Here Comes the Judge
Sermon on John 5:25-29
Text: “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
We just finished another election. Part of every ballot is a section regarding various judges. The question is ‘Should judge So and So be retained in office?’ I will admit that I have often struggled with those questions. I do not know their body of work. I do not know if they are good judges or fair judges. I did some homework this time in preparation for the election, so that I could, at least, have some knowledge about these judges. I read what the Bar Association said about them and I cast my vote. Then, I prayed that I had made a good choice. This morning, we are going to talk about a judge. The wonderful thing about this judge is that we do not ever have to wonder if he is a good and fair judge or not. This judge is no one less than Jesus Christ himself. As we focus our attention to the end of time, we say HERE COMES THE JUDGE. He is 1. Perfect In His Punishment and 2. Perfect In His Pardon.
You may recall the occasion for these words of Jesus. He spoke them to the Jewish leaders in defense of his statement that he and the Father were on the same level. They deserved equal honor for the work that had been and was being done. Part of the reason for this equal honor was the fact that the Father entrusted the judgment to his Son. Jesus speaks about that Last Day in verses 28&29. He said, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” He points ahead to the end of time, when he will return in all of his glory. Part of this triumphant return is the fact that all who had died before that time will come back to life. They, along with those who are still alive at that time, will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Jesus announces what the verdict will be before hand. He says, “Those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”
At first blush, this might cause our ears to perk up. It sounds like we are saved by what we do. If we do good, we will have life, eternal life. If we have done evil, we will have condemnation, or an eternity in hell. Is it true that we can earn our way into heaven? Well, on one hand, the answer is “Yes.” If you can keep God’s standard of behavior, you can earn your way into heaven. What is that standard? Jesus says in Matthew 5, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That is all we have to do. We have to be perfect in every one of our words, actions, thoughts, and even our attitudes. There can never be one single misstep. All you have to do is be perfect your entire life. Then, you will have earned a place in heaven.
So, how do we fare in that situation? Well, Scriptures are also quite clear in their assessment of our actions. For example, we turn to Romans 3, where it says, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We might think of Ecclesiastes 7:20, which says, “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” Finally, we think of Romans 5, which tells us very plainly about both our inability to keep God’s law and the punishment that is deserved because of it, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” So, can we earn our place in heaven? Because of the fact that we have all sinned, the answer is, “No.” We were born sinful and we show that in our subsequent sins against God and one another.
Is there any hope for us? Yes there is, but not on account of anything that we have done. The reason for our hope is alluded to in verses 25&26, “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.” Both the Father and the Son did not receive life from a previous or earlier being. They did not receive it from an outside source. They are the sources of life. As Jesus speaks about the dead living, he said that, “a time . . . has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and live.” Jesus is not just pointing to the end of time in these verses. He is speaking of something that was already happening at that moment. People who hear the voice of Jesus live. This refers to people who are brought to believe in Jesus as their Savior. They hear the voice of Jesus when he tells them that he came to the earth to rescue them from their certain death. He did so by doing everything necessary for our salvation. That standard of perfection that we spoke of earlier, which no of us could attain, Jesus did. His Father accepted everything that Jesus did on our behalf. This included both his perfect life and his innocent suffering and death. Scriptures tell us plainly that the wages of sin is death. Jesus willingly stepped in and faced the full extent of God’s anger against our sins. He paid for every one of them. Then, his Father showed that the payment was done in full as Jesus rose from the dead. When we hear the voice of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit creates that faith in our hearts that says, ‘Jesus is my Savior,’ we are saved. We have gone from death to life. We will be with Jesus forever in heaven.
However, what about the statement that Jesus said regarding the end of time when, “Those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”? Since we are not saved by what we do, what is meant here? Remember this is talking about Judgment Day. Jesus is judging the inhabitants of the world. As a good and fair Judge, Jesus points to evidence. Note that this evidence is not something he needs to render his decisions. As the all-knowing Son of God, he knows who believes in him as their Savior and who does not. Rather, the evidence that is pointed out is for the world’s benefit. These are visible evidence of the faith or lack of faith in the heart. Jesus expands on this thought in Matthew 25.
In speaking to the unbelievers, he said, “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 will say to him, “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?” Surely, if the Lord needed something from them, they would have been more than happy to give it to him. However, Jesus points out, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” They showed evidence of their lack of faith in the fact that they did not do these things for those in need. This is not to say that all unbelievers do not do anything charitable. On the outside, they may look to be the best people in the world. However, they are like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. They look good on the outside, but, because there is no faith, all of their good does not amount to anything before the Lord. Without faith, all righteous acts are like filthy rags. Because there is a lack of faith, as is evidenced by their lack of good works, Jesus said in our text, they will “will rise to be condemned.” They will join the devil and his angels for an eternity in hell.
On the other hand, we find the believers. Jesus points to the acts of the believers, again as evidence of their faith. He said, “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.” To this, the believers reply, “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?” They were never aware that the Lord had these needs. Jesus replies, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” First of all, these things that Jesus points to are an evidence of faith in the heart. Otherwise, they would be no more acceptable than the actions of the unbeliever. Secondly, we note that the believers were not even aware that they were doing them. It was just their natural response to the love that God had shown to them in sending his Son to be their Savior. Because of their faith in Jesus as their Savior, as evidenced by their good works, they will “rise to live.” They will hear the great Judge 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 first, it might make us nervous to think that we are going to stand before Jesus and the rest of the world and have him talk about what we have done while we were on this earth. However, the words of Jesus in our text and in Matthew 25 bring comfort to the believer in this regard. Note that Jesus only cites the good works that were done by the believer. He will not dredge up all of our sins and put them on display for all the world to see. They have been covered with his blood. They have been completely forgiven. They have been cast into the depths of the sea never to be remembered again. Our Judge is just. Because they have been forgiven, they have been forgotten by our God.
The whole concept of Judgment Day is a bit overwhelming. You have all of the signs that will precede its coming. You have Jesus returning to the earth in all of his glory with his holy angels. You have all the dead rising from their graves. You have all people who have ever lived standing before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Yet, we do not need to fear the day, for we have a just and righteous Judge. He has already told us what the verdict will be. Those who do not believe in him will rise to be condemned. As our just Judge, he has said that, if you are not perfect, you do not have eternal life. If you do not, by faith, accept the perfection that he accomplished, you will be lost forever. Our Judge is perfect in his punishment. He is also perfect in his pardon. Those who have been brought to believe in Jesus as their Savior have had his perfection applied to their accounts. For these people, there will be the eternal joy of heaven. We find our comfort in the fact that Jesus is our Judge, for he does not change. What he has promised, he will do. For that reason, we do not need to fear the Last Day, but can look up with joy and say not only, “Here comes the judge,” but also, “Here comes my Savior.” Amen.