Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"Judgment"

Revelation 5:8-14



Judgment is good.  That is a difficult thing to wrap our minds around in our postmodern world.  But this is the truth that the Book of Revelation brings to us: judgment is a good thing.

                Well meaning Christians do not wish to judge others.  They don’t want to be seen or labeled as “judgmental”.  And I can understand that.  Jesus Himself self does say, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”  

                But could you imagine living a life where you did not make judgments?  It would be virtually impossible.  You open the refrigerator, grab the gallon of milk, and pour it into a glass.  It is chunky and has an extra offensive odor.  Do you drink it or not?  That requires a judgment.

                Let me give you an equally obvious, but far less humorous example.  You are in the park with your children or grandchildren.  A man with a hood pulled over his face is standing near where your 5 year old is on the swings.  The man reaches out, grabs the child, and starts running toward a running van.  Do you chase the man down, or do you assume he is just being friendly?  That is a judgment call, it is one I hope you would get right.

                Jesus’ warning against judgment is to keep us from judging someone else with a measure that we would not be willing to uphold ourselves.  But Jesus Himself judges between the good and evil actions of men and women all the time.

                Judgment is a good thing.  It is a gift from God.  So we too should be thankful that God has given us the ability to judge between what is good and right, and what is evil and wrong. 

                God’s judgment is also good.  If human judgment is positive, how much more is the divine?  The Book of Revelation makes clear that the judgment of God is coming upon the earth.  And we should be happy about that.

                Let’s look back at the epistle lesson from this morning.  In his vision of heaven John sees God enthroned, and in His hand He holds a scroll with 7 wax seals upon it.  Everyone in heaven, the angels and heavenly beings as well as all the saints who have gone before us, are anxiously awaiting the opening of this scroll. The whole heavenly host pines for the breaking of these seven seals.

                And when they discover that the Lamb of God, who has been slain, is worthy to open the scroll they break into jubilant song.  “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals!”  “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”  

                So, you might be thinking, whatever is in this scroll must be pretty awesome.  If all of heaven is so excited, so ecstatic about its opening, this must be great!

                So the Lamb, Jesus Christ, opens the scroll.  He breaks the seals one by one.  And what happens?  This part isn’t in your printed handout, so you can look it up yourself.  But chapter 6 details the wrath of God being loosed upon the earth.  

                The 4 horsemen of the apocalypse come bearing down on the earth: domination, war, famine, and death.  Those saints who died for the faith, the band of martyrs, begins to cry out for God’s judgment to come into the world.  And there is such chaos on the earth that all people, great and small, hide themselves in caves and under rocks.  God’s horrific judgment is coming on the earth, and the hosts of heaven could not be happier.  

                Why are the angels so elated that Jesus is going to open the scroll and unleash God’s judgment?  It is because they understand that without God’s judgment there can be no salvation.  The day of judgment is also the day of salvation for God’s people.  It is their day of vindication.

                God’s judgment will destroy every vestige of evil that exists upon the earth.  That includes institutions of evil, governments, clubs, false churches, and businesses.  It includes human beings who do evil.  

                We might think of those who do evil as the “really bad people”.  Not us, not you, certainly not me.  But that is not what God really has in mind when He comes to judge the earth.  In fact, Revelation 21:8 gives a list of all those who will be destroyed by God’s judgment.

                The list begins with the cowardly and it ends with liars.  To be sure the sexually immoral, sorcerers, murderers, and idolaters are included in there, but it begins and ends with something that I am positive each and every one of us can say that we are guilty of: cowardice and deceit.  

                Who among us has never acted out of fear?  Who in this room can honestly say that they have never told a lie?  That is who will be judged.  When the scroll is open cowards and liars had better run for the hills.

                But there is a better place to run.  Run to the Lamb who was slain.  Listen again to the song of the heavenly host: “Worthy are you…for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

                All evil will be judged by the seven seals of God’s wrath.  But all who are covered by the blood of the Lamb are spared.  Those who have been ransomed by the death of Jesus Christ are saved.  Those who have been made into a kingdom of priests through baptism into Christ shall rule the earth with Christ.

                The whole heavenly host falls down and worships God, not only because He brings judgment, but because with it He brings salvation.  His judgment upon the evil that dwells upon the earth cleanses it so that His saints, His nation of priests, His Church, can finally enjoy a life that is free from the sin that weighs it down.

                Imagine a day when there is no more cowardice, where we never act out of fear, but only out of faith and courage.  Imagine a day without lies, where the only words that anyone can even fathom to utter are the pure truth.  That day is coming.

                Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, has been slain, has shed His blood to shield you from God’s wrath.  His blood, shed upon the cross, has washed away your sins that you will not be judged as a coward or a liar, but ransomed and exalted as a priest of the kingdom.

                The day of judgment is fast approaching.  And we can look forward to that day with confidence, not because we are more perfect than the rest of the world, but because we have been ransomed.  Jesus Christ died and rose to ransom you for God, to make you His own possession.  

                While we wait for His return, as we ardently pray for it to come quickly, we share this message with the world, that it too can be covered by the blood of the Lamb, ransomed from destruction, and brought into this kingdom of ransomed priests.  Come quickly Lord Jesus.  Amen.             

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