Te Deum – Part 6

Te Deum – Part 6

Te Deum – Part 6.

… You overcame the sting of death,

And opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.

You are seated at God’s right hand in glory.

We believe that you will come and be our judge…” 

This section of the Te Deum includes some statements of faith that could be true about no one other than Jesus. History meets with belief in these pronouncements, and all those who declare these statements to be true are expressing profound faith in the one and only Jesus Christ, the true Son of God. These bold declarations are addressed directly to Jesus, person-to-person, in the spirit 0f adoration.

You overcame the sting of death. This prayer-hymn has finally led us to some resurrection talk. Ever since Adam and Eve, sin and death have been woven into human existence. The spirit of death has been at work in us through our sinful nature. Death has stung each of us through our tendency to sinfulness. Our very state of being is tainted, and the sting of death has been sin. We are indeed made in the image of God, but we need for Someone to take the stinger out of our status. It seems that only God could remove the sting of sin, our slavery to sin. Only the Lord of life can remove the sting of death. Sure enough, the very Son of God, God-become-Man, removed the sting from each of us. We were destined to experience the penalty of our sin, but Jesus lived and died and rose again, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. There is now hope that we would not be bound and defined by sin. We now have the hope of a life that will be freed from the ravages of death. The last enemy after sin is death itself. Death has to die, death has to be emptied of its power over us. And Jesus, through the resurrection, killed death. On Resurrection Sunday, death died, and a whole new world of life opened up for the human race… abundant life now, eternal life later, starting now. Because of Jesus, life is now our hope and destiny, life is now an established fact. Yes, “Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:54-55). Following the resurrected Jesus means we have the Spirit of life renewing us, and we have the joyous prospect of everlasting life ahead of us. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is now at work in each of us. The first Adam brought sin and death and judgment. The second Adam brought purity and life and forgiveness. The first Adam brought the curse of sin, and the second Adam removed the curse and brought blessing. Because of Adam we were slaves to sin. Because of Jesus, we are now children of God. With Jesus, death’s days were numbered. With Him, life wins the victory.

And opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.  Can we point to a time in history when Jesus opened the kingdom of heaven for believers? Many Bible readers point to Christ’s words on the Cross to the repentant thief hung near Him… “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43). If we take His words literally, and why shouldn’t we, then Jesus opened the gates of heaven upon His death and resurrection. And it also means that the repentant thief, probably a hardened criminal, was the first person to enter Paradise with Christ. We also know that opening the pearly gates was only the beginning. Heaven continues to be built as we speak. Jesus has promised that He is going before us to prepare dwelling places for us in heaven. We don’t know much about the after life, but we do know for sure, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3). Heaven is wherever the risen Christ is. If that’s Paradise, then that where I want to be. I stand with Moses when he said, “Lord, through all generations you have been our dwelling place.” (Ps. 90:1). God is our home, and when Jesus opened the gates of heaven at His resurrection, He offered His presence in that place for all who have died. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. (2 Cor. 5:8).

You are seated at God’s right hand in glory. It’s not often we are able to read an eye-witness account of the royal throne room. But we have someone in Scripture who saw Jesus with his own eyes after the Lord’s ascension. The incident is recorded in Acts 7:55-56. The eye witness is Stephen, a leader of the first Christian church in Jerusalem, and the Church’s first martyr. His testimony is credible, to say the least. Stephen was speaking some hard truths before the unbelieving Jewish leaders, and all heaven broke loose. “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, ‘Look, I see heaven opened and the Son of God standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!” Needless to say, this was considered blasphemous to the cynical leadership in Jerusalem, and Stephen was immediately hauled out of the city and stoned to death. The writer of Hebrews refers to the heavenly status of Jesus much like Stephen did, “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and He sustains everything by the mighty power of His command. When He had cleansed us from our sins, He sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.” (Heb. 1:3). The psalmist David prophesied this would happen in Ps. 110:1, “Yahweh said to my Lord, ‘Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.” Jesus was destined to be held in honor at God’s right hand, and He has fulfilled His destiny. At God’s right hand, Jesus “lives to intercede for us” (Heb. 7:25), bringing our prayers to the Father, whispering in His ear our requests and petitions, our cries and groans, praying for our needs and troubles.

You will come to be our judge. There is no question that Jesus will be our judge at the End of Days. Christ in his glory will be the judge of the world at His Second Coming (John 5:22). The Father has committed all judgment to the Son. And Jesus is so intimately fused with God the Father that Jesus will judge with the will of the Father in mind. (John 5:30). So the Father freely gives all authority to the Son for final judgments. St. Paul affirms this in Acts 17:31… “God has set a day when the entire human race will be judged and everything set right. And He has already appointed the judge, confirming Him before everyone else by raising Him from the dead.” 

Jesus’ parable of the judge, the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-46), might hint at what the final judgment might look like. It’s interesting that this parable forms the last words of Jesus in His public ministry. This story is His final thoughts before the Passion and the Cross. He evidently wanted to provide a glimpse of what the Day of Judgment might look like. The scene in the parable as painted by Jesus is stark and dramatic. The Judge of all mankind, the Son of Man, Christ Himself, has gathered the nations of the world. “Nations” usually in Scripture refers to the Gentiles, the heathen peoples. These unbelieving nations, and perhaps all the believing peoples as well,  gather around the Judge as He sits upon the judgment throne. The multitudes are then judged by how they treated the Hidden Messiah in their midst, the Lord who is somehow present with the needy ones. The persons judged righteous didn’t know what they had even done to deserve God’s approval. And the cursed ones likewise were not aware of what they had done wrong. The blessed ones inherited the eternal kingdom of the Father, and the cursed ones received everlasting punishment in the eternal fire. This is kind, meek Jesus, mind you, sending people to hell.

What kind of judge will Jesus be? We do know that Christ so closely identifies with those who suffer in the world that He somehow attaches Himself to each sufferer. He even thinks of the sufferer as “brethren,” (v. 40) of being in the same family as Him. Jesus has adopted every needy person in the world. Jesus is present with the have-nots, the overlooked, the neglected in a spiritually meaningful way. Jesus knows what it’s like to suffer, He is familiar with pain and loneliness, He is acquainted with grief and shame. The Lord is saying that He is personally with that person in the midst of his suffering. When you care for the needy, you therefore are caring for Christ as well. When you are serving the hungry in a soup kitchen, you are also filling the plate of Jesus. When you dress the wounds of a soldier on a battlefield, you are welcoming Jesus into the foxhole with you. When you visit a prisoner in his jail cell, you’ll find the top bunk belongs to Jesus. If you offer your home to a homeless person, better make sure that bedroom has twin beds. If you offer the shirt off your back to a half-naked man on the street corner, be aware that you are clothing Jesus in His “distressing disguise.” (Mother Teresa). The miserable have captured the heart of Jesus to the extent that He joins them in their misery. He is a presence in their poverty. Jesus so closely identifies with the needy that when you care for the poor, you care for Him, and when you ignore the needy, you ignore Him, to your peril.

Another way of looking at the Final Judgment in the parable is that this gathering of the nations around the judgment throne includes everybody, the righteous and the unrighteous, the heathen and the faithful. The faithful in particular are going to be judged by how the Faith has been demonstrated in daily life. You can tell a good tree by its good fruit. (Matt. 7:17-20). Faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-18). In the end, we will be judged by how we lived out our faith, how we imitated the spirit and life of Jesus. If we serve the needy, hence Jesus, we will be saved. If we ignore the needy, thus ignoring Jesus, we will be liable for punishment, not really saved in the first place. The Lord expects a lifestyle of mercy in order to accurately reflect His heart, in order to reveal that His Spirit has affected and transformed your life. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matt. 5:7).

What kind of a judge will Jesus be in the end? When we are standing at the Judgment throne, we can expect Jesus to be the kind of judge spoken of in Hebrews 4:16, “Therefore let us approach the throne of grace, the throne of God’s gracious favor, with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy for our failings and find His amazing grace to help in time of need.” Let’s not lose sight of the heart of our judge, sitting on the throne of grace.

Te Deum Laudamus Setswana Good Shepherd Anglican Church – YouTube