End Times 2: Last Judgment

Preached: November 8, 2009

Look Who's Coming! The Sacrificed Sacrificer
Hebrews 9:24-28

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to our Savior is Hebrews 9

For Christ did not enter into a man-made sanctuary, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself to now appear for us before the face of God. He did not enter to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the sanctuary year after year with blood that's not his own, since then it would be necessary for him to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.

But now once at the consummation of the ages for the removal of sin through his sacrifice he has appeared. As much as it's set out for people to die once and after that judgment, so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time without sin for salvation for those eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:24-28)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

“Look who's coming!” little Jacob shouted. His big brother Nik's face turned white as he saw their parents' car pulling into the driveway. He and his friends had made a mess of the house. He hadn't had a chance to clean up, and he wasn't even suppose to have friends inside while his parents were gone.

Scenario two: “Look who's coming!” little Jacob shouted. Relief spread over Nik's face as he saw their parents' car pulling into the driveway. In the darkness there had been such a racket in the backyard. The two brothers had huddled together in the living room, hoping for Dad and Mom to get back soon. Now they were safe.

“Look who's coming!” Those same words can bring terror or joy. Which will it be for you when Jesus comes? Many imagine themselves to be rather indifferent about it. Even we can push those thoughts to the side busying our hearts with the concerns of the moment. But when Jesus returns, there will be no in between. It will be either terror or joy. No one will be able to ignore it. For he will come in his divine glory on the clouds with his holy angels. Like a lightning flash filling the sky, he will appear and all flesh will stand him, the Judge of all. “Look who's coming!” Words of terror or joy?

The text from Hebrews 9 show us why those words can bring us joy, the greatest joy of all. May the Holy Spirit work that joy in you, dear friends, as we ponder his words here.

A. He came to remove sin once and for all

1. What evidence in our lives proves that sin stains us?

Now we've certainly made a mess of our house and life. You might not be that bad compared to a lot of people out there, but that's not the standard of comparison, is it? The holy law of God sets the mark of perfection, the bull's eye we are to hit. And it's not only that we fall short when we try to hit that mark, but how often do we fail even to aim at it? Rather than aiming at what God commands as we make decisions and choices, we aim at what we think will bring us happiness or success. We aim at what might make others like us more or what might ease our pain. We aim at propping up our ego rather than glorifying God in all that we say, think, and do. How far off we are from the bull's eye of holiness set by God's law!

Based on what you and I have done, we fall far short of God's approval. Like rebellious children who've partied while the parents were gone, what can you and I expect when our God returns to judge the living and the dead? As long as our sin clings to us, punishment and hell await us. As long as sin stains our hearts, terror fills us at Christ's return.

Your good works cannot cover up your sin. Your effort cannot scrub out that stain. Whatever comfort you have because you've tried hard and done your best is a false, deceptive dream. That day of awakening when Jesus returns will shatter that dream with the terror of reality.

2. How did the sanctuary picture the way Christ removed sin's stain?

But look at who is coming. Look at this Jesus who returns. He came once before. Look at what he did then. “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” (Hebrews 9:26-28 NIV).

We could not remove the stain of our sin, but the Father sent his Son, Jesus, to accomplish what was impossible for us. That's the mission he came to do as the Christ, the anointed One. All the ages have pointed to him. He is the end point of all that comes before and after. We even number our years according to his first coming. His work is the consummation, the fulfillment, the completion of all that had been promised from of old. All history centers on him.

Now what was this work of the ages? How did he remove the stain of sin from you and me? How did his first coming take it away so that your sin no longer need terrify you at his second coming? How? Like the high priests of old, he offered a sacrifice to remove sin.

You see, in the Old Testament not even the high priest of Israel could enter the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. For sin separated the people from the holy God, just as our sin does. So on that one day of the year, the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, when the high priest was to enter the Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, where the Ark was, he could not entire except with blood, blood to atone for the people's sins, blood to atone for his own sin. For only blood removes the stain of sin. Only blood takes away guilt. Only the blood of a sacrifice.

So as foretold through these ancient rituals of the sanctuary, the Christ came to offer the sacrifice for sin. But the blood of animal sacrifices could not wash the people clean. That's why the priest offered the sacrifices year after year, because sin was still there. So Jesus, the Christ, did not bring the blood of another, blood that was not his own. For you see, he was not only the Sacrificer; he was also the Sacrifice. He is both priest and lamb, the sacrificed Sacrificer. He offered his own blood, his holy, precious blood, the blood of God. Only his blood removes sin's stain.

Now although he was just one, he bore the sins of many, so many that it included all people, yes, even you and me. “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28 NIV), to take away your sins, dear friend. Covered with the sins of the world, he died once and for all. Just as we are to die but once and then face judgment, so also Christ died once. There is no need for him to offer himself again and again like the sacrifices at the tabernacle. For his one sacrifice truly atones for all sin. His one sacrifice removes sin's stain. It removes the stain of your sin, dear friend. For he carried away your sin up to the cross, so that it stained him instead of you. He died for you He is the sacrificed Sacrificer.

B. He's entered the heavenly sanctuary to return for you who wait

1. What does it mean for you that Christ has entered heaven?

And look at what happened after he died once for all. Then he rose and entered heaven itself. “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” (Hebrews 9:24 NIV). Yes, dear friend, the sacrifice of the Sacrificer, Jesus Christ, truly did remove the guilt of your sin. For look at the judgment he received. Look at the Easter verdict. The Father accepted Christ's sacrifice as full and complete. For Jesus rose from the dead and entered heaven itself. What a verdict for you to believe! The sacrificed Sacrificer has removed the guilt of your sin and now stands before the face of God on your behalf.

Think about that when Satan accuses you and guilt plagues you. Think about that as you face the troubles and the pleasures of life. Think about that as you make your day-to-day decisions. For you see, what Jesus did for you isn't just Bible history that happened long ago outside Jerusalem. Rather much more, for the sacrificed Sacrificer, who once gave himself to remove your sin, now today appears for you in presence of God. His sacrifice is always before the face of the Father. So though we daily sin much and still deserve nothing but punishment, God sees the sacrificed Sacrificer standing before him. So as you come before the Father, clinging to Jesus, he says to you, “My Son, Jesus, has removed your sin. That's the mission I sent him to do. He has accomplished it for you. I no longer see the stain of your sin. My Son's blood covers it. You, my dear child, are forgiven.”

2. How does that change the way you live today?

Now don't you think that since God himself always looks at the sacrificed Sacrificer standing in front of his face, shouldn't we also always have Jesus before our eyes? God certainly wants that. That's why he gave us his Word. That's why he holds before you Jesus' sacrifice in that most wondrous of ways, as Jesus gives you his real body and real blood to eat and drink under the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. The same body and blood sacrificed once and for all on the cross is brought to you. It certainly not given as a re-sacrificing, for Jesus' suffered once and for all on the cross. Otherwise, as the text says, he would have to have suffered many times going all the way back to the creation of the world (Hebrews 9:26), if his death on the cross had not been enough. The Supper is certainly not a re-sacrificing but rather a remembering of his sacrifice. For he truly brings you his body and blood, so that you always remember his sacrifice for you. He is the sacrificed Sacrificer. He gave himself for you. His blood removes the stain of your sin.

God certainly wants us to always be seeing the sacrificed Sacrificer, Jesus Christ. How that changes the way we live! How that changes the way we make our day-to-day choices! Rather than aiming at our own happiness or success, our own fame or fortune, rather than aiming at getting others to like us or trying to avoid pain, now our aim is to glorify our God and Savior, Jesus Christ. And even though we may make many of the same day-to-day decisions that we would otherwise, now our reason for making them is vastly different. We do what we do because of what Christ has done for us, because as the sacrificed Sacrificer he gave himself into death for us and now stands before God's face on our behalf.

3. How will you react when you finally hear: “Look who's coming!”

And what joy then when we finally hear those words: “Look who's coming!” Yes, dear Christians, look who's coming! It's the sacrificed Sacrificer. See the nail marks in his hands and feet, even as glory surrounds him. The One who sacrificed himself for you is the one who is coming. Can that be anything better news than that? When we were still godless sinners, rebelling against him in wickedness, he died for you. How much more now that his blood has removed sin's stain, will he not come to rescue us from this evil world and bring you safely to our heavenly home? For like children huddled together we so easily become afraid of the terrors of this dark night. How eagerly we wait for our Savior's return! The dawn of the eternal day! Take heart. He is coming soon. “He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28), to bring you, dear Christian, safely home to heaven. Look who's coming! The sacrificed Sacrifice is coming to bring you safely home. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313