Matthew 5:1-12 "Blessed"



Judgment Seat: H.C. Lord's Day 19

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 19

Q 50. Why the next words: “and is seated at the right hand of God”?
A 50. Because Christ ascended to heaven to show there that he is head of his church, the one through whom the Father rules all things.

Q 51. How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?
A 51. First, through his Holy Spirit he pours out gifts from heaven upon us his members.

Second, by his power he defends us and keeps us safe from all enemies.

Q 52. How does Christ’s return “to judge the living and the dead” comfort you?
A 52. In all distress and persecution, with uplifted head I confidently await the very judge who has already offered himself to the judgment of God in my place and removed the whole curse from me. Christ will cast all his enemies and mine into everlasting condemnation, but will take me and all his chosen ones to himself into the joy and glory of heaven.

It is a rare day indeed when the prospect of being judged, especially when it’s something as seemingly final as the last judgment, is actually comforting.  I can’t say that I ever found any of my final exams, tests, or even quizzes in school to be even the least be comforting; even when I knew I would do well.  However, the Catechism here seems to take a different approach to this judgment.

To really have a true understanding about this, though, we have to draw on all that we have talked about for the past couple of weeks regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ.  After His resurrection and ascension, we read in Scripture that Jesus “sits down” at the right hand of the Father.  This “being seated,” as Paul writes at the beginning of the book of Ephesians, is a symbol of Christ’s work being finished.

Imagine, if you will, a lawyer making his closing arguments in a trial.  He eloquently defends the accused person that he represents and then says “your honor, I rest my case,” sitting down next to the defendant.  There’s nothing else to do, there’s nothing else to say; it is in the hands of the judge now.  The same is true here with Christ; He sits down at the right hand of the Father because the work is finished.  He doesn’t have to do more, He did it all when He died on the cross and rose from the dead.

Adding to this image, what would it look like if the lawyer defending the accused, which in this case is you and me, was also the judge?  He rests His case and then sits down in the judge’s place, rendering the verdict that He Himself has fought for.  The accuser has no say in anything because our defender is also our judge and He has paid the price for us.

Now that, my friends, is comforting.

It goes far beyond that as well.  There is a day coming when Jesus Christ will return and a final judgment of all people will come to pass.  For those who are in Christ, there is nothing to worry about because the one who will judge the world is also the one who paid our debt.  But for those who do not know Christ, whose sins are not forgiven, this may be cause for considerable angst.  Without Christ, the verdict is guilty… no matter how good a life we have lived… and the punishment is eternal.

Enter the idea of hell: eternal punishment and separation from God.  How is this comforting?  For many, especially in the insulated western world is the United States, the notion of Hell is repulsive and horrifying, something we are very quick to shy away from.  We don’t understand what it means to have real enemies.  Our greatest enemies are more likely our in-laws, or the guy that cut of off on the road the other day.  They certainly annoy us, but we would not wish eternal punishment on them… the definitely aren’t the enemies of God.

In other parts of the world, however, there is a different feel.  The enemies of God, those who actively oppose the Gospel and all who follow Christ, are real, dangerous, and deadly.  They behead Christians with swords, burn them alive in cages, and even sell Christian women and children into slavery and forced sexual servitude in the name of their god (who is not the same as the Christian God, mind you).  These are the enemies of God and they are ruthless; justice in these situations looks a lot different.

Now, I’m not saying that we should wish Hell on anyone.  We are called to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us.  However, we cannot argue that there is a comfort associated with knowing that, no matter how bad the world gets, Christ wins in the end and the enemies of God will be brought to true justice as well.  It is hard for us to fathom here in the U.S.  We experience only a micro-fraction of what Christians in other parts of the world live with daily… but for them and for us one thing is very clear: the battle has been won, the work has been finished, and judgment has been rendered, and as Job so eloquently states:

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!  Job 19:25-27



Return of the King: H.C. Question 52

 How does Christ’s return “to judge the living and the dead” comfort you?

Luke 21:28 – When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Romans 8:22-25 – We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Philippians 3:20-21 – But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Titus 2:13-14 – while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Matthew 25:31-46 – “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 – God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.



King of kings: H.C. Question 51

How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?

Acts 2:33 – Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

Ephesians 4:7-12 – But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

Psalm 110:1-2 – The Lord says to my lord:
“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!”

John 10:27-30 – My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

Revelation 19:11-16 – I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.

 



Enthroned: H.C. Question 50

Why the next words: “and is seated at the right hand of God”?

Ephesians 1:20-23 – he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Colossians 1:18 – And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Matthew 28:18-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

John 5:22-23 – Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

 



Here, There, Everywhere: H.C. Lord's Day 18

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 18

Q 46. What do you mean by saying, “He ascended to heaven”?
A 46. That Christ while his disciples watched, was taken up from the earth into heaven and remains there on our behalf until he comes again to judge the living and the dead.

Q 47. But isn’t Christ with us until the end of the world as he promised us?
A 47. Christ is true human and true God. In his human nature Christ is not now on earth; but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit he is never absent from us.

Q 48. If his humanity is not present wherever his divinity is, then aren’t the two natures of Christ separated from each other?
A 48. Certainly not. Since divinity is not limited and is present everywhere, it is evident that Christ’s divinity is surely beyond the bounds of the humanity that has been taken on, but at the same time his divinity is in and remains personally united to his humanity.

Q 49. How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
A 49. First, he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father.

Second, we have our own flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that Christ our head will also take us, his members, up to himself.

Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a corresponding pledge. By the Spirit’s power, we seek not earthly things but the things above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.

The ascension of Christ is not something that falls under anyone’s “first things I think about in the morning” list.  This event is treated by Christians and the Church in most places as an afterthought, almost like it seems to appear in Scripture, the segway between Christ’s death and resurrection and the beginning of the Christian movement.

But the reality of what the Ascension of Jesus Christ accomplishes for us is quite important.  It also raises some important questions that we also should consider as we think about such things.

The first has to do with the dual natures of Christ, being both fully human and fully God.  As we have talked about before, Jesus has to be 100% of both to accomplish the work of salvation that He did.  It is an important point to make, though, that while Jesus is indeed fully God and fully human, these two natures are never separated.  It was not the human Jesus that died while God the Son looked on.  Neither was it God the Son that endured the wrath of the Father while the human Jesus was somehow unconscious.  Both endured, both died, and both were raised; never are they separate.

Why does this matter?  Well, two main reasons are brought up in the Heidelberg Catechism and therefore deserve mentioning.  First, it is important to know that Jesus, being now in heaven and seated at the right hand of God is both human and God.  His human presence in heaven is a guarantee that we too, as humans, will be welcome into heaven.  His presence as God ensures that He can and will rule and reign over the entire universe as the eternal King of kings and Lord of lords.

The second is brought up by questions 47 and 48 have to do with Christ’s presence here with us.  We often talk about how Jesus is with us always, He even states that at the end of the Great Commission: “Behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  But, how is this possible if Jesus Christ is in heaven and His natures as both God and human cannot be divided.  Human Jesus is not sitting up in heaven while God Jesus is floating around the earth.  Does this make Him a liar?  Or is our theology incorrect?

The answer to this question lies, quite perfectly, in the nature of the Trinity.  God is one God in three persons.  Jesus speaks a lot about sending the Holy Spirit, something we will talk more about in the coming weeks, and it is through the Holy Spirit that the things of God continue to be revealed to us.  It is also through the Holy Spirit that, as Scripture says, we are “united to Christ.”

God’s spirit is implanted in our hearts and on our minds, a gift and a deposit which guarantees our inheritance in Christ.  Because the Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son, though being distinct in person, Christ is with us and we are united to Him, and He to us through the Holy Spirit.  And through Him, we participate in the united life of the Trinity and God fulfills His promise moment by moment, faithfully walking with us through every experience of our lives.



Higher Benefits: H.C. Question 49

How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?

Romans 8:34 – Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

1 John 2:1 – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

John 14:2 – My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?

John 17:24 – “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Ephesians 2:4-6 – But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

John 14:16 – And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 5:5 – Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Colossians 3:1-4 – Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.



Two Natures: H.C. Question 48

If his humanity is not present wherever his divinity is, then aren’t the two natures of Christ separated from each other?

Jeremiah 23:23-24 – “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away?  Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord.  “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.

Acts 7:48-49 – “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
“‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.  What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord.  Or where will my resting place be?

Isaiah 66:1 – This is what the Lord says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.  Where is the house you will build for me?  Where will my resting place be?

John 1:14 – The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 3:13 – No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.

Colossians 2:9 – For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,



Are You with us or not? H.C. Question 47

But isn’t Christ with us until the end of the world as he promised us?

Matthew 28:18-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Acts 1:9-11 – After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Acts 3:19-21 – Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

John 14:16-19 – And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.



Ascended: H.C. Question 46

What do you mean by saying, “He ascended to heaven”?

Luke 24:50-51 – When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.

Acts 1:9-11 – After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Romans 8:34 – Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Ephesians 4:8-10 – This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)

Hebrews 7:23-25 – Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Hebrews 9:24 – For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.



God's Not Dead! H.C. Lord's Day 17

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 17

How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?
First, by His resurrection He has overcome death, so that He might make us share in the righteousness He won for us by His death.  Second, by His power we too are already now resurrected to new life.  Third, Christ’s resurrection is a guarantee of our glorious resurrection.

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”  1 Corinthians 15:17. These are strong words from the Apostle Paul regarding the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; the event we celebrate on Easter Sunday.

Often, in church, we talk about how Jesus died for our sins on the cross.  Far too often, that’s all the further that the mention of His work goes for us.  Jesus’ death is a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.  Certainly, this is true and I wouldn’t want to discount this event or the suffering that Christ endured for us in the least.  As we discussed last week, the events of the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life cannot be overstated.

However, Jesus’ death doesn’t amount to much without His resurrection from the death.  The Resurrection is the most important event in history.  Without it, Jesus’ death does not accomplish the forgiveness of sins, His sacrifice is not sufficient, and His work is incomplete.  Without the resurrection, our death is still the ultimate end for us, even if the punishment for our sins had been taken by Him.

Paul goes on to say that if Christ is not raised, not only is the Christian faith futile, those that teach it are liars and are to be pitied.  What a bold and honest statement from the most influential Christian in all human history.

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the death…” 1 Corinthians 15:20. This is the foundation of the hope that we have!  Jesus’ death paid for our sins; His resurrection conquers the ultimate punishment for our sins.  By His resurrection, we are assured that He is the all-sufficient sacrifice, that His work is complete, and that the wrath of God has been satisfied.  We know this because the consequences of sin have been removed.

C.S. Lewis, in his book “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” captures this so clearly in the conversation Aslan has with Lucy and Susan after coming back from the dead:

“…though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know.  Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time.  But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and darkness before Time dawned, she would have read a different incantation.  She would have known that when a willing victim who has committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”

Yes, an innocent victim taking the place of a traitor, though the Resurrection is no magic… it is the sheer power of God on display in Christ Jesus.  It is the ultimate will of God being played out before the eyes of the entire cosmos and impacting the entire universe.  There is no place or time in which the Resurrection’s significance does not touch and is not felt.  All of this was decreed before the foundations of the earth when only the Triune God existed, and all of it was done for us.  Thanks be to God!!



Resurrection: H.C. Question 45

How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?

Romans 4:25 – He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

1 Corinthians 15:16-20 – For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

1 Peter 1:3-5 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Romans 6:5-11 – For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:4-6 – But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

Colossians 3:1-4 – Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Romans 8:11 – And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

1 Corinthians 15:12-23 – But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

Philippians 3:20-21 – But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.