Last judgment

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. Revelation 20:11,12.

Michael A. Woldt

“I’m so excited! I can’t wait to celebrate Last Judgment Sunday!”

When was the last time those words came out of your mouth? Never?

That doesn’t come as a surprise. Last Judgment Sunday isn’t high on anyone’s list of favorite worship days. We welcome Christmas with its opportunity to reflect on the amazing grace of a God who so loved the world so much that he gave his only Son. Easter brings shouts of victory: “Christ is risen!” Ascension directs our eyes to the exalted Christ as he sits at God’s right hand and governs all things for the benefit of his church. Pentecost reveals the Spirit’s power to change to stubborn hearts as the gospel is proclaimed.

Christmas joy. Easter triumph. Ascension assurance. Pentecost power. What’s not to love about the church year?

DREAD OF THE LAST JUDGMENT

Then we come to the second Sunday of End Time: Last Judgment. What sort of thoughts flood your conscience as you consider the vision John records in Revelation? Can you picture the great white throne? Do you see yourself standing there, waiting for the books to be opened? Does the word terror come to mind?

That’s exactly what the last judgment would mean for us if it weren’t for the saving work of Jesus. Without Jesus, every word scribbled in the opened books would give the Judge another reason to condemn us to hell. Our failures would all be there for him to see. Our selfishness. Our greed. Our impure thoughts. Our reckless words. Our inattentive worship. The unguarded moments of weakness that lie buried in places no one else can uncover. Not a single sin would be missing. Our sentence would have been inevitable. “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

HOPE FROM THE LAST JUDGMENT

Thanks be to God, we won’t have to face the last judgment without Jesus! At our baptism the Holy Spirit connected us to Jesus and clothed us in his righteousness. Jesus lived a flawless life in our place. His perfect obedience has been credited to us. When Jesus died, he sealed our forgiveness with his holy, precious blood. That’s why Paul wrote: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). There is no condemnation for us because when the books are opened, the Judge will not see our sins! The Judge will see Jesus.

Through faith in Jesus, our view of the last judgment changes. Last Judgment Sunday becomes a day to celebrate! Judgment day will be our public and official welcome to heaven! “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance” (Matthew 25: 34).

It’s unlikely that Last Judgment Sunday will ever rival Christmas or Easter on the popularity scale. Yet, we can be thankful for its annual observance. We may be tempted to approach it with a sense of dread, but listen carefully for the hope Last Judgment Sunday proclaims to you, all because of Jesus!

 

Contributing editor Michael Woldt is pastor at David’s Star, Jackson, Wisconsin.

 

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Author: Michael A. Woldt
Volume 102, Number 11
Issue: November 2015

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