Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘The Prodigal and the Final Judgment’
© February 7, 2016 by Steve Mickelson
Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #602 (Divine Deliverance – from Psalm 33); Prayer
Opening Hymn 320: Simply Trusting Every Day; Choruses
Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers
Today’s Scriptures: Psalm 33:18-22, Luke 15:11-32, Matthew 19:16-22, Matthew 25:31-46
Let us pray…
Good morning and welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service for this, the last Sunday of January. Our lesson today, entitled: ‘The Prodigal and the Final Judgment’, examines what will happen to prodigals at God’s Final Judgment.
You may ask, “What is a prodigal?”
According to our Wikibits in the Wikipedia, “prodigal” means “wastefully extravagant”.
With that definition in mind, we may rephrase our question, as what will happen to wastefully extravagant people at the time of God’s Final Judgement.
We begin the lesson with our first Scripture passage, taken from Psalm 33:18-22 (ESV):
18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
and keep them alive in famine.
20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.
We see in verses 18 and 19 of Psalm 33 that the Lord has His eyes set upon the faithful who trust in His steadfast love, that He may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.
This leads us to the next Scripture, where we see what happens to someone who could be viewed as trusting in wealth and his own devices, when he suffers through a famine, and separated from his Father, Luke 15:11-32 (ESV):
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to[a] one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[b] 22 But the father said to his servants,[c] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
Let us look at some of the Wikibits commentary about the above Scripture passage:
The Parable of the Prodigal Son
The Parable of the Prodigal Son (also known as the Lost Son, Running Father, Loving Father, or Lovesick Father) is one of the parables of Jesus. It appears in only one of the Canonical gospels of the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke (Luke 15:11-32). Jesus shares it with his disciples, the Pharisees and others.
According to the story, a father has two sons. The younger son asks for his inheritance before the father dies, and the father agrees. The younger son, after wasting his fortune (the word “prodigal” means “wastefully extravagant”), goes hungry during a famine, and becomes so destitute he longs to eat the same food given to hogs, unclean animals in Jewish culture.
He then returns home with the intention of repenting and begging his father to be made one of his hired servants, expecting his relationship with his father is likely severed. Regardless, the father finds him on the road and immediately welcomes him back as his son and holds a feast to celebrate his return, which includes killing a fattened calf usually reserved for special occasions.
The older son refuses to participate, stating that in all the time he has worked for the father, he never disobeyed him; yet, he did not even receive a goat to celebrate with his friends. The father reminds the older son that the son has always been with him and everything the father has belongs to the older son (his inheritance). But, they should still celebrate the return of the younger son because he was lost and is now found.
Context and Interpretation
This is the last of three parables about loss and redemption, following the parable of the Lost Sheep and the parable of the Lost Coin, that Jesus tells after the Pharisees and religious leaders accuse him of welcoming and eating with “sinners.” The father’s joy described in the parable reflects divine love, the “boundless mercy of God,” and “God’s refusal to limit the measure of his grace.”
The request of the younger son for his share of the inheritance is “brash, even insolent” and “tantamount to wishing that the father was dead.” His actions do not lead to success, and he eventually becomes an indentured servant, with the degrading job of looking after pigs, and even envying them for the carob pods they eat.
The mention of the son’s longing to eat with the swine in Luke 15:16 could refer to how the Pharisees viewed the sinners (and Christ, for eating with them) in Luke 15:2. The Pharisees, caught up in their ideas of ritual cleanliness, might have thought of these people as filthy pigs.
On the son’s return, the father treats him with a generosity far more than he has a right to expect. Some have suggested that this mirrors what Christians should do after sinning: feel contrition and return to the heavenly Father, Who will graciously welcome them back.
The father, who represents God, implies to the older son that his love for both sons is not dependent upon their performance, but their proximity, or closeness, with the father.
In the above parable, the younger of a man’s two sons asks his father, contrary to tradition, to be given his inheritance before his father dies.
We see that the younger son leaves his father after receiving hid requested inheritance, and proceeds to squander it all away.
The son decides go to back to his father, to confess his sins against heaven and his father, saying in Verse 19:
19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’
The father demonstrates his joy for having his son back, by having a celebration in honor of the repenting son’s return. This parable is related to the two previous parables in Luke 15, which deal with something that is lost and later found. All three parables echo the grace God provides to those sinners who repent to their Father and the joy that their repentance engenders, as Jesus said after sharing The Parable of the Lost Sheep:
Luke 15:7 (ESV)
7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
The statement of heavenly joy over a sinner’s repentance is reiterated by Jesus, after he tells The Parable of the Lost Coin:
Luke 15:10 (ESV)
10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
The prodigal son, having squandered his inheritance, is relegated to feeding pigs and faces starvation, a situation of his own making. His decision to ask for his inheritances from his father before his father’s death dishonors his father and breaks the commandment to honor his father. By leaving his father after he received the inheritance, the son indicates that he values the material wealth more than the company of his father.
If the son had not frittered away all his fortune, he would likely have the means to avoid death by starvation. The son’s coming to terms with this, and his subsequent decision to return to his father and surrender to his father’s mercy by confessing his sins, brings an unexpected reaction of joy and compassion. The son is considered by his father to have been “reborn” and is warmly received.
Ironically, the older son cannot understand why his prodigal brother is the focus of their father’s joy and celebration, while he had never rebelled against his father. This sibling jealousy reminds us of a similar reaction of Cain to Able. The grace is granted to all by way of Jesus’ sacrifice. We, who are doomed to die in sin, are reborn and resurrected from a death in sin, renewed in forgiveness, and blessed in the Spirit.
Like the prodigal, who wasted an inheritance from his father, there are those who squander God’s gift, who will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment, if they refuse to understand that value of Spiritual riches over worldly wealth, as we see in Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV):
The Final Judgment
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The eternal life offered by God, through Christ Jesus still eludes even those who somehow manage to obey all of God’s Ten Commandments, but to their own personal glory instead of giving the glory to God, as we see in today’s final Scripture passage, from Matthew 19:16-22 (ESV):
The Rich Young Man
16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Just as the young prodigal, and to some degree his older brother, had wrongly placed an importance upon worldly treasures, the young man in Mathew 19 refused to exchange his great worldly wealth to help the poor and marginalized in order to receive a greater treasures in heaven. This self-centered attitude is the same exhibited by goats as described in The Final Judgment, where their final judgment will be to “go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Let us pray…
Communion: Responsive Reading #663 (from 1 Corinthians 11)
Closing Hymn #276: In the Stars His Handiwork I See
Benediction – (Romans 12:2)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.