Doomsday Story: Four Words
A sermon based on John 5:25-29
Sunday, November 12, 2017 – Last Judgment Sunday
So, most of the time I view Facebook as a vortex of wasting time that sucks me in and robs me of any productive work for 15 to 30 minutes at a time. But… every now and then, it offers me a good sermon illustration. I think that may be the case today. A Facebook post gave me my theme. But I'll let you be the judge of whether it's a good one.
As I was surfing Facebook this week I ran across a random post that offered this simple challenge: Describe a doomsday scenario, an end of the world scene, in just four words. And the comments that followed were what made the post entertaining to me.
Most comments were political. They were things like, "Global Warming Is Real," or "Hillary Clinton Elected President," or, in reply to that, "Donald Trump is Re-Elected." But some of them were kind of funny. "No! Don't touch that!" "What's this button do?" "Oops. That's my bad." In the words of Steve Urkel, "Did I do that?" or my favorite, "See, I told you!" (I'm not sure who told what to whom, but I picture a husband and wife conversation on that scenario that ended the world.) :)
But then one Christian took political and comedic comments to a new level when he shared his Doomsday Story in four words: "Jesus Christ Has Returned!" And I thought, "I'm not sure if this post coincides with Last Judgment Sunday on purpose or if it's just coincidental, but either way… I like this game." So for Last Judgment Sunday, I'm going to try my hand at "Doomsday Story: Four Words."
Our text for consideration this morning is Jesus' words recorded for us in John 5:25-29…
25 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. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
28 "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.
So, what four words would you use to describe Judgment Day? Don't answer out loud right now, but if you have a good "Doomsday Story: Four Words," tell me later, text me, or email me. Or, if you want, wait until I post this sermon on Facebook and then leave your reply there for everyone to see.
I thought about it and have a few "Domesday Story: Four Words" descriptions that I think work well. For starters, I'm just steal that Facebook poster's: "Jesus Christ Has Returned!" That post really does describe the event that will bring about "Doomsday." The end of the world won't come about as the result of some election—no matter how terrible you think that leader might be. It won't be caused by someone accidently hitting the wrong button and starting a nuclear war. It won't happen by a zombie apocalypse or some horrific disease. The end of the world will happen on the day that Jesus comes back to earth.
And that day will be obvious to everyone. No one will be left behind. No one will be left wondering if today is the day. Every person will immediately know, "Jesus Christ Has Returned!" In fact, even those who have already died will know it. Because what's going to happen when he does?
"Doomsday Story: Four Words:" "The Dead Will Live." Judgment Day will literally be the night of the living dead (or maybe the day of the living dead – I guess it depends on when Jesus returns and what time zone you're in at the time). But either way, Jesus makes it clear that, "a time is coming… when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live… a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out…"
It won't matter if they're buried 6 feet under or 60 feet under. It won't matter if they've been cremated and their ashes are scattered across 4 continents. The God who spoke the universe into existence will speak again and at the sound of his powerful voice all people who have ever lived will come back to life. "The Dead Will Live." What then?
Well, we don't call it Judgment Day or Last Judgment Sunday for nothing! "Doomsday Story: Four Words:" "All Are Judged Eternally." Whether alive or dead all people who have ever lived from Adam on will face a day of reckoning. Jesus said, "The Father… has given him…" (that is, "the Son of God," that is, Jesus) "authority to judge because he is the Son of Man." Every person will have their day in court, a day where they will be judged on the basis of their behavior: "those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned."
So, how have you behaved? Have you always done good? Note, Jesus doesn't say, "those who have kept from doing terrible, vicious, cruel acts against humanity will rise to live." He doesn't say, "Those who have avoided really bad sins will rise to live." He says, "those who have done good will rise to live…" Have you done good? All the time? Every day?
Likewise, Jesus doesn't say, "Those who have murdered, raped, and done time in prison will rise to be condemned." He doesn't say, "Those who have made a complete mess of their lives, those who have tried to lead others into sin, or those who have been a leach to society will rise to be condemned." No. He says, "those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." Have you done evil? Ever? Even once? And remember "evil" is anything contrary to God's will.
And you know what those who do evil (even if just once) and who have failed to do good (even just once) rightly deserve: We just confessed it in our liturgy: "[We] deserve only his wrath and punishment." As we stand before the judgment seat of God we deserve to hear that gavel pound down with the declaration, "I find the defendant… guilty." And, "those who have done evil will rise to be condemned."
So here's another "Doomsday Story: Four Words:" "Sinners Are Doomed Forever." That's why they call it Doomsday. But the doom really is terrible. It could just as well be, "Sinners Are Damned Forever." For that's the eternal doom of all who do evil and all who fail to do good: "those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." "What a terrible fate!" "That's what we deserve!"
But… you know we won't get what we deserve, thanks be to God! In fact, that should be our next "Doomsday Story: Four Words:" "Thanks Be to God." Jesus said, "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." What did he mean by "and has now come"? Well, surely he was alluding to the resurrection of the widow's son at Nain, to the daughter of Jairus, and to Lazarus (which we heard about last week). But I think he meant more. I don't think Jesus was referring to just physical resurrection, but to a spiritual one. In John 5:24, the verse immediately preceding our text, he said this: "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."
Jesus came to earth to become a man with the sole intent of defeating death, along with satan and hell. And that's exactly what he did. He lived a sinless life in our place. And by his life he defeated sin. He died an innocent death to pay the penalty of our sins. And by his death he defeated satan. On the third day, he rose from the dead. And by his resurrection he defeated death.
Now, you and I, who hear his word and believe in him, are forgiven of every sin. We have eternal life right now. So even though, "Sinners Are Doomed Forever," through faith in Jesus our sins are removed. God doesn't see us as sinners anymore, but as perfect, sinless saints, who have never done evil and have always done what is right and good. So Jesus, declaration that, "those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned," is no longer a terrifying thought, but a wonderful one. We are forgiven! No evil remains! God sees only the good that we do! So we will rise to live!
So here's another "Doomsday Story: Four Words:" "Believers Will Live Forever." And again, "Thanks Be to God." Instead of dreading that day as a day of doom, we eagerly anticipate it as the day of our rescue, the day of our victory, the day that our eternal celebration begins!
So what now? What do we do while we wait? "Doomsday Story: Four Words:" "Make Sure You're Ready" The difference between being ready or not is the difference between rising to live and rising to be condemned. So, to be honest, it's way more important than your retirement investment, your building project, your hunting trip or your shopping trip. Being ready for Judgment Day is way more important that your job, your hobbies, your relationship with your parents, your spouse, or your kids. It is—no exaggeration—the most important thing in your life because nothing else will matter at all 100 years from now. I promise.
So how do we stay ready? Jesus tells us: "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life… and those who hear will live." So "Doomsday Story: Four Words:" "Listen to His Voice!" Stay in the Word. Read your Bible daily. Come to worship. Come to Bible Class. Watch a Bible class online instead of one Netflix show. Grow in your faith by hearing his Word. And stay ready for "doomsday" by growing in your faith.
For make no mistake: That day is coming: that day when the cry goes out, "Jesus Christ Has Returned!" And when that day comes, all who have ever died will come back to life: "The Dead Will Live." And having been resurrected, every person who ever lived will give answer to God at the trial that will determine their eternity: "All Are Judged Eternally." Though we know we deserve to be among those of whom it's said, "Sinners Are Damned Forever," "Thanks Be to God," that won't be us! Through faith in Jesus, "Believers Will Live Forever." Now, "Make Sure You're Ready" and "Listen to His Voice!" In Jesus' name, dear friends, and by his work for us, that's our "Doomsday Story: Four Words." Amen.