When I was a child, we used to play a game called musical chairs. For those of you who have forgotten, or maybe never played this game, you set up a circle of chairs and start the music. The kids would march around the chairs and all of a sudden the music would stop very suddenly and everyone would scramble to sit in a chair and not be left standing.
The game was set up in such a way that there was always one less chair than players. So if there were 12 kids, there were only 11 chairs. When the music stopped and everyone sat quickly in a chair, one person will be left standing and thus eliminated from the game. And then each time we'd remove a chair, keep removing a chair, play the music, someone would be left standing, remove a chair, keep going down until there are only two people left and one chair and they'd be running around until the music stopped and one of those people won the game. There was always a prize or something like that.
Well, believe it or not, I see a parallel between this little game of musical chairs and what the writer of the letter to the Hebrews in the Bible:
And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,
- Hebrews 9:27
Do you see the parallel? This passage teaches that one day life will stop suddenly and all persons will be judged. Every single person. Are you starting to see the similarities yet? Let me explain it to you. The music is life and so long as there is life, we are happily marching around. Death comes when the music suddenly stopped and we all stopped marching. And the judgment is like the chairs. When the music stops, everybody has to take a chair.
The difference is that in the judgment there is a specific chair for everyone and everyone will have to sit in his or her chair when the music stops and the judgment comes.
Now as far as the judgment goes everyone in the world will have to sit in one of these five chairs. This morning using these chairs that I've gathered up from the office, I'd like to explain to you what the five chairs of judgment represent.
Chair #1 - Pagans
Chair #1 one is this one over here, this Brown chair, the secretarial chair usually used in an office or something kind of swivels around. Get a good view of all kinds of things. This chair right here is reserved for pagans. Pagans are those who do not know Jesus Christ and worship as God a variety of other things. For example, Pagans worship the flesh or the things and pleasures of this world. Exclusively, we call them Hedonists. Or maybe they worship godless philosophies in the sense that some philosophy that doesn't take God into account is the thing that drives their life. They worship their ancestors or they worship the creation itself in some way or they worshiped various deities, myths, magic, the occult. Or they refuse to worship anything at all, we call them atheists.
This chair is a proper representation of this group. This group of pagans they're into everything and nothing, go left, go right, go back around and round and round. They just are into every little thing. They're mobile. They're ready to believe just anything that goes by that. That's their chair. They're comfortable. They're mobile, but their souls are as dark as the fabric on that chair. And the Bible explains their judgment.
30Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."
- Acts 17:30-31
What's the judgment? Repent and reject these false gods and accept Christ the man through whom God will judge everyone in the world because Jesus and faith in Him is going to be the standard measure by which genuine religion and faith will be measured by God.
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
- John 14:6
Now you are free to reject that. You're free to disbelieve that but you cannot deny that is what Jesus said.
So the pagan's judgment is very clear - there is no salvation apart from Christ. You can work around and roll around all you want, but there's only one person that can save us.
In the Bible, there is judgment and there is hope. And so there's hope for the pagan also.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
- Romans 10:17
This is why we do mission work. And this is why we evangelize because without the gospel, there's no hope. The majority of the people in the world today will sit in that chair. As the Bible says, "the fields are white onto harvest" and we need to pray that God will send more workers out to convert those who do not know Christ because without Him, there is no hope.
Chair #2 - Doubters
This black chair, lean back, adjust, arms rests. This chair is reserved for the doubter. The doubters are going to sit in this chair. Those who have heard of Christ and know the gospel but have not yet responded to it. Most are affiliated with some form of religion, even Christian religion in one way or another through their parents or through their culture. They have a religious component in their life but they're not really under the Lordship of Christ. If they go to the hospital to give blood or to receive blood they fill out the form and they say, what religion are you? Well, they check off a box. But they've not obeyed his word in order to be saved. They don't live as disciples of Christ.
They know about Him, but he's not the center. He's not the focus. He's not the leader of their lives. And this black armchair that swivels really indicates well their spiritual condition and we'll probably seek them a judgment. Now they're more comfortable than the pagans. I would sit in it, but I'd be afraid to fall here. It's right on the edge.
This chair here is a lot more comfortable than this one. I mean, you can lead back. You're going to adjust it up or down. You can go around, you can rest your elbows on it. Very comfortable chair. And it's indicative of the doubters because they think they know about religion. So what I'm saying, they're comfortable. They're mobile. They've got pneumatic lifts up and down. They know about religion but they are in worse darkness than the pagans because they feel self-assured about their knowledge. The blackness of their chair is an indication of the darkness of their condition. The Bible explains the judgment of the doubters:
He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
- Matthew 12:30
Again, plain words from the Lord, you're either with me or you are against me there is no middle ground.
Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.
- Matthew 10:32
Those who refuse to be his disciple now cannot hope to be with God in heaven. It's not enough just to know about Jesus. What He demands is a commitment as a disciple and nothing less. Of course there is hope for doubters too.
He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
- Mark 16:16
Jesus tells us what we must do in order to cross over from doubt to faith. We need to believe meaning we need to accept as true, the claims of Christ. And we need to obey Him in this passage here. Jesus talks about baptism, to immerse in his name.
Now this isn't the total Christian life but it is the first step and for doubters the first step is usually the most difficult step. Faith doesn't require that we understand everything, it asks us to accept as true what God has said based on what he has shown us. And he has shown us many things. He has shown us His creative power. He has revealed himself in Christ. He has given us His Word. He's given us plenty to base our faith upon.
I think the doubters misunderstand the working of faith. Understand how faith works, it works in this way. It is obedience that leads to greater understanding not the other way around. We don't say to God, you make me understand everything then I will obey. That's not how it works. That's not faith. When we humbly obey God in faith, we will increasingly open our eyes to the truth, not the way it works in the world but it's the way it works in the kingdom of God. We don't demand enlightenment from God. God gives us this gift based on our faith expressed in humble obedience.
The majority of the people in this city, San Diego, are going to sit in this year because they know and identify with Christianity but they have not made any personal commitment to be disciples of Jesus Christ through humble obedience.
Chair #3 - Cold Christians
I know a lot of people pick this chair. This hair is reserved for cold Christians. It's reserved for those who have heard and believed in repented, they've been baptized. They've begun to follow Jesus but because of pressure from others, whether it be family or friends, because of the love of this beautiful world, sin and money and just plain being busy. Because of carelessness with their faith, because they haven't nourished their faith from the Word and from fellowship and service and work because they haven't done that, they have begun to grow cold and have abandoned the Lord and his church.
I want to tell you something, remember if you abandoned the church, you abandoned the Lord. Because the Lord and the church are one.
He is also head of the body, the church...
- Colossians 1:18a
If you abandon the body, you've abandoned the head.
This chair looks pretty good. It's well-appointed and comfortable but it represents well the cold Christians, not by its upholster but by its emptiness. The beautiful empty chair speaks judgment against the one who had a favored position with God seated at the right hand of God with Christ but abandoned his place for the love of the world. And there is judgment awaiting for these:
26For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 28Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge His people." 31It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
- Hebrews 10:26-31
I know enough to be afraid of those words. There are people that know more Bible than I do but I know enough to be afraid of the words, "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of a living God." I know enough who understand that. It is a worst judgment for the Christian who has abandoned the Lord because for this person there is no peace here on earth.
The unfaithful Christian always knows what he or she has done and they know what awaits that in the future. How can there be peace for someone who in abandoning or neglecting their faith, has in effect despise the sacrifice of Christ on his behalf? How can you have peace knowing that you've rejected the Son of God? How can you sleep at night knowing you've been solved as the Holy Spirit, left empty his seat with Christ at the right hand of God?
But there is hope even for the one who is in this predicament.
4But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.
- Revelation 2:4-5
There is hope even for the cold Christian. Remember how you were at the beginning and remove the thing, person or attitude that is causing the spiritual cancer that killing you. Coldness is as much a sign of spiritual death as it is a sign of physical death. You come upon a scene of an accident or someone who's ill and if they're starting to get very cold, you know, that death is eminent. It is the same warning for the Christian. When you start getting to the cold, to God and the things of God and to His church and His word, you start being cold to those things then it's a sign that you're spiritually dying.
There are some in this very congregation who have fallen away from faith and the church and who were sitting in this chair. They need to repent. They need to be restored, not just think about doing it someday, but actually do it and do it as soon as possible.
Chair #4 - Lukewarm Christians
This lovely old rocking chair is reserved for lukewarm Christians. It represents Christians whose greatest efforts for the Lord or in the past and their present efforts are centered around avoiding any spiritual discomfort, rocking along. They live in the comfort zone. They never move away from the comfort zone.
These are brothers and sisters who rationalize their sins and blame others for their problems. They only do something if they have to do it. They rarely take the initiative to serve others but do spend a lot of time complaining if they're not served properly. The rocking chair Christians are happy to remain at the same level of knowledge, same level of giving, same level of service, same level of commitment, right on to the end. They don't understand that Christianity is a process. It's a transformation where if you don't grow, you die spiritually. That's how it works. Their attitude is that as long as their faith isn't inconvenienced, as long as it doesn't cost anything too much, they will follow Christ, but they're going to follow Him sitting down.
The problem with rocking chair Christians is that they're usually the ones that block growth in the church. They hate change because change is inconvenient and they are devoted to comfort. They talk about growth, about stepping out in faith, but are never willing to risk the effort and pain to accomplish it. So they rock and talk and the only effort they ever make is to block any initiative that will change their comfort status quo. They only really get fired up if someone threatens to get them out of the rocking chair.
The Bible graphically described their judgment.
15'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
- Revelation 3:15-16
One of the most severe judgments in the Bible reserved for those who are hypocrites in the church. Why? Why isn't Jesus saving this for adulterers or thieves or murderer? One of the most obvious reasons is that they gladly accept the blood of Christ but refuse to carry his cross.
At least those who are cold, openly rejected Christ. The hypocrites pretend that they do so openly but secretly they don't do and they don't try and they don't serve anything more than anyone else. And yet, in His mercy, God offers hope even to those who sin in this way. There's always hope.
17Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.
- Revelation 3:17-18
God says to the person in the rocking chair, open your eyes and see yourself for what you really are. Stop fooling yourself because you're not fooling God and probably not fooling the church either.
It's sad to say but there are probably some here this morning, heading for this chair. They are going to hear me and they're going to know I'm talking about them and they're not going to do a thing about it. Maybe they won't talk to me for a long time. It's sad to say that.
Chair #5 - Zealous Christians
Chair five is this old metal folding chair. This chair here is reserved for hot and zealous Christians. That's the chair for them. It represents those Christians whose lives match their belief. They do believe that Jesus is God and so they receive instruction from Him regularly. They talk with Him often. They serve Him daily. They make every effort to obey Him. They are committed to these things. They treat His name and His word and His work and especially His people with love and with respect. They're eager for others to know Him.
There are no missionaries that ever come from any of the other chairs. There are no "Fools for Christ" in any of these other chairs.
These types of Christians make sure that no one loses their faith because of their words or their behavior. This chair represents these type of Christians very well. It's portable. It's ready to travel. It's made for someone who's not here for very long. It's well used. It's battered. It's not an object to look at but something to serve. It's not designed for comfort or for rocking in but rather for a short rest between periods of work and struggle. If I could have found another chair I would have gone to a boxing club and gotten a little stool that boxer sit-in in the corner. The people in this chair are not afraid of judgment.
so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.
- Hebrews 9:28
They have no fear of God's judgment because they are eager for the Lord to come so they can rest from their labor and be with Him always. Their judgment will mean freedom from sin and an end to their struggle in the name of Christ. These Christians have a special hope of hearing the blessed words of welcome from the Lord.
His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'
- Matthew 25:23
So for the hot Christian, the judgment will not be a revelation it will not be a surprise it will not be a condemnation it will be a sweet invitation to be with God forever and ever and ever. I dare say, there are many here today who belong in this year and I praise and thank God for them.
So there they are the five chairs of judgment. So long as we're here on earth and the music continues to play, we march around the chairs. We live our lives. We go about our business. We take care of family matters. We plan our future but suddenly life will stop. Every one of us will have to sit down in one of these chairs. So long as the music plays we still have time to choose which chair that we will sit in but when the music stops, the choice will be gone.
If the music of your life stopped this very instant, which chair would you be sitting in?