Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sermon -- End Times 2 -- Last Judgment (November 11, 2012)

HEBREWS 9:24-28

In the name + of Jesus.

     Presidential elections produce their share of both angst and euphoria among voters.  Either you are elated at the results of this past week, or you are alarmed.  Those who are disappointed sneer at those who are happy, and those who are happy snicker at those who are disappointed.  One group anticipates that things will surely get better; the other that things will surely fall apart.  Both sides play a dangerous game.  It’s not just that the country is divided by factions.  That is nothing new.  History shows that Americans and especially politicians can be much more dirty and divisive than we seem to be now.  The dangerous part has to do with where you pin your hopes. 
     I said it before the election, and I will say it again:  Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.  When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. (Psalm 146:3-4)  Of course, such counsel is nothing new.  That is the word of the Lord, and it has been written in ink for some 3,000 years.  Whether you want your prince to be a Democrat, a Republican, one who enjoys tea parties or occupies Wall Street, do not put your trust in such a person.  The prince you support may promise to line the pockets of some or to empty the pockets of others, but do not think that he would have solved or will solve your problems.
     Dear Christian friends, your problems are still the same, and they have nothing to do with elections or economies.  They have everything to do with your heart.  You are a sinful creature who trusts in many things you should not trust in.  You trust in the economy to fix things.  You trust in elected officials to fix the economy.  You trust in doctors to spare you from death.  You trust in possessions to make you happy.  You trust in your job or your friends for your sense of worth.  But all of these things can be swept away in a moment’s notice.  Do not put your trust in princes, in wealth, or anything else in this world.  It is all idolatry.  Repent.
     The First Commandment states: You shall have no other gods.  What does this mean?  We should fear and love and trust in God above all things. (Luther’s Small Catechism)  But we do fear, love, and trust in other things than God.  The problem is not really princes, politicians, wealth, or health.  It all comes down to hearts that turn from God.  Your sin does not come from your wallet or from a political campaign – though your sins may be evident there.  Your sin comes from come from your heart.  Your sin is the reason you are going to die.  It is the reason that judgment is coming upon the world.  It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. (Hebrews 9:27) 
     This is certain: Everyone is going to die, and everyone is going to face judgment.  Everyone must give an answer for the deeds they have done, for the words they have uttered, and even for the very thoughts and desires of their hearts.  No one can escape it.  Everything will be made known.  Every secret will be laid bare.  And you think your greatest fears are dodged or realized at presidential elections?! 
     Dear Christians, do you not know that the Lord Jesus Christ still reigns?  Do you not realize that the kingdom of God provides a comfort that the kingdoms on this earth never will?  Do you not believe that the promises of God are the only promises that are reliable?  No man has perfect judgment.  They are faulty at best.  While some may promise you the way to a better life now, they will never take away this world’s problems.  The poor you will always have among you.  There will always be wars and rumors of wars.  It is appointed for man to die, and everyone will.  The only refuge in all of these things and the only hope in the face of the coming judgment is Jesus Christ.  The only kingdom that will endure through it all is the kingdom of God.  It is your only refuge in the judgment, and your only comfort in a deceptive and disappointing world.
     The only prince who is trustworthy is the Prince of Peace.  The peace and the hope Jesus gives you can never be swept away by elections or superstorms, by present dangers or future threats, by poverty, by stress, or even by death.  Jesus has provided refuge for you by his perfect sacrifice on your behalf.  And a perfect sacrifice means a perfect judgment.  For Christ has entered…into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  (Hebrews 9:24) 
     Jesus has won for us forgiveness and deliverance from every curse and consequence of sin.  He has fulfilled all that was foreshadowed in the Old Testament.  The writer to the Hebrews makes reference to the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies, the very presence of God on earth, to make offerings on the Day of Atonement.  On that day, the High Priest brought in the blood of a goat, first to atone for his own sins, and then more blood to atone for the sins of Israel.  But the Day of Atonement was repeated year after year.  Annually, the High Priest would have to make further atonement for the sins of the people.  No payment was ever enough.  No amount of blood appeased God once and for all.  High Priests died off.  Generations came and went.  Sin and death still reigned.
     But Jesus is an eternal High Priest.  He enters not a man-made temple, but heaven itself.  He enters not with the blood of goats, but with his holy, precious blood shed at his innocent sufferings and death.  Jesus Christ is both the High Priest who presents our offering to God and he is the offering itself.  The holy Son of God has given himself as the holy sacrifice for you.  His holy blood atones for your lack of fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  Jesus Christ lives and reigns above all things to guarantee your forgiveness.  His perfect sacrifice atones for you.  His holy blood covers you.  His perfect sacrifice means a perfect judgment.
     Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men who cannot save.  Trust in the Prince of Peace, your immortal Savior, who has brought you into an eternal kingdom.  This is the kingdom to which you now belong.  Granted, you get to live in this country and to enjoy its blessings.  God never guarantees how rich those blessings will be or how long they will last.  But then, God does not want you to be deceived by the riches of this world.  You have much better blessings that are coming – blessing which cannot be stolen, lost, or devalued.  In fact, you already enjoy some of those blessings now.  You have forgiveness of sins, comfort in times of sorrow, joy in the face of danger, and security in the time of judgment.  For you have been brought into the Holy Christian Church, the kingdom of God, where sins have been atoned for and where death has been overcome.  Jesus’ sufferings and death have guaranteed that.  His perfect sacrifice means a perfect judgment.
     Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)  Do not wait for the world to become a slice of heaven on earth.  Politicians may promise that, but they cannot deliver on it because they cannot overcome sin and death.  Jesus Christ has overcome sin and death.  Look for his coming.  Wait for his salvation.  Cling to his promises, and you will never be disappointed. 
     Put your trust in the Prince of Peace.  He holds your judgment in his hands, and he has assured you that you will be found holy and blameless on the Last Day.  He has every right to make such a judgment – for his blood has washed away your sins and covers you in righteousness.  That blood was poured upon you in your baptism.  It is poured into you at the Lord’s Supper.  It is your refuge, your comfort, and it is all you need.  His perfect sacrifice means a perfect judgment upon you and a perfect kingdom for you.  That is the only kingdom that endures.  It is the only promise that is trustworthy.  For, Jesus is the only Prince who saves.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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