Return of Jesus, Judgment and Salvation
When the Apostle Paul preached to fellow Jews, he emphasized the fact that Jesus was the prophesied messiah that the Jewish scriptures foretold. Paul's energy was spent showing how Jesus fulfilled many varied scriptural references.
But, when Paul presented the good news about Jesus to non-Jewish people, he emphasized something else entirely. After all, they did not give much credence to the Jewish scriptures.
In Athens, Paul went to the Areopagus to speak with the philosophers. The Areopagus was were these philosophers listed to and passed decisions on religious arguments.
Paul told these philosophers that he brought word about an "unknown" god. It was a god to whom the Athenians had long ago erected an altar. Paul declared that this god, whom the Athenians worshiped in ignorance, would come to them and judge them.
Paul, in his letter to the Roman church indicated that there was a day of judgment coming when Jesus would return to judge the secrets of men:
Jesus, numerous times, talked about a time when everyone will be judged. At one time when he was talking to Jews who wanted to find some reason to put him to death, he talked of the coming judgment.
It is easy to think that nobody is looking when you cheat someone or steal something. When you get angry, it's easy to say something nasty about someone. In your anger you may even strike out at them and hurt them.
And it's easy to think that nobody really notices what you do or say. But, God does.
For, our character and personality are illustrated by what we do. Our thoughts eventually cause our actions. Good thoughts produce helpful actions and uplifting words. Evil thoughts produce harmful actions and degrading words.
Jesus often described the actions of a person's character as their fruit. He indicated that good trees produce good fruit while bad trees produce bad fruit.
Here, John the Baptist, who announced the coming of Jesus the Messiah, saw some religious leaders of his day who professed to be good, but where quite unsavorary.
The character we develop determines our actions. Though we want to be seen as good people, if we have wicked thoughts, those thoughts will creep out in our words and deeds. Jesus indicated that even our careless words indicate who we really are.
At another time, Jesus was teaching his disciples about the kingdom of heaven. He told them various stories that illustrated various aspects of this kingdom.
One story compared the kingdom to the time when a ruler left his possessions with his servants, expecting them to carry on his work. When he returned he evaluated the performance of his servants and blessed those who had done well while he condemned one servant who refused to do what was asked of him.
His final words at this time were about the time when he would return to judge the nations. We can consider the nations to be all those who are not his servants. He indicates that he will separate the people based on how they acted in life. Those who will inherit eternal life are like "sheep" in this story. Those who will go into eternal punishment are like "goats" in this story.
But, there is good news, in fact, the best news for Christians.
Christians will not be judged. They are neither the sheep nor the goats of this judgment.
Rather, his brethren are the people Jesus uses to describe some of the actions that separate the people represented by sheep from those represented by goats. Jesus indicated to the sheep that they helped him when he was hungry, thirsty, sick, or naked. But, since they never knew Jesus they asked when they provided that assistance. Jesus answered:
And Jesus indicated that the goats did not help him under that same conditions. And a representative of the goats asked how they failed to provide that help. Jesus answered:
The brethren of Jesus are not members of either the sheep or the goats. Rather, they have already been chosen for salvation or eternal life. They will not face possible condemnation in the coming judgment.
The scriptures indicate that those who are the brethren of Christ will not be condemned with the world. Rather, they are set free.
Because Christians are free, they are a peace with God. This peace is not something they earned by great or meritorious deeds. Rather, their peace with God is given to them by God because of their faith. It is a free gift of grace.
Jesus distinguished between those who have faith and those who decided to not have faith. Those who have faith will not be judged. But, those who reject faith will be rejected by Jesus.
Surly, the good news God provides about salvation is a powerful attraction for those considering Christianity.
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