We’ve been taking this guided journey through the life of our Lord – St. Matthew our guide. We took a detour the last two Sundays for Reformation and All Saints, which was fine, but now it’s time to get back on the bus again.
This morning we come to the 25th chapter of Matthew’s gospel – and this is where the tour will end. We’ll make three stops in this chapter over the next three weeks, which will bring us to the end of the Church Year when we’ll start all over again, St. Mark taking over for St. Matthew as our guide.
That’s what the church year is all about – a carefully guided journey through the life of our Lord, Jesus Christ from the promise of His coming into the world – to RECONCILE ALL THINGS TO GOD – to His coming again to judge the living and the dead.
Jesus Christ is coming again – NOT to suffer and die on the cross for your sins and mine again – “for the death He died He died to sin, once for all…” (Rom. 6:10). THAT’S HISTORY and there’s no more atoning for your sin that still needs to be done.
Jesus Christ is coming again – NOT to teach us something new or do a few more miracles so that you might stop doubting and believe that He is who He says He is – “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31) You don’t get more WORD OR MIRACLES than you’ve already got in the Bible.
Nor is He coming again to take the believers and give the unbelievers a second chance to repent and believe. He’s not coming again to wipe out all of the unbelievers and give all the believers a time to enjoy this place without those nasty ‘bad people’ always spoiling things.
Jesus Christ is coming again – to declare the FINAL JUDGMENT on every human being ever created from the first man to the last – which therefore includes you and me.
And from what we’ve heard during this journey that we’ve been on, the declaration of God’s judgment will sound something like this,
• either “Woe to you,” or “blessed are you;”
• either “I know your name,” or “I don’t know you;”
• either “come to Me,” or “depart from Me.”
To some, the door will be opened. To others, it will be closed.
In other words, there will be a great SEPARATION on the LAST DAY.
Earlier in our tour we heard Jesus make the distinction between the ‘good tree that bears good fruit’ and the bad tree that bears bad fruit and is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 7:15-20). And the “wise man who built his house on a rock” and the “fool who built his house on sand” – the one stood and the other “fell and great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
In that same breath, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Earlier, we heard the prophet Amos warn those who were anxious for this judgment of God to come, secure in the fact that they were of the right blood line or that God didn’t actually care about how they actually lived their lives: “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? … Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?” (Amos 5:18-19)
When Christ comes again, He will ‘SEPARATE.’ And the ‘SEPARATION’ will be according to faith in Christ – which will be in perfect conformity to God’s eternal election – which is to say, when you hear your Lord say to you, ‘Blessed are you,” “I know you,” “Come, follow Me,” don’t be all proud of yourself for having such great faith, but be grateful to your Lord who gave you this most precious gift and by His grace, kept you in this one, true faith until the LAST DAY.
For now however, the Christian Church, that is, Christians, live in the ‘MIDDLE AGES’ between the 1st coming of Christ and His 2nd coming.
AT HIS 1ST COMING, Christ took on our humanity so that He might became sin for us, and make atonement for us by the cross – how else could He do that except to become LIKE US.
THE FINAL JUDGMENT OF GOD against all mankind was carried out BEFORE YOUR EYES in the cross of Christ. THAT’S HISTORY. In Christ crucified, God declared His judgment against you and ALL PEOPLE for ALL our sin against Him. And His judgment against you was carried out upon His only-begotten Son – “woe to you,” and “I do not know you,” and “depart from me.”
Then on Easter Sunday, God declared that the JUDGEMENT against you, carried out by His Son, was ACCEPTABLE and COMPLETE. In His resurrection from the dead, we hear God’s judgement proclaimed, “blessed are you,” and “I know you by name,” and “come to me.”
Listen! The judgment against you for your sin has already been carried out. IT’S HISTORY.
Which means that at His 2nd coming, the judgment will NOT BE on our FAITH. The judgment will be on our FAITH. Do you believe this? Have you produced ‘good fruit’? Have you ‘built your house upon this rock’? Have you ‘done the will of my Father who is in heaven?”
The “Christian Church,” that is, “Christians,” have always struggled to live ‘by faith’ in these ‘MIDDLE-AGES’ where our faith is never as strong as we either think it is or want it to be.
These ‘middle ages’ are marked by anything but a SEPARATION of the good and the evil. In fact, it’s a MESSY MIXTURE of ‘good trees’ producing their ‘good fruit,’ in a forest of ‘bad trees’ producing their ‘bad fruit.’ And the faithful in Christ long for the day when Christ will come again to separate the good from the bad – “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Those who strive to build their house on the rock do so in a ghetto built on sand and a peaceful life is rarely realized. And the faithful in Christ cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
In these ‘middle ages,’ unbelief and rejection is mingled together with belief and a sincere striving to do the will of the Father in heaven. And even as the faithful worship on Sunday morning, a man enters and opens fire on them all. And the faithful in Christ cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
At times, the Christian Church has gotten tired of waiting for Christ to come and SEPARATE the good from the bad, and tried to create this ‘separation’ on their own by organizing monasteries and communes and gated communities that only ‘the faithful’ may enter and live.
But it always fails because we are all, individually, a MESSY MIXTURE of faith and unbelief – of saint and sinner who do the very thing which we hate. And the faithful in Christ cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
In His parable about the 10 virgins, Jesus warns THE DISCIPLES, to be prepared for His coming to take longer than they would expect. He will come again WHEN HE WILL – not a moment SOONER and not a ‘twinkling of the eye’ LATER than He ordained it before the creation of the world. “Watch therefore for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Jesus’ parable presents the faithful with the challenge of living by faith in these MIDDLE AGES where we are to live in the NOW BUT NOT YET. On the one hand we are to be prepared for Him to come ‘soon,’ even ‘today,’ NOW. On the other hand, we are to be prepared for Him to BE DELAYED and come later than we expect – NOT YET.
The parable is a call to the faithful to live as the ‘wise virgins’ and not the ‘foolish’ ones.
• All 10 virgins were believers. They all went out with lamps to meet the ‘bridegroom.’
• They all slept – so this is not about ‘staying awake.’
What SEPARATES the ‘wise’ from the ‘foolish’ is that the ‘wise’ took ‘flasks of oil with their lamps,’ and were prepared for the bridegroom’s delay in coming.
The ‘foolish’ virgins are unprepared for what it takes to WAIT FOR THE LORD, and learn that there are some things that simply cannot be shared – in fact, the one thing most necessary.
We are to be prepared to live by faith in these MIDDLE AGES for as long as they may last. And we do that by keeping our flask full of oil – which I think that we can understand like this.
Think of your heart as the flask – that holds the oil which is your faith – that lights your torch, which is that ‘light’ that Jesus says, ‘let your light shine so that others may see your good works and give thanks to God.’ (repeat)
Through the course of the week we use the oil to keep our torch lit. Through the week, we use the oil of faith to live by faith in a messy and confusing world. And then on Sunday, we come to the Lord’s House,
• where we hear again that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8;1); and His Word fills our flask with oil;
• where we receive the very body and blood against which the judgement for our sin was carried out; and His Holy Supper fills our flask with oil;
• where we lift up our Prayers and Petitions; and the assurance that He hears us and answers us fills our flask with oil;
• where we encourage and support one another; and the brotherhood and sisterhood of the ‘communion of saints’ fills our flask with oil.
And then we go out into the world again, as light in the darkness, with full flasks that keep the faith burning strong through the week.
It’s important to keep your flasks full of oil – not only so that you’re prepared to meet the Lord on the LAST DAY – but also so that we’re prepared to deal with all of the trials and troubles and challenges of this PRESENT DAY. So that when evil breaks into our lives, we have the fuel to deal it faithfully; the assurance of faith, that knows that the Lord of HISTORY is the Lord of the PRESENT and the FUTURE, who will carry us day by day until the LAST DAY finally comes.
It’s important to keep your flasks of oil full – so that if OUR LAST DAY comes, and the LAST DAY of loved ones and dear friends and brothers and sisters in Christ comes before the LAST DAY of our Lord’s coming – we may “not grieve as others do who have no hope.” (1 Thess. 4:13)
This morning, we hear our Lord’s word to His disciples – be ‘wise’ and not ‘foolish’ in these MIDDLE AGES. Keep your flasks full so that we you be ready for the bridegroom when He comes that you may go with Him into the marriage feast.