Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “The Day is Surely Drawing Near:The Day of Judgement” based on Hebrews 9:24-28 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, November 11, 2018
If you would like, you can try to avoid it.
You can put your mind on other things like the hobbies that you enjoy, the memories that you make with your family and friends, or some fanciful look forward toward an upcoming vacation.
That avoidance, though, will take much more than simply a diversion of the mind. You will also need to do something about that body of yours. You need to nourish and strengthen it with food and drink. You need to exercise and keep it in tip-top shape. You might prevent sickness and disease with healthy vitamins and supplements and then, when sickness, disease, and deterioration rear their ugly heads anyway, you can invest in surgeries, therapies, and medications.
However, no matter how much you do to avoid it, you walk through its shadow every day and sleep in its shade every night. You have experienced its effect in the lives of your loved ones and, with a 15 minute surf on the worldwide web or snippet of a news segment, you see it in your community and all over the world. It is inevitable.
If you would like, you can try to avoid it, but it will not avoid you forever. You, brothers and sisters, are going to die. It is, as the inspired author wrote to the Hebrews, your destiny.
But, as awful as it may be to acknowledge your impending end, that’s not the only eventuality that this author enumerated in this letter. Yes, you are going to die. But, then, there is another step. After your soul and body split comes the time for judgment.
And, like death, that judgment is coming whether you like it or not. And, yet, like death, many people will do all that they can to avoid it. But, unlike death, those who seek to avoid judgment after death, do so without involving their bodies or their minds. They do so with their faith, or, rather, their lack thereof.
Like a child who assumes that the danger they fear will remove itself if they close or cover their eyes, those who hope to avoid judgment choose not to believe that it exists. No God, no afterlife, and, therefore, no judgment.
Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. Whether you believe it or not, want it or not, do your best to avoid it or not, you are going to die and you are going to face judgment.
So what are you going to do about it?
No one alive today knows for sure which human author was inspired to write the words in the second lesson for today, but there is no doubt to whom it was written. The writer acknowledged his audience with so many references to what happened in the Old Testament Temple, particularly in the sacrifices offered by the high priest.
The Hebrews, who were more than familiar with the ritual that occurred on the Day of Atonement, had an answer to the question of what needed to be done about death and judgment.
On that Day of Atonement, the high priest would take the blood of a sacrificial animal and enter into the holiest room in the Temple, a room that was only used for this once-a-year ritual. He would take that blood and sprinkle it over the ark of the covenant, the box that held the 10 Commandments God gave his people.
For as real as the sights, sounds, and smells of this ritual sacrifice were, the ritual itself was a symbolic shadow, a copy of the very real sanctuary and house of God, i.e., heaven.
The reason that God’s Old Testament people received forgiveness and atonement for their sins was not because the blood of that sacrificial animal was valuable enough to cover the cost of the debt their sin incurred to their God. Rather, it taught them, as a shadow and copy, of what would come at the end of the ages; at the end of all the practice and copies and when the world was made completely ready.
The reality, the fulfilment of the shadows, was Jesus. Listen again:
For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
There is no more need for sacrifices on the Day of Atonement because the real atonement was made on Calvary’s cross. As the true sacrificial substitute, Jesus’ death took, in himself, the punishment that sin deserved; your sin, my sin, and the sin of the whole world.
That means that, when the time comes for your unavoidable death and judgment, you will die and be judged not guilty. The judge’s sentence has already been doled out upon Jesus. And, in the same way that his death took the place of the eternal death that you deserve, so his perfectly lived life takes the place of the sinless life you were supposed to lead.
Brothers and sisters, you can enjoy your hobbies and make memories with your family and friends. Take your vitamins and supplements. Exercise and watch what you eat or drink. If you need surgery, undergo the knife. If you need medicine, you can, in good conscience, remove whatever sickness is trying to take your life away from you.
However, as you do any of those things, do not let your reason be because you are afraid of, and avoiding, death and judgement. Whether you believe it or not and whether you like it or not, Jesus paid the price for your sins. Believe it with all your mind, body, and heart and live your lives waiting for him to bring your salvation to you. Amen.