Jesus who will come to judge the living and the dead
by Jack Wald | October 23rd, 2011

Apostles’ Creed

As a child, some of my most exciting days were the days leading up to Christmas. About three weeks before Christmas we went out to cut down a pine tree and then put it in the tree stand in our living room. The tree we cut each year was a white pine with long soft needles and seeing it in the living room, without any decoration was a thing of beauty. It did not need anything more. The smell of the pine tree in the living room is one of the great aromas of Christmas. My father put up the lights, which became a task I had the privilege of doing when I became old enough, and then my sisters and I decorated it with our Christmas ornaments. We went to the store to buy presents for each other and then about four days before Christmas the presents began to pile up under the tree. I would walk by the tree and look at the presents and wonder what was inside.

As the pile got bigger and bigger, there was a tremendous sense of anticipation. What am I going to get for Christmas? And as I got older, I was eager to see my sisters and parents and grandmother open the presents I had bought for them. I went to bed thinking, “Just one week to Christmas,” and then “In five days it will be Christmas,” and then “Three days to Christmas,” and then “Tomorrow morning will be Christmas.”

We look forward to these future events.

A woman who is pregnant also looks forward to a future event. The moment she discovers she is pregnant, she does some math and begins to make plans for what will happen in another seven or eight months. As the months pass, the reality of what will happen increases. There are the early mornings of feeling sick. Clothing with an expandable waistline needs to be purchased. As the mother moves into months seven and eight, it is clear to the world that she is pregnant. She slows down, needs more sleep. The baby is also reminding her that the time is approaching and stretches and kicks in her womb. In the ninth month she is counting the days. And then it is the last two to three weeks. The labor pains could begin any day. It could be today or it could be next week or even two weeks away, but the time is fast approaching.

This is the image Paul used in talking about the return of Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:1-3)
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

Notice in this metaphor for the return of Jesus three things:

The time is quickly approaching. It will not be long now that Jesus will return. It has been seven or eight or maybe nine months of waiting and it will not be long before he returns.

Secondly, his return could be any day now. We could wake up tomorrow morning and that will be the day. It could be before the end of today. It could be before the end of this sermon. The contractions will start and we will lift off to go meet our Lord Jesus in the sky.

And third, there are signs telling us the time is drawing near. Just as a woman feels the baby in her womb and sees her belly extended, so there are signs telling us that the end is approaching.

Mark 13:3–8
And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” 5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

We have seen wars and earthquakes and famines this year. They remind us that the end is near.

But you may say to me, “That’s great Jack, but there have been wars and earthquakes and famines for the last two thousand years. When Paul wrote this letter with the metaphor of the pregnant woman to teach that Jesus could come back any day, people expected Jesus would come back soon. But that was 2,000 years ago. How does two thousand years translate into ‘soon’?”

The first century church asked a similar question. Their expectation was that Jesus would return before they died and when followers of Jesus began to die and Jesus had not returned, questions were asked. Peter addressed those who doubted the truth of what Jesus had promised. (2 Peter 3:3–18)
scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

If the scoffers had known that 2,000 years later we would still be waiting for Jesus to return, their case would only have been stronger. Earthquake has followed earthquake, war has followed war, famine has followed famine and we ask, “Where is Jesus?”

Peter’s response to the scoffers was true then and it is still true today.
8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Being on time differs from culture to culture. If an American walks into a café five minutes after the scheduled time, he will apologize for being late. In other cultures, being five or ten or fifteen minutes late is not late at all, it is being on time. I’ve been told that in nomadic cultures, being at the rendezvous within two or three days of the appointed time is being on time.

A stone has a different sense of time than a human does. A recent event for a stone might be a million years ago. A fruit fly that has a life span of 30 days views the future very differently than we do with our lifespan of 70 or more years.

God also has a different sense of time.
with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness,

Think about this. If Jesus had come back when Paul, Peter and the rest of the 1st century Christians had expected, where would you be? You would never have been born. You would never have had the chance to know about Jesus and his love for you.
[The Lord] is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

There are people in this generation Jesus wants to save and bring into his kingdom. At some point there has to be an end because there will always be future generations, but in God’s plan there are those he wants to come into his kingdom and time will keep moving on, generation after generation, until his purposes have been accomplished. Then there will come an end.
the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

It is because God loves us that Jesus has not yet returned. There are more people to be brought into the Kingdom of God and God does not want anyone to perish.

I don’t know when he will return but I do know that Jesus is coming back. The time of judgment is getting closer. The teaching of Jesus, Peter and Paul was true in the first century and is even more true now. We are 2,000 years closer to the time when Jesus will return than were Peter and Paul who wrote about Jesus coming soon.

At the end of John’s Revelation Jesus said, (Revelation 22:12)
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.
Jesus will return.

Let me say something very briefly about predicting when Jesus will return. Harold Camping from the US predicted that the end would begin on May 21 of this year with a big earthquake. That day passed and he recalculated and decided that the new date would be Friday of this past week. Well Friday came and went and there was no big earthquake; we are still moving on.

Someday someone might get lucky and predict the date that Jesus returns, who knows. But what we do know is that one of the very clear teachings of Jesus is that we will not know the time of his return. (Mark 13:32)
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

We are not supposed to try and predict the time of Jesus’ return so believe what Jesus taught and as soon as you hear someone predicting when he will return, turn away. This is false teaching, false prophecy and will only deceive you and pull you away from what God wants you to focus on. This kind of speculation is disobedient and destructive.

Jesus is coming again and we do not and will not know the time of his coming. But when Jesus returns, he will come to judge.

This was not the task of Jesus when he came to Palestine as the son of Mary and Joseph. Jesus came to Palestine to save the world, not judge it. (John 12:47)
If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.

When Jesus returns he will have a different mission. Jesus will return, not as a Savior but as a judge. (Revelation 19:11–16)
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

This is not the image of gentle, loving Jesus holding little children in his arms as he taught the people of Palestine. This is Jesus with fire in his eyes, blood on his robe and a sword coming out of his mouth.

How does that make you feel?

Imagine two scenarios, both taking place when you were 11 years old: you are playing in the garage and get in the car, pretending to drive. The car slips into neutral, drifts out of the garage onto the driveway and crashes into a tree. Your mother says, “Wait until your father comes home.”

The second scenario takes place just before your 12th birthday and your father is on a business trip and has promised to bring back a special present. Your mother says, “Wait until your father comes home.”

In each scenario the mother says the same thing but there is a different anticipation, isn’t there.

Jesus is coming back with fire in his eyes, blood on his robes and a sharp sword in his mouth. Are you looking forward to his judgment or fearing it?

In 2 Corinthians 2:14–16 Paul uses the image of a Roman triumphal parade. When a Roman general was successful, he was greeted back in Rome with a parade in which he rode in a chariot through the streets in unarmed procession with his army and the spoils of his war. He and his soldiers led the parade. Wagons carried all the wealth he had looted and at the back of the parade came the men and women who had been captured in battle and were now led through the streets in chains as slaves.

As part of the parade, incense was burned and this aroma is what Paul references in his letter.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

To the Roman general and his soldiers, the incense was the smell of victory. But to the recently captured men and women at the end of the parade, the incense was the bitter smell of defeat.

So how about you, is the aroma of Christ, is the coming judgment of Christ a fragrance of life or a fragrance of death?

In Revelation 6:15–17 John wrote of the coming of Jesus when:
the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

When Jesus returns, when you face your judgment, will you join the kings and generals, the rich and powerful and hide in a cave or among the rocks?

What makes you think you will be judged and found acceptable to enter into eternal life with Jesus?

Jesus taught in Matthew 7:21–23
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Does this teaching frighten you? It should. Here we have a Christian leader, prophesying and casting out demons, doing many might works in the name of Jesus and Jesus declares to this person
‘I never knew you; depart from me, you worker of lawlessness.’

In Luke 6:46 Jesus asked,
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

We call out in worship and prayer, “Lord, Lord.” We work in the church using our spiritual gifts. Will we too be rejected?

Let me tell you how you and I deserve to be judged. We deserve to be condemned to eternal hell.

But you tell me, “Wait a minute. I teach Sunday School. I pray. I give to the church. I share my faith with others. I sing in the choir. I don’t cheat or steal or lie. And if I do, I apologize and make things right as soon as I can.”

And I tell you that you don’t get it. Does our behavior save us? Do our actions save us? Am I saved by being a good person? Why do I deserve to be saved? And the answer is that I do not deserve salvation. No matter how well I live my life I will never deserve to be saved.

We deserve death because we cannot attain the holiness required to be in the presence of God. No matter how much better we are than most people, we still are far less good than the perfection required to exist in the presence of God.

If we walk up to our judgment confident that we have been good and faithful Christians, we will be in big trouble.

But if we come before Jesus, desperate to be saved, clinging to Jesus, relying only on the love of Jesus for us, than we can hope to receive the reward of eternal life.

We are helpless and have no resources to call on to help receive a positive judgment. We are absolutely helpless and can only cling to Jesus and ask him to save us.

And when we do this, then we can have confidence we will be saved.
Hebrews 4:14–16
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

We have confidence and can boldly approach the throne of God, not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus has done for us. Our approach to judgment has everything to do with attitude. When we come with humility and an awareness of how deeply we need to be rescued, we can approach the throne of God with confidence. But as soon as we begin to walk and talk as if we have made it to heaven, we are in trouble.

Which of these two approaches to the coming judgment is yours? How are you living your life? All of us sin, that is a given. All of us disobey Jesus in one way or another. But how do we handle our sin, that is the key question.

There are some who think they can manipulate the system. They come to church and do all the right things, but then they are sexually active outside of marriage or they cheat or lie, just doing what is required to get by, to get ahead. They misrepresent themselves. They are not honest about themselves. They use people to get what they want. And then they think they can come to church and put money in the offering baskets while they sing songs of praise to Jesus and all is forgiven.

Do these people think Jesus is stupid? Do they think he does not know what is happening in their lives? Do they think they have a secret room where they can do whatever they want and Jesus cannot see? Jesus cannot be manipulated or used.

Some people worship, give money and pray so that they can get what they want. And some people think that if they pray long enough, with enough passion, and read the Bible during the day and sing songs of praise to Jesus they will get what they want. Their goal is not to serve Jesus or to give praise to Jesus. They do these things so they can get what they want, whether it is passage to Spain or anything else.

God has a plan for your life. Do you really think you can use him to get what you want for your life?

Some people look around at all the suffering and misery of the world and the actions of people that make these things happen. And they say to themselves that they do not sell little boys and girls into slavery. They do not deceive widows and steal their money. They do not rape and murder. They do not take what does not belong to them. They truly are better than these people who do such terrible things. But do you think God grades on the curve? Is being relatively better than terrible people good enough?

Listen, you need to throw yourself at the feet of Jesus. You need, over and over again, to come to Jesus and say you are sorry for the things you have done that displeased him. You need to ask for his help. You need to turn from your sin and live a life of obedience. And then in your dependancy, you can approach his throne with confidence.

I have laid this on heavy because I do not want anyone to walk away from the sermon this morning thinking that despite their behavior, things will work out ok or thinking they in any way deserve God’s love, mercy and grace.

So let me finish with how I believe God views you as you live your life in dependence on him.

In your bulletin there is a sheet with a number of words on one side and the word “Beloved” on the other. This idea is taken from a Jason Gray video of his song, Remind Me Who I Am that I encouraged you to watch in the RICEmail I sent out this week. I suggested it as Sunday homework. I hope you had a chance to watch it.

I want you to look at the words on the one side of the paper.
rejected, homesick, fearful, tired, discriminated against, refugee, orphan, lonely, poor, heartbroken, angry, abused, worried, taken advantage of, anxious, sick, depressed, unhappy, stressed
Who are you? Which of these words comes close to describing how you feel about yourself this morning? Maybe these words will trigger a thought of some other way you thing of yourself. Write it in the box in the center of the paper. Or if it is too private, just imagine it there. At your deepest level, how do you describe yourself this morning?

Jason Gray had a stepfather who abused him. That is where he developed his speech impediment. And so he carries a sign in his video with the word “rejected” because that is how he struggles in his life. Because of how I was raised, at a very deep level, I feel unlovable. Where is your struggle? Put that word in the box in the center of the paper.

Jesus said, Luke 12:4–6
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!

And then Jesus continued
6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.

We deserve the condemnation of God but when you fall before Jesus and surrender control of your life to him, then he will lift you up and save you. He cares even for the sparrow, how much more does he care for you?

You may be insecure and worried this morning. You may feel hurt and betrayed. It may be that you are the one who has hurt someone else with your behavior. You may feel ashamed and worthless. You may feel abandoned and alone. You may be consumed by how you view yourself this morning but turn the page over and see how God views you. Beloved. You are his beloved. No matter how much shame, hurt and pain you carry from your past, you are his beloved.

The image Jesus used was that he is the bridegroom and we, the church, are his bride. As his bride, we are much loved. We are his beloved. And as I said in the sermon a couple weeks ago, proof of his love for us is that he carries in his resurrection body the scars of his crucifixion.

His scars tell you how much he loves you and how far he is willing to go to save you.

Lean on Jesus. Depend on Jesus and approach your coming judgment as his beloved.