Summary: The Apostles Creed - From whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead

Do you remember how paranoid people were during 1999 as we came up to year 2000? I have with me this morning the box from my filter coffee maker. Looks innocent enough, doesn’t it? But it shows how paranoid everyone was. The coffee maker has a Y2K compliance sticker on it. The sticker says "Y2K OK – this product is not effected by the millennium bug." But it’s a coffee maker? Was it really going to blow up if I switched it on after midnight? & anyway how does a coffee maker know what the date is? Whoever ordered these stickers was effected by the millenium bug - probably a lawyer, there usually behind these sorts of things. Doesn’t it show how paranoid we were?

I remember watching documentaries about the major world catastrophes that awaited us, but despite all the wild & crazy predictions the year 2000 rolled around and the coffee maker made coffee, the microwave worked, the computer hadn’t blown up, the traffic lights worked, the stock market didn’t crash, the new ice age hadn’t started, Jesus hadn’t returned & everything went on as normal.

As far as the end of the world goes the Year 2000 was a major anti-climax. A real disappointment – but didn’t it make everyone paranoid & play on our fascination with end of the world & second coming theories?

Think of how many movies there are about the end of the world. Whether its aliens invading or mass suicide to catch a ride on a passing space ship. It seems that the amount of crazy cults and doomsday predictions are endless. Today more Christians probably get their end times theology from the Left Behind series than from the Bible.

So when it comes to the end of the world 1 thing seems certain. Whether it’s the predictions of Nostradamus, the Celestine Prophecies, the Left Behind series or the da Vinci Code, it seems certain that these religious fads will come and go until the end of time.

In April this tongue-in-cheek article appeared in the Age by Andrew Masterson. He reports on a little-known religious group called The Second Coming Project. The groups aim was to initiate the End Times by cloning Jesus. To make this happen the group needed two things, the DNA of Jesus and a virgin.

While this group might be a hoax, Masterson reports on another fair dinkum group calling itself "Christians for the Cloning of Jesus" – on their website they state "We can’t sit back and wait for Jesus; He has given us the power to bring him to us." This group are seeking to use DNA from the Shroud of Turin and a Maronite virgin. They plan not just one cloning but thousands, a Jesus for anybody that asks. Their website says, "No more communicating with God through your pastor or priest. Just imagine a world with a Jesus in every household…"

Now I don’t know which is sadder, the fact that there are websites and groups out there that say this sort of thing, even if it’s a joke; or the fact that our media picks up on these pathetic groups and use them to ridicule Jesus, to ridicule Christians and to muddy the waters of authentic Christian faith.

If we can take anything from doomsday predictions, crazy groups seeking to clone Jesus and these scoffing articles that will always appear in our secular media, it is that it shows us how important it is that we know our Bibles & that we know the fundamental doctrines of our faith. This series on the Apostles’ Creed has been great because it has explained these basic fundamentals to us. We know the truth about who Jesus is, why he came to earth, what his mission was & what he will return to do sometime in the future.

So here’s where we’re up to this morning. Having talked about Jesus in the past & the present the Creed now points to the future. Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead. Jesus will one day return as judge of all people, whether dead or alive.

1. The fact & nature of the 2nd Coming

While the fact of the second coming is clearly revealed in Scripture, the time of it is not. Jesus confessed that even he didn’t know the time of his return. Jesus says that this time is not even known by the angels but only by the Father in heaven. [Matt 24:36]

Jesus doesn’t tell us when he will return but he does give us signs of his return. The main passages for this are in Matthew 24 & 25. Jesus says there will be wars, famines and earthquakes but this is just the beginning of the end times. He also predicts a time of persecutions, false prophets, an increase of lawlessness and a time when the love of many will grow cold. Jesus says that the gospel must be proclaimed throughout the world & then the end will come & he also says that the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Jesus also tells us that the 2nd coming will be obvious & unmistakable. There will be false messiahs and false prophets leading people away by their signs & omens, but Jesus says: [Matt 24:26-27,30]

…if they say to you, ’Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ’Look! He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

Jesus predicts a time of great suffering and then we’ll see …’the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory.

So the 2nd coming will be obvious & unmistakable. It won’t happen in secret, it will be a visible [Acts 1:11], glorious and powerful event. It will be like lightning flashing from the east as far as the west. We’ll all be aware of this event, it will be obvious & unmistakable. It might take as by surprise but we’ll know when it happens.

2. Our Response:

So no one knows the time of Jesus’ coming, he’ll come at an hour when he’s not expected. But we’re told by Jesus to be watchful & alert – that we should be ready for it to happen at any time.

Well Ali’s got many weeks to go before our first child is born, but already we’re watchful & alert to what’s going on. I’m sure we’ll have the hospital bag packed and ready way before the due date. Ready at the front door. I’m sure there’ll be false alarms but it could happen at any time, so we’ll be watching, we’ll be ready, we’ll be waiting.

Jesus warns us that we need to have a similar readiness & expectation. He says that wars, famines and earthquakes are but the beginning of the birth pangs. He says we must keep awake & be ready for his return. We’re told not to wait in idleness or laziness as if it’s never going to happen, & we shouldn’t be ill-prepared or unready for his return. We should live with an expectation of his return. We should be busy growing in the likeness of Jesus, working to grow the church & working to tell our friends about Jesus so that many people will be waiting for his return.

The Apostle Peter tells us that scoffers will come. Articles like the one in The Age show that Peter was right. Scoffers will come doubting the promise of his return. But we know that in Jesus all God’s promises are fulfilled, why would the promise of the 2nd coming be any different? Peter tells us: [2 Peter 3:8-10]

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

3. The purpose of the 2nd Coming

So we know it will happen & we know it will be unmistakable & we know that we’re to be ready, watchful & working. But why will Christ return?

The purpose of Christ’s return is the establishment, in the fullest & final sense, of the Kingdom of God and for the judgment of everyone who has ever lived on the earth.

Although Christ was King when he first came, he first had to die as God’s sacrifice for sin & we know that not everyone accepts that sacrifice. But at Christ’s 2nd coming every knee will bow & every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. [Phil 2:10-11]

The Kingdom of God is here & now but its final consummation or completion awaits the return of Jesus. It’s a bit like the D-day landings in WW2. Once the Normandy landings took place victory was assured, the Allies had won, but this day of final victory & the end of the war was still sometime in the future.

In a similar way, Christ has won the victory on the cross but he can’t reign on earth until the enemy, the devil, is finally destroyed. So the 2nd coming will involve judgment upon the world & the final defeat & judgment upon the devil. [2 Thess 2:8]

The fact of God’s judgment is clear in the Bible. Judgment is the direct & final consequence of sin. Sin is turning away from & living without God, ignoring God, rebelling against God’s commands or living & acting in way’s that God forbids. Because judgment is the result of sin - it is just and deserved.

If God is a God who is holy & just then he must punish sin. If he didn’t punish sin he’d be corrupt. Imagine a police officer standing outside a bank, watching as the bank is held up & robbed. The robbers run outside & are caught by the copper. They have a bag full of cash, they’ve terrorised & traumatised the bank tellers & the customers. They’re guilty of robbing the bank. They have broken the law. But the policeman lets them go – just let’s them walk away, they walk away with the money & the policeman turns his back as if he didn’t see a thing. We agree that this policeman is corrupt. The officer is meant to uphold & enforce the law, to do anything less is corruption. This is a crooked cop. We’re all clear about this – we all want justice - to let these people go is unfair & wrong, this is corruption.

So why should it be any different with God? God has declared his holiness & his justice to us, he’s made himself & his ways known in the Bible. If God just let sinners go free without judgment then he’d be corrupt, he wouldn’t be just & holy, he’d be corrupt.

So judgment is fair & just. Judgment on evil & sin is a necessary part of God’s justice & holiness. In fact God wouldn’t be holy & just or even loving & caring if he didn’t punish sin & evil. Paul in 2 Thessalonians says:

2 Thess 1:6-9 - 6 For it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might…

So judgment is a terrible thing to face. It involves suffering the punishment of eternal destruction & being separated from God’s presence.

4. Avoiding Judgment:

& so this is the problem we face - we can’t escape God’s judgment except by knowing God through believing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The gospel is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Everything that we know about who Jesus is and what he came to do. The good news is that Jesus is our substitute for God’s judgment on our sin. Jesus is our sacrifice that pays for our sin & that meets God’s standards for justice. God won’t punish us for our sin because Jesus stands in our place & is punished for us. If we trust in the gospel then we can be sure that we won’t face God’s judgment.

Now I realise that not everyone will accept this message. I remember talking to a friend of mine about Christianity while we were at Uni studying together. It didn’t matter what arguments I put forward for God’s existence or how convincing these arguments sounded - what he couldn’t get over was God’s judgment. How could God be so cruel as to judge us he would say, he couldn’t accept that at the end of the day people would be punished for their rejection of Jesus. God holds all the trumps he would say as if he was playing cards with God. If I talked about judgment his response was – there it is – the trump card, you can never win against God . My friend couldn’t accept that God was God & God was in control, not him. God holding all the trumps was his way of saying that it’s not fair that God always wins, it’s not fair that God’s in control & sets the rules.

But isn’t this the essence of sin? Isn’t sin all about us wanting to be in control, us wanting to set the rules for our life. Us being stubborn and proud and not wanting to let go of the reins and give them to God. Isn’t this how we all live at one time or another? We don’t want to live by God’s standards, we don’t want to obey Jesus, we want to do our own thing & have nothing to do with God.

So what’s unfair is not that God’s in control but that any of us get to heaven. We all deserve God’s judgment, we’ve all rebelled against God, we’ve all put off trusting in Jesus for a better time. We’ve all ignored Jesus or sat on the fence.

What’s unfair is that God lays on Jesus the punishment that we deserve. What’s unfair is that we’re the sinners, we’re the guilty & yet we go free. What’s unfair is that we’re forgiven because of the sacrifice and substitute of Jesus, dying on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve. What’s unfair is that God lavishes his grace and love and mercy on us - this is God’s amazing grace.

So right at this point of judgment is the good news of Jesus Christ. In God’s judgment we also meet God’s mercy & love. We see his grace towards us that he would send his own Son to die in our place - so we go free. God isn’t corrupt in letting us go free. He doesn’t ignore our sin as if it doesn’t matter - instead in his love & mercy he places the punishment that we deserve on Jesus & this meets his standard for justice.

John tells us that: [John 3:16-18]

"…God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life…Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

And later at John 3:36, John says: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.

So it’s clear that if you put your faith & trust in Jesus you won’t be condemned, you will have eternal life. But if you don’t put your faith & trust in Jesus then you’re already condemned, there’s no substitute for you, you take the punishment for your sin & you face God’s wrath.

5. Our response

Well this is a frightening message of judgment on the one hand but yet, on the other hand an amazing offer of mercy, freedom & eternal life.

How else can we respond to this message but to put our faith, hope and trust in Jesus? How else can we respond when faced with the reality of God’s judgment?

The fact that Jesus will return to judge means this decision we all face to accept or reject the gospel – is a decision of utter seriousness; this is the most important decision you’ll ever face. Nothing is more important than this decision.

Will you wait for Jesus with restlessness & uncertainty? Will you fear death knowing that you haven’t accepted the gospel? Or clothed in the forgiveness and grace of Christ and the assurance of the gospel, will you await Jesus with hope and an eager expectation for heaven, no longer fearing death?

What my friend back in uni missed was that - in the message of judgment, God may hold all the trumps, but God invites us to be on his winning team. As if we were playing a game of 500 - God wants us to be his partners. We want our partner to hold all the trumps. This is our assurance that we share in the victory of God. There’s no point playing against God, God will always win. But He invites us to share in His victory

God in his mercy holds off on judgment so that we have time to repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus. God is patient because he loves us and doesn’t want anyone to perish. God is giving us time to repent and believe the good news, but that time is now, before Jesus returns. Only now can we decide to be on God’s winning team. We can be for God or against God, but we can’t remain neutral or sit on the fence. [Acts 17:30-31]

Well over this series on the Apostles’ Creed we’ve covered a lot of ground & we’ve learnt a lot about the Christian faith, about God and about who Jesus is, what his mission was, and what he came to do. You may have found this series challenging, you may have found it clarified issues for you & helped you understand your Christian faith more fully. It’s also possible that you may have found that this series has presented a picture and purpose of Jesus that you’re unfamiliar with. You may have known that Jesus was Saviour but had not grasped that he was also your Lord or you may now realise that you haven’t actually accepted Jesus as saviour. You may not feel you have a personal relationship with Jesus. And after today you may be concerned that you haven’t really accepted Jesus at all and you risk final judgment and God’s wrath because you’ve not believed in Jesus Christ.

With all we’ve heard over this series it’s important that we have a chance to respond to this message of the gospel - & we’re going to have a chance to respond this morning. A prayer is coming up on screen that you can read.

Lord Jesus,

Please come into my life and be my Saviour and Lord.

I believe that you died for my sins, please forgive my sins.

I am willing to turn from sin and surrender my life to your rule.

Please give me the Holy Spirit to help me, lead me and guide me in living for you.

Thank you for saving me.

Amen.

If you feel that you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour and Lord, or that you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus - but you want to know Jesus in this way, then please pray this prayer with me. I’ll say the prayer & all you need to do is pray along with me.

If you’re already a Christian but want to recommit your life to Jesus then just follow this prayer as well & ask Jesus once again to be your Saviour and Lord.

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