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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:The Divine Government!
Text:BC 37 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The Second Coming
 
Preached:2008-10-12
Added:2009-05-28
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

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


BELGIC CONFESSION OF FAITH XXXVII

(Reading: Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 19:1-10)

 

The Divine Government!

 

 

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ...

 

     There is a phrase that speakers often use when they come to the last point in their speech or address.

          It goes like this, “And now I come to the last, but by no means the least, point.”

              It is said so that the listener knows that this part is important also.

    

     This phrase is especially true of this last Article of the Belgic Confession of Faith.

          For not only is this Article by no means the least – it’s actually the most important of them all!

              Here is not just the end of a statement of our theology – this is the very beginning of all eternity!

 

     So the first word here, “Finally,” can be a little misleading.

          Let’s not think that here is where it all concludes.

              In fact, all that has already been said about God and Scripture, about creation and the fall, about Christ and our redemption, about the church, sacraments, and civil government, is preparation for this last, decisive statement.

                   Everything that has been said and done before has been said and done exactly for this!

 

     Dear believer, this is very, very important.

          Every single aspect of your faith is directly or indirectly related to this great Day!

              Christ’s return is the ultimate culmination of history.

                   This is where it all comes to a head!

 

     Do you see that?

          Are you looking for that?

              Because above all this Article is intensely personal.

     This is no mere matter of dogma – this is an urgent appeal from the heart.

          Here the tormented Church of martyrs makes a passionate cry to her heavenly Judge.

              She confesses her hope in the face of persecution.

 

     Congregation, after the previous article on earthly government here we are confronted with the greatest power of divine government!

          Woe betide any who would stand in this King’s way!

              Because soon it will be His Day!

 

     This is how we come to the first aspect of Article XXXVII this afternoon.

          For here we see THE DAY OF THE LORD IS COMING.

 

     This is what the first paragraph in Article XXXVII addresses.

          And we may further develop what we confess here in three parts.

             

     The first of these is by noting who is coming.

          That one is none other than the Lord – the Lord Jesus Christ.

               This is what scripture declares consistently.

                  

     One example is found in the first chapter of Acts.

          You’ll remember the scene there.

              For Jesus is ascending into heaven.

     And as Jesus is taken before the very eyes of His disciples there appear, suddenly, two men in white standing next to them.

          Of course, they’re angels.

              And they say in verse 11 there, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?

                   “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

 

     What a comfort this is for those who are His!

          For we believers are those who are eagerly awaiting a Saviour from heaven.

              We are looking for Christ’s return, as Philippians 3 verse 20 declares.

     He is the One who has already stood trial in my place before God.

          He is the One who has removed the whole curse from me.

              We can’t wait for Him to come back!

 

     But not so the unbeliever.

          For those who have rejected Him, this is the most awful day.

              As Revelation 1 verse 7 says, they will have to receive as Judge the One they have pierced.

 

     Then we note, secondly, when He is coming.

          Because it won’t be a time when anyone is expecting Him.

              Much as men may try to guess at it – like they did with all that stupid Y2K nonsense – they don’t have a clue what time it is!

                   He will come like a thief in the night, as 1st Thessalonians 5 verse 2 says.

 

     Now, there will be general signs.

          They have been there ever since Jesus left us to go into heaven.

              We have seen increased lawlessness (Matt.24:12).

     We have experienced the spirit of the Antichrist (2 Thess.2:1-12).

          There have been many wars and rumours of wars (Mark  13:7f).

              Earthquakes have happened all over the place (Luke 21:25-27).

      The Church has been terribly persecuted (Matt.24:9-12).

          And the gospel has been preached to the nations (Matt.24:14).

              But that’s just the kind of signs they are – constant warnings!

 

     It’s here that we need to say something about much of Christianity’s fascination with the millennium.

          Because many are saying that there will be a one thousand year reign of Christ before it gets bad again and then Jesus will come a third time.

             

     This belief is called Pre-Millennialism.

          They especially believe that physical Israel plays a special part of Christ’s return.

              In fact, they say that Jews won’t even have to be converted to be part of this special age!

 

     They particularly quote Revelation 20.

          Revelation 20 doesn’t say Satan will be completely powerless on earth for a thousand years, however.

              It only says that he will not be able to deceive the nations.

     And he hasn’t been able to do that since Christ ascended to the throne of the Father.

          You see, it’s Christ’s ascension which marks the turning point in history.

         

     Before that Satan dominated.

          But since then the Gospel had gone from nation to nation.

 

     That is the reign of Christ.

          That is His thousand year empire.

              Because it is a symbolic number – it is ten times ten times ten.

 

     So it’s just like all the other numbers in Revelation.

          As we see, for example in 666.

              Because that’s not a number you will actually see – it’s a number which represents falling short of seven three times.

     Seven which is the number symbolising the perfect.

          That’s why it’s the mark of the beast!

              Because it misses the mark!

 

     So, congregation, let’s realise that Christ is coming any time now.

          No man knows the time.

              And there are no specific signs which will tell us when it happens.

 

     And, thirdly, we note why He comes.

          Because Jesus will complete His work as Redeemer and Judge.

              That’s why He’ll come with great glory and majesty.

                   He’ll arrive with all His holy angels.

 

     Then Christ will seat Himself on His throne in heavenly glory.

          We read that in Matthew 25 verse 31.

 

     And His power will be so great He will put this world on fire to cleanse it.

          2nd Peter 3 verses 7 till 10 tell us that.

 

     THE DAY OF THE LORD IS COMING.

          And it will be THE DAY ALL WILL BE JUDGED.

         

     Our second point.

          And it connects with the second paragraph.

             

     Let’s look into that now.

          And so we note who will be there.

              And of this the second paragraph is very clear.

                   For “all” will be there!

 

     Every man and woman and child will appear before the great Judge.

          No one will be away that day.

              For there will be a voice which calls us all.

     The voice no less than the voice of the archangel.

          This is the sound of the trump of God.

              It’s all vividly described in Matthew 24, verses 30 and 31.

 

     There will those who are still alive that day.

          They will be joined by those who have already died.

              For the bodies of those already dead will be joined with their souls on that day.

 

     But while everyone will be gathered together before God that day there will be a difference among them.

          Because there will be two types of people there that day.

 

     The Confession indicates this when it says that there are those then living who will be changed in the twinkling of an eye.

          Their bodies will go from being corruptible to being incorruptible.

              For they are the believers who exactly then will be glorified!

 

     The apostle Paul spoke of this in 1st Corinthians 15.

          In verses 35 till 58 there, he deals extensively with the change which will happen on that day.

              You see, you’re going to be ready then for glory!

 

     The story is quite different for unbelievers, though.

          In the words of John 5 verse 29, they will “rise to be condemned.”

              The curse will then continue to affect their bodies totally.

     No more alleviating mercy of the heavenly Father.

          It is completely doom and gloom!

 

     It is here that we need to say a word about “soul sleep”.

          This is the teaching of certain Christian sects that upon death our souls don’t go to heaven to be with the Lord but they stay with our physical bodies.

              They quote what Jesus says about people who are dead being asleep to support this.

 

     But let’s not forget that Jesus also said in Luke 20 verse 38 that God is not the God of the dead but of the living, for to Him all are alive.

          And here Jesus is not speaking of what God is doing but what the dead do!

             

     This is what the Confession means as its says that the souls of the dead will be “joined and united with their proper bodies in which they formerly lived.”

          Because they’ve been apart for a while.

              The soul of believers have been with their Lord!

         

     And then we note in this second paragraph what is done on that day.

          As the second paragraph states, the books shall be opened, and the dead judged.

 

     Now, you may wonder what the reference to consciences in brackets there means.

          But these books are what contains all the actions, words, and even thoughts, of every men.

              In the words of 2nd Corinthians 5 verse 10, “for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

 

     So a case is being made against every human being.

          But what will it find?

              Is there enough evidence there to find you acquittal?

 

     Congregation, this brings to mind a question that has really challenged many Christians.

          The question goes: “If you were brought to a court of law, would there be enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian?

 

     Now we know where this question will be ultimately answered.

          And, by God’s grace, our deeds will prove our faith.

             

     But here we have moved already into the third aspect of Article XXXVII.

          This is where we note this as THE DAY OF EITHER DREAD OR COMFORT.

              We find this spoken of in the third paragraph of Article XXXVII.

         

     You see, immediately after death each person receives a “provisional” judgment.

          Believers go to Christ.

              And the ungodly go into temporary custody.

                   After that the final public judgment will take place.

 

     The consequence of the last judgment is the separation of two classes of people.

          It is the only absolute separation of people that Scripture allows.

              For at the end of time it will be shown that every human being will be classified as either righteous or wicked.

     There’ll be no one in between.

           You will be either joined to Christ, or not.

              You will either have been given the Holy Spirit, or you won’t have the Holy Spirit.

                   You will either be found faithful, or you will not.

 

     The Confession speaks about “the wicked and ungodly,” on the one hand, and the “righteous and elect,” on the other.

          To say “wicked and ungodly” isn’t describing two different groups, but one.

              The “wicked” are the “ungodly”.

     Meanwhile, “righteous and elect” means faithful people who are chosen by God.

          Because they are the “elect” of God they are the “righteous”.

 

     Many churches today find such a distinction quite unpalatable.

          For them God must be only love.

              A love which never judges and always forgives.

     In other words, it isn’t really love.

          Because there is no consequence for your actions.

              And as there’s no accountability for what you do, how can there be a day coming like this?

 

     What a guttered gospel!

          And despite their appeals to Jesus, it certainly isn’t what the Master taught.

              Who could forget the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25?

                   There it’s absolutely clear that there will THE DAY OF EITHER DREAD OR COMFORT.

 

     Those churches and those Christians are actually looking the wrong way.

          Instead of seeing what they think unbelievers are missing, they should be realising what believers themselves have!

              Because that could have been you and me heading for hell.

     That was, after all, our rightful destination.

          As those who had sinned against God, we deserved nothing less!

 

     Through faith in Jesus, though, we’re part of the righteous and elect.

          We will receive the fruits of our labour.

              This is what the apostle John spoke of in Revelation 14.

     Speaking of the saints who have died in the faith, he writes in verses 13 and 14, “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’

          “’Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.’”

 

     And this is what we come to especially in the fourth aspect this afternoon.

          For now we see that this is THE DAY THE ELECT ARE CROWNED.

              This takes us through the 4th and 5th paragraphs.

 

     And, you know, there couldn’t be a more positive ending anywhere!

          After so much negativity in her life here below the Church is truly vindicated.

              Through fire and sword and weakness and murder and torture and jeers and flogging and being chained and imprisoned and stoned, the saints have come.

     Though desperately poor and persecuted and mistreated, and while cast away and forced to survive the elements, God kept them.

          Hebrews 11 verses 32 till 39 details all these things and more.

              But verse 40 then declares there, “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.’

 

     There are several parts to the glory and honour with which the elect are crowned here.

          Firstly, and most importantly, “the Son of God will confess their names before God His Father and His elect angels.”

              You see, personally and publicly Jesus will acknowledge us as His own people.

     We are the ones He has redeemed and reconciled and renewed.

          So this is the day when the most precious jewels are set in His crown.

             

     This is the day Malachi 4 verse 2 prophesied of.

          For there we read, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.

              “And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”

 

     And in the New Testament, Paul wrote the same in his second letter to the Thessalonians.

          In verse 10 of chapter 1, he says that this will be “the he [the Lord] comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed.”

 

     Secondly, this will be when “all tears shall be wiped from their eyes.”

          That’s a promise you hear many times in the Bible.

              It’s the Lord’s assurance that at His return a new order will be brought by him out of the ruins of the old.

     The hearts of believers will leap for joy as they taste the fruits of victory in Christ.

          For “their cause which is now condemned by many judges and magistrates as heretical and impious will then be known to be the cause of the Son of God.”

 

     Dear believer, this is what the saints through the ages of church history have known.

          They knew the scriptural promises in the most personal way.

              Do you know that too?

 

     And, thirdly, we confess that “for a gracious reward, the Lord will cause them to possess such a glory as never entered into the heart of man to conceive.”

          This will be the inheritance of the new heavens and the new earth where the righteous will live.

              2nd Peter 3 verse 13 is clear about this.

 

     And it will where there’s perfect communion with the God of salvation.

          The God you have come to know and love and serve on this earth you’ll be with in the fullest and most eternal way.

              No wonder that our communion here below is described as only a foretaste of what we have in the next world! 

 

     Congregation, this will be the day!

          It all comes to a head.

              Because look at who is the great and glorious Head – the Lord Jesus Christ Himself!

 

     This is indeed the end of Scripture’s story.

          What had began in Paradise ends in Paradise.

              Paradise lost and Paradise restored.

     It’s not only a great name for John Milton’s epic poem.

          It’s the description of what God is doing in His Son.

 

     Dear friend, is this end you’re looking for?

          Are you joined with the true saints in crying out those words found at the very end of Scripture?

              For there in Revelation 22:20 the apostle John cries in the greatest of anticipation, “Amen.

                   “Come, Lord Jesus.”

 

     If God’s cause is your cause, this is your cry to.

          And when this cry isn’t being called out, faith is at a very low ebb.

              Then many are caught up with the here-and-now.

             

     But where faith is vibrant and strong this is what you hear.

          Because then the Church is looking up.

              And she’s keeping it up!

                   Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray…

     O Lord Jesus Christ, You who has promised to come again in the same way as You have ascended into heaven, keep us, we pray, always watching for Your glorious appearing.

          Help us to love the things that are above, not the things here below.

              Make us live as those waiting for their Lord.

     For when You do come we will be made like You, and see You as You are.

          Because You are the one who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.

              Amen.    

    

    




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.rcnz.org.nz

(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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