Continuing his series on the Apostle’s Creed, Dr. Mohler preached on “Whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.”
We are a narrative people. We are a part of a story that frames our lives. Every story worth telling and hearing has a beginning, middle, and end. A part of what it means to be human is to understand that there is an end in store. There is a teleology and eschatology for everyone who is living regardless of your worldview. We understand our present in terms of our past and future.
People without memory, as we understand it, are impoverished because they do not know who they are. Much of our identity is based on the past. But, to have no sense of the future is a cause for a deep and understandable anxiety.
Every worldview has an eschatology that explains our end…if there is an end. The understood ending has shaped our world much of which was Christian. Science has now offered an alternative understanding of that ending. It may be secular but it is an eschatology driven by fundamental secular assumptions. One of which is the second law of thermodynamics—the law of entropy. We understand that everything is going from something toward nothing. Thus, the great question is not whether there will be an end, but whether it will be a bang or a whimper.
This is readily seen today in the concern of global warming or world wars. The main rise of eschatology in the world today is that of the Muslim eschatology. We must take into account the fact that we will come into contact with alternative eschatology’s.
We as humans have a distinct yearning for the future. We want to understand as much of the future as possible. This enables us to be faithful in the present. This is why we are a narrative people.
The Christian gospel is expressed as a story. The past is what God has done for us. The present is what God has done through Christ. The future is God will do for us upon the consummation of time.
The Creed up to this point was concerned with the past. Everything had happened and that is why we worship who we worship. All of that part of the gospel is past. Then there is the present tense of Christ’s sitting at the right hand of God.
Then, there is the future tense. Judgment will come. If any one of these tenses is minimized, we lose the glory of the gospel. The story has a beginning in the Creation, a grounding in the Fall, a consummation in resurrection, and a future in judgment. This shows the difference in this age and the age to come.
On this side of Genesis 3, we see Israel yearning for the Messiah to come. In the NT, we see Christ fulfill that yearning. Now, we yearn for His Second Coming. We yearn for the completion of our salvation. This second coming is one of judgment.
There are signs all around us that lead us to a better understanding of the coming judgment. We see this in our indignation against injustice. We wait for the day when we will no longer sin. We cry out for an end. We want a peaceable kingdom. We long for the judgment.
Yet, the Christian hope is one of expectation and confidence, dedication and faithfulness. This yearning is deeply reflected in the Christian scriptures. This yearning is feared by non-believers. Some times the unbeliever gets it more correct than the believer.
We need to understand that there is an urgency in these passages. Christ is speaking of His own second coming and He speaks of the coming judgment as part and parcel of that coming.
We know Jesus went to prepare a place for His children. He is preparing a mansion for His own in the present while also preparing bowls of wrath and judgment. He is coming to judge. He is currently sitting at the right hand of God the Father reigning over all of creation. He is ministering to the saints.
He is coming from “thence” which means He is coming from the very throne of God. This is not the same way He came as before. The first time he came as a lowly infant. History hardly noticed His coming. He came in humility.
However, when he comes “from thence” things will be very different. Every knee shall bow. Every tongue will confess. These two words remind us that this same Jesus will return as the reigning Lord of all. He will not come as a mere agent of creation or salvation. He will be the Lord of all.
This tells us that part of God’s vindication of the son will now come to execute perfect judgment on all of humanity. This speaks of that great and awful day of the Lord. That Lord is Jesus the Christ. Scriptures talk much of this. Christ will come as the righteous judge. The Father’s good pleasure is that the fullness of history be displayed when Christ is sent “from thence.”
The coming of the Lord frames the Christian hope. We have come to see the future because Christ is the future. Now we await the fulfillment of His word. All of humanity is divided by one great line: those who yearn for Christ’s second coming and those who do not.
The past, present, and future come together in these two words. The past was necessary for the present to take place which in turn enables the future to come. When he comes the second time, he will bring history to an end.
Jesus said we are incompetent to discern the times. We should expect the when to be soon. It will be sudden and unexpected.
While we do not know the when, we do know the how. It will be in glory. Everyone will know that He has come back. Humanity will be about its business when Christ returns. He is coming in glory, power, majesty and bodily. It will not be spiritual. It will be visible in space, and time, and history.
The book of Revelation gives us some explanation of what it means for Christ to come. Rev. 19:7-10 talks of Christ waging war. This is where spiritual warfare ends! These images are of One who is coming with vengeance. The book of Revelation talks of a judgment unlike what is found in the Old Testament. God judged nations. Christ will judge the world.
We are living in a day when people and ministers want to minimize Hell. They want an annihilation of the body. They would like there to be no one present in Hell—there personhood is removed. This is not found in the Bible. The Bible talks of a personal Hell.
The Necessity of Judgment
Hell is necessary to God’s judgment. If this were not so then a judgment would not be necessary at all. This judgment is necessary because there will be gradients of judgment. It is necessary that this judgment take place because it is necessary for personal judgment. The judgment is necessary because of our natural yearning for things to be made right. We have a sense of justice given by God that must be filled.
All of the judged will agree to the righteousness of the judgment. Those in Hell will agree that they belong there. This judgment will affirm all things in God. If you do not affirm the judgment of God, then you cannot speak to the love of God. Judgment is the natural response of the holy one to sin. Heaven and Hell will bear witness to the perfection of God’s judgment.
This promised judgment gives us the urgency of missions and evangelism. In the salvation of one person, we see the judgment of the future lived out in the present. We see one who is snatched from the hand of death.
The fact that Christ is coming “from thence” to judge the living and the dead proves that we can’t have our best life now. If you are having your best life now, then you should fear the Second Coming.
While we are yearning for the future, we are to be busy about the work of Kingdom. I don’t want to be found in Disney World. We should strive to be busy about the work of the Kingdom which is evangelism and missions. We should be driven by the coming judgment. If we flinch at this judgment then we flinch at God.