Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday of End Times - Last Judgment (November 9, 2014)

MATTHEW 24:15-28
THE SON OF MAN COMES IN JUDGMENT.

The voice of the LORD cries to the city—
and it is sound wisdom [O LORD] to fear your name. (Micah 6:9)

In the name + of Jesus.

     He ascended into heaven.  From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.  We confess it every week.  Although end-of-the-world headlines might grab people’s attention, Judgment Day is probably taken as seriously as a haunted house.  We scare ourselves over it for a while, but, like a haunted house, we treat it as something that is not very real.  We will fret over Ebola and North Korea and hurricane season because CNN tells us to.  But for many, Judgment Day is lumped in with Mayan calendars and Y2K. 
     There is a reason the Church confesses that the Son of Man will come to judge the living and the dead.  It is real, and it is serious.  If you prefer not to think about it, that is probably because it scares the bejeebers out of you.  Jesus’ words in our gospel probably do not alleviate your fears.  But listen to Jesus’ words carefully.  He does not tell you that Judgment Day is something to fear.  On the contrary, Judgment Day is something to pray for—fervently.  Judgment Day is the day when you will finally be delivered from all of the horrifying violence and hatred that Jesus described in this lesson.  When Judgment Day comes, it will be the end of Ebola, wars and rumors of wars, hurricane seasons, allergy seasons, bitterness, bullying, persecution, and pet peeves.  And so, dear Christian, Judgment Day is nothing you should be scared of.  Judgment Day is something you should long for.  The Son of Man will come in judgment.  The sooner it comes, the sooner every one of your problems is done.  That is why the Church confesses with joyful confidence, “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”  And it is why the Church continues to pray fervently, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
     Jesus’ words serve as a warning for what we can expect in this world until he comes.  Judgment Day is not scary; this world is!  On Judgment Day, you will be delivered from everything that would threaten or deceive you; in this world, you are inundated by things that would threaten or deceive you.  “Behold!” Jesus warns, “I have told you beforehand.” (Matthew 24:25)  
     The greatest threats that we face are not epidemics or economics.  The threats are against your faith.  Jesus warned, False christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24)  As he deceived at the beginning of time, so Satan will try to deceive until the Last Day.  He raises up preachers, but these preachers do not flat out call Jesus a liar.  You would see through that easily.  Instead, deceivers take God’s truth and warp it. 
     To be a false christ, you have to seem somewhat like Christ.  Such preachers refer to the Bible.  They are engaging and entertaining.  They tell heartfelt, tear-jerking stories.  It sounds pious.  It makes you feel good about yourself.  And finally that is the goal—to point you not to Jesus but to yourself, your feelings, your experiences, your efforts, and your desires.  Our egos love this.  We want our faith and our religion to be about us.  And if we are eager to believe such  preaching, anything will be enough of a sign to convince us that this is true religion—whether that sign is how many people the pastor gathers in, how much your emotions are stirred up, or even if there are visions or healings.  Satan does not care if you are fascinated by signs and wonders.  These will keep you entertained and amazed, but they will not forgive sins.  And your sin, finally, is what you will be judged for.
     The Son of Man will come in judgment.  Jesus compares the coming of Judgment Day to the days that led up to the destruction of the Temple.  The abomination in the temple was the godless, Roman legions surrounding it and invading it.  God had sent the Roman armies in judgment against the Jews.  Though the Jews looked very pious in their sacrifices and services, they had rejected Jesus.  They had the form of godly religion, but they had rejected God’s truth.  They had abandoned the only one whose sacrifice paid for their sins.  As a result, they were really worshiping a god of their own fabrication; for they were not worshiping the true God.  Because they rejected their Messiah, God responded with judgment.  Jesus warned his disciples that, when they saw the destruction coming, they should be focused on one goal—fleeing so that they would not perish in his judgment.  Jesus urged the people to forget their possessions and even their necessities; for, they would not save.  Anyone who hoped to save his possessions would die because of them.  
     So it is with you.  Focus on only one thing as the day approaches—to be saved from the coming judgment.  Flee where you find safety.  Your true enemies are sin, death, and the devil; these are what you flee from.  To find peace and salvation, even in a world that is hostile and horrible, you flee to Jesus.  The Son of Man will come in judgment, but Jesus saves you so that you need not fear it. 
     Jesus Christ has saved you from everything that would harm or condemn you at the Judgment Day.  You do not have to fear being exposed or damned for your sins.  You cannot be condemned for sins that are not counted against you.  The Son of Man came for judgment—yours.  Jesus endured the judgment for your sin when he hung from the cross.  He endured your damnation when he was forsaken by the Father.  The Son of Man came for judgment—to render a new judgment upon you.  That judgment was applied to you at your baptism.  There, you were washed in the holy blood of Jesus.  There, you were cleansed of all sin.  But if Satan should still haunt you and taunt you because of sins you are still committing, then confess your sins to the minister Jesus has provided for you.  Through him, Jesus silences the accuser.  Through him, Jesus reapplies his judgment to you.  There, Jesus absolves you and assures you that you have been acquitted of all your guilt.  Your judgment is in: You are pardoned.
     Still, you will hear seductive and deceptive voices trying to lead you away from Jesus.  As long as the world endures, Satan will still raise up false christs and false prophets.  But you need not fear being deceived as long as you are still paying attention to Jesus’ words.  Jesus warned, So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out.  If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.  For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:26-27)  The Son of Man will come in judgment.  He will come to bring you to his eternal kingdom.  His coming will be unmistakable.  So you need not be deceived that he has returned in some special way.  You will not miss it; for he is coming for you.
     Until then, you continue to seek for Jesus where he tells you that he will be.  He comes to you through faithful preaching—for that is where he proclaims his grace.  He comes to you through the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion—for that is where he applies his salvation to you personally.  Through these means of grace, Jesus issues his judgment: Forgiveness and salvation.  This is where you will find deliverance from sin, death, hell, and Satan.  This is where you find deliverance from a judgment that damns and receive a judgment that saves. 
     The Son of Man will come in judgment. At Judgment Day, you will be raised anew with a glorified body and will receive a glorified future.  This is nothing to fear, but something to pray for.  Jesus will come again from the heavens to take you from a hostile world to an eternal peace.


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

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