November 08, 2020

Rev. Mark F. Bartels



Old Testament Lesson; Daniel 7:9-10

Epistle Lesson; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Psalm of the Day; Psalm 90                              

Sermon Text; Matthew 25:31-46


We are almost at the end of what is called The Church Year. 

It has been traditional in the church for centuries, as we approach the end of The Church Year, to talk about the end of the world.  So, today is the day we are going to be talking about the end of the world.

Now, there is a whole, whole study of theology that deals with the end of the world.  It is called, 'eschatology'.  It means, 'the study of the end times'.  The Bible has a lot to say about the end times. 

-For example, there are a whole bunch of Bible verses that talk about the signs of the end times, and what to look for. 

-There are a whole bunch of Bible passages that talk about being prepared, or unprepared, for the end times,

-and how to be prepared, and how to not be prepared. 

-There are a whole bunch of Bible passages that deal with the day of resurrection, and what is going to happen when the dead rise on the last day. 

-There are whole bunch of passages that deal with what is going to happen to this world, as we know it, the earth and sky on the last day. 

-And then, there are a bunch of Bible passages that deal with what it is all going to culminate in.  That is the final judgment. 

That is what we are going to focus on today.  We now have come to the final judgment, and our Savior, Himself, who is going to preside over the final judgment, is the One who now tells us exactly what is going to transpire on that very last (what everything is culminating toward), on the last Day of Judgment.

I have been a pastor for thirty-three years.  During those thirty-three years, I will tell you this.  There is one question I know I have been asked multiple times regarding standing before Christ on The Day of Judgment.  Here is the question I have been asked by many people, whether the people are young or old, strong church members, not strong church members – here is the question.  “Pastor, on Judgment Day, when I stand before Jesus, and the Books are open, the book of my life is open, is everybody going to hear about the sins I have committed?” 

When that question gets asked, I can sometimes hear hearts thinking, “Is my spouse, (my husband, or wife), are they finally going to find out on Judgment Day about that affair I had?”  By the same token they are thinking, “I have repented of that, and I have run to Jesus.  I know it is forgiven, but are they going to find out about it?” 

Or, somebody may think, “On The Last Day, the things I looked at on the internet, that nobody knows about, is everybody going to find out about that? I have repented.  I know I am forgiven, but is everybody going to find out about that?” 

Or, “The things I said about somebody in my family, are they going to find out what I said about them? I have repented, and I know I have been forgiven, but are they going to find out what I said about them?”

Let's look, and let's see exactly what is going to happen on The Day of Judgment.

We begin here, at Matthew, chapter twenty five.  It is going to take us through verses thirty-one through forty-six.  This is Jesus speaking.  He says:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory,

and all the angels with Him,

He will sit on His glorious throne. 

All the nations will be gathered in His presence...”

So now, Jesus sets the stage. 

All of the pictures about Jesus that we have in our homes, the pictures we have about Jesus here at church, they are all pictures that do not display Jesus in all of His divine glory.  They are pictures of Jesus in what we call 'His humiliation', where He hides His glory. 

-They are pictures of Jesus dying on the cross to pay for our sins.  Beautiful pictures. 

-They are pictures of Jesus, as The Good Shepherd, watching over His sheep, humbly serving His sheep. 

-They are pictures of Jesus, with little children on His lap.

-Pictures of a servant, Jesus, who is taking care of His people. 

But, on The Day of Judgment we are going to see a different Jesus, who we have never seen before. 

He says, “The Son of Man (talking about His human nature) will come in His glory...”  It will be very evident to everybody that that Man is God.  There is no question about it.  And there He is going to be, in all of His glory.

Then it says,

“...and all of the angels with Him...”

When I was a kid, there was a part of the Lutheran Liturgy that we would sing.  “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.  Heaven and earth are full of you glory.”  
I always thought the word ' Sabaoth ', Lord God of Sabaoth, meant 'Lord of the Sabbath Day, the seventh day'. 

One day, my dad, who was a pastor, said, “You know when we sing, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.  Heaven and earth are full of your glory',” he said, “Mark, we are not using the word sabbath.  It is a different word.  It is the word ' Sabaoth '.  It is a Hebrew word that means, 'armies or hosts'.”

So, we are talking about the Lord of Armies, the Lord of Hosts.  Remember when the angel appeared on Christmas, and then it says, “Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly hosts”?  That is a huge multitude of angels. 

Well, here it says “all of the angels” will be with Him.  In fact, in the book of Revelation it says John saw ten thousand, times ten thousand angels.  That is a hundred million angels standing with Christ!  So, there is going to be Christ, in all of His glory, and all of the mighty angels with Him!

It says,

“...He will sit on His glorious throne.”

And, it will be time to judge. 

“All the nations will be gathered in His presence...” 

Remember the last thing Jesus said, before He left this earth, visibly? 

“Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations...”

And now, all of those nations, to which The Word has gone out, will all be gathered.  Everybody.  Everybody who has ever lived.  And now, it will be time of judgment. 

How did all the nations respond to Christ?

He goes on, and says,

“...He (talking about Himself)

will separate them one from another,

as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 

He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on His left.”

Now, as the Lord appears, with the angels who are with Him, a time of separation will happen.  The dead will have risen.  All, all people who have ever lived, will be standing on the face of the earth.  In fact, The Bible even tells us that His angels will go to the four corners of the earth, and gather up His elect people, His chosen people.

Jesus is very concise about the words He uses here.  He talks about sheep and goats.  He says like “a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats”.  So, who are the sheep, and who are the goats?  Jesus picks those words very particularly, because Scripture talks about shepherds and sheep.  Jesus is The Good Shepherd.  Jesus says,

“The Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep.” 

Jesus says,

“My sheep listen to my voice.  I know them. 

They follow me. 

I give them eternal life.  They shall never perish. 

No one can snatch them out of my hand.”  

Who are these sheep that are gathered on His right hand side?  These are the believers.  These are the ones who clung to Him in this life. 

-These are the ones who, yes, may have committed adultery.  Maybe their spouse doesn't know about it.  But, they repented of that sin, and they trusted in Jesus.  They knew their sins are forgiven.  These are the ones who are gathered on the right hand side. 

-These are the ones who maybe, yes, looked at something on the internet that they never should have looked at.  They repented.  They trust in Christ, the Good Shepherd, and they know it is forgiven.  And, there they are, gathered on the right hand side.  These are the people, the believers in Christ. 

On His left hand side will be the goats. 

-These are the ones who did not believe,

-who didn't trust,

-didn't run to Jesus,

-and did not believe in Him, as their Savior.

Now, the scene is set.  Listen to what Jesus says is going to happen next.  We are going to hear what is going to happen, when He opens those books. 

“Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you...'”

When you inherit something, you did not earn it.  You did not deserve it.  It is just a gift. 

“...inherit the Kingdom (of Heaven) prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

The Lord has been planning this from eternity.  Now, it is all coming to fruition. 

Listen, listen very carefully to the words Jesus is going to say to anybody who is on His right hand side.

“For I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat.  I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink.  I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.  I was lacking clothes, and you clothed me.  I was sick, and you took care of me.  I was in prison, and you visited me.”

I want you to notice something very, very important.  Is a single sin mentioned there?  There is not a single sin that is mentioned, as Jesus looks at His people, His believers.  This shows us scripture is true.  It shows us scripture is accurate.  It shows us scripture does not fail. 

The foundational teaching in scripture is what?  It is what we call Justification by Faith.  The word 'justified' means, 'you are declared not guilty, innocent', because of the perfect life and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

When God looks at you, He does not see any sin.  That is the foundational teaching of scripture.  On Judgment Day, when Jesus opens the books, and there is the book of your life, your sins have been blotted out by the blood of Christ.  He does not see those sins, anymore.  They are gone.  The Bible tells us those sins have been sent away.  It is like they have been cut out of the book, and sent away, as far as the east is from the west.  They have been tossed in to the depths of the sea, never to be brought up, again.  The Bible says,

“Who shall bring any charge, any charge against God's elect? 

It is God who justifies.”

So, when Jesus looks out over us, as His believers, He will not bring up any of the sins we have committed.  They are gone.  What a day of joy that is going to be for believers in Christ!

Now, that brings up the next question.  What does Jesus bring up?  He brings up good works. 

“I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat.” 

“I was in prison, and you visited me.” 

Does this mean we are not saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone?  Does this mean our good works play a part in our salvation?  Now, it is Jesus, Himself who also said,

“The day is coming,

when all of the dead will come forth from the grave. 

Those who have done good, to the resurrection of life,

and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.”

Does the Bible teach we are saved by what we do? 

        -We always have to take scripture in context. 

        -We always have to let scripture interpret itself. 

Jesus very clearly, personally told us how a person is saved in John 3:16. 

“God so loved the world

that He gave His One and only Son

that whoever...

(feeds the poor, takes care of the blind,

and takes care of the lonely)

shall not...”  

He did not say that, did He?

He said,

“...whoever believes shall not perish,

but have everlasting life.” 

Jesus teaches us we are saved by faith alone.  That is it. 

So, why does He talk about good works, here?  We believe, when you have come to faith in Christ, as your Savior, you are a changed person.  Faith is going to produce fruit.  You will just want to serve your Savior.  You will want to do things out of love for your Savior.  You will ask, “How can I love my Savior?”  It is by serving your fellow man.  The Bible says,

“Faith without works is dead.”  

If we say we have faith, but there is no fruit, there is no faith in the first place.  So, on the Day of Judgment, Jesus is going to vindicate us before the whole world.  He is going to say, “Look, these people were believers.  They are saved by faith alone, and here is the evidence.  They lived different lives.  They bore the fruits of faith.”

Now, listen to what the believers are going to say. 

“Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you, or thirsty, and give you a drink?  When did we see you as a stranger, and welcome you, or lacking clothes, and clothe you?  When did we see you sick, or in prison, and visit you?”
You see, the believers are not even going to be focusing on their good works.  They are almost going to be stunned that Jesus would even bring those up, because believers know,

“I am saved by grace alone,

through faith alone,

in Christ alone.”

But, those good works just flow from a Christian, almost unconsciously.  In fact, I am going to read to you what Martin Luther said about good works, and their connection to faith. 

“Oh, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith.  It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly.  It does not ask whether works are to be done, but before the question is asked, it is already done them, and is constantly doing them.  Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace so sure, and certain that the believer would stake his life on it a thousand times.  This knowledge of, and confidence in God's grace makes men glad, and bold, and happy in dealing with God, and with all creatures.  This is the work which the Holy Spirit performs in faith.  Because of it, without compulsion, a person is ready, and glad to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything out of love, and praise to God, who has shown him this grace.  Thus, it is impossible to separate works from faith.  Quite as impossible as to separate heat, and light from fire.”
The point is, Christians do good works, not in order to be saved, but because we are saved.  And, on The Day of Judgment, Jesus is going to point, and say, “Here is the evidence this person had faith.  Look at their works.”
Then, Jesus is going to point to particular works.  Persons are going to ask, “When did we do these things?”

“The King will answer them, 'Amen I tell you:  Just as you did it for one of the least of these...”


“...these brothers of mine, you did it for me.'” 

Now, who are Jesus' brothers?  Earlier in this book of Matthew, He said,

“Those who listen to my Word, they are my brother, my mother, my sister.” 

Jesus, earlier in this book said,

“If your brother sins, go and show him his faults, just between the two of you.”  

His brothers are our fellow believers.  Jesus is particularly going to point to that as evidence.  You know, there is a passage that says,

“This is how we know we have crossed over from death to life.  We love the brother.” 

In the heart of a Christian there is a connection with fellow believers.  We have the same Jesus.  We have the same Holy Spirit.  We are cleansed by the same blood.  We have the same hope of eternal life.  Maybe you have gone through the same trials, but we find our strength in the same place.  Jesus says,

“Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.” 

Whenever a Christian sends a card to another Christian in the hospital, and comforts them with the Word of God (and we could go on with simple acts of reaching out to Jesus' people), that is evidence, evidence of saving faith.

A beautiful thing is going to happen on Judgment Day!

But then, look at what happens to those who are on His left. 

“Then He will say to those on His left, (these are the unbelievers.  They are people whose sins were paid for, but they don't benefit from it, because they did not trust in Jesus, and cling to that forgiveness.) He will say to those on His left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire, which is prepared for the Devil and his angels.  For I was hungry, and you did not give me food to eat.  I was thirsty, and you did not give me anything to drink.  I was a stranger, and you did not welcome me, lacking clothes, or sick, or in prison, and you did not take care of me.'”

Now, Jesus points to evidence of unbelief.  It is not any particular sin that condemns anybody.  It is unbelief. 

John 3:16 

“God so loved the world

that He gave His One and only Son,

that whoever believes in Him shall not perish,

but have everlasting life.”

It goes on, and says

“Whoever doesn't believe stands condemned.”

So, now He is going to point to the evidence, “You did not believe in me.”  And then, He is going to point to sin.  Now, isn't it something that He doesn't point to what we consider major sins?  “You committed adultery.”  “You had an affair.”  He is not pointing to that.  He is not pointing to major sins like, “You murdered somebody.”  He is pointing to what the world would consider minor, little sins.  They are sins of what we call, 'omission', 'when people don't do what they should do'.  “You didn't feed me, when I was hungry.”  “You didn't clothe me, when I was naked.”  In the end there, He says,

“...you didn't take care of me.” 

Those are frightening words, frightening words to hear from the Judge, Himself. 

You didn't take care of me.

Listen to the response of the goats.

“Then they will answer, also, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or stranger, or lacking clothes, or sick, or in prison, and didn't serve you?'”

They are going to be as shocked as the believers, only they are going to come at it from a different perspective.  “Jesus, didn't we send money to people who were hungry in Africa?”  “Didn't we make sure there was food in the Food Pantry?”  “Didn't we make sure we took coats to the coat collection?” “ Didn't we do those things?  Why is that not evidence that we should be saved?”

Why isn't that evidence? 

There is a church father who said this.  “Two people do the same thing, and yet it is not the same.”  Two people do the same thing, and yet it is not the same.  The big difference is this.  Unbelievers may feed the hungry, clothe people, and visit people in prison, on occasion, but it does not come from faith.  It doesn't flow from the love of Christ.  It comes from other reasons.  'I want to do something to earn my way to Heaven.'  'I want to feel good about myself.'  'I want to feel like I am helping the community.'  That does not come from saving faith.”

Jesus goes on, and says this.

“At that time He will answer them, 'Amen I tell you:  Just as you didn't do it for one of the least of these, you didn't do it for me.'”

So there certainly won't be that deep love for Christians in the heart of unbelievers.  It won't be there.  And so, Jesus will say, “There is no evidence of any faith in your life.”

Then Jesus says,

“And they will go away to eternal punishment,

but the righteous to eternal life.”

This is why we cling to Jesus.  This is why we trust in Him, as our Savior.  This is why we run to Him for the forgiveness of sin, because He is the One who declares us righteous.  Our goal is to live for Him, not because it saves us, but because we want to live for Him.

I need to end this sermon in a certain way, just because of the circumstances we are in today.  We are in a time of unprecedented history in The Church, because of the pandemic.  There have been, (what now?) eight/nine months since there have been reasons why people can't, or don't come to church.  You are here, or you are listening at home online, or reading this sermon.  That is awesome.  I commend you for that.  The Bible says,

“Let's not forsake the assembling of ourselves together

as some are in the habit of doing,

but let us encourage one another

and all the more,

as we see the day approaching.”

Right before Jesus told this account of what is going to happen on Judgment Day, in this same chapter He told what is called, The Parable of the Ten Virgins.  The virgins represent believers in Christ.  He said the ten virgins were waiting for the Bridegroom to come back.  (That is Christ to come back on Judgment Day.)  They all had their lamps filled with oil, and the lamp was burning.  (The oil represents the Word of God.) 

“Faith comes from hearing the message

and the message is heard through The Word.” 

(The oil represents The Word, and the flame represents faith.)  But, the Bridegroom is a long time in coming.  Five of those virgins (believers) kept their lamps filled with oil, and their wicks trimmed.  They kept hearing The Word, and they kept going where the Holy Spirit fed them, and their faith kept burning. 

But five of them stopped filling their lamps with oil.  Slowly that flame burned down, and it went out.  (They stopped hearing The Word, and the faith died out.)

I am so thankful you are gathered around The Word, whether here, or at home.  Hearing that Word, your lamp is being filled, and that faith is strong.  We want to have that faith, when Judgment Day comes.

But, here is what I am getting to.  There are our own brothers and sisters who find it is getting easier, and easier to say, “I have not been to church in the past eight months, and maybe I will skip again today.”  That lamp is getting more, and more empty of oil.

Or, “Maybe I don't need to turn on the live stream today.  Maybe I will wait until next week, or the next week, or the next week.”  That lamp is getting more, and more empty of oil.

Jesus said,

“Whatever you do to the least of these, my brothers,

you do it for me.”

If you know a fellow believer, a fellow Christian who may be starting to slip away from that regular use of Word and Sacrament, please, out of love, out of love for Christ, and love for them,

-give them a call.

-Write them a note. 

-Encourage them to use The Word, regularly.

The Bible says, “Let's not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as some are in the habit of doing but let's encourage one another and all the more, as we see the day approaching.”

God grant that, for Christ's sake.



Now, may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts, and our minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.