The Final Round-Up by Pastor Roger Rohde

The Final Round-Up

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

When our son, Andrew, was in college, a friend asked him to go home with him during Easter break.  This request was very important to Andrew’s friend because his folks told him he was not to travel home unless he had a friend to go with him.  Andrew spent a week on a cattle ranch in Nebraska.  Among the unique experiences he encountered was to join in rounding up cattle for the purpose of branding and castrating them.

This kind of round-up, which is something most of us may only see through western movies, is a picturesque description of what the Lord is talking about in today’s text.  Many times in the Old Testament the prophecies of the Lord have an immediate and a long range meaning.  The prophecy before us is of such a nature.  It is a prophecy that speaks about the Lord bringing the people of Israel back from Babylonian captivity.  A more futuristic aspect of this prophecy is that it refers to the Last Day of this world’s existence.  This second aspect of this prophecy is what we consider on this the last Sunday in the church year.  What will this final round-up conducted by Jesus, the Good Shepherd, on the Last Day be like?

It will be a time when Jesus gathers together all people.  The Lord says in our text: “I Myself will search for My sheep…. I will rescue them from all places where they were scattered…. I will gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land.”

The thought presented here parallels what we heard in this morning’s Gospel Reading.  There Jesus said: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him.”

When the Good Shepherd conducts His final round-up both the living and the dead will be included.  Jesus said in John 5:28: “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out.”  This includes both believers in Christ as well as unbelievers.  All who are in the grave will rise on the Last Day and be gathered together with all who are living on earth at the time.  It will be the final round-up.

It will be at that time when God will administer His perfect justice upon all people.

We often times speak and cry out for perfect justice in our day.  But do we understand what is at the heart of God’s perfect justice at the final round-up?

God’s perfect judgment will not look at the outward successes of man or his accompishments.  Rather God’s perfect judgment delves into the heart of man, what moves him to do what he does and how the truth of one’s faith in Christ is revealed in one’s living.  Jesus tells us in our text that He “will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep.”  The fat sheep may have all kinds of worldly successes and recognition.  They may have pushed around the weaker sheep to gain their success.  Yet, it is the weaker sheep that will experience the positive side of God’s perfect justice.

This perfect justice of God occurs as God looks into the heart of man.  When Jesus beholds a repentant heart that trusts in the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ and lives by that forgiveness, Jesus will grant that person the blessings of the heavenly kingdom.

This kind of perfect justice surprised people when Jesus implemented it during His earthly life.  We have the historical account in Luke chapter 7 where a prostitute came into the house of a Pharisee.  She washed Jesus’ feet with her tears of repentance and then anointed His feet with expensive perfume.  The Pharisees called this reception of the prostitute by Jesus as an act of injustice.  They declared: “If He were a prophet, He would know who is touching Him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.”  The Pharisees judged this woman by her reputation and past sins, and thought her no good.  Yet, Jesus judged her by her repentant heart and act of thanksgiving for His goodness and mercy.  He declared her pardoned of all her sins (verses 36-50).

There will be a lot of people surprised at the final round-up with the perfect justice of God.  Many who think they were good people and should enter heaven will be sentenced to eternal punishment because they did not possess true faith in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior.  There will be others who will be declared righteous in the sight of God through faith in Christ Jesus as Savior.  All this leads us back to the words of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount we look at three weeks ago: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted…. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:3-4, 6).

Our text goes on to speak of how the repentant person who encounters Jesus’ perfect justice will be blessed.  The final round-up will be for him the time when he will experience the blessings of heaven forevermore.  The Lord promises: “I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land…. I will tend them in a good pasture…. They will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture…. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak…. I will save My flock, and they will no longer be plundered.”

Using the imagery of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, His final round-up brings all believers in Christ into the glories of heaven.  Heaven is here described as the height of complete joy where all our injuries and weaknesses will be no more.  We shall be refreshed by the Lord’s grace in ceaseless fashion, and the battles of life with the forces of evil will be no more.  Here we will have perfect peace, which is not only an absence of all that is evil, but a dwelling in full communion with God forever.

This final round-up will bring all believers in Christ into the eternal bliss God always wanted us to have.  It is not a day to be feared, because it will be the day when the righteous prevail.  Let us make ourselves ready for this day as we with repentant hearts turn from our sins and live by faith in Christ as Savior.  Amen.

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