Hebrews 9:27 – Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. (NIV)
Years ago, I can remember hearing a street preacher giving a solemn message about death and judgement. It took place in the centre of my hometown of Glasgow, Scotland, on a Saturday night during the football season. I was playing my guitar and singing choruses with a bunch of zealous friends. The preacher was trying hard to convince the hundreds of passers-by to think twice about what they were doing and where they were going. Every now and then, someone would stop and listen, start laughing, and then call us all fools. I was really embarrassed and inwardly prayed that no-one who knew me would see me.
At one point during the preaching, a street vendor was trying to sell the Saturday night sports edition of the local newspaper. A contest soon began between the preacher, the vendor, and the chorus singers. We were singing "Blessed Assurance", the preacher was talking about the final judgement, and the vendor was shouting out the latest football scores. It could have made a great comic sketch for Saturday Night Live!
I don't know if we made any difference in anyone's life that night, but the lesson that I took from it has stayed with me. Whenever Christ's gospel is preached and judgement is mentioned, the world doesn't want to hear it, and would rather find comfort and joy in a few favourable football scores. But no matter how distracted the world may become, the truth will not be set aside or diminished: we all have one life to live, and after that is over, we face God's judgement.
But the message doesn't end there. When we look at the following verse, we can see the hope of the gospel:
Hebrews 9:28 – 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. (NIV)
Jesus comes to bring salvation to those who wait for Him. Christ cancels out God's judgement upon us. His sacrifice takes away the eternal consequences of our sins. We don't have to fear the wrath of God, because Christ restores us to God's embrace. We don't need to distract ourselves when we hear the terrible words of judgement; we just have to place our faith in the vanquishing power of Christ's grace. That's the kind of winning score that is worth preaching, singing, and even selling newspapers about. That's the kind of victory I want in my life and in everyone else's.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we know that we make terrible mistakes in our lives and that all of us carry regrets from the past. We also know that we are not worthy to enter into God's holy, sacred, and perfect presence. But You provide us with the opportunity to break from our past and look forward to being with God. Thank You, Jesus, for the blessed assurance of Your sacrifice, forgiveness, and grace. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.