For You Before the World Was Made
Have you ever gone to a place where people had prepared for your arrival? Perhaps you went on a business trip or to a conference. At the registration table was a packet of information for you, a nametag, and maybe a goodie bag. The conference was prepared for your arrival. You’ve heard stories of how hotels and resorts plan for the arrival of a celebrity, a politician, or someone famous. The resorts stock their favorite luxuries—wine, beer, and spirits. If the celebrity likes a certain type of fabric for his bedding or a certain type of exotic food, these hotels and resorts have it on hand. The celebrity knows the resort has prepared for his visit.
In the Gospel for today, we hear of Jesus’ coming to judge the living and the dead. Usually, texts that focus on the Last Day tell us to prepare for Jesus’ coming. We often hear how Jesus will return like a thief in the night, how he’ll return like a king from a long journey, and how he’ll return in some other unexpected way. We’re given signs that Jesus’ return is soon and we should prepare.
Today, we also hear that Jesus has made plans for us when he returns. To those on his right hand, those who are faithful and are counted righteous, Jesus says, “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (v. 34). What an amazing thought! Before Jesus made the heavens and the earth, he already had you in mind. Before the waters were separated to form the dry land, the sea, and the sky, Jesus had you in mind. More than that, Jesus prepared his eternal kingdom for you. Jesus has prepared a kingdom for you before the foundation of the world—and He has told you that this is so—to provide you with comfort.
As Christians, we’re a little different from other people. Most people find a discussion about the end of the world to be frightening. Fears about global warming, destruction by an asteroid, nuclear war, plague viruses, and so on are terrifying to those who have no hope beyond this life. But we know that as frightening as the end of the world may be, judgment is an even more terrifying reality (vv. 31–33). After all, even our God, who is merciful and loving, is also righteous and insists on justice. His Ten Commandments show us that we deserve to be judged and receive condemnation. We know that apart from Christ, no work we do is considered good or pleasing to God. He reminds us that we all fail to do all the good He has called us to do” “I was . . . in prison and you did not visit me” (v. 43).
But the good news for us today is that punishment for failing God was not prepared for people from the foundation of the world (v. 41). Jesus did not come and die after deciding to save some and condemn others. Instead, Scripture tells us that the place of eternal punishment was prepared for the devil and his evil angels for rebelling against God. Hell was not made for people.
Hell is not intended to be the eternal punishment for anyone. Instead, Jesus “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Because we know that God desires above all things to be able to forgive us—a forgiveness that has already been guaranteed for all people through the sinless blood of Jesus, Christians can eagerly anticipate Jesus’ return because of what he has prepared—a place in heaven just for you. Jesus’ lengthy discourse on his return comes to us just days before his death. Everything that would follow that discussion and everything that happened right up to His last words on the cross had been planned, prepared, and foretold by God from the foundation of the world.
Those preparations that Jesus followed leading up to and throughout the day of Good Friday were also the preparations he was making to prepare us for his kingdom. The thief was given assurance of a heavenly inheritance in Christ as he hung condemned for his sins, and we are given the same assurance that Jesus has prepared heaven for our coming too. He has taken the punishment we deserve upon himself in his death on the cross, and through that death we have received Jesus’ righteousness. In fact, because he has given us everything that is his, every act of love he has done is counted as yours (vv. 35–40). Because he loves you, everything that Jesus has through his Father including his kingdom, his sinlessness, and even his good works have been given to you according to his plans for you from the foundation of the world (v. 34).
Our Lord tells us that he prepared a kingdom for us to comfort us. We need not fear his return. Because he has forgiven all your sins, you will stand at his right hand. You will receive the kingdom that he has prepared for you. And he loved you so much that he planned your salvation and your reward before the foundation of the world. You are the guest your Lord has been waiting to receive for a long time, in fact, before time began. So until that day when we are all gathered together to take up residence in our eternal home, may his peace and unsurpassed joy be yours. Amen.