In the past I have shared how my daughter, Clara, thought I would leave her. Now, she understood I prepared sermons and Bible classes in the church office. She knew I visit fellow members at their homes. Yet, when I tucked her into bed, said good-night, and shut the door, she thought I was leaving her. Tears would stream down her face. Her crying grew hysterical. She even tried to climb out of her crib just to be with me.
Just because I am not physically in the room with her does not mean that I left her. Her wellbeing is always on my mind. I make sure no intruder or fire rustles through the house. I make sure her room-temperature is set just right. The baby monitor in her bedroom allows me to hear every single noise. If she wakes up crying, I hear her. If something falls, I hear the thump. If she wakes up, I hear her talking to herself. At a moment’s notice I can still tears, calm fears, and lift her into my protecting arms.
That is something that can never be repeated enough: “I am still here. I am with you always.” Words like that provide comfort in a world racing towards its final day. Words like that instill courage even as the moral standards of society disintegrate all around you. Words like that provide assurance that your future (and the future of your [grand]children) will be fine. Christ is Our King! You live under grace and You live in peace.
The book of Revelation reveals that this has always been true. In Revelation, Jesus shows you what must soon take place (1:1). What are those things? You, the Christian, will be falsely represented. School teachers may label the Bible’s teaching on sexuality as ‘Wrong.’ Friends may laugh that you control your drinking. Family from out of town might resent you carving out time for worship during their visit. The government may redefine the Bible’s definition of ‘immoral’ and threaten you with punishment if you do not condone what is wrong. You may even die because the world hates the God you represent (2:9-10). False teaching will creep into churches. Pastors will deny the virgin birth, the resurrection, and reject Jesus as the only Way into heaven. Those churches may swell because so many devour these beliefs (2:14-16). Neighbors will call themselves Christian, but deliberately disobey God (3:14-18). These are the things that must soon take place. In fact, the next 19 chapters [of Revelation] reveal opposition to God’s Word. Droves forsake Jesus’ teachings. Remaining Christians are hunted down, tortured, and murdered. You look and the devil seems to do whatever pleases him.
Even though these troubles are coming, God still says: Grace and peace to you… Isn’t that amazing? God knows the coming terrors, he sees the approaching heartache, he knows how small and helpless you (and I) might feel and he still says: Grace to you…
Dear friends, these things that must take place may be terrifying. We do not want to experience that terror. We do not want to hear our children reject what the Bible so clearly taught them in catechism class. We do not want our [grand]children to be oppressed in the future, let alone us. We do not want government forcing its un-Christian beliefs. We don’t want these things to happen. We want comfort. We want control. We want joy. Yet, Jesus prepares us with: these things must soon take place.
That leaves us scared. We may focus more on the trouble instead of the One who remains over every trouble. We can live as though our God has abandoned us. That it is left to you to survive in this life. That you can never really be sure what the future holds.
Your God is with you. That is why he gives us these words. To him who loves us… ongoing action. When your friend turned from the Word, leaving you with tears streaming down your cheeks, God was still there. When you felt like throwing hysterical fits because government does not automatically protect religious freedom, God is still there. When we feel the future offers absolutely no hope, when we dread the future for our children, God is still there. He loves us, and has made our future full of hope.
Jesus demonstrates his love by coming down from heaven. He used his Word to comfort the helpless and diseased. He used his Word to strengthen the faith of those oppressed by self-righteous religious leaders. Jesus even clung to God’s Word when unjust judges sentenced him to death. He relied on the Word even when the cross must soon take place. He did not crumple in fear at the sight of death. Rather, he entrusted all things to his Father.
Jesus loves us by living a fear-free life. He loves us by never doubting God’s control. He loves us by freeing us from our sins by his blood. You have been set free from a fear of death in hell. You no longer live separated from God. Rather, God embraces you. You live under grace.
Grace[…] to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come [that is, God the Father], and from the seven spirits before his throne [that is, God the Holy Spirit], and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
Jesus Christ… is (1) the faithful witness. Pay attention to that: is. That means, when he tells you that you have peace now, it means you have peace. Why would he lie? Where do you see him ever change his mind? The devil might poke and prod you to think differently— but remember, the devil’s a liar. Why listen to someone who tells untrue statements? Point to these words here: Jesus has freed you from your sins. Period.
Jesus Christ… is (2) the firstborn from the dead. First child born have privilege and power. When Jesus rose, he was declared to be God’s approved Son and your Savior. If he has the power to rise and free you from your sins, then you can be absolutely sure he has the authority to raise you from the dead.
Because Jesus Christ… is (3) the ruler of the kings of the earth, meaning, his Word will stand, regardless of those fight against it. As a parent, I have commands: “Eat dinner at 5:00pm. Bath at 7:30pm. Bed at 8:00pm.” My kids can think they have authority to overrule this. Good! They have their wishes, but I have the power to put mine into effect. Your Jesus has the power to put his commands into effect. No one can stop him from descending out of heaven. No one can stop him from judging the living and the dead. No one can stop him from bringing you into his heavenly kingdom!
Christ is Your King! His entire life is lived for you and your benefit. You live under grace, that is, undeserved love. You can look ahead and see what must soon take place. Troubles might surround you, but you will enter heaven. You have grace; God is on your side. As a result, you live in peace.
Jesus has made you (and me) a kingdom. Jesus’ kingdom is not a territory of land with armies, walls, and a government. Neither is Jesus’ kingdom heaven. Jesus’ kingdom is his rule. He rules and directs your heart with his Word. You are his kingdom.
If Christ reigns and you live under him, then it means you reign too! Imagine the Tigers winning the World Series. You’re excited, after all, it’s your team. Yet, you don’t get a championship ring. You don’t get to touch the trophy. You don’t get a champagne shower. You’re a fan who celebrates outside the main celebration. Yet, Jesus does not have you celebrate outside of heaven’s glorious celebration. You get to celebrate in his throne-room in heaven. You get to celebrate now because this is a done reality.
He has made us priests… A priest serves God and brings good news from God to people. Jesus has made you a priest. You can pray to God directly for anything at anytime. So, when life grows daunting, you may approach God directly in prayer and stand confident he hears you. Yes, out of the seven-billion people on earth, God sees you— individually— as a prized possession, just like a parent can pick their one child out of a crowd of many children.
What is real now, you will soon see with your eyes. Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. This will happen. Those who have died and are still living, those buried and those cremated, those lost and those in marked graves, Jesus will raise. He will not forget or overlook anyone. That includes those who pierced him. The Jewish leadership, Roman soldiers, and Jewish rebels all thought they were erasing Jesus from the face of the earth. For some, the last time they saw Jesus was on the cross, crying and dying. What a surprise when the One who died will appear again clothed as the majestic King he is! They will mourn forever. For you, this is the day you go home (John 14:2-3).
This is not a wish, but the reality of what has been true all along. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last. In English, we say that a store has everything from ‘A to Z,’ meaning that store lacks nothing. Your Jesus existed before time began and he will remain long after time ends. Which means, there is never a time he lacks power. There will never be a time when he holds no authority. Rather, he reigns forever and ever— and no one and nothing stands over him. Because of that, you live in peace.
Today is the Last Sunday of the Church [calendar] Year. Next week starts Advent. We again get to hear the prophecies of Jesus’ coming to earth, his arrival on Christmas Day, and his early ministry.
Yet, today you get to see everything Christ has done. The baby born in Bethlehem lived perfectly and died in our place. His resurrection declares we too will step out of our graves and enter heaven. We can be sure of this because of his past actions and because of his unbreakable Word.
Through all of life’s turmoil, Christ was still there, ruling, reigning, ordering, protecting, guiding, and staying you all along— just like the father always has the wellbeing of his child in mind. Christ still reigns. No matter what may come your way, nothing can silence Jesus’ forgiveness. Nothing can stop his return. Nothing can stop him from hearing prayer or answering prayer. Christ is Our King!—and he always will be, both and forever! You live under grace. You live in peace.
His work and his creativity helped define a genre of music. His first album went four-times platinum. Many of his singles sat on top of the Billboard 200. Seventeen Grammy nominations. One American Music Award. Ninety-six nominations for other awards with 27 wins. Needless to say, he got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
At that ceremony he had a chance to reflect on his career and to thank his family who supported his long hours, his friends who encouraged his music, and the producers who discovered him and promoted his work. He waited until the end to thank the person who had the greatest influence on his career. “I want to thank me for believing in me, I want to thank me for doing all this hard work, I want to thank me for having no days off, I want to thank me for never quitting, I want to thank me for always being a giver, and trying to give more than I receive, I want to thank me for doing more right than wrong, I want to thank me for being me at all times.”
Now, this musician might have overcome some serious adversity and dug deep to persevere, but his success did not come from his efforts. His personal success came from others. Studio managers put in the long hours to evaluate and produce his music. Stores set aside self-space for his albums. Fans used their hard-earned money on his music. Doctors and medicine, farmers and grocery stores kept him healthy. Accountants managed his wealth so he could keep working. You realize many other factors contributed to his personal success.
Many factors contribute to our personal success also. You have received gifts and inheritances. You have purchased health items. You bought the clothes and food you need. You have received unexpected good news. You have received toys and gadgets you never expected, but still enjoy. Expected or not, many factors contribute to where you are today. Forgetting this reality can morph into dangerous self-reliance.
As you prepare for another Thanksgiving, take a moment to Remember the Lord Your God. He is your Provider and He is your Strength.
That is the central theme of our Scripture reading: Remember the Lord Your God. Listen to Deuteronomy 8:10-11. When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.
The Israelites stand on the cusp of entering a new land. The moment they enter, 40-years of wilderness-living is over. No more rocky cliffs, scorching sun, and desolate landscapes. No more poor farming soil, no more hauling water for cattle. No more setting up tents and taking down tents. No more packing and moving, repacking and moving. An entirely new way of life lies ahead.
Just think of the possibilities! They can build lavish homes! Their cattle and flocks can spread and multiply! They can buy and sell; silver and gold will fill their bank accounts! A permanent way of life will lead to new opportunities.
So, Moses prepares them for that future. Do not forget the Lord your God. “Forgetting” does not mean that Israel no longer remembers important information or historical events. “Forgetting” means to intentionally dismiss help received. For example, that singer intentionally overlooked the fans who gave him money and wanted his music. He ‘forgot’ to credit them for his success.
Israel is to remember that the Lord [their] God brought [them] out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. It is the Lord their God who gave them a chance to build homes and an opportunity for their cattle to multiply. It is the Lord their God who allowed their wealth to increase. It is the Lord their God who deserves their trust, their praise, their credit. Without him they would have nothing. Yet, when eyes lock onto possessions and achievements, that’s all that’s left: nothing. Hearts Forget the Lord Our God.
I am convinced that intentional forgetfulness contributes to today’s decrease of Christianity. More and more focus on what they have instead of how they received it.
Instead of seeing God at work in life, the temptation is to see you at work in life. We can think science brings us healing. After all, the doctor touches our illness, he prescribes medicine, she gives us exercise. It is science who manages our health, not God! We can believe our wisdom accumulates wealth. After all, we invested, we traded, we sold. We found the sales, we decided how much to spend and when. It is we who hold onto our wealth and dispense at our pleasure, not God! We can consider our abilities the reason work gets done. We have the knowledge of building. We have the strength for hard labor over long hours. We are the reason cars are fixed, daily chores are done, and families thrive. God has nothing to do with it!
Ever so gradually the spotlight starts shining on you. No longer is trust placed in God to provide. Instead, trust is placed in ‘self.’ You praise ‘You!’ for your health and wealth, your strength and wisdom. If you praise ‘You!” then you no longer credit God for what you have received. If you no longer credit God, then it means you are not worshiping him. You have a new god— a god who stands opposed to the living God in heaven above. You have a new god who is not as powerful as he might think.
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth… Remember how you receive anything at all. Remember that God gives some the gift to diagnose illness, unlock new medicine, and recommend appropriate treatments. Remember that God gives you the health, ability, and strength to work the job you do, he gives time and weather to complete your tasks. Remember that God blesses the economy so you receive money, that God gives you wisdom to manage your wealth, that God allows you to take advantage of sales at the right moment. Remember the Lord Your God who is the reason you have many good things, the Lord your God who gives you a reason to give thanks.
Remember the Lord Your God who did not condemn a world that left him, but rather sent his one and only Son to bring the world back to him (John 3:15-16). Remember the Lord Your God who does not take away everything because of your pride. Rather, Remember the Lord Your God who takes away the life of his Son because your (and my) pride deserves death (Romans 6:23). Remember the Lord Your God who remembers your pride no more (Jeremiah 31:34).
Remember the Lord Your God who satisfied your only real need. When our hearts drifted from our God, our God never left us. He removes the pride which locked us out of heaven. He removed it! It’s gone! In its place lives the title ‘Child!’ God is Your Provider. He provides every physical and spiritual need. Now, He is Your Strength.
Israel would have to admit all their success came from God’s blessing. They’re thirsty and grumble, he gives water from the rock. They complain for food and he sends quail meat. They plead and he wipes out armies. He does this for two reasons. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, (1) to humble you… Israel ran out of food. They could not hunt enough to feed over 2-million people each day for 40-years. They could not grow crops in sand. This demonstrates how little control they had at the moment. (1) They could not provide food. (2) Even if starving, they could not change their condition. (3) They needed help.
So, God gives them manna [wafer-thin bread]. He does something they could not. God’s miracle shrunk their self-reliance. Israel is not god. God is God. So, their hearts could find security in him. They could boast the Almighty provides for them. They could live content like children under the perfect care of their parents. As we realize how little we control, we do not need to despair. Rather, we have strength because the Almighty God controls and manages every single thing for us!
[God] gave you manna to eat in the desert, (2) to test you… Tests reveal the right and wrong answers. After a test, you correct what is wrong and you function in the right. When you are in need, you encounter the wrong: Trust yourself. Doubt God. Criticize God. Grow angry. You also face the good: Rely on God. Trust him— even when time passes. Rely on the truth that he is good and gracious. He has proven that in the past and you know it will continue into the future. Cast your needs and anxieties on God. Testing removes what is wrong so that you grow stronger. As a result your reliance on God increases.
This testing and humbling is meant for your good. You stop relying on yourself. If you stop self-reliance, you stop growing anxious. If you’re not anxious, you stop worrying. You know God has more power than you ever could—and you thank him for that because he will continue providing for you in the most perfect of ways. That makes you strong. You can stand up under any pressure because God is Your Strength.
In the end, God still remains your God forever. You will join him in heaven. No self-reliance will choke him from you. Remember the Lord Your God. He is your Strength
Many factors contribute to our personal success. You have received gifts and inheritances. You have purchased health items. You bought the clothes and food you need. You have received unexpected good news. You have received toys and gadgets you never expected, but still enjoy. Expected or not, many factors contribute to where you are today.
This Thanksgiving, take time to count your blessings. Reflect on your financial gains. Appreciate completed projects. Restudy your health. See the many changes you confronted— and thank God for them all. He gives you ability and health, strength and wisdom. God is your Provider and Your Strength. Because of that you get to live at ease. Remember the Lord Your God. He is your Provider and He is your Strength.
If you were to die tonight, are you sure you would go to heaven? Or, if God asked you, “Why should I let you into heaven?” what would you tell him? (I know, those are pretty heavy questions to start with.) But I imagine most, if not all, of you have wrestled that question at one time or another. At one time you may not have known Jesus, and so you were never quite sure what happens after death. Perhaps you’re the lifelong Christian who trusts in Jesus as Savior, but you still wonder: “Is that really enough? Is that really what it takes? Only Jesus?” Maybe you toss and turn all night, reliving such humiliating shame that never goes away. And God loves you? Really? After you hurt so many? After the mess you made? Are you sure you will go to heaven?
That can be an unsettling question. Yet, think about what is really being asked. (1) You ask that question because you understand eternity is a long time. When life ends, eternity begins. You do not want to enter eternity unprepared; you do not want to go to hell. So, you wonder what it takes to enter heaven. Then (2) you want to be sure. You want a rock-solid, sure-fire, certain answer as to what will happen after you die.
Now, there are two places where you can look for answers. You can look at yourself, or we can read what God says in the Bible. Our reading from Hebrews actually deals with both objects.
Verse 11 takes us to the place where many start looking for certainty: themselves! Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices… These sacrifices go on repeatedly. Each animal slaughtered, bleeding, dying serves as a picture. That is the purpose for Old Testament sacrifice— it pointed ahead to the final, complete sacrifice Jesus makes. Yet, many failed to trace their offerings to the cross. Instead, they fixate on their actions. Go to church. Bring your offering. Give your offering. Be kind. Be a better parent. Be a better spouse. Be more patient. Demonstrate to God that you are trying your hardest to live a good life. Where you fail, show God that you are trying to change. Where you succeed, hold that up as a good work before God.
The natural reaction, isn’t it? We consider God ‘good.’ Since God is ‘good,’ we feel that God wants us to be ‘good.’ Yet, we cannot be as ‘good’ as God is. So, we change God’s standards and hope our ‘good’ is ‘good enough’ for God! Ask a stranger on the street: Are you sure you would go to heaven? Chances are, he’ll say, “Yes, I think so. I try to be good.”
Yet, there’s a problem with that thinking. All those sacrifices the priests offered, all the offerings given, all the ‘good’ instructions both priest and believer obey could never take away sins.
God cannot stress that enough. Look at all those priests [plural]! We’re talking a line of priests that stretch on for about 500 years. For thirteen generations the priest appears at the temple day after day. For thirteen generations the priest offers sacrifices day after day. No son was a better priest than his father. No great-great-grandson ministered better. Sacrifice continued because sinners committed new sin each day. Sacrifice continued because nothing we offer can erase sin or blot out guilt or remove shame. If those sacrifices removed sin, would they not have stopped being offered? (Hebrews 10:2)
Here’s the point. The question about entering heaven can be unnerving. The temptation is to look at your morality. To rely on good behavior. To lean on church habits. To trust that you are morally superior to others (like criminals or abusers). God says, “This is not (and never will be) enough.” Are you sure you will go to heaven? If you’re digging inside of yourself, you only face unending torment.
You need a better answer, and God gives you one. Compare verse 12 to verse 11. But when this priest… that’s Jesus, and he is different from the hundreds of priests that came before him! Because Jesus offered for all time one sacrifice for sins… Every other priest offered endless sacrifices. Not just that, animal blood was not the answer to removing guilt. Jesus actually deals with sin. He offers not just one sacrifice, but the final sacrifice.
Do you get the point God is making? Jesus is better than any offering we could give God. Jesus is without sin. He never hurts his friends. He never attacks his family. He never lives a night he regrets. Instead he says, “I have come to do your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7). Jesus is perfect.
He is the sacrifice laid on the altar of the cross. God lifts off our shame, our failures, our guilt and places it squarely on the body of Jesus. Nails pierce his hands and stretch out his body. Slowly he bleeds, slowly he suffocates. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Yet, it is not you who die for what you have done wrong, it is Jesus.
If you wonder what God does with your wrongs, then look at the cross and see the Father drape them across his Son. Jesus is the payment made for our debt.
You can be sure his death is enough. [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of God. God does not accept the imperfect into heaven, but only the perfect. When Jesus rose from the dead, he is declared “Perfect!” If declared “Perfect,” then you can be sure his payment made for your benefit is declared “Perfect” as well.
Want more proof? Since that time (the time he entered heaven) he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool… Our feet walk through dust and mud and garbage. That grime is unwanted. So, we keep our feet away from people’s noses and clean hands. If someone is your footstool, then it means that individual has a status worse than stinky, grimy feet. When an ancient king conquered his enemy, he would set his foot on the enemy’s neck. That conquered foe is worse than his stinky, grimy foot. More than that, step down and he could end life. Jesus has made the devil his footstool. The devil cannot demand you join him in hell. Sin cannot demand you suffer eternal consequences. Jesus has paid sin in full for all time!
Want even more proof? Then hear what God says he has done for you. [B]y one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Pay attention to the verb: he has made perfect (or, “made complete”) These events happened in the past, but the results carry on! Jesus died (in the past) and his death still impacts you today. Jesus rose (in the past) and his resurrection still means you are forgiven today.
How much more proof is needed to say that Jesus has removed the consequences of sin? What more must be said to remove fear and trembling about eternity? Only Jesus Makes Heaven Certain! He has paid sin down once for all and He has made you holy.
Today’s theme is ‘Saints Triumphant.’ Do you know who those triumphant ‘saints’ are? Believers. Christians. You. (read 1 Corinthians 1:2)
Scoffing? Laughing? Doubting? ‘Saint’? Surely not you! You still feel guilty; you remember the fresh hurt you inflicted. God must see that! Your past is one giant mess— a couple divorces, a few children who resent you, a past with drugs and booze. How can God wash that away? God must want something more from you. Certainly God doesn’t just forget sin without you working it off.
Ah! but he does! God cuts through your emotions with his Word. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time,” says the Lord. “I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” A covenant is a guarantee or contract. God makes a contract with you: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
What joy to hear that! God does not ignore sin. He doesn’t shrug his shoulders and say, “Ah, no big deal.” If God tried to overlook what we did wrong, then we would always be terrified that he might dredge them up later. Instead, God deals with sin. Jesus covered over our faults with his life. God does not see sin on you. He sees Jesus’ perfection. He sees you, a saint. A holy person. He has made you holy.
And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. Jesus died once. Jesus will only die once— because his one sacrifice is enough. It will never expire. It has already been accepted by the Judge of the universe! Point to Jesus. Say, “He died for me!” Since he did, stand confident of eternal life.
So, here’s two truths to take home. First, if the devil reminds you of your past, point to Jesus. Point to your baptism. [A]ll of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:27). When you were baptized, Jesus dressed you in his perfection. You can be sure that happened because Jesus said so. This is his gift. You can be certain he does not lie or change his mind (Numbers 23:19).
Second, when Christians die, they enter heaven. That means your spouse who believed in Jesus as Savior is in heaven now. That means your child, who was baptized and clothed in Christ is in heaven. That means mom and dad, brother or sister, grandma or grandpa— every single believer are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple (Revelation 7:15). That’s not something we hope is real. That’s something we know is real because God says it is real. Only Jesus Makes Heaven Certain.
The promise of eternal life never depends on you. Do you realize that? In Hebrews 10:11-18, where does God point and say, “Now do this…”? He never does, does he? Instead, through every single verse all you see is Jesus and what Jesus has done for you so that you can live certain you will enter heaven.
That’s the answer to our questions. Are you sure you will enter heaven? Yes. Be confident of that. Jesus died. Jesus rose. Jesus ascended. Jesus will come again. If you stood before God and he asked, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” Point to Jesus and say, “You accepted his life for my benefit.”
You will never find certainty in your emotions, you will never find certainty in your behavior. That’s because God never points you there. Instead, Only Jesus Makes Heaven Certain! He has paid sin down once for all and He has made you holy.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. You have a unique privilege, an opportunity, to study past events, examine decisions made, and avoid falling into the same consequences by altering your decisions now. Because those who pay attention to history will not repeat the mistakes made.
That’s why God repeats three historical events throughout the entire Bible. Noah spends 120-years building the ark. God’s judgment is coming; he would wash evil from the world. So, each new day presents another opportunity for some passerby to ask Noah, “Why are you building this boat?” Instead, many continue running errands and making dinner, marrying and planning future family gatherings as though tomorrow’s sun would rise again! (Matthew 24:37-39). Lot scrambles around Sodom’s city-streets. God’s judgment was coming; he would burn evil off the face of the earth. Lot pleads with his future son-in-laws, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” (Genesis 19:14). The son-in-laws? They laugh! They mockingly imitate! They think it’s a joke!
Do you realize these events are the only ones mentioned throughout beginning to end in the Bible? They appear in Genesis. God’s Old Testament prophets mention them. Jesus refers to both. Peter uses them to discuss the end of time. God is making a point: Take his judgment seriously! Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it— and suffer the same consequences.
Where God threatens, the heart can react with this careless complacency. “You still have time. God’s not coming— yet. Don’t worry.” God shatters any faulty notions with Malachi’s pen. The Day of the LORD is Coming! The arrogant will burn away and Those who revere God will shine.
In chapter 4, verse 1, Malachi writes: “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them.”
Malachi writes these words about 400-years before Jesus is born. Yet, he points ahead to one, single specific ‘Day:’ the day Jesus judges the living and the dead.
You see, Malachi sounds the warning. The Israelites are whining: “It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements[?]” (Malachi 3:14). Nonbelievers find no reason to obey God. They drag bruised, broken, unwanted animals to God for a sacrifice. Priests tolerate a believer marrying a pagan, and then turn a blind eye when that believer starts worshipping false gods. Families are holding back their offerings. The wicked deliberately break God’s commands— and guess what? Nothing happens! The earth does not swallow the ungodly. Waters do not wash away the immoral. Fire does not spill from the heavens. God punishes no one. Even the believers notice this. [T]he evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape!” (3:15) This attitude appears: “God, we’ll keep doing what is wrong because you have not come to put an end to it.”
If we are honest with ourselves, if we dissect the motivation for our actions, we can find that same attitude lurking within. We do what is wrong because nothing bad happens. The Second Commandment forbids cursing and needless swearing, but we curse anyway because God has not cursed us. Laziness steals money from our employer, laziness robs us of time to serve others— but we defend laziness because God has not lit our feet on fire. God commands: “Honor your father and mother”— including the government and spiritual leaders (Exodus 20:12; Romans 13:1-5; Hebrews 13:17). Still, we criticize and pout, insult and ridicule simply because God has not walked through the door and stopped us.
You see, the temptation exists to disregard God’s threats. To think God is not really serious. So, God-forbidden behavior is behavior embraced for no other reason than: “God doesn’t punish me, so I’m going to continue living the way I do until God does something about it.”
Do you know what God calls that? Arrogance. That is, believing you possess incredible self-worth that you can justify your actions before God and he must agree with you. It’s arrogant to deliberately do what is wrong and then think God does not care. It’s arrogant to mistake God’s patience for indifference. It’s arrogant to think God will not send people to hell because they have rejected him.
God makes it abundantly clear: The Day of the LORD is Coming and The arrogant will burn away. Not a root or a branch will be left to them. You chop a tree down and the stump looks dead and lifeless, but roots can keep it alive. New shoots sprout. Or, you can take a branch and graft it into a new tree. Sometimes branches can grow roots; branches still have life. We can foolishly believe that there will always remain one last chance to enter heaven.
God is saying: “No. When the end comes, all those who wicked and arrogant, those who have rebelled against my Word, will be stumps. I will cut him down and he will be dead. I will take that branch and throw it into a blazing furnace. There is no more chance for life.”
The Day of the LORD is Coming. The arrogant will burn away. Just like the scoffers washed away in the flood. Just like the mockers became pillars of salt. Pay attention to these words. Take the time now to understand that God is serious about his threats. Because Those who revere God will shine.
Malachi continues in verse 2: But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.
The natural reaction to ‘hell’ or ‘punishment’ is to discredit it. Many think hell does not exist. Others believe everyone will enter heaven. The reason for this is that people do not want to go to hell and so they create ways to avoid it. Yet, God’s solution to hell is not to ignore it or undermine its seriousness. God’s solution is to confront it head-on.
[F]or you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. God’s ‘Name’ is everything that God reveals about himself. So, think of it like a reputation. If I say, “Mom”— what thoughts come to mind? Perhaps you think of a woman about (this many years old), (this high), with (this color hair). Or, maybe you’re thinking about your mom’s mannerisms. I say the name: ‘Mom,’ and you think about characteristics, appearance, and behavior. When we consider of God’s ‘Name,’ we think of his characteristics. God is eternal, you (and I) are mortal (Psalm 90:1-2). He is the LORD of Hosts, meaning, he holds supreme authority. All the armies of the world put together cannot stop the Almighty from executing his plans. The LORD is just, meaning he will punish those not sorry for their sins, but he also gracious to forgive (Exodus 34:6-7). Those are God’s characteristics, his behavior.
To ‘fear’ means to ‘show respect, revere, honor.’ Simply put, ‘fearing’ God’s Name means respecting God’s abilities. God will do what he says he will do. We stand before God and realize he stands far above, far higher than us! He reigns in heaven, we do not. He controls all things, we do not. He enters heaven, we cannot. The God who stands high above us is the God who heals us with the Son of Righteousness.
Jesus is that Son of Righteousness. He is the Righteous One, who obeyed God’s commands with all his heart, mind, and soul. He is the One who did not open his mouth to insult his accusers— even though he had every right and reason to do so (1 Peter 2:21-24). He is the One who came down from heaven to sacrifice himself one time, for all time (Hebrews 9:24-28).
Like the morning sun, Jesus rises from death with words of healing. He has taken away punishment due for our arrogance. He has brought salvation, that is forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. He points us to heaven and says, “Pay attention! That is where you are going!” He lifts our attentions of the passing pleasures of this life, and he unveils a magnificent home beyond compare.
This is why we learn from the past; we do not want to miss this eternal hope. And we will not. God’s Word shines in our hearts, exposing sin and guilt, and illuminating Jesus as our Savior. Baptism has put God’s Name on you, the life of Jesus is draped on you (Galatians 3:26-27). Jesus’ body and blood assures you of sins forgiven, release from guilt, and freedom forever!
How do we respond? In the only way possible. [Y]ou will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. A calf released from a stanchion (or stall) stretches, feels energy and strength; he’s free! You hop and leap for joy— which is the opposite of fear and dread. God’s great Judgment Day is not a threat meant for you to tremble in fear. You look forward to the Savior’s return because that is the Day you go home to heaven. Jesus is your certainty. You stand healed, cleansed, purified, made whole! At the last trumpet, you will stand before God. He will repeat the same Words you have read and heard on every page of Scripture and repeated every Sunday: “Forgiven!”
That awesome, life-changing news makes it difficult to stand still. Your heart flutters, your feet can never carry you fast enough and when you finally reach your destination, you cannot keep the words contained; they spill out. The Day of the LORD is Coming! Those who revere God will shine.
God speaks about the Last Day so that you are prepared to stand before him and live. Some disregarded his future promise. Noah spends 120-years building the ark. Each new day presents another opportunity for some passerby to ask Noah, “Why are you building this boat?” and then, turn to God in faith. Lot pleads with his future son-in-laws, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” (Genesis 19:14). The warning is meant for them to see how they live and change. God mentions those events from beginning to end so that you might learn, examine, and avoid the foolish decisions made and hellish consequences.
You can because God repeats one final event on every page of Scripture: A Savior. A Savior promised to Adam and Eve. A Savior proclaimed by God’s Old Testament prophets. A Savior who announces peace with God. A Savior who will come again to judge the living and the dead— just as Peter says (3:11-16).
The Day of the LORD is Coming! Is it taking a while? By human standards, yes. By God’s standards, no. Each new day is another ‘time of grace.’ A day for the nonbeliever to come to faith. A day for the believer to grow in faith. A time to get ready now. Because The Day of the LORD is Coming! The arrogant will burn away and Those who revere God will shine.