St Paul's UMC
November 20, 2022
- Crown Him With Many Crowns (Diademata)
- Come Ye Thankful People Come (St. George's Windsor)
2 Timothy 4:1–2NIV2011
2 Thessalonians 1:5–10NIV2011
- There once was a king named Belshazzar. He was king of Babylon for a short period of time, the kingdom he inherited from his grandfather King Nebuchadnezzar, one of the most powerful kings in history.King Belshazzar was not one of the most powerful kings in history. But he was a king who really enjoyed the life of luxury that being king afforded. Even with the Medes and Persians laying seige to his kingdom, he found the time to throw a big party. He invited a thousand nobles, all his wives, even his concubines, to come and live it up. The wine flowed, the DJ mixed the tunes, they even had a fog machine.Full of wine and quite pleased with himself, he regaled his guests with stories of Babylon’s glory days. “How about that time we conquered Jerusalem and made those Jews our servants? Hey, I’ve got a bright idea - go and bring me the gold and silver goblets my grandfather raided from their Holy Temple and we will have a toast!”And so the sacred vessels of Israel’s temple were brought to the palace, filled to the brim, and handed out to his nobles, wives and concubines and according to Daniel 5:4,They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.Suddenly, something really spooky happened. The fingers of a human hand appeared and began to write on the plaster wall in the light of a lamp stand. People freaked out. The king freaked out.Daniel 5:5–6 (CSB)...As the king watched the hand that was writing, his face turned pale, and his thoughts so terrified him that he soiled himself and his knees knocked together.What did the hand write on the wall? I’m glad you asked.“And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSINWhat does that mean? Well that is exactly what the soiled king wanted to know. Yet none of his experts could interpret it - the words are Aramaic, his men would have primarily spoken Akkadian yet they would likely have been familiar with Aramaic - but the phrase itself was cryptic.Finally, the queen told him - “your grandfather often called upon a holy man who possessed great wisdom and insight - one of the Jews named Daniel. He can translate this message.”The king sends for the elderly Daniel and offers him a small fortune and a measure of power if he can tell him what spooky hand had written. Daniel replies, “There is nothing you have that I want, but I will tell you what the message says.”This is the interpretation of each word. Mene: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; Tekel: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; Peres: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”Imagine hearing those words.God has numbered your days and now it is over.You have been weighed in the balance - and you have come up short.Now everything you thought was yours, all that you held onto, is being taken away.That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.Judgement. It is a word that we usually do not want to hear - at least not when it applied to us.Yet all people need to hear and understand this truth.There will be a day when every person who ever lived and all who are still alive at the time of Jesus’ return, will stand before the judgement seat of Christ. Believers and unbelievers. Every thought, every careless word, every action, every inaction, every good deed, every act of harm, every act of mercy, will be exposed and our life will be judged.All those who thought they had gotten away some evil act will discover that they were very much mistaken.Those who quietly and secretly carried out some act of love will find that there was in fact One who was watching all along.Many will hear that they have been weighed in the balance and found wanting.Understandably, this can be a frightening truth for many people to accept. Even within the Church, we sometimes forget what our own faith teaches - that which is clearly spelled out in the scriptures.And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.Now before I share what the scriptures teach us about judgement…allow me to restate the article of faith we are examining today from the Apostles’ Creed.Last week, we delved into the statement:He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.Leading to this week’s statement: From there he will come to judge the quick and the dead.I purposefully used to older language of “the quick and the dead” because I think it sounds cooler. The quick comes from an Old English word simply meaning the living. In other words everybody - the living and the dead - will stand before the Lord.So here is the sequence of events. For all those whose lifetime precedes Christ return, you live, you die, then you receive the first judgement. This judgement is based on whether or not you belong to the Lord. Given what you knew with your head and your heart, did you live your life to glorify God?For those who heard the gospel message, did you accept Jesus’ gift of grace, repent of your sins and did you follow him?You may ask, what if someone did not know our Jesus?Paul tells us in Romans 1:19-20God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodly behavior and the injustice of human beings who silence the truth with injustice. This is because what is known about God should be plain to them because God made it plain to them. Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made. So humans are without excuse.There is no excuse for not knowing God - even if you never heard the name Jesus. Jesus is God. Psalm 19 tells us that the “heavens proclaim God’s glory” - it is a person’s intentional decision to choose not to see or believe in God.So each person has a level of knowledge - the question is what did they do with it? For those who received knowledge of Jesus Christ - those who heard the Good News, they received the full story and will be judged on what they did with that knowledge. For those who only knew part of the story, that God created everything and provided rain in season and causes the field to yield fruit, what did they do with that knowledge? God is a fair judge and will judge based on what you knowledge you received.God’s grace is already present in each person’s life. God calls each person to himself and he instructs each human heart. Paul writes in Romans 2:14-16Gentiles don’t have the Law. But when they instinctively do what the Law requires they are a Law in themselves, though they don’t have the Law. They show the proof of the Law written on their hearts, and their consciences affirm it. Their conflicting thoughts will accuse them, or even make a defense for them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the hidden truth about human beings through Christ Jesus.Does your heart belong to God? Do you seek to please him and glorify him? He knows the answer to that question - and he judges accordingly.The first judgement follows death and this judgement determines whether or not you enter rest or torment. You are either with the Lord, or you are completely absent from Him. If you are right with the Lord, your spirit goes to be with Lord - like the thief on the cross next to Jesus.And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”If not are not right with the Lord, you go to what is referred to as hell or in Hebrew, Gehenna. The place of punishment for the wicked.Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.This is not our eternal state. This is the state we enter into before Christ returns. For a time, our souls are separated from our bodies. The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in the 16th chapter of Luke’s gospel, while probably not meant to be taken literally, describes to us the chasm that separates the righteous from the wicked and that the righteous enjoy rest.What actually happens in this intermediate state - this time between death and Christ return - is not entirely known - scripture gives some hints - but the purpose of the Bible is to instruct the living, not the dead.What has been revealed to us is that in God’s perfect timing, Jesus will get up from his position at the Father’s right hand, and he will physically return.This will be the end of this age in which we live. Satan and his demons will be bound up and cast away. The dead will be resurrected first and then the living will receive their new imperishable bodies. At that time, we will appear before the throne for the second or last judgment.The last judgement will be based upon our works. The first judgement was based on our faith. The first judgement secured our eternal destination, the second administers God’s justice.The picture the Bible gives us is that of a court proceeding. At the last great judgment, the books are opened which contain all that we ever did, said, or thought.And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.Without the atoning sacrifice of Christ in their corner, the wicked will fully see the extent of their sin - the fullness of what they sowed during their lives. At the end, they will know that God’s verdict is just.Again, I think of the thief on the cross responding to other crucified criminal who was mocking Jesus:One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”Jesus’ death covered the penalty for all those who were dead in their sins, and who turned to him in faith. Their names were written in the other book, the Book of Life.The children of God will also have our lives exposed. We will see all our faults, all our failures. We will fully appreciate the magnitude of Christ’ sacrifice on our behalf. And we will also see the results of our good works. We will be shown the consequences of following Christ and putting into practice the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We will receive the rewards we have stored up in heaven by denying ourselves here on earth.We read this in Matthew 25 starting in verse 31. Jesus comes in all his glory, sits on his throne, and all the nations are gathered in front of him. He then separates the people as a Shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.The sheep are those who when they saw the least of their brothers or sisters hungry, they fed them. When they saw them thirsty, they gave them something to drink. When they saw a stranger, they welcomed them into their homes, when they saw one who was naked, they clothed them, when they saw one who was sick, they visited them, and when one was in prison - they went to them. When they did these things to others - Jesus says, you were doing it to me. Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world.Then he turned to the goats - those who did not give food, drink, hospitality, clothing, compassion or aid to others.“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.Again, if you have faith in Christ and your name is found in the Lamb’s Book of Life, you do not need to fear the first or the second judgement.But a word of caution. Jesus warned...There will be those who find themselves with the goats who assumed they were sheep. They claim to praise Jesus, but in their lives they really praise the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.If you say you believe in Christ, there should be evidence in your life that you belong to him. Are you becoming more like him every day? Are you a forgiving person? Are you a compassionate person? Do you fully rely of God?If not, repent - for the Kingdom of God is at hand, believe the gospel, deny yourself and follow Jesus.Do not find yourself weighed in the balance and found wanting. Allow Jesus to tip the scales in your favor.Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.Amen.
2 Corinthians 5:10NIV2011
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