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JUDGEMENT DAY

This is what the Lord says, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48.17-18.)

As it is, the human race has ignored or rejected the guidance of God, whether taught us by our natural consciences or by the revelation of his Word. As a result, the world has become the broken and suffering place that it is. God loves us and only wants the best for us. When we pay no attention to his commandments, we not only spoil our own lives, but we cause hurt and suffering to others and to the rest of creation. And God is angry about that. We shall be punished for the harm that our disobedience has caused; punished not in some vengeful or arbitrary way, but by suffering the consequences of our own selfishness and self-wilfulness. If we do not love our neighbours as ourselves, we suffer the consequences of those broken relationships just as much as our neighbours do. If we do not love God, our Creator, as we should, then we have cut ourselves off from the source of life itself: we are already spiritually dead.

All the secrets of our hearts and of our words and deeds will one day be revealed and the inevitable consequences of the way we have lived will be fully manifested, to us and to the world. That day is the Day of Judgement. It comes on the day when Jesus comes again, ‘in the clouds, in power and great glory’. The whole human race will then be seen to be divided into two halves: those who sought God and sought to live according to his ways, and those who chose to live their lives without reference to God and for their own ends. The former will be welcomed by God into his everlasting Kingdom; the latter will be cast out, by their own choice, and perish.

There may of course be an interval between now and the Day of Judgement, an interval in which we die first and there await that Last Day. For the dead, this interval is sometimes called ‘the intermediate state’. But this time of waiting is itself a time in which the two parts of humanity are divided: one part waits in joy and comfort in Paradise, with Jesus, Abraham, and all those who have loved and served God here; the other part waits, tormented by remorse, for ‘the second death’.

There is much that we do not know about all this: when it will happen, and above all, who will be in which group? There is only one group about whose fate we can be sure: that is, the fellowship of those who have come to Jesus, repented of their sins and entrusted their lives to him as their Saviour and Redeemer. They are safe.

It is never too late to turn to Jesus. The ‘penitent thief’ found this, as he hung next to Jesus on the cross. “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” he said, almost with his last breath. And Jesus replied, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23.42-43.).

But what is the fate of those who have never met Jesus, who have never heard the good news of the salvation that he won for us on the Cross? What is the fate of babies and little children who died before they had the knowledge and understanding to turn to him? We do not know the answer to such questions, and we do not need to know: that is God’s business, and we can trust him to be kind and merciful. But we cannot be complacent on that account.

We should take to heart from this, two lessons: first, that we have a duty to make Jesus known to as many people as possible, and invite them to make this choice for their own salvation while they have the time; the second is not to delay in making this decision for ourselves, committing our lives to believing in God, believing in Jesus, and following his Way – the Way that leads to everlasting life in his Heavenly Kingdom.

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Next week, the world to come.

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