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"Sir, we wish to see Jesus" John 12:21
 
Last Judgement   LAST JUDGEMENT

When Jesus was taken up into heaven on the 40th day after his resurrection, the angels that appeared to his disciples affirmed, “he will return in the same way that you saw him go.” The question that had been on their mind at the time was when would Jesus establish the kingdom to Israel. Surely, they thought, he had been raised to do that very thing. But it was not to be. Within a generation the kingdom that was Israel had been decimated by the Romans, and the Jews, by and large, sent into exile among the nations. The first disciples also went out among the nations, not as exiles but as witnesses to the larger kingdom that the Father was establishing through his Son, Jesus. In heaven Jesus had been exalted to and enthroned at the right hand of the Father and from there he now reigns. But as the angels testified he will return to earth to establish the kingdom in its fully realized form. This will occur when Jesus, the Lamb, who is worthy to open the scroll of destiny that John saw in his vision (The Apocalypse), breaks the 7th seal and inaugurates the final act of creation, redemption, and recreation. This final act involves two movements.

The first movement is the return of Jesus to earth as the angels had testified. When this occurs he will raise the righteous who had been martyred for their faith and together with him they will rule on earth for 1,000 years. This is the millennial kingdom that fulfills the petition of the Lord’ s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.” It will not come without “birth pangs, “ as Jesus called them, great tribulations caused by resistance to the realization of kingdom the God. This resistance is spiritual in nature originating with Satan, “the ruler of this present world darkness,” who deceives the nations. Thus, when Jesus returns he will bind Satan for 1,000 years in order to remove his influence.

Jesus made plain in his teaching that only the Father knows the time when these things will take place. Many have speculated through the ages and thought they had discerned the time but all proved to be wrong. But to many it does seem we are closer to that time than before for several good reasons. One is that the witness to Jesus has been carried out to the ends of the earth, which is one thing Jesus said must happen before his return. Another is the exiles from Israel have returned to the land and have begun to restore the kingdom of Israel which is another thing that is predicted. This is necessary since Jesus will rule the nations from Jerusalem, the Holy City and the city of the Great King, the Messiah, who sits upon the throne of his ancestor David.

The second movement of the final act is the culminating one in which God’s ultimate purpose is finally revealed and realized. At the end of the millennial kingdom, Satan is released again and he deceives the nations leading them into one final rebellion against God and his kingdom. The rebellion is quashed and Satan doomed to eternal punishment. Then, follows a judgment of all the living and the dead who ever lived presided over by Jesus as judge. Even death and Hades, the abode of the dead, are judged condemned and destroyed. The first heaven and the first earth of this present age pass away and are replaced by a new heaven and earth that does not pass away. Those who pass through the judgment are granted life, eternal life, and a share in this Age to Come.

This last act follows the same course as the Fall Festivals of Israel, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. With the blowing of the ram’ s horn (shofar) at Rosh Hashanah, the King enters into judgment of his people. The books of their days are opened and they are judged according to what is written there. They are either inscribed for life or for death. The sentence is not sealed for 10 days until Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This allows time for repentance, amendment, and pleas for mercy. Those who are inscribed in the book for life pass through this judgment and celebrate at Sukkot, the season of rejoicing in life. This joy is inspired by the closeness with which God draws close to his people and the blessing of his own life he shares with them. John in his vision glimpsed this new heaven and new earth and heard a voice from the throne declare, “See the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

(Painted by Michelangelo)

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