The Seedbed Blog by Chase Franklin International Ministries: Why Is Jesus Returning to Judge the World? (30 Questions)

This post is a chapter from Dr. Timothy Tennent’s book, 30 Questions: A Short Catechism on the Christian Faith available for purchase from our store. This resource makes for a great teaching tool in local churches, especially for catechesis purposes. We’re featuring a chapter each week in hopes of encouraging you to pick up the book and share it with others as well.

For many people, including Christians, the final judgment of God might appear to be incongruent with the God of grace, forgiveness, and love which we have seen so powerfully in the person and ministry of Jesus Christ. We often downplay the Scriptures about God’s judgment or relegate the topic to the God of the Old Testament. However, this is not how the Bible portrays the theme of God’s judgment. Rather, the judgment of God is the final vindication of God’s righteousness. It is a good and glorious thing, for final judgment is the time when God will set all things right. Jesus himself spoke of it quite often right in the pages of the New Testament. This final vindication involves two main things.

First, Judgment Day will reveal and make known all sins. The secrets of everyone’s heart will be revealed. Romans 2:16 says, “This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets.” Every thought, every idle word, every deed—even deeds done in absolute secrecy—will be made known and laid bare. Jesus said in Luke 12:2–3 “there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” Crimes which people thought they had “gotten away with” will suddenly be known. All sins will be revealed and publicly exposed.

This is actually good news, because it means that everything will be “set right.” We all know that the courts of human justice have severe limitations. There are crimes which never go punished, and there are crimes for which no human punishment seems fully adequate. This is why it does not make sense to say that God “would never judge anyone, he only forgives.” Crucial to the biblical doctrine of God’s love is that all things will eventually be made right. God’s love for those who have been wronged, and God’s love for righteousness and truth, are one and the same with his determination to set everything right in the end, which is what judgment is. A New Creation where wickedness was still allowed to flourish would not be a place in which we long to dwell. Love without justice is mere sentimentality.

Judgment at the end of time must be seen and understood in the larger context that God has taken upon himself, through Christ, the just sentence of judgment which sinners deserved. Jesus bore our sins on the cross. He accepted the full weight of the guilty verdict. Now, through the gospel, the entire world is invited to receive that gift of grace. Jesus has already borne the judgment of the entire world, and that is where the forgiveness and grace of God are made manifest. However, for those who do not accept Jesus Christ, they must stand before the bar of God’s justice and render a full account of their own lives, receiving the due penalty for every thought or deed.

Second, Judgment Day will vindicate the faith of the church. Praise God that the record of sins is not the only book in heaven. There is another book which has a record of all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. For the believer, Judgment Day is transformed from a day of fear and trial into a day of vindication and joy. The Scripture says that the name of that other book is known as the Lamb’s Book of Life. That book will reveal the names of those people whose sins have already been paid for because we have trusted in the provision offered through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The church will be vindicated, not because we are without sin, but because of our perseverance in faith. This is the truth celebrated in the song which says, “he paid a debt, he did not owe; I owed a debt, I could not pay; Christ Jesus came and washed my sins away!” The people of God will be rewarded for their faithfulness and it will be a day of great joy and celebration. In the Scriptures we do not see the people of God dreading the Day of Judgment. Rather, we see them praying for that day to come, and longing for the time when God will finally set all things right.

Scripture Reading

John 5:22

1 Corinthians 3:11–15

1 Thessalonians 4:13–18

2 Thessalonians 1:5–10

2 Timothy 4:1

Revelation 20:11–15

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An Unbalanced Focus in Worship: Overemphasizing the Sermon

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The Seedbed Blog by Chase Franklin International Ministries

On a recent Sunday morning, I was having breakfast when I turned on my t.v. to watch a well-known local church’s broadcast.  As I came to the right channel, I was greeted by the image of stage lights and a multi-piece band.  Instead of what would normally be an opening praise song, the band started into the Bon Jovi 80′s classic, You Give Love a Bad Name.  After the initial shock wore off, I double checked the channel I was on.  Sure enough, this was the church service I was looking for.  As the song finished, a member of the pastoral staff came out from behind the stage.  After making a somewhat crude joke about hot flashes, he announced that the morning’s message would be on arguments in marriage.  The staff member exited the stage while the band started into a worship song.  With the band leading the church in two worship songs, I was left asking myself, “What in the world just happened?

In a way, it is understandable what the church was trying to do.  They wanted to get the congregation focused on the message by using a song containing the message’s theme.  It is a common practice that many churches utilize today, traditional and contemporary alike.  In either case, the music is tied in with the sermon topic to provide a theme for that day’s service.  This method of planning worship services certainly has benefits, including the reinforcement of the sermon.  However, there is an inherent danger in using this method every time a worship service is planned.

The TV broadcast mentioned above demonstrates an extreme in worship planning.  This church is somewhat known for using secular songs related to the sermon as a call to worship.  In this instance, they turned to a rock song whose lyrics speak of being hurt in a relationship.  This song’s theme directly related to the sermon topic for that morning.  While the very thought of a secular song being used in a worship gathering is enough to cause controversy in some circles, the danger this congregation is flirting with goes much deeper than the use of one song in a service.  This church was so focused on reinforcing the message that, while externally polished, the intrinsic quality of worship was sacrificed.  They did not make time for prayer in their service and placed little emphasis on Holy Communion.

People are intrinsically designed to connect with God on many levels.  Scores of people have been impacted through the centuries by hearing powerful sermons and homilies.  Additionally, innumerable hearts have been led into God’s presence through mighty hymns and contemporary worship songs.  These hymns and songs have been the catalyst for outpourings of the heart onto God and have fostered many times of prayer.  In worship, there must be a balance of what I call the Spoken Word and the Living Word.  The Spoken Word is hearing a sermon/message/homily preached from the Scriptures and receiving from it.  Some traditions would call this, “The Word Proclaimed.”  The Living Word consists of coming to God in prayer, singing from the heart, and taking part in Holy Communion, e.g. the “hands-on” part of worship.  This would be the more experiential part of worship where a congregation would be actively participating in the service.

A healthy church knows what it is to give equal weight to the Spoken and Living Word.  A vital church also knows that there are instances when the Holy Spirit will direct that one be given more emphasis, e.g. more time, over the other.  However, churches that consistently give one more priority over the other run the risk of not only robbing their members of a full worship experience in the presence of God but also presenting an incomplete picture of Christian worship to unbelievers.  The fact that we believe in and worship a God that is alive is what separates us as believers from other world religions.  How we worship our Lord communicates to the world what we believe.  A church that has unbalanced worship conveys its lack of spiritual depth, and no matter how flashy we try to be in our church services, unbelievers are not as spiritually and intuitively naïve as we sometimes think they are.  They can tell when something is not right within the church walls, and they will run from it.  People are looking for something more than another message to tickle their ears.  They want something that is real and that they can experience for themselves. A church that focuses only on its sermons robs people of additional ways to encounter the Living God and also robs God of other ways to speak to people.  Going back to the church mentioned above, their use of a secular song at the beginning of their service took time away from the opportunities to commune with God through prayer or worship music.  Because they desired to emphasize the Spoken Word, the Living Word suffered by having reduced time.

Let me conclude by posing this:  what is the first question you ask when you plan worship?  Is it, “What is the sermon about this week?”  Are all aspects of the worship service being consistently and intentionally united with that week’s sermon topic?  Are the prayers prewritten to match the message?  Are all the opening and closing hymns/praise songs being chosen simply because the title/lyrics relate to the sermon?  Or is the first question asked, “Lord, how should we worship you this week?”  Is substantial time being spent in prayer over what hymns/songs to use?  Is there a time of spontaneous prayer set aside to allow the Holy Spirit to direct the hearts of those in attendance?  Your congregation, and even the entire world, depends on the first question asked in worship planning and how it is answered.  May we all have the spiritual sensitivity and courage to ask the right question and follow the Lord in our worship no matter where He may lead.

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