Photo by Brad Stallcup on Unsplash
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
INI + AMEN.
((5. Oops!: Everything ends!))
All things come to an end. It’s an uncomfortable reality. We like to think things are permanent in our life. That nothing changes or will ever change. Change is scary. But what’s even scarier than change is ending.
Worldly power and glory come to an end. World things end, too. They break, break down, have to be thrown away. Same with us! Eventually our lives will end. But at least we can think of things that will keep going on without us. But eventually even those things will end.
The world itself will end! Everything ends! Even the ground you’re standing on! Nothing’s permanent—not the sun, not the moon, not the stars, not the earth. As 2nd Peter says today, “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire.” Eventually “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.”
((4. Ugh!: Then Jesus will come TO JUDGE!))
On that day, and that day will come—whether today, tomorrow, or 1,000 years from now. That day will come. Jesus will come back. As we confess in the Nicene Creed, “He will come again with glory.” It’s His power and glory, and the glory of His Father, that will burn up everything! “A stream of fire issued and came out from before him.”
That’s the sort of glory we should expect when it says, “He will come again with glory,” or as Jesus Himself puts it in our reading: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory and all His angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.” But He doesn’t just come to look all awesome. He comes to do something, He comes, as we confess in the Nicene Creed, “He will come again with glory…to judge both the living and the dead.”
Jesus will judge those who are alive at is coming, along with those who’ve died before His coming, because He will raise them from the dead. As we confess to Jesus Himself in the Te Deum, “We believe that You will come to be our Judge.” He will judge all people, the living and the dead, “like a shepherd separates sheep from the goats.”
We don’t want to think of Jesus as Judge. To the World Jesus is just some teacher who taught peace and love, but here He teaches us that He will also be Judge. It is called Judgment Day, after all! “The court sat in judgement and the books were opened,” as Daniel saw. Or as we sang, “The books are opened then to all.”
((3. Aha!: Judge Jesus renders two eternal judgments.))
Jesus is Judge. He alone can judge all mankind fairly fairly because Christ is “The Son of God, true God and man”—“both true God and true man” at the same time. And when Jesus “comes again with glory to judge both the living and the dead,” He will judge with two judgments. Jesus’ two eternal judgments are condemnation and vindication.
We always hear Judgment Day as a bad thing, but in the Scriptures, the Lord’s judgment is always twofold, condemnation for those who don’t believe in Him, vindication for those who do. The judgment to life and the judgment to shame and contempt are both eternal judgments. Jesus’ “Kingdom has no end.” The unrighteous “depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” So it happens that way Jesus’ parable.
“Then woe to those who scorned the Lord And sought but carnal pleasures, Who here despised His precious Word And loved their earthly treasures! With shame and trembling they will stand And at the Judge’s stern command To Satan be delivered.” But it’s not just those who rejoiced in living for themselves and their sinful desires. It’s also those who trust in themselves and their righteousness. All who live a life apart from Christ are cast “into the eternal fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Those goats thought they had done everything required of them to earn their place. “When did we see you that way and not minister to you?” We kept the law, we were good people. As Jesus says elsewhere, “Depart from me you workers of lawlessness.”
But the other eternal judgment that the Lord renders is vindication, righteousness, innocence. That’s the judgment rendered for the Lord’s sheep. They are innocent, not guilty, they are righteous, they are “blessed by My Father,” as Jesus says, not because of anything in them. As we just sang, “My Savior paid the debt I owe And for my sin was smitten.” The Lord makes His sheep righteous. By His blood, by faith in His blood, they are redeemed and righteous.
((2. Whee!: JESUS FREELY WELCOMES HIS SHEEP INTO HIS KINGDOM.))
JESUS FREELY WELCOMES HIS SHEEP INTO HIS KINGDOM. That’s the heart and soul of this parable, and that’s the comfort of Judgment Day. JESUS FREELY WELCOMES HIS SHEEP INTO HIS KINGDOM. Works are the proof, but they are not the reason for entering into the Kingdom. JESUS FREELY WELCOMES HIS SHEEP INTO HIS KINGDOM.
It can’t be based on works. First, Judge Jesus says to the sheep, “come you who are blessed by My Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” You can’t earn an inheritance, and you can’t do works in a temporary universe to gain an eternal Kingdom. Second, the sheep don’t have any idea that they’d done anything at all. “What do you mean,” they in effect say, “When did we see you that way and minister to You?” Unlike the goats, the sheep have all eyes on their Shepherd, and “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sins.”
Sure the sheep do sheep things. Just as much as the goats do goat things. Good tree bears good fruit. Bad tree bears bad fruit. How quick we are to judge that our neighbor is a goat based on their actions, but we are clearly sheep by our own! Sure we may “ma” like goat from time to time, but that doesn’t mean anything… “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”
All such focus on works is the goat thing to do! But Jesus declares that His sheep are “Blessed by My Father.” Their sins were born by their Shepherd. His blood redeemed them. His blood covers and cleanses even their good works. His blood makes them good! In fact, how merciful a Judge to declare our pitiful works of loving our spouses, children, teachers, classmates, bosses, coworkers, fellow congregation members as being praiseworthy! There again we see that JESUS FREELY WELCOMES HIS SHEEP INTO HIS KINGDOM.
((1. Yeah!: Jesus’ Kingdom shall have no end.))
And the Kingdom that Jesus freely welcomes His sheep into, that Kingdom has no end. It’s the promise of Daniel’s vision: “to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” So, everything else may end, but not Jesus’ Kingdom.
Jesus died and rose, never to die again. He has all authority in heaven and on earth, and He used that authority, that power to bring you into His Kingdom, “baptizing you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” You could swap that Name for your own works if you want, trust them instead, push good behavior as the means of being a Christian, but that ends in eternal fire—a fire quenched only by Jesus’ blood, which you were doused in the waters of Holy Baptism.
Jesus Kingdom is eternal life. He will bring you to that life. He will resurrect you by the Spirit, and you will never die again, just as Jesus will never die again. He promises that to you in His Supper: “whoever eats my flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him, and I will resurrect Him on the Last Day,” Judgement Day.
Everything may come to and end. Worldly things, your life, even the world itself. Jesus’ Judgment Day will come. He will render and pronounce His two eternal judgements. Condemnation, hell, for those who don’t trust in Him, for those who’d rather live for themselves by behaving sinfully, either through their sins or their works! But Jesus delivers vindication, eternal life, innocence for those who trust only in Him.
That’s His sheep! JESUS FREELY WELCOMES HIS SHEEP INTO HIS KINGDOM. He shed’s His blood for them. Dies and rises for them. And the risen Jesus baptizes, absolves, and feeds His sheep His body and blood. There He prepares them for His eternal kingdom, eternal life. That’s you, isn’t it? It is! You kept “body and soul unto life everlasting.”
INI + AMEN.