JUDGMENT DAY - TAKE IT SERIOUSLY
Dear friends in Christ,
It is basically fruitless to argue religion. It generally gets nowhere. People tend to dig in their heels and attempt to defend their position. Pride takes over and people will never admit they are wrong even if they are. Winning the argument by talking louder or intimidating the other person becomes more important than actually listening to the facts.
There is a better way. Yellow pages used to advertise with the phrase “Let your fingers do the walking.” When discussing the Bible, be sure to listen to this advice, “Let Jesus do the talking.”
A pastor was preaching a sermon on the last judgment. Afterward a skeptic confronted the pastor and said, “I attended your church service earlier this week and heard you preach on Judgment Day. I have a problem with what you said.”
“What is the problem?” the pastor asked.
“You said that those who remain impenitent will be eternally damned and go to hell. I don’t agree. I don’t think a loving God will ever damn anyone.”
The pastor said, “I don’t think you have a problem with me. Your problem is with Jesus.” He gave him a Bible and opened it to Matthew 25: 41-46. He read the passage and the preacher asked him who was speaking.
“What does Jesus say?” asked the preacher.
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
The preacher said, “See, you don’t have a problem with me. Your problem is with Jesus. He said these words. Tell him he is wrong.” Hey, let Jesus do the talking.
We begin a new part of the church year today. We are in End Times. Today is Last Judgment Sunday. These words of Daniel warn us about “Judgment Day – Take it seriously.”
1) God is a serious judge: 2) God will have the last word.
The reality of Judgment Day is a major theme in the Bible. It is found throughout the Bible – Old and New Testament. In the book of Malachi the prophet makes it quite clear. “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.” This is an obvious reference to Judgment Day. There are passages like that in Psalms and Isaiah and Jeremiah and many other places.
When Jesus went to the house of Mary and Martha after Lazarus died, they obviously didn’t have the New Testament yet. Jesus told Martha that her brother Lazarus would rise again, Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the Last Day.” She knew about this from the Old Testament Scriptures – like from the book of Daniel.
Daniel was a godly man who remained faithful to God under very trying times. Daniel was a child prodigy along with other Hebrew young men like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These are the men God would save from the fiery furnace, tossed into it because they were being faithful to God.
All these men lived at the time of the Babylonian Captivity when Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon. He had an interesting plan. He knew he could catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. He searched for promising Hebrew men to train and put them in important positions in his kingdom. He thought if he did so the captive Jews would soon submit and think that living in Babylon wasn’t so bad after all. In other words, Nebuchadnezzar tried to give the impression he was no despot but benevolent.
Daniel was put into an important position, but it didn’t go to Daniel’s head. He did not deny his faith in the Lord, nor did he compromise it.
After Nebuchadnezzar went the way of all flesh, the new king Belshazzar ascended to the throne. Daniel had a dream. It was downright scary. No, he didn’t have pizza or lasagna the night before. This dream was sent by God.
It was all about the future. He saw waters all stirred up by a strong wind, and out of the water came some scary beasts. Each represented a nation that would have a lot to do with Judah’s history. The first beast he saw was like, “a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until it wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man and the heart of a man was given to it.” The beast represented the nation of Babylon whose power over the nation of Israel was about to end.
The second beast “looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of it sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between it teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh.’” This beast represented the Persian Empire that arose so quickly and defeated Babylon. Persia did Judah a favor until Persia became too oppressive.
Then there was a third. After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given the authority to rule.” This was the Greek Empire. Eventually Alexander the Great would conquer the world but died prematurely. He split his kingdom into fourths, one for each of his generals to rule.
The fourth beast came and was even more frightening. “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast – terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.” This was the Roman Empire. They would control Israel at the time of Christ. Roman soldiers would tend to Jesus’ crucifixion.
There was still more to come. “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.” The horns were not like trumpets horns but the horns of a bull or goat. It symbolized power and might. A tiny horn uprooted three horns and spoke boastfully. From Rome grew the church – the Holy Roman Empire – that spoke boastfully and overruled even God’s Word. We just celebrated the Reformation last week. In so many ways the Roman Church lied and covered the truth.
As scary and blasphemous and hateful as these kingdoms became toward God, They would not survive. God was and is judge. He holds the trump card. God judges the nations. The kings and church leaders would find out that building a power base, a sphere of influence, is not nearly as important as building a relationship with Him. The rulers found out that their time would have been far better spent if they had spent learning something about the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
God showed Daniel the heavenly courtroom. He is the Judge of heaven and earth. “As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him.” Thrones signify authority and the ability to judge. The Judge is in. He is always in. He is God, the Ancient of Days. He has no beginning and he has no end. He was there before any kingdoms were established and will be there long after.
“His clothing was as white as snow.” His clothing is symbolic of holiness and purity. The Judge doesn’t sin. He does what is right. While people accuse him when there is an untimely death or some tragedy, he is blameless. He doesn’t make mistakes.
“The hair of his head was white like wool.” Someone said to me recently that I am seasoned. They said they noticed my graying hair. No one has to say, “What hair?”I might not have a lot, but on the other hand you should get your eyes checked. Wisdom is connected with white hair. No one is wiser than the Lord. He even makes the untimely death or accident work for good of all who love him. .
“His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.” His throne seems to be a fiery chariot with wheels ablaze. When you look through the Scriptures, God often chose to reveal himself in fire and smoke. He was a pillar of fire and a cloud of smoke to the people of Israel in the wilderness journey. He appeared as a blazing bush on Sinai for Moses. This is the same God who appeared to Daniel in this dream.
“A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him.” Some say this fiery river pictures God’s zeal. He will judge and punish those who scoff him and reject him. He is also zealous for all who confess his name.
“Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.” Myriads of angels thousands and thousands time ten thousand were assigned to attend him and do what he assigns. This is the majestic God whom they serve and we serve and will serve forever. This is the God who deserves our reverence and awe, not our apathy. This is the God who judges. It is NOT a joke. Take it seriously.
And he will indeed have the last word. “The court was seated and the books were opened.” This mention of the books is probably not particularly well-known among Christians. In the language of Scripture there are really two books that are opened for judgment. The first book is God’s family register. Remember when the Children of Israel sinned by making the Golden Calf in the wilderness. Moses interceded for them by praying to the Lord and saying. “But now, please forgive their sin-but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” Very strong words, aren’t they? To have one’s name blotted out of the book is to be lost eternally.
But there is another book found in a passage in the book of Revelation. “Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” What it says is pretty direct. When the books are opened people will be judged by what they have done. Needless to say some have difficulty with what it is saying. Scripture makes it clear that we are saved by grace alone and not by works. How can we be judged on the basis of what we have done?
Remember that the Bible says Jesus is our righteousness. He provides us with the righteousness, the perfection and holiness, we lack. God looks at us and sees Jesus. All who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed in Christ. We wear the garments of salvation. Jesus supplies us with the record we were so sorely lacking.
What is sad is that billions of people don’t want Jesus’ record but are taking their chances on their own. Utter foolishness! Sorry to say all those people will hear Jesus’ final words, “Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fires prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Yet for all who know we know the righteousness of Christ brings us to God there are no better words will be heard, “Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
Two verdicts will be spoken – very different from each other – one that deserves cartwheels, the other that will result in weeping. Take it seriously, because it is serious.