God's End Game - Part 45

Series: God's End Game

January 19, 2020
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

God’s End Game - Part 45

We are rolling along in the God’s End Game series, getting ever closer to its conclusion! Somebody say, “Amen.”

Last week we actually celebrated God’s End Game in the Lord’s Supper because, if you remember, when Jesus said to the disciples…

Mark 14:25 (ESV) — 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

… he propelled it forward to the end of all things when he’ll set up his kingdom on a renewed earth, when those who belong to him will gather around his table at the great marriage supper of the Lamb.

Now let’s get back on track as we’ve been looking at

what the Bible says about the final judgment, of which the writer of Hebrews warns us…

Hebrews 9:27 (ESV) — 27 … it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,

This doctrine [of the final judgment] affirms that when Christ, the merciful and righteous king of the earth, returns, all human beings will be held accountable for their lives, resulting in eternal condemnation or eternal blessedness.[1]

It’s a bad news/good news scenario. The bad news of God’s end game is that in the final judgment Jesus will judge all those who did not call on the name of the Lord according to their sinful deeds recorded in the multi-volume set known as the “books.”

Revelation 20:11–15 (ESV) — 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The good news is, those whose names are recorded in the Book of Life, those who have called upon the name of the Lord, are not judged according to their sins because…

Romans 8:1 (ESV) — 1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

But we come full circle again with what will probably be considered bad news, but it shouldn’t be. Christians cannot be judged for their sins (praise the Lord), but they will still face a judgment. Paul declares…

2 Corinthians 5:10 (ESV) — 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

And also…

Romans 14:10 (ESV) — 10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;

This truth is all over the NT, but Jesus alluded to it in one of his most famous parables…

Matthew 25:14–30 (ESV) — 14 “For [the kingdom of God] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

In this story a wealthy man entrusted to his servants great sums of money, not skills and abilities as one might think (JD Greear confesses that when he was young he thought talents meant playing the piano or the ability to juggle[2]). One talent is twenty years’ wages! And he dispensed them according to their ability, which meant he knew them well.

16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more.

Two of the servants were eager to please their master and use what he’d given them to bring a return. But one servant, not so much. 

18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

We don’t have time to peel back all the layers of this today, so I’m just going to give it to you straight: this parable points to the truth that followers of Jesus have been given “time, material resources, and abilities”[3] to use in producing good works that glorify God, or make him him look good. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16…

Matthew 5:16 (ESV) — 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Just as those servants gave an account to their master when he returned, so one day will we when our master returns. By the way, the third servant represents someone who claims to follow Christ but really doesn’t.

I think now were ready to look at what Paul wrote about this to the christians at Corinth…

1 Corinthians 3:10–15 (ESV) — 10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

I cannot read that text without thinking of an old story called, The Three Little Pigs. One pig was really lazy and built his house out of the cheapest and easiest to use material: straw. Another pig did more or less the same thing building his house of sticks. But the third pig put great effort into making his house out of sturdy bricks.

The wolf came along and said to each, “Little pig, little pig, let me come in or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.” And you know what they said. The first two cheaply made houses were destroyed, but the third one, the one made of bricks, stood strong. It’s ironic that the two lazy pigs became the wolf’s lunch and the wolf became the studious pig’s dinner.

I suppose the moral of that story is work hard and be clever and you’ll weather the storms of life. It doesn’t take much of a stretch to see how it ties in to what Paul teaches in this text.

He is saying that Jesus is the foundation on which every Christian builds his “house.” The materials used are important. You can use easily use cheap materials like wood, hay, and straw. And they are painless to work with. Things like gold, silver, and precious stones, though, are hard to find and expensive, not to mention they require a great deal of skill to use.

This might not be a big deal except that on the Last Day (verse 13), at the judgment seat of Christ, every christian’s works will be revealed because it will be tested by fire. Now what kind of materials do you want your house to be made of if it’s going to be tested by fire? The cheap, easy, flammable stuff like wood, hay, and straw, or the rare, expensive, everlasting stuff like gold, silver, and precious stones? Look back at verse 14…

14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.

What remains after the fire settles determines your reward. And this brings us to a striking part of God’s End Game and it’s this:

Christians cannot be judged for their sins, which have been nailed to the cross, but they aren’t exempt from judgment. Christians will stand before Jesus on the Last Day and be judged according to their works to determine their rewards and responsibilities in the new heavens and earth.

So the moral of Jesus’ parable is to work hard and be clever using what he’s given us to make him look good so in the end we enjoy a great reward.

Conclusion: Some might hear this and think, I thought the whole point of the gospel is that it’s not about works but about faith. And now you’re telling me in the end it is about works?

Be careful not to confuse things here, because it’s easy to do. Salvation is one thing. Our eternal rewards on the last Day are another.

Regarding salvation, it is all about grace through faith and NOT works, and I am so glad it is…

Ephesians 2:8–9 (ESV) — 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

But when it comes to our rewards and responsibilities in the end, it’s all about what we did with what we were given in this life…

14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

NT Wright says…

When the ‘fire’ does its work, [Paul] says, builders who have used the wrong material will ‘suffer loss’, but they themselves will still be saved. This seems to be Paul’s way of preserving his view of Christian assurance … while maintaining also a serious view of Christian responsibility for what one does with the new life which begins, as the spirit’s gift, with faith and baptism…

The main point, of course, is the seriousness with which Paul takes the various tasks and responsibilities of Christians, particularly leaders and teachers in the church. We are not playing games. There are serious and lasting issues at stake. It is possible to build wisely, well, and with the right materials. It is also possible to build badly, or with the wrong materials. It is possible actually to pull down the building altogether. God takes these possibilities very seriously. Do we?[4]

We weren’t saved just so we could go to heaven when we die. We were saved to glorify God in this life and the next.

[1] Bray, G. (2018). The Final Judgment. In M. Ward, J. Parks, B. Ellis, & T. Hains (Eds.), Lexham Survey of Theology. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] Greear, J. D. (2017). Risk: Matthew 25:14–30. In J. D. Greear Sermon Archive (Mt 25:14–30). Durham, NC: The Summit Church.

[3] Blomberg, C. (1992). Matthew (Vol. 22, p. 373). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Wright, T. (2004). Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians (pp. 38–40). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

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