things for you?”  And the King will reply, “When you did it for the least of these my brothers or sisters, you did it for me.” Mt 25:37, 40  (paraphrase)

Note that the righteous didn’t do these things to get anything. They were simply sharing the blessings the Lord had given them with others in need. They were living with open eyes, open hearts, and open hands to the needs of those around them.

In Genesis 12, the LORD tells Abraham, “I going to bless you and make you a blessing.  Through you I’m going to bless the whole earth.”   Abraham believed God. Abraham willingly passed on the blessing God gave him. It was an act of faith that God credited to him as righteousness.

Last week we looked at the story of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar. The Lord had blessed the rich man abundantly. But he refused to share. Everyday he stepped over Lazarus on his way in and out of his mansion.  He ignored Lazarus and his need.

In Mt 25, Jesus confronts the ones destined for hell, “I was hungry, you gave me nothing, I was naked, you ignored me, I was lonely, you were too busy…” They will answer the king, “When did we see you in that condition.” And Jesus will reply, “In as much as you didn’t care for one of these the least of my brothers, you didn’t do it for me.”  (paraphrase)

The Scriptures says a lot about the 2nd coming of Jesus. Many books have been written on the timing of the millennium, the judgments, etc, etc. Christians can get all wrapped up in trying to figure out the details of the end times.  But in our search to understand these things, we can forget the most important thing. We are called to be at work, caring for the in need around us until the trumpet sounds and the Lord sweeps us into the air to join him.
Jesus is coming.  Resurrection day is coming when the believers who are still alive will rise to meet Jesus in the air. They will be joined by believers who spirits have been with him in paradise.  Their bodies will be resurrected from the dust and reunited with their spirits and together we will follow Jesus down to his coronation on earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. What a day that will be.

But for those who have ignored the salvation the God has provided, who have selfishly hoarded the blessings the Lord has given them and lived only for themselves, the day of the Lord’s return will be a dreadful day.  Those who have died without the Lord whose souls are in Hades will also be reunited with their resurrected bodies and the angels will gather them together to stand before Jesus on his holy judgment throne.

Because they rejected the salvation God provided in the wedding garment of Jesus’ righteousness, they will be cast out of the party into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. They will spend eternity living in the same way they lived on earth - except they will no longer enjoy the blessings of God they took for granted during their life on earth.

The Bible tells us that when a person becomes a Christian, we die to our old sinful self and we are born again. The Bible calls this conversion, the first death. Your baptism is a picture of being drowned, buried and raised to new life. The Bible tells us that those who have done this will not be hurt by the second death which is the death of our bodies.
Something beautiful happens when we die to ourselves and begin to live for Jesus. Our ears and eyes are opened.  We see things, people and their needs we have never seen before. We begin to care for others, not to get something, but because our very nature is being transformed, bit by bit, to become more like Jesus. So that when he comes, he will find us busy, about the work he has given us and we’ll be ready. That’s the desire of my heart.  How about you?

Christ Lutheran Church • 5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937 • 406-862-2615

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