************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 19b ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on September 24, 2017

Lord's Day 19b
Matthew 24:1-44
"The Judging Lord"

Something was supposed to happen yesterday. If it happened, none of us would be here this morning. If it happened, all life on earth would be extinct like the dinosaurs. Life was supposed to end yesterday when a mysterious Planet X collided with earth.

A Christian numerologist claims a verse in Luke 21 matches the date of the Great American Solar Eclipse, when Hurricane Harvey hit, and when Texas was flooded. Yesterday's date is also supported by a "date marker" shown by the pyramids of Egypt. My head spins when it hears such nonsense. Don't ever forget the first rule of Bible interpretation: It needs to make sense to the original audience. The original audience would scratch their heads if you tried to tell them about the Great American Solar Eclipse and Hurricane Harvey.

This is not the first time the end of the world has been predicted. Five times in recent memory the world was supposed to end. Obviously, none of the predictions have been right. And, based upon our Bible reading, none of the predictions can be taken seriously.
(Mt 24:36) No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
I don't care who it is or what date they pick. Just remember Matthew 24:36 and dismiss all of their claims.
(Mt 24:26) So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it.

Let's go back, for a moment, to the overall theme of our morning messages. We have been studying what I call "sound doctrine." I've been telling you all along that what we have in the Catechism and the Apostles' Creed is sound doctrine. Sound doctrine, if you remember, is doctrine based upon the Bible. It isn't doctrine based upon what man's itching ears want to hear. And, because it is sound doctrine, it is doctrine you can trust, doctrine you can believe, doctrine you can rely upon.

Let's also go back, for a moment, to what we looked at in previous weeks. We are in that part of the Apostles' Creed that deals with the exaltation of Jesus. How has Jesus been exalted? The resurrection shows Jesus to be the Living Lord. The ascension shows Jesus to be the Heavenly Lord. The sitting at God's right hand shows Jesus to be the Ruling Lord. Today, sound doctrine tells us that Jesus is also the Judging Lord. That's when the world will end.

I The Day of the Lord
A Someday, dear brothers and sisters, the world as we know it will end. We don't talk about Planet X or solar flares or super volcanoes or aliens. Instead we talk about the Lord Jesus Christ and His return. And we have a biblical name for the day it happens: with the Bible, we call it the Day of the Lord.

B Someday, when the Day of the Lord comes, the world as we know it will end and everything will be made perfect. The end of things does not come by way of gradual development. There is no development of the incorruptible from corruption. There is no development of life from death. There is no development of perfection from sin. There is no development of heavenly things from the things that are earthly.

I say this because there are those who believe humanity and earthly life will gradually improve due to advances in technology, animal science, genetically modified crops, medical research, human genetics, and so on. According to the Bible there is no such development; and any philosophy that says otherwise is both unscriptural and delusional. According to the Bible, things aren't going to get better; instead, they are going to get worse:
(Mt 24:6-12) You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. (7) Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. (8) All these are the beginning of birth pains. (9) "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. (10) At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, (11) and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. (12) Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold ...

Someday the Lord Jesus will return. This will be His second coming. This will be His last coming. And when He comes again He will terminate the history of the world forever.

C Someday the Day of the Lord will come. On that day the judgment will take place. There will be no trial. There will be no lawyers. No questions will be asked. It will be an absolute judgment. God, Who is omniscient, Who sees all things and knows all things, will shine His light upon us. Nothing will be overlooked. Nothing will be hidden. All those who have done good will be raised into everlasting life; all, those who have done evil will be cast into eternal desolation. But don't think this is a judgment based upon works. Don't think for a moment that I am preaching a works-righteousness. Rather, it is a judgment on faith that reflects itself in works. Faith, you see, true faith, faith that is a product of grace, always expresses itself in a life of works.

We have a picture of the judgment in Matthew 25 where Jesus tells us about the Sheep and the Goats. Remember what Jesus said? Someday 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. And He judges on the basis of faith expressed by works: I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, or not; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, or not; I needed clothes and you clothed me, or not. You get the picture. When this happens, when the judgment takes place, will you be counted as a sheep or will you be counted as a goat? Will Jesus put you on His right hand or will He put you on His left hand? Will your experience of eternity be heaven or will it be hell?

Realize, brothers and sisters, that all things cry for judgment. All things cry for judgment because no one can live up to the demands of God's law. All things cry for judgment because we all have a natural tendency to hate God and neighbor. All things cry for judgment because -- unless we are born again by the Spirit of God -- we are so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil. All things cry for judgment because God is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit. All things cry for judgment because God's justice demands payment for sin.

Language like this sounds very strange to today's world. People take offense at such talk. They don't want to hear of judgment. They certainly don't want to hear of their judgment by God. That's why most hymn books today don't have songs about the final judgment. That's why most churches today don't sing songs about the final judgment. Instead, they sing about God's love. However, as we will find out, to sing about God's judgment is to sing about God's love. The God Who judges us is the God Who loves us.

Let there be no doubt about this, my brothers and sisters: Someday there will be a final judgement. The world may scoff at this, as Peter tells us:
(2 Pet 3:3-4) ... in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. (4) They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation."
This is the world's mindset, isn't it?! This is the mindset of the world at the time of Noah. This is the mindset of Sodom and Gomorrah. This is the mindset of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. This even is the mindset of those in the church. We forget a day is coming. We forget the Lord Jesus is returning. We forget there is a day of judgment. But sound doctrine confesses Jesus "will come to judge the living and the dead."

II The Comfort of His Return
A If you know the Apostles' Creed -- and most of us do -- you know this line of the Creed starts with the words "from there." "From there he will come to judge the living and the dead."

"From there." That is, from heaven. That is, from where He is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. Meaning what? Meaning that someday Jesus is coming as the King of His Kingdom. Meaning that someday Jesus is coming as the exalted Lord. Meaning that Jesus is coming as the exalted Lord and everyone will know it and see it.

Let me ask a question: When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, where will He be when He judges the sheep and the goats? He will be sitting on His throne in heavenly glory (Mt 25:31). The same throne He was seated on when He ascended into heaven. The judgment shows us Jesus is the exalted Lord.

B I've been in court a couple of times as a witness or to support a church member. The judge is kind of scary. We need to stand when they come into the courtroom. At a single command they can silence or clear the courtroom. They pronounce a sentence that can take years off your life. How much more scarier would it be to be in the courtroom of the Heavenly Judge. His power is absolute. His voice is terrifying. His sentence is for eternity.

According to the Catechism, there is comfort in Jesus as Judge if you are a Christian. If you are a Christian, you await His coming with confidence. If you are a Christian, the coming of the Heavenly Judge does not fill you with fear. Why not? Because if you are a Christian your Judge is also your Savior. Listen to how the Catechism states this:
I turn my eyes to the heavens
and confidently await as judge the very One
who has already stood trial in my place before God
and so has removed the whole curse from me.
My Judge is my Savior.

Christian, oh what comfort you get from this. Someday the books will be opened by the Judge. In these books are recorded everything evil we have done and said and thought. Shameful things. Wicked things. Our greed. Our slander. Our hateful words. Our addictions. Our perjury. Our adultery. Our acts of violence. These are all written down. And they will be displayed for all to see. And as He is showing them, the Judge will write beside each and every one of them, "Forgiven! Forgiven! Forgiven by the blood of the Lamb!"

Our Judge is also our Savior. Our Judge has paid Himself for our crimes and our sins. Our Judge has suffered the penalty in our place. But only if you are a Christian. But only if you believe in Jesus.

If you do not believe in Jesus then the Judge is also your Executioner. If you do not believe in Jesus then He is not your Savior. If you do not believe in Jesus then His second coming is fearful, scary, terrifying. If you do not believe in Jesus then His second coming is the worst possible event of all of history.

Sound doctrine says He is coming. He is coming as Judge. Does this comfort you or does this terrify you?

C We need to go back to the very first line of the Catechism's answer: "In all my distress and persecution ..." Jesus as Judge offers comfort "in all my distress and persecution." The Catechism is addressing Christians who are being persecuted for their faith. It is addressing Huguenots, followers of John Calvin in France, who faced the tyranny of oppression and hatred. At the time the Catechism was being written, French soldiers surrounded a Huguenot Church at worship, locked the worshipers inside, and burned the building down killing everyone inside. The Catechism is addressing men like Guido de Bres, the author of the Belgic Confession of Faith, who was eventually killed for his faith. The Catechism is addressing those Protestants who were persecuted and killed by the Roman Catholic Church. The Catechism is addressing believers today in North Korea, China, and the Middle-East who are suffering for their faith.

All of these believers have been persecuted, attacked, and killed by the governing authorities. But someday, someday, the tables will be turned. On that day the enemies of Christ and the church will be condemned to everlasting punishment while all His chosen ones will be taken into the joy and glory of heaven.

What is the comfort here? Not that people end up in hell. We don't ever rejoice in the everlasting punishment of the wicked and unbelieving. Rather, our comfort is that Christ shows Himself to be King of all. Our comfort is that Christ shows Himself to be Lord over every unrepentant sinner, over every unbeliever, over every person and power Who hates Him and His church.

Sound doctrine proclaims that "From there he will come to judge the living and the dead."
An issue of National Geographic showed through color photos and drawings the swift and terrible destruction that wiped out the Roman Cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in A.D. 79. The explosion of Mount Vesuvius was so sudden that the residents were killed while in their daily routine: men and women were at the market, the rich in their luxurious baths, slaves at toil. They died amid volcanic ash and superheated gasses. Even family pets suffered the same quick and final fate. It takes little imagination to picture the panic of that terrible day.
The saddest part is that these people did not have to die. Scientists and historians confirm that weeks of rumblings and shakings preceded the actual explosion. An ominous plume of smoke was clearly visible from the mountain days before the eruption. If only they had paid attention to the warning!
There are similar "rumblings" in our world today: warfare, earthquakes, the threat of a nuclear holocaust, economic woes, breakdown of the family and moral standards. While not exactly new, these things do point to a coming day of Judgment (Mt 24). People need not be caught unprepared. God warns and provides an escape to those who will heed the rumblings.

Do you hear God's warnings? Are you paying attention? Repent and believe, congregation, before it is too late. Because "From there he will come to judge the living and the dead." Repent and believe because He will come at a day and hour we don't know. Listen to the warnings and be ready.
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