Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, 21 billion dollars each year. That’s what Americans spend on home security. We want our homes to be places where we are safe, where we are protected, where there is nothing that can threaten, hurt, or harm us. I think it’s safe to say that we all want to be and feel safe. But the reality is, no matter how hard that we might try, how many locks are on our doors or alarms are in our homes or security cameras we install or any other measures we may take to try to make sure our homes are safe, we are never perfectly safe.
But there is a greater danger than thieves or intruders or bullies. There is something infinitely worse than physical death. There is Judgment Day. It’s coming. It’s going to destroy everything. And if you’re not prepared it’s going to bring an eternal nightmare. Judgment Day. Now, what comes to your mind when you hear “Judgment Day”? Ugh. Yuck. Perhaps you’re thinking, yes, we do this once a year, we focus on the Last Judgment, let’s just get through this so that we can move on to something a little lighter, a little more pleasant, something that’s actually good news.
However, I want to push back a little today and as we look at these words from God to see that Judgment Day is actually full of good news and full of grace.
The apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Thessalonians shortly after he had been there on his 2nd Missionary journey. Thessalonica was a large, important city located on the important Roman road called the Egnatian Way. After being there only 3 weeks, Paul was forced to leave because of the bitter persecution against him. He went on to Berea, the next city, and the same people who caused him trouble in Thessalonica caused him trouble in Berea. Later, after Paul had sent his companions back to Thessalonica to see how they were doing, he heard a good report, so he sent 1 Thessalonians. Then, shortly after he had sent that letter there were a few more matters that needed to be addressed, so he sent 2 Thessalonians. One of the main concerns of this new congregation was that they were facing persecution and suffering for their faith. Because of that, Paul encourages them by reminding them of Judgment Day, of the last Judgment, when “the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.”
As we go through this, let’s focus on three questions: Why Judgment Day? What is Judgment Day (for believer and unbeliever)? And finally how do we live in light of Judgment day? So, why, what, and how.
Why Judgment Day? “All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.” You see, the Thessalonians were facing suffering, persecution, perhaps death, perhaps their stuff was being stolen and they were being mistreated by all kinds of people. What does God tell them? It’s worth it. “I see, I know, I’m taking it all into account, there is nothing that is escaping my notice and it will all be made right in the end.
See, here’s the problem. If you take away Judgment Day, if you say that there is no such thing as God or Judgment Day or a final accounting, you make everything meaningless. But that’s incompatible with how each of us lives our lives. We live our lives as if things matter. We want the things that we do, the things that we accomplish in life to matter. If there was not a final day of judgment, in the end, it really wouldn’t matter what you did, nothing would mean anything, the world will go on as long as the sun shines, but when the sun burns out, our planet ceases to be and everything ceases to be and that’s it. So, there’s a choice: either there’s a judgment day and everything matters or there’s no judgment day and nothing matters. If there isn’t a judgment day, no one sees, no one knows, no one cares about your life, no one cares about your death. But, there is Judgment day, Jesus knows, Jesus cares, Jesus is taking all things into account, there is a final day, nothing will be forgotten, everything is counted, your suffering isn’t meaningless, what you do in life isn’t meaningless, there’s a goal to which all of history is progressing to. See? That’s good news! Judgment Day gives meaning to life!
But there’s a second reason Judgment Day is good news. It means you can forgive. See, the Thessalonians are suffering al kinds of things, they’re being robbed, their safety is threatened, perhaps being put in prison, but what do they hear? God is just. God is the Judge. “He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you.” So here’s what this means. If God is the Judge, that means we can be the most patient, most forgiving, most gentle people ever. Why? Because I don’t have to be the judge, there is one. You know how it is, when someone wrongs you, you know it’s not right, we all have a conscience, we all have an inner sense of justice, when someone does something to you, it’s so easy to run through in our minds the things we think should happen to them and do whatever it is to help those things along – fight back, hold a grudge, become angry. But if there’s a Judge – I can leave it all to Him. Judges today try to administer justice based on the testimony of witnesses because they weren’t there to actually see what happened. Jesus sees everything! God knows everything! There isn’t one thing that happens in this world that escapes his notice. All of His judgments are right, all of His judgments are just. So, I can forgive, I can be gentle, I can be patient.
That leads to our next question: What? What will Judgment Day be like for the believer? What will it be like for the unbeliever? “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” Now this is the part we recoil at, that we hate, that we shudder about and it should, this should give us emotions that are unpleasant. What is this destruction? What is this punishment? Perhaps we have this idea of God pouring burning coals on people or sticking them with pins, but that really isn’t it at all. What’s the nature of this destruction on those who do not believe? They are “shut out from the presence of the Lord.” Since God is the source of everything that is good, He is the source of all love, all beauty, all joy. What will happen to the unbelievers on the Last Day is that God will remove Hs presence from them. That means that everybody on the face of the earth is living off of the presence of God. Whether you love Him or hate Him, you’re living off of his presence.
It’s like someone who is walking in a field and sees and feels the sun is directly living off of the sun. If the sun goes out, that person would freeze to death. But a person deep in a cave in the earth, doesn’t see the sun or feel the sun directly, is also living off the presence of the sun, because if the sun goes out, that person too would freeze. So all joy, all love, all beauty, everything good that we experience in life is coming from the Lord whether we realize it or not. On Judgment Day for the unbeliever the sun goes out, God’s presence goes away. C.S. Lewis once said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘They will be done,’ and those to whom God will say in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’” God will say to them, “You want a life without me, you want a life far from me, you want a life without me, ok, you get it.” It’s horrible.
But what about us? What will happen to us on Judgment Day? Should we be scared of Judgment Day? Afterall, do we really deserve any different? Haven’t we done more things wrong in life than we could possibly count? Judgment Day? God sees everything? God knows everything? What’s it going to be like for us? Well, there’s one person who has already gone through Judgment Day. We’re waiting for Judgment Day, maybe Jesus will return during our life, maybe we will die and be one of the ones who will be reunited soul and body for the final judgment, but there is one who has already been through Judgment Day. Remember what Jesus yelled out on the cross? “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Unlike every other person Jesus was one who never turned His back on God, he always faced God and God turned His back on Him. He suffered hell. Everyone else turns their back on God and God in judgment will turn His back on them, but that’s not what happened to Jesus. Why? Because He went through the punishment of Judgment Day for every single person, for you, for me, for all.
But for us, what will it be like on Judgment Day? “On the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.” On that day we will glow, we will blaze, we will radiate the glory of Jesus. We see Jesus’ compassion, Jesus’ love, Jesus’ mercy, Jesus’ perfect life, we will radiate that. And we marvel at him. Marvel means more than just admire, but have your expectations far exceeded. Our minds and hearts will overflow at what Jesus has done for us, His life, His death, His resurrection, and the glorious eternity that He is preparing right now for us in heaven. We’ll marvel. We being marveling now and it will culminate on the Last Day.
Everyone wants safety, everyone is looking for safety. That which people fear deep down is standing before God in judgment. But, we have a brother who went through Judgment Day already, was judged for us completely, and because of that we are perfectly safe as members of God’s eternal family. Welcome home! Amen.