November 12, 2017
1 + 2 + 2 = Your Eternity
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 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. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
For awhile now Isaac has been into “math games.” For example, just last Monday as he was getting ready for school, Isaac looked at me and said, “Papa, what is 700 plus 700?” I responded, “1400 hundred.” He followed with, “What is 1400 plus 1400?” I responded, “2800.” You can guess where he went from there! Usually, when Isaac is playing his “math game” we get to the point where he asks something like, “What is one thousand one hundred million plus eight hundred thousand eighty six million?” That’s when I go to my “default” answer: 28! He smiles because he knows the “game” is over!
While I can usually keep up with Isaac when he plays his “math games,” math was not my all time favorite subject. I did “O.K.” in math but I certainly was not stellar. In fact, if you have already looked at the sermon theme that is printed in your bulletin today you too might have been wondering about my mathematical abilities! Ever since you were little you thought that 1 + 2 + 2 = 5, didn’t you? In fact, it does— in the field of math. Today, however we are not here to discuss mathematics. Today we enter into the portion of the church year when we focus our attention on the subject of eschatology. Eschatology is the study of “Last Things.” The last three Sundays of the church year are designed to help us grow in our understanding of what will take place as the end of the world draws near, what will take place when the end of the world arrives and what will take place after the end of this world as we know it. Today, we are going to use this very familiar portion of Matthew 25 to see that in eschatological terms: 1 + 2 + 2 = Your Eternity!
When it comes to the “equation” which determines your eternity the number “1” focuses our attention on the “1” day, the Last Day, the Judgment Day. Contrary to what some churches say Scripture does not teach that there will be a “rapture” when all of a sudden all the believers will be removed from this earth while all the unbelievers are “left behind.” Contrary to what some churches say Scripture does not teach that there will be a “millennium,” a period of 1000 years prior to, during which or after which Jesus will visibly rule here on this earth. Contrary to what certain religions maintain Scripture teaches that there is no reincarnation, no opportunity to come back and “do better” the next time around. Contrary to what all too many people are hoping there will be a day of “reckoning.” There will be a day when every single last human being will be held individually accountable to and by Almighty God Himself for everything they have said and everything they have done while they were here on this earth. That “1” eternally important day is very simply yet very powerfully described here in our text when our Lord says, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.”
The first time the Son of God came into this world as the Son of Man He came in poverty and lowliness and humility. On the day when Jesus returns to this earth He will come draped in His eternal divine power, majesty and glory! When Christ the Lord was born in the town of David a great company of heavenly angels suddenly appeared to some shepherds out in a field at night. On the day when Jesus returns to this earth all the heavenly angels— who number “thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand” (Revelation 5:11) — will fill the sky from east to west and from north to south. On the night the Son of God was born as the Son of Man He was placed into a manger, a feeding trough for animals. On the day when Jesus returns to this earth He will victoriously “sit on his throne” as the almighty King and the Judge. What an awesome day that will be, my friends! While our minds are far too feeble to fully comprehend what it will be like when the Son of Man returns to this earth there can be no doubt whatsoever that that “1” day will have a decisive definitive impact on your eternity!
Now take that “1” day and add “2”— as in “2”groups of people. Here in Matthew 25 those “2” groups of people are described in this way, “All the nations will be gathered before him (Jesus), 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.” This is the judgment! Based upon His justice, based upon His grace, based upon His divine ability to know all things at all times about all people Jesus Christ will separate all nations into “2” groups— the sheep and the goats, the believers and the unbelievers, those who during their lifetime trusted in Him as their only Savior from sin and those who during their lifetime rejected Jesus as this world’s only Savior from sin. Once that separation has taken place, once that divine judgment has been handed down— that’s it! There can be no crossing over from one group to the other.
Can we really be sure that the basis for this separation, can we really be sure that the basis for God’s judgment is indeed faith or the lack of faith in Jesus? Absolutely, my friends! Absolutely! Once the judgment has been made known, once all people have been separated into one of “2” groups Jesus will reveal publicly why these people are “sheep” and why these people are “goats.” The irrefutable evidence either for or against all people, the irrefutable evidence either for or against you and me, the irrefutable evidence as to whether someone’s heart was filled with faith in Jesus or whether it was void of faith in Jesus will be the outward visible actions of a person’s life— what Scripture refers to as the “fruits of faith” or the lack thereof!
When a person’s heart is filled with faith and love for Jesus, when a person’s heart is filled with thankfulness to Jesus for all that He has done for them on the cross of Calvary’s hill that faith (Pointing to the cross), that love, that thankfulness will be active and open in their life. As our dear Lord says, “’I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
Can there be any question as to what our Savior is teaching us here? The way in which you and I treat our Lord’s “brothers” and “sisters,” the way in which you and I treat each other is a direct reflection of our relationship with Christ! None of the actions which the Lord will make public on Judgment day were done by the “sheep” to try and earn God’s grace and favor. In other words, we don’t help each other because we are trying to work our way into heaven. Everything that we do for the Lord’s “brothers” and “sisters” — and I might add, everything that we do to help the poor and the downtrodden irregardless of whether or not they are Christians (See Galatians 6:10)— is a natural result, a natural out-flowing of the Christian faith that lives in our heart.
Conversely, if that faith is not present in a person’s heart, well, let’s just say that there will be no “excuses” accepted on Judgment Day. When the “goats,” when the unbelievers tried to come up with “excuses” here in our text, i.e. “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” they heard the King say to them, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Someone could spend their entire life helping the poor and needy, someone could spend their entire life working for social justice and social equality, but if it is not done in the light of the cross, if it is not done out of love and thankfulness for all that Jesus had done for them, if it does not come from a heart that is filled with faith in Christ it will mean nothing on Judgment Day— absolutely nothing!
We’re almost done with our equation now, aren’t we. “1” refers to the “1” day when all people will be judged by Jesus Christ. The first “2” refers to the fact that in God’s eyes there are only “2” groups of people— the sheep and the goats, the believers and the unbelievers, the Christians and the non-Christians. I think you already know what the second “2” refers to, don’t you. There are only “2” possibilities when it comes to where a person will spend eternity. Everyone who believes in Jesus as their Savior, everyone whose life is an open expression of the Christian faith that lives in their heart, everyone who lives not for themselves but for the Lord who lived and died for them (See 2 Corinthians 5:15) will hear the King say to them, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” At the same time, my friends, we need to understand that heaven is God’s home. Since heaven is God’s Home He is the One who decides who will and who will not be allowed to live in His heavenly home— just as you decide who is and who is not allowed to live in your earthly home. In His Word the Lord reveals to us that everyone who rejects Jesus as their Savior, everyone whose life reveals a lack of Christian faith in their heart, everyone who lives only for themselves will not be allowed to live in the heavenly Father’s Home. Instead they will hear the King say to them, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Heaven or hell. Eternity living in God’s joyful presence or eternity completely separated from God, from His grace, from His love and from His mercy. Those are the only “2” possibilities when it comes to where someone will spend eternity.
1 + 2 + 2 = Your Eternity. Now does the equation make sense? “1” day, “2” groups of people, “2” possible destinations. While I may not be able to help you when it comes to solving a complicated mathematical equation, I can help you when it comes to your eternity, my friends. My help comes in the form of encouragement. My encouragement to you is to stay close to your Lord and Savior as you journey through this world. Stay close to Jesus through regular study His holy Word. Stay close to Jesus through regular reception of His holy Supper. For then, my friends, when your King returns to this earth as the Judge of the living and the dead you will indeed hear Him say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant! … Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21)
To God be the glory!