Greeting: The end of all things is near. Lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near.
Text: 31) When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory. 32) 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. 33) He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.
34) Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by May Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35) For I was hungry and you have Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, 36) I needed clothes and you clothed Me. I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me. 37) Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38) When did we see You an stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? 39) When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?” 40) The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.”
41) Then He will say to those on His left, “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal life prepared for the devil and his angels. 42) For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, 43) I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me. I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.” 44) They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You? 45) He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.” 46) Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
Introduction: In Charles’ Dickens’ well-known book, “A Christmas Carol,” the main character, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, is given a glimpse of Christmas Future. In this vision, he sees the sad results of what will happen if he continues in the selfish, greedy, unloving course of life that he has chosen. In one particularly bleak scene, Scrooge witnesses his lonely death and burial at which no one cares to miss him or to mourn him. This startling scene moves him deeply and leads to a wholesome, dramatic change of his heart and life.
A glimpse into the future. Who of us wouldn’t want to take at least a peek into the things that will happen to us in the years to come? We wonder: “How will things unfold in the stories of our lives?” or “What’s going to happen to me at the end of my earthly life?” or “How is all going to turn out?” Oh, that we could have a good look at the coming events and the things in store for us! Oh, some people try to get that look by trying foolish, fraudulent, forbidden means such as fortune tellers, horoscopes and those who claim to speak with the dead. But all they get for it is a false, misleading, empty response. However, there is one reliable Source for a glimpse into the future – God. In His great love, God has given us a revealing look at the future. He has made known some important information about the end of all things and has unveiled a powerful, helpful scene from the day of His return to the world and the time of Final Judgment. He gives us this glimpse into the future so we can be well prepared to meet Him and face this great judgment on people’s lives.
As we consider this scene more carefully, may God help us LEARN three precious truths FROM A
1. The King Will Return To Judge All People
As God gives us a glimpse of the great future He controls, He wants us to know that Jesus Christ, the risen Savior and ascended Lord will return to this world on the Day He comes to end it. He says: “When the Son of Man comes again in glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory.” When Jesus comes again, He will return as the glorious King of all. He will reveal in powerful outward ways the magnificence and full measure of His rule that He now keeps hidden from us. The King’s holy angels will accompany Him and will gather all the people in the world for judgment.
Sometimes, people wonder about the need for a Final Judgment because the Bible tells us that people are already judged by God at the time of their death. Well, there are at least four strong reasons God gives us for a Final Judgment of all people. One reason is that the Final Judgment is the judgment for the souls of those who are living on earth at the time of Jesus’ return and have not had to face judgment at the time of physical death. A second reason is that the Final Judgment will involve the resurrected bodies of people in judgment, while the judgment at time of death involves only the state of the soul. A third reason is that the Final Judgment is a public judgment, not a private one. In the Final Judgment, there will be a public recognition of those who believe in Christ as their Savior and those who do not. Closely related to the third reason is the fourth. As the public judgment, the Final Judgment will result in open, public glory and honor for God as both Savior and Judge.
At Jesus’ Second Coming, Jesus will separate all people into two groups, the way a shepherd would separate the animals in his flock – the sheep on one side and the goats on the other. One group of people will enjoy God’s favor. The other group will face God’s fierce judgment. What is the basis for this judgment? From Matthew’s words, it appears that the basis for judgment will be a person’s works, his/her good deeds or lack of them. However, the real basis for Jesus’ judgment of people will be their faith or lack of faith in Him, which is expressed in outward works. Listen to God’s teaching on those who find favor and those who find condemnation in His judgment: “Whoever believes in the Son is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:18) “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36) God clearly teaches that those who believe in Jesus as their Savior from sin find favor with God and are not condemned by the Judge, while those who reject Jesus as their Savior are condemned for their sins and must face God’s terrible wrath. In Romans 3:20, God rules out a person’s works as the basis for escaping God’s condemnation in the judgment when Saint Paul writes: “No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the law.” How the judgment goes depends on a person’s attitude toward and relationship with the King, Jesus Christ.
A key lesson from our look at the Final Judgment is that Jesus Christ will return as the glorious King to judge all people. On that day, may we be found with saving faith, trusting in Christ for pardon and eternal life.
2. The Savior Will Commend Faith-Revealing Actions
In our God-given glimpse of the future, we notice a most surprising situation: Jesus, the great King, will praise His believers for their works of loving service. Listen to His words: “For I was hungry and you have Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me. I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me.” Jesus makes mention, not of their faith, but of the outward expression and evidence of their faith. He points do their faith-prompted deeds of loving service. Their true faith worked by love. Jesus emphasizes that truth in the scene from the future. The believers are surprised by Jesus’ praise. It appears that they were not taking that much notice of their good works. They surely were not counting on them to gain eternal life.
Notice also what Jesus does not say. Jesus says nothing about the sins His believers have committed throughout their lives. You may wonder how Jesus is going to handle all your sinful failures on this day of public judgment. How embarrassing to have Jesus mention all the wrongs we did and all the good we left undone! But Jesus is not going to mention them. Why not? Well, there will be no need since our sins have already been dealt with. He has paid for them. He has forgiven us. Our case has already been tried in God’s court. Jesus has paid our debt. God has declared us innocent because of Jesus. So Judgment Day will be wonderful for believers in Christ. For Christians there is no rebuke or condemnation, only praise for our faith-prompted deeds of love. Believers have nothing to fear on Judgment Day.
How remarkable this praise from Jesus is! He extols loving service given in small ways: giving some food or drink or clothing, paying a visit and spending some time with a person. These are not costly, extraordinary things. These are humble, ordinary, every-day deeds we can do. They are things we can easily see that need to be done. They draw Jesus’ attention and are the subject of His praise. Jesus considers these deeds done to others as deeds done to Him. What an encouragement Jesus’ praise is for our lives. May we devote ourselves to doing these and other deeds of loving service to those in need around us.
3. The Judge Will Condemn Unbelieving Neglect
The glimpse of the future that God gives us has another part to it – one that is unspeakably sad and tragic. Jesus also has words for those who refuse His pardoning love. The loving Savior of all reveals Himself to be the condemning Judge of unbelievers. He condemns them and uses their works as evidence of their sin and unbelief. Listen: ‘Then He will say to those on His left, “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal life prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me. I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.”
These unbelievers did not serve others in love. They were unmerciful and showed their unbelieving hearts. Their lack of true compassion showed a lack of true faith. They had had their opportunities to come to faith in Jesus and to demonstrate that faith, and they had misused them. Now it is too late. They are condemned to eternal punishment. They are sentenced to hell where they join the evil angels to suffer unremitting pain, endless regret and eternal gloom. One interesting point of this scene is that the unbelievers were surprised. They were not expecting this verdict on their souls. It is a chilling reminder that spiritual unbelief blinds and deceives people to the true situation and, if not abandoned, will leave them in shock and ruin with no hope of escape or recovery. What a warning this is to all not to reject or refuse Jesus as one’s Savior from sin.
Jesus gives us a blessing-filled glimpse into the future. This view instructs us, warns us and encourages us. As we get closer and closer to the time of Jesus’ return, let us prepare for the inevitable coming of the great King of all. Let us avoid all the temptations that would cause us to lose our confidence in Christ. Let us show our faith in deeds of loving service and look forward to the inviting words of our Savior: “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. Amen.