St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Clearing Some Misconceptions About Judgment Day

Sermon on Romans 2:2-11

 

Text: Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

     5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

 

As you filled out your ballot for the elections, you will have noticed that there was a section asking if these various judges should be retained in office.  Without knowing many of them, you may have had to do some research to see if you thought that they should be retained or removed.  A couple of weeks ago, a new Supreme Court Justice, by the name of Amy Coney Barrett, was sworn into office.  We understand that a good judicial system is vital for our society.  Today in our service, we focus our attention on that final judgment, when Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead.  As we think about this, we want to focus our attention on SOME MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT JUDGMENT DAY.  The first one that we will look at is that 1. God Isn’t Really Serious About It.  The second one is 2. It All Comes Down To How Good I Am.

 

The first misconception that God isn’t really serious about judgment comes from the fact that, it seems, that people are allowed to go on sinning, without any perceivable consequences.  There is no bolt of lightning from the sky to strike the person who is misusing God’s name.  The earth doesn’t open up and swallow the person who is lazy.  It seems as though there are no repercussions for sinning.  How easy it is for us to start to believe this in our own lives.  Sure, I know this is wrong, but it looks like no one caught me.  Maybe, God is just talking tough, but he really doesn’t mean all this talk about punishment.

 

The apostle Paul gives us the real reason why there is no thunder bolt from the blue when we sin.  “Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Verse 4)  The reason that God doesn’t immediately thunder down his justice when we sin is that he wants to give us time to repent of our sins.  He doesn’t want us to spend our eternity apart from him.  So, in his grace, he gives us time to repent of our sins.  We have a beautiful example of this in the Garden of Eden.  God had told Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  He, also, told them that, if they ate from the tree, they would die.  Adam and Eve deliberately disobeyed God.  If God had only been a God of justice, that would have been the end of Adam and Eve.  Instead, in his grace, he went searching for them.  He wanted them to repent and he wanted to forgive their sins.  This is God’s kindness in action.

 

It doesn’t, however, mean that God isn’t serious about judgment.  “Do you think you will escape God’s judgment?  Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Verses 4&5)  Just because God didn’t immediately strike down the sinner, doesn’t mean that he has gone soft on sin.  There will come a time when the time for repentance comes to an end.  Then, the sinner will face the full force of God’s anger against their sin.  Dear Christian, may we take this warning to heart.  May God help us not to treat God’s holding back of judgment with a light-hearted attitude.  May we see it as God showing love to us and giving us the opportunity to see our sins, to repent of them, and to come to him for forgiveness.  As we ponder the teaching of Judgment Day, may we be reminded that God is absolutely serious about it.

 

The second misconception that often raises its head is that God will base his judgment on how good we are.  That’s an easy enough conclusion to reach.  For example, we read in our text, “God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’  To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.  But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.  There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Verses 6-10)  It says it right there, doesn’t it?  “God will repay each person according to what they have done.” (Verse 6)  In addition, we heard our Gospel Lesson (Matthew 25:31-45) this morning.  There, Jesus praised those who had done good and told them, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)  Jesus points to the calloused hearts of the others and tells them, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)  So, as we read these things, it is easy for us to come to the conclusion that, if we do enough good things, God will reward us with eternal life.

 

In answer to this thought, we look at verse 2 of our text, “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.”  God’s judgment is based on truth.  What is the truth that God bases his judgment on?  It is articulated in many different ways throughout the Scriptures.  Perhaps, the clearest rendering of the truth is found in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  What is the standard that God accepts for entrance into heaven?  It is perfection.  This means that we can never go against God’s will in our words, actions, thoughts, or attitudes.  An unkind word can never pass through our lips.  We cannot do anything that would hurt someone else.  We can never entertain a vengeful thought.  We are to be perfectly loving to others, even when they aren’t loving to us.  This is the truth on which God’s bases his judgment.  This is followed by another truth found in Ezekiel 18:20, “The one who sins is the one who will die.”  Instead of sharing our eternity with God in heaven, we deserve to spend it in the pains of hell.

 

However, another truth is at work in God’s judgment.  In speaking of Jesus, Paul wrote, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)  Jesus, the Son of God, had no sin.  As Jesus walked this earth those thirty-three years, he did not stray from his Father’s will.  Every single one of his words, actions, thoughts, and attitudes were perfectly in line with his Father.  God made him to be sin for us.  God took all of the sins that you and I have ever committed and placed them on Jesus.  Jesus willingly carried this enormous load of the world’s sins to the cross.  While on the cross, Jesus was punished in our place.  He suffered the torments of hell for us.  As a result, we have become the righteousness of God.  In place of the sins that we ours, we now have Christ’s righteousness, his perfection.  It is because of this perfection that we have entrance into heaven.  Heaven does not come down to how good we are, but on how good Jesus was for us.

 

Why, then, do Jesus and Paul both speak about works as they point to the final judgment?  The reason is found in the word “judgment.”  It brings to mind a court room, where evidence is presented to show the guilt or innocence of an individual.  Those actions that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 25 are evidence to the world that those on his right are believers and those on his left are unbelievers.  James writes, “Faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:26)  No one can see a person’s faith, except God.  Jesus points to the deeds of those on his right, that are done out of love for him, as evidence of the saving faith that was created in the heart by the Holy Spirit.  Where these deeds are absent, so also is faith.  We are not saved because of what we do, but because of what Christ has done for us.  In love for him, we want to fill our lives with good deeds that glorify him and help those around us.

 

It is important for us to be reminded that Judgment Day is real.  While we do not know when it will happen, we do know that, in God’s good time, it will happen.  However, we don’t need to live in fear of Judgment Day.  Yes, the signs that will accompany it do sound frightening.  However, instead of cowering in fear, we can heed Jesus’ words, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28)  We lift up our heads in eager anticipation, because our Savior is coming back to take us to be with him for all eternity.  Jesus said at the end of the book of Revelation, “Yes, I am coming soon.”  To this we reply, with the believers of all time, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20)  Amen.