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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Eyes Open for Christ's Second Coming
Text:LD 19 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The Second Coming
 
Preached:2018
Added:2018-08-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 75:1,4                                                                                        

Ps 67:1,2  [after Nicene Creed]

Reading – Psalm 37:1-11; Acts 17:16-34; Ephesians 4:1-16

Ps 37:1,3,4,16                                    

Sermon – Lord’s Day 19

Hy 40:1,4,5

Hy 71:1,2

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in our Lord Jesus, the last several years have seen almost constant war in the Middle East. There have been some terrible catastrophes too, earthquakes in Mexico, hurricanes in America, and floods in India. False religion is on the rise, with Muslims alone now numbering some 1.5 billion. The church is being persecuted in many places—just think of our brothers and sister in China. All this, while wickedness seems to get worse and worse—in our country too, there’s so much godless thinking and blatant evil.

These are the things that make us think about the end. We know that these things are part of the program for these last days, because that’s what Jesus told us. But apart from his followers, most people aren’t too concerned. As long as they’re happy, who really cares if the world’s about to end? It’s the spirit of that carefree proverb, quoted in Scripture: “Let us eat, drink, and be merry—for tomorrow we die.” So many conclude that eternity won’t matter, because by then we’ll all be gone.

The apostle Peter came across this view too. Already in his time, some were saying Christ would never return. “Where is the promise of his coming?” they asked, “For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet 3:4). For centuries, the prospect of a final judgment has been either denied or forgotten.

And we make the same mistake. Of course, we confess every Sunday that “Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead.” It’s our confession, yet it’s not something we dwell on. Maybe Christ’s return comes to mind when there’s another large-scale tragedy. Maybe when we experience firsthand this world’s brokenness—in illness or death—then we renew our prayers for him to come back. But more often, Christ’s second coming is distant from our thoughts. To be honest, we’ve become a bit attached to this earth. Some of that is natural, yet we’re also pilgrims and strangers. God says that we’re people on our way to someplace better. We’re a people who should be waiting, and hoping, and preparing.

So I preach God’s Word to you this afternoon on this theme from Lord’s Day 19,

Look for your Saviour’s second coming! Until He comes,

  1. you can enjoy his protection
  2. you must employ his gifts
  3. you should prepare for his judging

 

1) you can enjoy his protection: Unlike some, we don’t always feel fine about where this world is going. We worry, because we keep seeing those signs that point to the end. One of those signs, we said, is the increase of wickedness. Just as Jesus prophesied, the love of many is growing cold (Matt 24:12). People are turning from God—but the thing is, they don’t seem any worse off. In fact, the wicked seem to prosper! Today we see a lot of people who are successful, wealthy, and comfortable. And on Sundays none of them seem to be going to church!

We feel like David in Psalm 37. Long ago, he wrote this observation about his time: that the ungodly seem perfectly at ease, increasing in wealth and strength even at the same time as they oppress the righteous! It’s not so different today. We feel a deep sense of injustice when we see wicked people appearing to make great gains: it’s the godless agenda that always seems to be progressing, while the church gets ignored. It also seems unfair when the media put the worst possible spin on anything that has to do with Christians. There’s a lot of talk about tolerance these days, but it appears that the Christian view point is the only thing that isn’t tolerated.

Seeing this, the children of God could surrender to sinful fretting—we could start to have doubts and fears. Is our God actually watching what’s happening? Can He really keep all these rebellious people in check?

But God gives his pilgrims strength for the journey. He assures us of his perfect sovereignty and reminds us of his almighty power. He tells us that He’s in charge—even during these last days. The Catechism summarizes this Biblical teaching in Q&A 50. There it says that “Christ ascended into heaven to manifest himself there as Head of his church, through whom the Father governs all things.”

Focus on those last few words: “The Father governs all things.” Politics are always in the news, so everyday people are talking about government. Who should be in charge? Who is the most qualified leader? To whom should we entrust our nation?

But the Bible lets us know who’s in power. Today we know who has the true governing position over all. It’s the LORD in heaven above, says Paul in 1 Timothy 6, when he calls him, “God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light” (vv 15-16). For those who believe, for those who are awaiting Christ’s return, that’s a good news message! The only Ruler, the King of kings, is our God and Saviour.

This was the message of God’s kingship which Paul preached to the people of Athens in Acts 17. Athens, of course, was a city of many idols and gods. There was a god for every occasion, and a god for every realm. Each had its own little domain: one’s domain was love, another’s war, wisdom, fertility; you had a god of the sea, the sun, the moon. And each had its own temple, own altar, its own followers.

In this thoroughly pagan setting, Paul preached a bold message about the one true God. He first made clear where all things come from: “God… made the world and everything in it” (v 24). And the consequence of that is He holds not just some things but all things in his hands: “[This] God... is the Lord of heaven and earth” (v 24). He is Lord—He’s in charge.

And God is a God who depends on neither the votes or approval of the people, nor on the worship of mankind, since “He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (v 25). Without anyone asking him to be, He’s the source of everything. And it’s this same God who “determined [man’s] pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” (v 26). The true God doesn’t take a hands-off approach to this world, but He has determined the times of man, and decided the exact places where we should live! The government of the entire universe is in his hands.

And for what purpose does God govern all? God does this, “so that [men] should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for him and find him” (v 27). God is taking good care of this world, because He’s still got a good purpose for it. The Father still wants to enjoy fellowship with those He made—even if they’re the boldest sinners, the most audacious rebels. God wants fellowship with the person in the cubicle next to you at work, and with your atheist neighbour, and your Muslim classmate. God wills that all “should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for him and might find him.”

It means that right now, Christ the King is giving this world extra time. He’s giving it time, so that some people might yet be plucked from the fire. Peter writes in his second letter that God is being very patient, “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). The years that so many people are wasting, filling up with godless pursuits—these are years that God has given for repentance!

But God will not be patient forever. That’s what Paul is compelled to announce to the Athenians. They might think they’re fine right now, but, says Paul, “[God] commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness, by the man whom He has ordained” (vv 30-31). God knows exactly on what day the final judgment will take place—it’s been in his plan before the foundation of the world, circled on his diary. Even now, that day is approaching quickly!

And when it arrives, those who haven’t looked for the Lord will feel his anger. Wasn’t that also David’s conclusion in Psalm 37? As he stewed and fretted about the prosperity of the wicked, it had made him upset. Yet this was his God-given conviction, “Evildoers shall be cut off… For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more” (vv 9-10).

We wait for that—not in eagerness to see people condemned, but we wait in humble prayer, and with firm resolve. We know that there will come an end, and God will take vengeance in his perfect justice. It’s in his time, on the day that He as appointed.

And while we wait, we know what to do. Don’t blend in with the wicked people all around you, but stand apart so that they want to know what’s different. Don’t give up your hope. Don’t lose sight of your purpose. No, says David, this is the believer’s guiding principle in the last days: “Trust in the LORD, and do good. Dwell in the land, and feed on his faithfulness” (v 3). Trust in him, because it’s our God “who governs all things” (Q&A 51). And it’s Christ who will “defend and preserve us against all enemies.” He’ll sustain us, no matter the “sorrow and persecution” that might fill these days (Q&A 52). By faith, we know it’s true: our God’s in charge. All things are on his timetable, and it won’t be delayed!

 

2) you must employ his gifts: A wealthy man was going away on a long journey, and he was going to be absent for several months. But he wanted his business to keep growing. So before he left, he entrusted his lead employees with generous sums of money. One employee got more, another got less, and another a bit less. But whatever the amount, the owner expected each to use his resources faithfully, investing with care and combining it with hard work. He expected that each one would’ve done something worthwhile by the day of his return.

That parable helps us understand our present calling. For Jesus, our Lord and Master, has gone away for a time. He’s gone into heaven, yet He’s entrusted to us great treasure. He has provided us with resources from his own storehouse of blessing. As Paul writes in Ephesians 4 about the ascension of Christ, “When He ascended on high… [He] gave gifts to men” (v 8).

Christ has given gifts of many different kinds. There are the material things we have, and physical abilities, and family blessings. But Christ has most importantly given us the riches of his Spirit. This is how the Catechism puts it: “By his Holy Spirit [Christ] pours out heavenly gifts upon us, his members” (Q&A 51). Notice who has received these gifts: “us, his members,” you and me. Similarly, in Ephesians Paul writes about “the whole body,” and “the effective working by which every part does its share” (4:16). “Every part,” he says, which means that we’ve all received his heavenly gifts, granted a share of the Master’s talents.

Most of us are modest, so we don’t think of ourselves as “gifted.” Yet each one of us has been given the Holy Spirit, so that in different ways we can bring benefit and blessing to others. Paul provides a few examples of this, “He… gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11-12).

Some brothers receive the gifts so that they serve in an official position in the church; today we can think of the elders and deacons and ministers. But understand what is the aim of these members. They are “equipping the saints for the work of ministry.” The office bearers should be in the business of equipping: not doing everything themselves, not making every visit and getting involved in every situation of need, but they should be making others ready to serve: “encouraging the congregation to do good.” Christ gives these men to help us, and especially, to help us help others—so that we can all edify the body of Christ. Christ pours out his gifts, so everyone can serve, so that every part can do its share. 

There’s a wide variety of spiritual gifts—yet they have one purpose. It comes in verses 12-13, that these gifts are “for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God… to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Listen to those words of purpose and direction for the church of Christ. The Head wants his Body in this place to be edified, to be built up. The Head wants his Body here to be unified, to be one. The Head wants his body in this congregation to mature, even to the point of spiritual fullness.

And why does Christ want this? Because one day He’s coming back. Soon our Master will return from his time away and He’ll ask each of his servants what we’ve done with his treasures. Some have received this gift, some that; some have received more, some less; but when He comes back, Christ will ask all of us how we’ve employed the gifts of his Spirit.

Have you strengthened the church? Have you helped to prepare God’s people for works of service? While in this world, have you been carrying on your Master’s business? Have you contributed in some way to the maturity of the Body of Christ? Have you helped his body grow, whether by your prayers for the church, by your hospitality, by your generous giving, by your faithful leading, your visiting, your encouraging?

This is Christ’s purpose for us in the last days, that we band together in love. You probably know the words of Hebrews 10, “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forgetting the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another”—and now listen to the reason and motivation that the Spirit gives for these activities—do all this, “and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (vv 24-25). The key reason that we should make our fellowship strong is because Christ’s day is quickly approaching. We should be getting ready for that, together

And it’s not only about protecting what we have against opposition, and not only about standing together against the evil onslaught of the last days. Christ also wants the full number of his people safely gathered. God has a timetable for this world, and it’s a timetable that is linked directly to the gathering of Christ’s church. This is what Christ said in Matthew 24:14, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

This truth is placed front and centre in the final article of the Belgic Confession. Speaking of the last judgment, we confess, “When the time, ordained by the Lord but unknown to all creatures, has come and the number of the elect is complete, our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven” (Art. 37). God has ordained a time for Christ’s return, a time unknown to all but him. But this is what we know about that day of glory: it’ll come as soon as the church is fully gathered. Christ will come once his gospel has gone out to all nations.

Beloved, reflect on that truth: the reason Christ hasn’t returned yet is because the church is not complete. The reason that the final day hasn’t yet dawned is because that final sinner hasn’t come to faith! God’s Word asks us: Do you long to see your Saviour again on the clouds of heaven? Do you hunger for eternity? Then be involved in the work of building his kingdom. Take your part in spreading his name, in other countries, and in your own city! Employ the Master’s gifts so that He can soon return!

 

3) you should prepare for his judging: In our creed we confess that it is Christ who “will come to judge the living and the dead.” We’re probably more familiar with the idea of God the Father judging. It’s He who gave his law on Sinai, and who says in his justice that our sins ought to be punished. We’re surprised then, that when we get to the end of time it’s not the Father, but it’s Christ who will judge us and all nations!

Why is there this change of position? Judging is a new responsibility that the Father has entrusted to his Son. And the Father has given him this place, because judging is a position of privilege and honour. Just think of the prestige that judges still have today. Especially the judges of the Supreme Court are held in high honour, for they have a great and far-reaching authority. In the same way, Christ has a glorious position as the Judge over all. It’s a position that He’s earned by being true to his mission on earth as the crucified Saviour.

So Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “We make it our aim… to be well pleasing to him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done in the body.” Everyone, even the unbelievers and idolaters and hypocrites—all shall come before “the judgment seat of Christ.”

The unavoidable question of the hour will be this: Did you put your trust in Christ alone, for life and salvation? The Lord Jesus will ask every last person, “Did you worship me in true faith? Did you serve me on this earth, in the time that you were given?” It is Christ who will give the final ruling on the destiny of all people, everywhere.

See how this same truth stands as the climax of Paul’s speech in Athens. Paul tells the pagans that God has been very patient, but He has called the world to repentance. And one day soon, all unbelievers are going to be evicted. Paul says “[God] will judge the world with righteousness by the man whom He has ordained” (v 31).

After he says this, Paul gets interrupted—they don’t like what he’s saying about eternity and the afterlife and judgment. Just like today, these are uncomfortable words. So Paul doesn’t get around to naming the man ordained by God for judgment. And yet his meaning is clear: it’s Jesus Christ who will judge this world!

And it is a fearful thought for those who don’t believe in him. They might not think so now, but the day will come when all must bend the knee before Christ. For will they really know this heavenly Judge? More importantly, will He know them? Jesus says there will be many of whom He says, “I never knew you” (Matt 7:23).

Judgment is a fearful prospect for unbelievers… but what about us? The Bible says the works of every person will be laid out for judgment on that day. All our sins, all our failures and shameful deeds, will be plain and exposed. God knows what you did last summer—and He knows what you did last week, too. The pages of sin, the volumes of sin, the bookshelves, whole libraries of our sin—vast and uncensored and searchable databases of transgression—these will fly open to be examined.

That’s troubling because we all do things, presuming that no one will notice. That’s often one of the “enablers” of sin, the thought that there won’t be any consequences. We give in to temptation because we think we can cover our tracks, and it’ll never come back to us. But Paul says that Christ will judge with righteousness: nothing will be left unaccounted for, as each one “receives what is due him for the things done in the body.” So indeed, thinking about that day might cause us to fear.

But see again how the Catechism asks the question, “What comfort is it to you that Christ will come to judge the living and the dead?” For those who trust in Jesus as Lord, the last day isn’t a day of terror—it’s a day of true relief, intense joy. Because who are we waiting for? “[We] eagerly await as judge… the very same person who before has submitted himself to the judgment of God for my sake” (Q&A 52). On that day we come for judgment, we’ll know the one who’s in charge! On that last day, “the very same person” who will judge us is the one who already bore our sins. The one sitting on the throne will be the one who once was hanging on the cross, the one who has already covered all our transgressions!

For that day we patiently wait. While you wait, be prepared for his judging. Be doubly sure, triply sure, that you know him. In this wicked age, this time when being faithful can be so hard, let’s be 100% certain that we haven’t compromised, haven’t yielded an inch to the devil. Be sure that you’ve put your trust in the Saviour, and that you’re serving him now with your whole body, mind, and spirit. May it be so that all of us will hear Jesus’ blessed words on that final day, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter the joy of your Master!”  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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