Worship Helps for Last Judgment

Title: Last Judgment
Artist: Melanie Schuette, Avignon Studios


Worship Theme: Lord, keep us mindful of the Judgment! He will come to judge the living and the dead. We confess it every Sunday, but often live like those are empty words. Moses’ psalm on the mortality of man shakes us from our spiritual slumber. Number your days aright and gain a heart of wisdom! Today the Church prays that God keep us ever mindful of the Last Judgment that we might be found in faith, fruitful in both word and deed. Then there’s no need to fear Judgment Day; rather, we can look forward to the day of our redemption.


Old Testament: Daniel 7:9-10
"As I looked, "thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.

1. Daniel sees a vision of the Lord God seated on his throne with the title of the Ancient of Days. What does all the imagery in Daniel’s vision mean?

2. What are the books that were opened?


Epistle: Romans 2:2-11
Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God "will give to each person according to what he has done." 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

3. There are some who are not touched by certain sins (described in 1:26,27) and whose lives are not marred by the penalties attached to them. What do these people often do? (2:1) What does God say about their attitude? (2:2-41-4) When will God punish them? (2:5)

4. At first glance, in verses 7-11 Paul seems to be teaching work-righteousness. Compare these verses to Matthew 25:31-46. How does Jesus there say the same thing Paul says here?


Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' 37 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' 40 "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' 41 "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' 44 "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' 45 "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' 46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

5. In the picture of the sheep and the goats, Jesus links our faith with our deeds and we are judged on the basis of what we do. The deeds spoken about in this section have often been interpreted as general works we do in response to what God has done for us. However, it seems best to refer to them as the works we do for others because they are members of God’s family. Each deed has a strong element of confession attached to it. Evaluate each work in view of that interpretation.

6. With the above question in mind, what is the significance of the phrase “the least of these brothers of mine” (verse 40)?

7. The Son of Man came once as a humble baby, but will return as a glorious king with angel armies at his side. He will sit on his throne, and all the nations will be brought before him to be judged. Jesus’ judgment is clear. It is very black and white. How many shades of gray does Jesus allow for in his judgment?

Answers:
1. Daniel sees a vision of the Last Judgment that is filled with fire and thrones and books. God the Father is seated on his throne with fire beneath him and flowing out from him—fire that metes out punishment for the unrighteous but refines believers like gold with the dross removed. The Lord is seated on one throne. However, Daniel mentions “thrones.” The Son of God has a throne there (Psalm 110). So do the apostles (Matthew 19:28). Yes, the same Jesus who died for us will be there to advocate for us; the same apostles who preached Jesus Christ risen for the forgiveness of sins will be there to call us part of their Church. Look at Revelation 20:11-15 and see the rest of the story. The Lord is called the “Ancient of Day” referring to his eternal nature. His clothing and hair are white referencing his holy nature.

2. There are two kinds of books: books of deeds that record what each person has done, and a book that holds only names. Unbelievers are judged on the basis of their deeds, but believers are judged on the simple fact that their names are written in the book of life.

3. Paul says that other Christians will condemn those who are suffering under God’s wrath. They conclude that since their lives are not marred by these sins or their attendant problems, they are innocent. Yet in condemning others, they are condemning themselves. Also, they are putting themselves under God’s just condemnation. They fail to realize that God has spared them because he wants them to repent. They should contrast God’s gracious treatment of them with their sinful behavior. If they don’t repent, they will in time get the judgment they deserve.

These are serious words. Paul aims to leave no soul unindicted, but to make the whole world accountable to God (Romans 3:19). As long as man still has the righteousness and pride and strength to judge his fellowman, he is not ready for the beggary of faith; he is not ready to receive the radical rescue of the righteousness of God (Franzmann).

4. Paul talks about our faith from the standpoint of how faith shows itself in our lives, just as Jesus does. People who believe cannot but fit Paul’s description in verse 7, and those who do not believe cannot but fit his description in verse 8. God will give according to what each person has done—but the point here is the motive, not the actions themselves. Those who live in faith seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness—their actions give evidence of the faith that moves them, and they receive eternal life. Those who live without faith seek only themselves—their actions give evidence that faith is lacking, and they receive wrath and anger. Lord, keep us mindful of the judgment that we might be found in fruitful faith!

5. Christians were being persecuted. Their homes and money were confiscated; they had to flee; they were thrown into prison. To support a persecuted Christian with money or food, to invite a fleeing Christian into your home and give him or her sanctuary, and to visit a jailed Christian were all dangerous acts, yet they were bold confessions of faith. To offer the kind of help Jesus was referring to was not just to do a good deed. It was more. It was to confess your faith in Christianity. It was a deed that was also a creed.

6. Christians who did such things for fellow Christians were doing so because they shared a common faith. Unbelievers who refused to do such things were not just being unloving, they were avoiding Christians because of their faith. Their lack of deeds was a rejection of Christ.

7. In this judgment, there are no shades of gray: you are either a sheep or a goat—there is no third option. You will either be judged righteous and brought to heaven or condemned and sent into eternal fire. In our present world we see so many shades of gray, but at the judgment the contrast between believer and unbeliever will be stark. Jesus’ judgment on unbelievers will be a just one, yet completely opposite of what he had wanted. Hell was never meant for humans; it had been prepared for the devil and his angels. When children of Adam are sent to hell on Judgment Day, they will enter a realm never meant for them. From the creation of the world, God had prepared an inheritance for the sons of Adam, a kingdom that becomes ours not by merit, but by grace. Both sheep and goats fail to see how their earthly lives could possibly merit their eternal fate. In fact, they speak the same words. The contrast, however, is stark: the sheep had faith in Christ that gave evidence of itself in the world; the goats had neither faith nor true fruits. Both receive an eternal judgment—life for the sheep and punishment for the goats. Lord, keep us mindful of your coming judgment that we might be found in faith, judged by your grace, and gifted with eternal life!

Putting your faith into action


A reading from the Book of Concord for Last Judgment
1] Also they teach that at the Consummation of the World Christ will appear for judgment, and 2] will raise up all the dead; He will give to the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, 3] but ungodly men and the devils He will condemn to be tormented without end.

4] They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils.


5] They condemn also others who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed. – The Augsburg Confession, Article XVII, Of Christ’s Return to Judgment (paragraphs 1-5)

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