The Final Exam: Pass or Fail?
“30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.” Acts 17:30-31
At Your Final Exam
Jesus, The Son of Man, is the [EXAMINER] Who Determines If you Pass or Fail.
“31 When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations…” Verses 31-32a
“11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. 13 He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.” Revelation 19:11-13
You are Separated Into Either the Passing or Failing [GROUP] .
“32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.” Verses 32-33
“17They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.” Mal 3:17-18
Passing or Failing is the Consequence of the Way You Treated Jesus’ [BROTHERS].
“37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me... 45Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.”
Verses 36- 40 and 45
“40He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. 41 He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:40-42
Passing or Failing Determines your [ETERNAL] Destiny.
“34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Verses 34, 41, 46
Pop Quiz Before The Final Exam
“He who believes in the Son has eternal life
he who does not obey the Son shall not see life,
but the wrath of God rests upon him.” John 3:36
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word
and believes him who sent me, has eternal life;
he does not come into judgment,
but has passed from death to life. John 5:24
Good morning how are you all doing? This is a special day because we are beginning a six week journey into servant-hood and commitment with Charles Hodge. We will conclude our journey Easter Sunday with a special day. Brother Hodge will lead us in our Sunday school through a video presentation, and my task will be to follow up each of his lessons with a lesson from one of his major texts. The next forty days can be one of the best times for us as we explore the meaning of servant-hood.
The elders, deacons, and ministers want to encourage you to participate by joining the auditorium class at 9. We want you to take the next forty days to pray and invite your friends, family, and neighbors. God can do great things when we join in a common effort. When we do that it is focusing our faith and energy into a powerful stream. The next six weeks are meant to encourage you to serve together, and to be a time of evangelism, so that the stream of faith leads others into a relationship with Jesus.
This may seem a bit odd, but have you consider that beginning with the end is the best place to start? What I mean is that on any journey you can’t know where to go until you know where your trip will end. And God is very clear that our trip through life will end in a final exam. When I was a student at Harding University each semester ended with a final exam. From the beginning of the semester until the final day everything would lead to that exam. We went to class, wrote our term papers, did the extra reading, and took notes all for the purpose of being examined at the end of the semester.
The last week of the semester was known as Finals. It was a time of enormous stress if you were unprepared for the tests, because passing or failing those exams had serious consequences. You could be asked to leave. You might end up in the Vietnam War serving as a draftee in the army. And of course, if you failed, then you had to tell your parents why they spent several thousand dollars for your life of frivolity. So when it came to that final week very few of us laughed it off. I learned a little secret while at Harding. The way to pass was not to cram in the final week, but to study and work some every day through out the whole semester. Take an hour or two and review your notes daily, and when it came to the finals you were usually very prepared. It was my way to see the end before I got there.
God wants you to see the end before you get to eternity. He’s very clear that there is going to be a final exam. Paul tells the Athenians, “30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.” If we ignore our final exam it is not God’s fault. He’s acted to assure us that he will judge the world in righteousness. He did this by raising Jesus from the dead. And He’s fixed a day and appointed Jesus to give and administer the final exam. It will be a pass or fail test, and the way to avoid the stress of failure is to repent daily.
God’s command of repentance, at its core, is changing your mind. Repentance involves turning your thinking in a different direction. In other words it is beginning with the end in mind, because you know that you will stand before Jesus either passing or failing. If you pass it won’t be because you’ve ceased to sin or make mistakes. If you fail it won’t be because you were not good enough. You will pass or fail based on one simple reality. Did you open your mind and heart to the gospels power to change you into the image of Jesus Christ? Another way to say this is did you live and act every day with the conviction that God’s way through Jesus was the only way to pass the final exam. We cannot save ourselves by our own goodness. And we don’t damn ourselves by our badness. We pass or fail based on our cooperation with God. Which means that we can repent and change and allow God to transform us, and on that fixed Day of Judgment, Jesus will examine you to see, if you allowed him to save you. Did you start and continue your journey with that end in mind?
Jesus in Matthew chapter 25:31-46 paints a clear picture of that day. This morning I want to touch on four points from these verses which I hope you will review daily. Our final exam is very real in the mind of God, and He wants it to be very clear in your mind. Servant-hood and commitment have consequences to every human being. Passing or failing means rewards or punishments for you, so would you take a few minuets with me this morning to soberly consider your final exam?
You need to know that at your final exam Jesus, the Son of Man, is the examiner who determines if you pass or fail. Jesus says, “31When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations.” The picture that Jesus draws of himself is from Daniel chapter seven. In which the Son of Man is presented to the Ancient of Days who gives him dominion. The nature of that power is eternal and never ending. Jesus will be your judge because God gave him authority over all nations and peoples and tongues forever. When the Bible speaks of nations it doesn’t always mean political boundaries. The root word is ethnos from which with get our word ethnic. In verse 32 Jesus says all the nations or all the ethnically diverse peoples will be assembled before him. And you and I will be there no matter what nation or ethnic grouping we belong to. Political boundaries change through out time, but one thing does not, and that is it doesn’t matter if your skin is red, yellow, black, or white you will be examined by Jesus.
We see Jesus in the gospels mostly as the suffering servant. The one who brings grace and mercy, and it is proper that we see him this way. Jesus defines his suffering and mercy under the term Son of Man. But we also need to grasp that when God raised him he took back to his glory. Therefore, Jesus also defines himself as the Son of Man with power, majesty, and Divinity. He is the perfect one to be your judge and examiner. He is full of tender mercy, and he is also equally full of the awesome power of God. God has combined in Jesus both mercy and judgment.
The book Revelations pictures Christ’s judgment of the nations from a slightly different Old Testament perspective. The picture is drawn from the books of Zachariah and the Psalms. In chapter 19 John sees. “11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. 13 He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.” In this picture we see truths of the son of Man as God’s victorious warrior-king. He rides a mighty white charger into the battle of human history to make war against evil and to judge the nations with righteousness.
Let’s consider how he is described. He is faithful and true. There is no hypocrisy or wavering from the son of Man. He is absolute in his divine nature of goodness and fairness. When we stand before him we cannot bribe him, or lie to him, or demand anything from him. He is incorruptible and we all will stand in his presence either with his incorruption or our own.
Next he has eyes of flame with which he sees into our souls the truth about our hearts. We should never mistake his mercy as weakness or blindness. The reality is that no sin is ever, and I mean ever, overlooked. He knows us and he will deal with our sins either through his cross or by his holy wrath.
Next he is described as wearing on his head diadems or crowns. He is victorious over the world, and sin, and death. He can not wear just one crown because he is the king of all kings and the Lord of all lords. He is the winning side, and belonging to him make our faith the victory.
Next is his name which is both mysterious and revealed to us. In one part it said that he has a name which no one knows. And in the other part it says the name by which he is called is the word of God. There are two truths here that we need to know. First is that God’s word was not crafted by human imagination, rather only Jesus knows the extent and power of his own word. No one can know of himself the name of Jesus unless it is revealed by God to him. And the second truth is that God’s word is not merely words on paper. Those words on paper define and describe the living son of God. He is the living active word of God. He is the sharp two edged sword that divides our souls and spirits.
Lastly he is clad in a robe dipped in blood. We can never forget the mercy of the cross. The majority of his body is covered with this red garment which the represents his sacrifice. The cross is how he covers our sins and spares us his holy wrath. The shedding of his blood is how he passes over our sins and grants the gifts of forbearance and salvation. And if you’ve put on Christ then you are covered in that bright red garment. Jesus is the one whom you can trust to be your examiner. And whether your judgment is passing or failing you can be assured it will be exactly correct. You will have no reason to doubt its truth or fairness, because the son of Man is both God and human.
When he examines you, you will know by the group you in, how you fared. At your final exam you are separated into either the passing or failing group. Jesus says, “32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.”
The picture Jesus paints for us is that of a shepherd who divides a flock that is co mingled with sheep and goats. These two animals have very distinctive natures. Sheep are generally mild and easily led. They follow their shepherd with trust by knowing his voice when he calls them. Sheep instinctively know that the shepherd loves and cares for them better than they could for themselves. So when he calls he directs them to the right with his voice to the place of honor.
Goats on the other hand are ornery, stubborn, and mean. For example a lecherous old man is described as an ole billy goat. Goats will eat just about anything, and they will attack you without warning. In New Zealand for example wild goats are considered pests. They passed a law in 1977 to thin their populations and here’s why in their own words. “Feral goats are one of the most destructive animals found in forests. Being opportunist browsers, goats destroy the under storey of vegetation (up to 2m above ground) and, when combined with possum damage in the upper canopy, severe deterioration of native forest occurs.” The nature of a goat is selfish and destructive.
At your final examine you will be placed by Jesus in one of these two groups. Jesus will consider you one of his sheep or one of the goats. In Malachi chapter three the prophet speaks of those who fear God. He tells us that they are written in God’s book of remembrances. He then concludes his thought with these words, “17They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my special possession on the day when I act, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”
Wow on the day God acts he promises to spare those who fear him as his special possession and treat them as sons who serve him. It is this special group on his right hand that God has drawn a circle of grace around. It is then that you can distinguish the righteous and wicked. It is then that you will truly know who serves God and who doesn’t. The eternal reality is that there is no middle ground with God. You have opportunity to move into either group today. Through out your journey through life God allows you to have a choice, but when Jesus makes the final separation all choices are over.
The sheep group is final and the goat group is final. No more opportunity to change your mind. That why God commands repentance. You’ve been give a short span of life to make a choice of whether you will fear and serve God or not. Seventy years and if your strong seems like a long time, but not if your seventy or eighty years old. Your life’s journey speeds by with increasing speed towards a gigantic eternity that is forever. So let God spare you and save you by opening your heart and he will call you to his right hand. He never wants you to be goat.
Another great truth about eternal judgment is that at your final examine passing or failing is the consequence of the way you treated Jesus’ brothers. Jesus says, “37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”; and in verse 45 “45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.”
Sometimes you read a verse of Scripture for years and miss the most important part, which is what I think I’ve done with these verses in Matthew. I’ve read them to say that by loving your neighbor you are walking with Jesus. I still think this is a part of understanding what Jesus means. But when you consider the context of Jesus’ ministry as the son of Man there is something deeper going on. Jesus is about more than social welfare for the poor or needy or the sick. His whole mission as the son of Man is to seek and to save the lost. The way he chooses to do that was to die and be raised, so that his brothers the church, would share this gospel with all the nations of the world.
What Jesus is revealing to the nations, who are to be judged, is the consequences of how you treat the ones He sends to you for your salvation. Did you accept and receive those brothers of Jesus by caring for their physical needs so they could spread the gospel? Did you accept and receive them by welcoming them when they were strangers so you could learn the gospel? Did you clothe them when they were naked because the world had stripped them for preaching the gospel? Did you care for them when they were sick or in prison for the sake of the gospel?
There is a parallel passage in Matthew 10. Jesus says, “40He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. 41 He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” He is making it very clear that those who receive his family receive him. The whole of chapter 10 is about taking the gospel to the nations of the world. The principle is straightforward. When we receive a prophet from God then we get what reward the prophet brings. When we receive a righteous man then we receive from God a righteous mans reward. So too when we receive the least of Jesus’ disciples, with even a cup of cold water, we receive that disciple’s reward. And we are promised that if we receive the least of His disciples then we will not lose the gospels reward.
The question then is how are you treating the family of God; the church of Jesus Christ? Please remember God did not endow Jesus’ brothers with political power, wealth, miraculous healing, armies, or the supernatural ability to communicate. The brothers of Jesus are subject to the same forces of life and nature as everyone else. He simply left them with the gospel. And the nations are responsible for how they accept the messengers, because that shows how they received the message. That’s all the power his brothers need.
For you see, they are called to die with Jesus on the cross by sharing the good news of his death with you. The brothers of Jesus are called to endure life’s hardship with the nations so that they can share the cross with you in order that you can be Jesus’ brother too. We are held responsible for receiving and hearing the message of Jesus from his brethren. So the consequence of failing or passing is how you received the good news. You have a choice today, but someday you will not. God will call you to account and reward you or punish you for how you treated Jesus made flesh and bone in his brothers the church.
Jesus wants you to know that at your final exam, 1) he will be your examiner, 2) you will be put in a passing or failing group, 3) passing our failing is the consequence of how you treated his brothers, and finally 4) he wants you to know that at your final examine passing or failing determines your eternal destiny.
As I close this morning this is the most sobering part of Jesus’ message. No one needs to scream at you. I am not in the least angry, nor would I enjoy seeing one soul here today separate him or herself from God for eternity. To tell you the honest truth before God I hope every one of us this morning will be rewarded with God’s eternal kingdom heaven. And as I read the words of Jesus, I want you to know that God loves you, his brothers the church loves you, and this preacher loves you. But Jesus speaks sober warnings and we need to listen carefully to him. ““34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”(Verses 34, 41, and verse 46.)
Arthur J. Schlesinger, Jr., the famous American historian, once reminisced about Edward F. Prichard, Jr., politician, sometime crook, and interesting character from Kentucky: Schlesinger said, "He had a diverting fancy about Judgment Day. When the last trumpet sounded, he would say, the Lord isn't going to send people to heaven or to hell, 'He's going to take away their inhibitions, and everybody's going to go where he belongs."' If you are to be rewarded or to be punished it will not be because God lessened your inhibitions. Mr. Prichard is incorrect about that part of his fancy. He is correct though that you will go where you belong.
You will be rewarded because you received the gift of the Grace of Jesus in this world. You haven’t earned it, but according to God’s accounting heaven is where you belong. In the passages we’ve read; Jesus says that God, before he created the world, made Heaven for all the nations. Let me tell you the good news. Before you were born, before there was an America, or a Europe, or an Africa, or an Asia God created an address for you in Heaven. It is a permanent address for you in God’s mind. And the only way you will not move into it is that you’ve chosen to spend your eternity with the Devil.
If you’ve rejected the cross then you belong to Hell. If you remember Jesus said Hell is not prepared for you. It is not God’s desire or plan for you to spend forever in the torment of eternal exclusion from his presence. Hell is prepared for the Devil and his angels. And it is the most awful place while heaven is the most blessed. It is, therefore, imperative that you pass and not fail. God is rooting for you this morning. It grieves Him when you choose to leave him for the world, because your separation here can become forever fixed in eternity. And how can a mere human even comprehend the idea of forever, and the never ending horror of the absence of God’s love and care. You see the problem with eternity is that you cannot change what you have become in the flesh. That is why all choices are here in this world and not in the next.
Eternal fire and paradoxically eternal darkness are the two leading characteristics of Hell. The pain and blindness of never knowing God must be the most tragic destiny for foolish men and women. Heaven is on the other hand is described as eternal life. This is to know God. I will or you will be blessed forever with intimacy and closeness with God that is perfect and without any blemish. If you can think of the feeling of always being contented and happy then you’ve begun to understand heaven’s eternal blessing. Also if you can think of never resting, never being without regret, never being loved then you begun to understand the fire and darkness of eternal hell.
Have you ever heard of an open book test? Sometimes in college we were allowed to take pop examines using our text books to find the answers. Let me tell you it is real hard to fail that kind of pop quiz. But do you know something there were students who failed. And the reason they failed is they never opened the book before the test. So this morning we are going to take an open book pop quiz and you have an opportunity to pass or fail. God is eager for you to pass, but you have to make a choice. That choice is repentance. So if you wish to fail then don’t open your mind to the words of God. Harden your heart into concrete, and when you do pass into eternity you will become permanently unfit for heaven. John says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.” Harden your heart into disobedience and you will not see heaven, and God’s displeasure will continue to rest on you. But please don’t make it forever. Please! Please Obey.
You can pass this pop examine and obey the words of Jesus and soften your heart, and you will become permanently fit to be with God forever. Jesus tells us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.’ Did you hear those words? If you hear and believe you are freed from eternal judgment, and pass from death to life. Did you hear? Pass the pop examine with faith in what you hear this morning from God’s open book his word, and you will pass the final Exam on Judgment Day. So let me ask you this morning to take this pop Quiz.
Pop Quiz Before the Final Exam
· Have you heard that Jesus the son of Man appeared in the flesh two thousand years ago? Do you believe it? If yes you have the correct answer.
· Have you heard that Jesus the son of Man prepared the way to God for you? Do you believe it? If yes you have the correct answer.
· Have you heard that Jesus the son of Man died for you? Do you believe it? If yes you have the correct answer.
· Have you heard that Jesus the son of man was buried and arose three days latter? Do you believe it? If yes you have the correct answer.
· Have you heard that Jesus the son of Man ascended and sat down at God right hand until all his enemies are made a foot stool? Do you believe it? If yes you have the correct answer.
· Have you heard that Jesus the son of Man commands you to pledge your life to him in baptism? Do you believe it enough to obey his command? If yes you have the correct answer.
· Have you heard that Jesus adds you to his family the church when you are baptized? Do you believe enough to assemble whenever you are able? If yes you have the correct answer.
· Have you heard that Jesus the son of Man requires you to deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow him till you die? Do you believe enough to live in a daily relationship with Jesus? If yes you have passed!!!!!