Summary: Last in a series of sermons on Revelation - this sermon presents a look at the hope we have in the last judgment.
Years ago, Judge Wapner was on a television series called, “The People’s Court.”
It was not only popular, but the show has outlasted its first host judge and continues with another judge.
And it was popular enough to start a whole group of similar spinoffs.
There is Judge Judy, Judge Mathis, Judge Hatchett, Judge James Curtis, Judge Mills Lane, and on and on the list goes.
And if that is not enough, there is an entire cable network devoted to the subject -- Court TV. Turn it on and watch people being judged any time you want.
Bored with reality? Then watch fictional judges at work on Law and Order. That’s a television series that seems to be on 24 hours a day. At any given time, on one channel or another, there seems to be a Law and Order episode.
We seem to enjoy watching folks getting a taste of justice — as long as we are not the ones facing the judge.
But for the Christian, we know that someday we will face not just a television judge, but the greatest of all judges. God almighty.
Judgment day is coming!
We proclaim that we believe that every week.
We stand and say the Apostles’ Creed and declare that we believe “he is coming to judge the quick and the dead” – which means, of course, the living and the dead.
We have been studying the Book of Revelation for several weeks, and the last judgment is one of the great themes of this book – but it is also an important theme that permeates all of Scripture.
In Psalm 98, verse 9, we read, “Let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.”
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36)
And, of course, what would the Book of Revelation be without a description of the Judgment Day?
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books … The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
I think this is one of the reasons why we shy away from the Book of Revelation.
It is not just that the Book of Revelation is confusing, which it certainly is.
It is not just that the Book of Revelation is open to all sorts of interpretation, which it certainly is.
I think the real reason why we shy away from Revelation is that we feel very uncomfortable with the thought of a FINAL judgment.
This is not a new discomfort. If you ever go to the Sistine Chapel in Rome, you can see Michelangelo’s fresco of the Last Judgment. It is a startling painting, filled with images. One of these images shows a man being dragged down into hell by demons. He has one eye covered, but the other eye is looking out. It is as if he is afraid to look, but afraid not to look. His face is filled with fear and sadness. At his feet a sadistically gleeful demon has a hold of his ankles and he is pulling his victim down to hell.
It has been said that “Hell is truth seen too late,” and Michelangelo’s painting captures that so clearly.
So what can we say about this business of hell and heaven and the Last Judgment?
In the Book of Revelation, John offers a lot of graphic information, but beyond the images of fire and brimstone, three significant truths emerge.
The first is that the Last Judgment is fair.
What in the world is fair about the possibility of being thrown a lake of fire?
If you listen to children long enough, you will eventually hear them declare about some event or experience, “It’s not fair!”
What they mean by that is that something is happening that they do not like. In other words, they are not getting their way.
But if you look in the dictionary, the definition of fair is this – “Fair. Adjective. 1. Just to all parties; equitable. 2. Consistent with rules.”
God is a judge who is fair. He does not take bribes. He is not subjective. He will not judge one person by one set of rules and another by a different set of rules.
In the Psalms we are told that God’s judgment will be founded on righteousness (94:15).