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Not by our own merits

Matthew 25:31-46

Pastor David Ernst

Last Judgment Sunday
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

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Sun, Nov 13, 2016 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today is the penultimate Sunday in the church calendar, Last Judgment Sunday. On this Sunday, and next Sunday, on Christ the King' Sunday, we are going to talk about the end of the world and the culmination of the plan of salvation.

On the last Sunday in November we begin the season of Advent, the preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ. This is the cycle of the church year. We remember first Christmas, then Holy Week and the Sunday of the Resurrection and Ascension. All events in the earthly life of Christ until his departure from this world. In the last days of the ecclesiastical year, we anticipate the last days of the world and the second coming of Christ.

Well, then. Many of you are young. Perhaps you have not thought much about the end of your lives in this world. When you are old enough, it will become more and more of a concern. Human life in this world is brief. We are born and in relatively few years we will die. Is there purpose in our brief lives? The Bible says so. In addition, the faithful should anticipate eternity with Christ beyond this life.

The whole world also has purpose in the eyes of God, and its end is also preordained. Today many people are afraid of the end of the world. They think a meteor will crash into the earth or a new Ice Age will destroy all living things on earth. As Christians, we do not have this fear, because the Scriptures teach that the earth will endure until the second coming of Christ in glory.

The first coming of Christ was Christmas, when the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary in a manger in Bethlehem. Not in a palace, but in a humble place in Mary's arms with surrounding animals. The only people who noticed his birth were the sheep shepherds in the field and then the Three Kings.

Jesus grew as the son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter. He preached his message of salvation first to the Jews, the chosen people of the Old Testament. However, He suffered and died on the cross for all nations and rose again on the third day to gain the promise of eternal life for all nations. We confess in the creed, then, that He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty and from there He is to come to judge the living and the dead.

Christ came the first time in humility to save all mankind. It will be different the second time around. Christ will come in glory to be the Judge of all nations. The faithful of all tribes and races will pass to eternal life and those who reject the mercy of God will pass to eternal fire, that is, hell. This will be the Last Judgment.

God loves all mankind, He does not want anyone's condemnation. He sent his Son into this world to save the world. Why, then, will not everyone be saved? Salvation is a gift from God. We are saved only by grace. Christ has done everything for us. But it is not a gift if you cannot refuse it. Those who do not trust the mercy of God will be judged by their own works and will lose eternal life.

Our text thus says about the Last Judgment: And when the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory. And all the nations shall be gathered together before Him, and shall separate them from one another, as the shepherd doth separate the sheep from the goats. And He shall set the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those who will be on His right hand, Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a guest, and you took me in; Naked, and you covered me; Sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and did we sustain thee? We thirsty, and gave you drink? And when did we see you guest, and did we take you in? Naked and covered you? Or when did we see you sick, in prison, and come to you? And the King will answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, That as soon as ye have done it unto one of these my little brethren, ye have done it unto me.

The believers' response indicates that they did not trust in their own works or take their own merits into account. They just showed others the love God showed them. Then in His love God will take into account all they have done in His name.

It will be different with the unbelievers: Then He will also say to those who will be on the left, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and you did not give me drink; I was a guest, and you did not take me in; Naked, and you did not clothe me; Sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me. Then they also will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, a guest, naked, sick, in prison, and we did not serve you? Then He will answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, that as soon as ye have not done it unto one of these little ones, ye have not done it unto me. And these will go to eternal torment, and the righteous to eternal life.

Without faith in Jesus Christ, no one can be justified by his own works before the throne of God. That it is important is to keep our focus on Jesus Christ and, therefore, we have no fear of the dead or the end of the world. We live in peace with others in the hope of eternal life because we have peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.

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