HOW TO FACE WHAT'S GOING DOWN
Dear friends in Christ,
The Bible is filled with prophecy. When we think of prophecy, we probably remember most of all the prophecies about Jesus. There are plenty…over 300 of them. But not all prophecy pertains to the coming of Jesus. Here is an example. “The Lord will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your ancestors. There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone. You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the Lord will drive you.” What is that referring to? God predicted through the holy writer that Israel would one day go into the Babylonian Captivity that began in 605 BC and would last for seventy years. What makes this prophecy unusual is that Moses was the one who said it nine hundred years prior. Israel had spent forty years in the wilderness. They were poised to enter the Promised Land but were not even in the land that God had promised them. While Moses was giving Israel his farewell address God revealed to him some history that didn’t really pertain directly to the first coming of Jesus. He was predicting the day Nebuchadnezzar stormed the gates of Jerusalem. Nine hundred years later it happened.
When God says something he means it. So it is with the end of the world. Peter, who spent three years with Jesus and was called to be one of the twelve, writes about the end of all things. He tells us “How to Face what is Going Down.” 1) Remember the past, 2) Be aware of the present; 3) Anticipate the future.
Remember the past. Many times God warned the world of impending judgments. Despite those warnings, they didn’t listen. They didn’t repent. They didn’t change their lives. When God spoke through the prophets to warn the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah at their various times of their godless behavior, they didn’t apply the brakes but stomped on the accelerator. They made their lives worse. That’s why God allowed Egypt, the Philistines, Assyria, Babylon, Greece and Rome all have their way with them. They were crushed at various times because of it.
It is not surprising when the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write, “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” Here he says that people will simply point out that the sun comes up like it did yesterday and we can expect it tomorrow, but live in ways that defy the one who causes that to happen.
When politicians think they will get elected by mocking sacred beliefs and claiming Christians by saying the church needs to get into the 21st century. We need to leave behind these outdated beliefs about homosexuality and abortion and marriage between a man and a woman. Who gave them to us but our God?
Six chapters into God’s history of mankind and the world, The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” No one seemed to care that this Noah man was building an ark in his backyard and preaching that people needed to repent, , Instead of getting a good laugh at the thought of his existence, they need to know that the Lord insisted on their faithfulness and obedience.
God is not optional. We must come to him, acknowledge, believe and follow. Peter says, “But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” God made the world from the water when he called the land to appear from the seas. He divided the waters into oceans and bays and rivers and lakes. But the same God who created the waters used the water to destroy the earth and after change the shape of the earth when “the windows of heaven were opened and the fountains of the deep burst forth.”
From this cataclysm Noah and seven other members of his family survived and two of every living creature and seven of each of the clean animals survived to replenish the earth again. Remember the past. Remember how he kept his past promises to judge. So fear God. Respect God. Give him the honor due him. Don’t ignore. Don’t doubt him but seek him. Remember the past.
Remember the present. Remember he is our God who is not confined to or bound by time. Sunday School starts at 9 AM. Church starts at 10:30. Some are better at understanding that then others. Football starts at noon. Some begin work by 8 AM. There is a dentist appointment at ten, but God doesn’t wear a watch. Peter says, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” When people think that the Lord’s imminent return is nothing but a hoax, they, or we, are really missing the boat. That is no small matter.
By adding another day to the history of the world, he is giving more time to repent. Peter says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Think of the garbage that God hears daily. There is the idolatry and immorality, the humanism, deism, atheism, the agnosticism, the paganism. There are billions of people sinning constantly ringing up numbers that would far outdistance our national debt clock. Why doesn’t he do a Sodom and Gomorrah only on a grander scale? He is patient. He is providing more time for people to repent.
What does that exactly mean? The Augsburg Confession, one of the confessions of the Lutheran Church gets the definition from the Bible: “Repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; The other is faith which is born of the Gospel or of absolution and believe that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience and delivers from its terrors.” Contrition is knowing that I haven’t done; faith is knowing Jesus did for us. Contrition knows that sin demands to be punished. Faith knows Jesus endured it. That’s why there is a tomorrow - for more time for more people to get to know it.
A man who was on trial for a criminal offense stood trembling before the judge. “Don’t be afraid,” he was told, “You will get justice.” “I know Your Honor,” replied he offender, “but that’s just what I don’t want.” Is that nor our exact position before God? We do not want justice; we want mercy. If we received only justice we would be condemned. Only God’s mercy can save us. Yet the prophet Habakkuk said and prayed for that, “O Lord…in wrath remember mercy.” Christ suffered the justice, so we could have mercy.
Remember the past; be aware of the present; anticipate the future. Paul says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare… That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.”
There are some sad but interesting facts about the flood in Johnston, Pennsylvania in 1888. A number of engineers had examined the dam that held back water flowing down into the Johnston Valley in the spring of 1887. The group inspected it and declared it to be unsafe. They issued a warning. Nobody listened. In the fall of 1887 the engineers came back again. The same conclusion was made. They issued a warning that the dam was very dangerous. Nothing was done about it. In the spring of 1888 it was inspected again. Before the written report was filed, the city of Johnston, Pennsylvania was flooded and more than 3,700 people lost their lives.
The Bible echoes with warning after warning about the end of the world – Old Testament and New. Peter, who spent three years with Jesus, was with Jerusalem on the Tuesday of holy week. They were at the temple. The disciples were so impressed by the huge stones that were used in construction. Jesus shocked them when he said, “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Jesus combined his teaching here to remind his disciples of two judgments to come. One was the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD when the temple was destroyed and not one stone was left on another. There was gold in the mortar so the Roman soldiers wanted to get at every bit they could find. Yet the signs and the destruction would only be a miniature model that would come at the end of the world. No building anywhere will be left standing. No temple is Jerusalem, no Messiah Lutheran church in Johns Creek and every building everywhere.
Something much better is coming for every child of God. While the scope and power and mention of fervent heat is a bit unsettling, remember that the Savior who saves will also be our judge. Paul writes. “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” Whether the new heaven and new earth will be a reproduction of the old in a far more glorious form or an absolutely new creation cannot be definitely determined. But this we do know, the new heaven and the new earth of which the Scripture speaks is a place beyond comprehension. It will be far better than what we have. Passages tell us that it is a place of incomparable beauty; it is a place that is full of joy where there will be perfect rest. Heaven doesn’t have words in the English language or any language that can describe it. That might be a good reason that we will have a new language, a heavenly language that will adequately describe what we will experience there. There will be no more suffering, only everlasting bliss. There will be no bickering, only singing the praises of him who gave us all. As one little girl once said as was walking with her dad under a starry sky. Dad, if the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what will the right side be?”
Remember God has given us the ticket to be there. That ticket is Jesus.