Summary: Don't Be Surprised Come Judgment Day 1) We all will rise from the dead 2) We all will stand before Jesus
Do you like surprises? It depends doesn’t it? If it’s your birthday you probably don’t mind a surprise or two. I doubt very much, however, if you like surprises at school or at work. Surprises at places like these usually cause stress. That’s because the surprise is often a pop quiz or an unannounced visit from the boss. If you don’t like such surprises, then you will want to listen carefully to our sermon text today. It teaches that one day we all will rise from the dead and that we all will stand before Jesus.
Is it really surprising to hear that we all will all rise from the dead some day? If you’re a Bible-believing Christian it shouldn’t be. Jesus said very clearly in our text: “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear [my] voice 29 and come out” (John 5:28, 29a). One day you will stand next to people like Adam, Noah, Mary, and even Judas. Your grandmother and your great-great-grandfather whom you’ve never met will be there too. All those who died at sea. Everyone who perished while exploring dark caves or fighting in dense jungles will also be raised to life. Even babies who died in the womb will be there too! No one will be missing.
Well that’s good news isn’t it? It sounds like a party! Not exactly. Listen to what else Jesus said about that day: “…those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:29b). Everyone, including you and me, will be brought back to life for the purpose of standing trial before Jesus. If you’ve ever been to court, or if you’ve ever been called to the principal’s office, you know what a nerve-wracking experience that can be. Now imagine standing before Judge Jesus as the whole world looks on.
But then again it shouldn’t be a scary experience because Jesus said that those who have done “good” will rise to enjoy an eternal life of happiness. Wouldn’t your neighbors and classmates describe you as good? That may be but they won’t be doing the judging on the last day, Jesus will. Therefore we need to ask what Jesus meant by “good.” His standard for good may be a lot different than ours - just as a parent’s standard for a clean room is usually much different than a child’s.
This section from Matthew 19 will help define Jesus’ standard for “good.” “Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” the man inquired. Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 19:16-19).
To do good, as Jesus explains it, is to obey God’s commands. Of course we should add here that Jesus expects these commands to be obeyed perfectly all the time. Would you consider your co-worker “good” if he only ever buckles down at his desk when the manager is in the room but the rest of the time he chats it up with anyone he can distract from their work? Of course not! We resent people like that. Likewise you may be good at flashing a winning smile when your neighbor walks by, but as soon as he is out of earshot do you resume the argument you were having with your children? And what happens on that computer or smartphone of yours when no one is looking over your shoulder? Do you readily visit websites you would be mortified to have splashed across our screen at church? And what kind of story does your bank card tell? A love for everything Halo 4 and other games while little thought is given to how much of your income is used to support the real good versus evil fight waged by missionaries around the world and by gospel outreach efforts here? Are you still willing to stand before Jesus and proclaim that you have been good by his standards?
And yet Jesus teaches that there will be those who have done good and will rise to live while others will rise to be condemned. Jesus also tells us the basis on which that will happen. “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 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” (John 5:24, 25).