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4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
INI
Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 22, 2015
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

CHRIST IS COMING BACK FOR JUDGMENT
II Peter 3:3-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time, Amen. The passage to which God directs our attention this morning is found in the second epistle of Peter, chapter three, beginning with the third verse, as follows:

Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. This is the Word of God.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, Who is coming to judge the quick and the dead, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

Jesus once told His disciples a parable about two servants. The first Jesus calls a wise servant, and the second He calls a wicked servant. The master in the parable is traveling in another country. He has been away for a long time, and no one knows when he's coming back. The first servant is alert and watchful. He carries out his duties faithfully. He knows that his master could return at any moment, and he wants to be ready for him the instant he comes back. But the second servant is different. The long delay has done something to him. "There's plenty of time before the master comes back," he thinks to himself. "Maybe he's not coming back at all! I think I'll spend some of his money on myself. I think I'll get drunk, and while I'm at it maybe I'll abuse some of my fellow-servants, that ought to be fun. After all," scoffs the wicked servant, "who's going to tell me no? I'm in charge here! The master's never coming back!"

Maybe you remember this parable. If so, you may recall that things don't end well for the wicked servant. Jesus' words are chilling: The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. - Mt. 24:50-51.

The point of that parable is similar to the point Peter is trying to get across in our text for today. It is our Lord Jesus who is the Master "sojourning in a far country." So far, He has delayed His return. The question is, what does that delay mean? Some people think it means that we don't have to worry about the Judgment, or even that there won't be any Judgment Day at all. But there will be. And from our perspective, as followers of Christ, it is desperately important that we be alert and watchful, and ready for His return. The theme of this morning's sermon is simple:

CHRIST IS COMING BACK FOR JUDGMENT
This statement typically prompts one of two reactions:
I. Unbelievers scoff, willfully forgetting the evidence of the past.
II. Let us repent, grateful to escape the Judgment to come.

As our text begins, we sort of catch the Apostle Peter in the middle of a sentence. To make sense of vv. 3-9, you have to hear the urgent exhortation that comes immediately before it, in verse two. Peter says, Be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior. -- II Pet 3:2. This is vital! Peter says. You have to pay very close attention to what? -To the words of the holy prophets, and the words of the apostles and evangelists. We have a short term for that, we call it "The Bible." You Christians pay close attention to the Word of God, what it says and what it teaches.

Why is this so important? Because CHRIST IS COMING BACK FOR JUDGMENT. And it's sad, but when He gets here there will be great multitudes of people who just aren't ready. In fact, Peter says, not only will they not be ready, but they'll have spent a lot of their lives making fun of the people who are ready. He says that …scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming?

In the last days, scoffers will come, says Peter. They will ridicule the Christian faith. "You say Jesus is coming back to judge the earth? Well where is He? It's been a long time. It's been two thousand years, and He's still not here!" Which means they don't think He's ever coming back. And the evidence they use to support this view is history. "Just look at history!" they say. For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation. You see the logic? "Spring is followed by summer, is followed by fall and winter. Day after day, year after year. Nothing ever changes! Nothing ever has, so nothing ever will. So why worry about Judgment Day?"

But there's one glaring error in that logic, and Peter points it out. He says that there was one time in the history of the earth where everything changed - and that was the Great Flood, …by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. Think of how many people must have scoffed at Noah. Here's this old man, miles from the nearest water, spending years and years building a huge boat. He must have been the joke of the neighborhood. People no doubt ridiculed and made fun of Noah and said that nothing would ever happen. And for a long time nothing did. Jesus says, They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage - and everything went on as normal, until when? - until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. -- Lk 17:27.

And destroyed them all! On that day, all things did not continue as they were. On that day all things changed, and the world was destroyed. Why is that important to us now, in 2011? Because Scripture warns us that another big change is on its way. A change that will make the great flood look like a day at the beach. CHRIST IS COMING BACK FOR JUDGMENT. The world that now is, with its ungodly and its scoffers, is reserved for punishment, as Peter says, the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

Yes, CHRIST IS COMING BACK FOR JUDGMENT. And as long as this world endures, unbelievers will scoff, as in the days of Noah, willfully forgetting the evidence of the past. But for us believers it needn't be so - may it never be so! Let us be different! Let us take full advantage of this interval before our Lord's return. Let us repent, grateful to escape the Judgment to come.

What's the reason Jesus has delayed His return as long as He has? In the first place, it only seems long to us. It's not long to God. In fact, as Peter explains, God is outside of time altogether. Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. God is eternal. For Him, yesterday and tomorrow are the same thing. Eternity is a concept that we just can't get our human minds around, tied as we are to time and to this world. The best we can do is to realize that CHRIST IS COMING BACK FOR JUDGMENT, and that His arrival could be at any moment.

Peter reveals the reason for our Savior's delay in our text: The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. The reason Christ hasn't returned yet isn't because He's slack. It isn't that He's not paying attention, or that He's forgotten us. The reason is that He's merciful! Paul told Timothy, "God would have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." -- I Tim 2:4. This period before Christ's return is a time of grace, a time for all people to hear the Word of God, repent, and to believe the Gospel unto everlasting life. That's what God wants. He wants it so much, in fact, that "…He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." -- Jn 3:16. CHRIST IS COMING BACK FOR JUDGMENT, and this current interval is your time of grace.

Sadly, many people manage to spend all the time while ignoring the grace. There's a story told about W.C. Fields, a vaudeville comedian notorious for his wayward lifestyle. Near the end of his life he was hospitalized and very ill. A friend came to visit him and was surprised to find him thumbing through a Bible. He asked, "What are you doing?" Fields replied, "I'm looking for loopholes!" It's funny in a way, but it's also sad. So many people do the same thing when faced with death - they search frantically but vainly for a way to escape the Judgment they sense is coming.

Maybe W.C. Fields' friend was a Christian. I hope so, because then he could have told him: there is a loophole. A very big loophole. In fact, the entire Bible is about this loophole, and the loophole's name is Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth to provide us with that way of escape. It's not the easy way and it's not the popular way, as Jesus once said, Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. -- Mt 7:13-14.

The older I get, the more I think of Christianity in terms of an escape. Of escaping - by God's grace! - the dreadful Judgment that is surely coming on this wicked world. You may recall the Station nightclub fire some years ago in West Warwick, Rhode Island, one of the deadliest fires in U.S. history. One hundred people lost their lives when a rock band's pyrotechnic display got out of control and started a fast-moving fire. Ironically, most of the victims perished just a few feet from safety, right in front of the double doors of the main entrance. Unfortunately, those doors were locked and completely impassible. The tragic thing is that there was another, smaller door just around the corner in the kitchen, a door that was open, and through which a few people actually did manage to escape. Does that bring anything to mind? A cataclysm is coming on all the world. And there is a way to escape, but it's not the way most people think. Most people, if they think about Judgment Day at all, think that they will be saved because of their good works, and because they "…tried to be a good person." But you can't escape destruction that way - those doors are locked! The book of Romans locks them as tight as a bank vault when it says that by the deeds of the Law shall no flesh be justified in His sight. But there's another exit. God has made a way for every human being to escape that dreadful judgment over sin, and that way is Jesus Christ!

Do you realize what a blessing belongs to you? You - out of all the multitudes of this world! - you have found the narrow gate! The only exit that lets you escape the Judgment to come! While countless thousands are perishing in unbelief, God has put faith in your heart to trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior. You know you're a sinner, yes, but you know that God sent Jesus to provide the payment for your sins. And that He did! On that cross-topped hill outside Jerusalem one dark and dreadful Friday, Jesus offered up the one sacrifice that would suffice to cover all your sins; He offered Himself.

You know, Jesus could have escaped, too. He had many opportunities. In the Garden of Gethsemane, with armed men about to arrest Him, He asked Peter, "Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?" -- Mt 26:53-54. Jesus didn't escape, because He wanted to make a way for you to escape. Jesus took the judgment for your sin upon Himself, so that no Judgment would remain for you. He died, and rose again, so that you can one day rise to everlasting joy and happiness. The writer to the Hebrews says, We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. -- Heb 2:9.

Christian rejoice that your name is written in the Book of Life, and that you will one day join your Savior in heaven. But until that day arrives, let's recognize the time of grace we're in and make the best use of it. Let's follow the advice of Paul, who told the Romans, Do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. -- Rom 3:11. Let us daily repent of our sins, in contrition bringing them all to our Savior for forgiveness. And by all means let us reach out with the Gospel to others - to anyone we can reach! - with prayers that God may shine in their hearts and show them the way of escape, as He has revealed it to us in His Son Jesus Christ!

There's an old Italian proverb that says, "Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box." The same Judgment Day awaits every human being. This world is coming to an end When that end will be, our Lord has not revealed to us. Sometimes we look around us at the sinful world in which we live, and we wonder how long the Lord can endure such desperate wickedness. Sometimes we hear the scoffing of the world's "experts," its scientists and its philosophers and its college professors - and they're all telling us the same thing: "Your faith is nonsense. There is no God to whom we're responsible, and there is no Judgment Day coming." But God will have the last word. And once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box. We'll all stand before Christ's Judgment throne, and there will be no scoffers there. There, says Paul, "…at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. -- Phi 2:10-11. CHRIST IS COMING BACK FOR JUDGMENT. So let the unbelievers scoff, willfully forgetting the evidence of the past. We will not make their mistake. With faith in Christ and eternal gratitude for the unspeakable gift of His redeeming work, let us repent daily of our sins, and receive our Savior's pardon. We will escape death and hell. And we will spend eternal ages singing the praises of our rescuer:

Worship, honor, power, and blessing
Thou art worthy to receive;
Loudest praises, without ceasing,
Meet it is for us to give.
Help, ye bright angelic spirits,
Bring your sweetest, noblest lays;
Help to sing our Savior's merits,
Help to chant Immanuel's praise. AMEN.