The Sunday of Last Judgment

November 11, 2018

Malachi 4:1-2

The Day Is Coming!

 

“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.  But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.”  (NIV1984)

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

This is my Day-Timer.  Some people may say that this little book is rather old-fashioned.  Some people may say that this little book is woefully low-tech.  I agree.  But, guess how many times this little book has run out of juice and stopped working?  (Zero)  Guess how many times this little book has been hacked or been infected with a virus or crashed and I lost all the data contained in it?  (Zero)  This little book faithfully reminds me of where I am supposed to be and when I am supposed to be there.  If I have a meeting I need to attend I write it in this little book.  If I am supposed to visit you I write it in this little book.  If one of our grandchildren has a concert, if my family is planning a trip, if there is a special event of any sort coming up I write it in this little book.  I depend on this little book to remind me of where I am supposed to be and when I am supposed to be there.  I depend on this little book to remind me of what important days are coming up.

 

This is my Bible.  This Book teaches me and reminds me of what my God has done for me.  This Book teaches me and reminds me of what my God is doing for me.  This Book teaches me and reminds me of what my God will do for me.  This Book also reveals to me certain days that I need to remember— days that have eternal significance for me as well as for each and every one of you.  The special days this Book encourages me to remember are days such as:  the day my Savior was born, the day my Savior died for my sins, the day my Savior physically rose from the grave to guarantee my eternity and the day my Savior will return to this earth in all His power and in all His glory as the Judge of the living and the dead.  I depend on this Book to teach me and remind me and prepare me for all the important days that have eternal significance.

 

Today, my friends, is the third last Sunday in the Christian church year.  Today is also known as the Sunday of Last Judgment.  Today we focus our attention on what will happen on the day Jesus returns to this earth.  With that in mind let’s turn our attention this morning to these words of Scripture and see how the prophet Malachi proclaims to us:  Surely the Day is Coming!  Using very picturesque terms God’s prophet reminds us that there are two different aspects to the truth that The Day is Coming!  Some people hear in those words the condemning Law of a holy, just and perfect God.  Other people hear in those words the saving grace of a holy, just and perfect God.

 

The prophet Malachi lived about 400 years before Jesus was born.  About 100 years before Malachi was born God’s people had been allowed to return home to Judah and Jerusalem after having been conquered and taken as exiles to Babylon.  The Temple of the Lord had been rebuilt.  The walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt.  Now God’s people were waiting.  They were waiting for “the day” to arrive.  They were waiting for the day when Israel would once again be a powerful and prosperous nation.  They were waiting for the day when the Lord Himself would come to His Temple with majesty and power and glory.  They were waiting for the day when the Lord their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, would fulfill His covenant of love with His Chosen People.  But the people of God were not waiting very patiently.  From the perspective of God’s people “the day” they were waiting for was taking too long!  As a result of their impatience God’s people were beginning to doubt God’s love, they were beginning to say that God was not being “fair,” they were beginning to ignore God’s Law, and, they were even beginning to “rob” God by withholding their offerings from their Lord.

 

It is in that light, my friends, that God’s prophet Malachi says to God’s impatient people, “Surely the day is coming!”  But for some of God’s people the Lord’s promise that “the day is coming” is a very strong message of Law!  Look at how Malachi pictures that day for the unrepentant, “’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.’”

 

We were all horrified by the ferocious fires that swept across California last year.  We are once again horrified by the ferocious fires that are currently burning in California.  Thousands upon thousands of acres of land were left completely scorched.  Thousands upon thousands upon homes and businesses were destroyed.  Dozens of people perished in those fires.  What makes that horrible situation even worse is that depending on who you talk to, at least some of the fires here in Northern California were avoidable.  As you recall the pictures of those fires then also picture this:  The fire that Malachi describes here in our text is infinitely bigger and eternally more serious!

 

The fire of God’s perfect justice will completely engulf “all the arrogant and every evildoer.”  The fire of God’s perfect justice will engulf them so completely that they will be burned like “stubble” until not “a root or a branch” is left.  That’s the power of the perfect justice of God!

 

Now some of you might be wondering, Why?  Why did Malachi proclaim such a strong message of Law to God’s own people?  The answer to that question is actually quite simple:  God’s people had started to become impatient with their Lord.  God’s people had started to doubt God’s love.  God’s people had started to ignore God’s Law.  God’s people had started to “rob” God of the offerings that are rightfully due to Him!  In short, it was God’s own people who had become “arrogant” and “evildoers” in the eyes of their God.  Therefore God’s people needed to hear that “the day is most certainly coming”— but it will be a day of consuming justice for those who do not confess their sins, repent of their sins and turn away from their sins.

 

Do we need to hear that very same message, my friends?  Do we need to be reminded of the all-consuming justice of our holy, just and perfect God?  I believe that the answer to that question is:  Yes!  Unless we are somehow different from every other human being on the face of this earth, including every other child of God, we all have that old sinful nature that wants us to become impatient with God!  Our own sinful nature wants us to doubt God’s love!  Our own sinful nature wants us to think that we can ignore God’s Law and live however we choose to live!  Our own sinful nature wants us to think that even if we can’t get away with robbing a bank we can get away with robbing God by simply spending “our” money on our own wants, our own desires, our own pleasures and if their is anything left over then maybe we will give some back to the Lord.  Our own sinful nature wants us to hold grudges, allow animosity towards others to simmer in our hearts and speak unkind words about anyone who has done something or said something we did not like.  Because we all have that old sinful nature we all need to listen very carefully as the prophet Malachi proclaims to us:  “Surely the day is coming” and for the unrepentant, “it will burn like a furnace.”

 

Now if I were a “hellfire and brimstone” kind of preacher I would think about ending this sermon right here and now.  I would want to leave you all shaking in your shoes hoping to put the “fear” of God in your hearts so bad that you would do what you are “supposed” to do and be what you are “supposed” to be because you are afraid of the Sovereign Lord and His perfect justice.  But I am not ready or willing to say “Amen” just yet.  I am not ready or willing to say “Amen” because there is another verse here in our text.  I am not ready or willing to say “Amen” because the good Lord doesn’t want me to leave you shaking in your shoes out of fear of Him!  Once the prophet Malachi had assured God’s people that “Surely the day is coming,” once the prophet Malachi had warned the unrepentant that the fire of God’s perfect justice is all-consuming, he then went on to comfort the penitent with this promise of God, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.”  What a glorious soothing picture of the amazing grace of our God!

 

The Almighty God could have said to us, “The day is coming when I will destroy all the arrogant and all the evildoers, I will condemn all the sinners and all those who rebel against Me and then I will start all over again with people who will fear, love, and trust in Me above all things.”  But He didn’t!  The Almighty God could have said to us, “I do not want to hear any whining or complaining out of you.  You sinners are only getting exactly what you deserve.”  But He didn’t!  The Almighty God could have said to us, “I’ll give you one more chance— but you had better not ever sin against Me again.  Ever!”  But He didn’t!  The Almighty God uses the powerful message of His Law to cut down to the deepest depths of our soul and expose our sin.  Then the Almighty God gently lifts our eyes to the cross of His Son and says, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.”

 

When we read these words of Malachi with our physical eyes we automatically see that the word “sun” here in our text is spelled s-u-n.  But if we close our eyes and listen to this promise of our God with the ears of faith we easily hear our God assure us that “The S-o-n of righteousness,” His only begotten Son who gives us the robe of perfect righteousness that He won for us on the cross, this Son “heals” us of all of our sins and all of our guilt and all of our shame— when we “revere” or “hold in honor” His holy Name.  Think about it, my friends.  When we “revere” God’s name will we ever need to fear the all-consuming fire of God’s perfect justice?  When we “honor” God’s holy name both in our hearts as well as in our lives will we ever need to fear that the day of judgment will somehow catch us off guard or unprepared?  Not at all!

 

How do we do that?  How do we “revere” and “hold in honor” God’s holy Name?  It’s much simpler than we might think.  Through the power of God the Holy Spirit we “revere” and “hold in honor” God’s holy Name every time we gather together here in God’s house to bring our worship, our thanks and our praise to Him.  Through the power of God the Holy Spirit we “revere” and “hold in honor” God’s holy Name every time we read and study our Bible.  Through the power of God the Holy Spirit we “revere” and “hold in honor” God’s holy Name every time we say “No!” to the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.  Through the power of God the Holy Spirit we “revere” and “hold in honor” God’s holy Name every time we share the Truth of Scripture with someone— whether it’s a member of our own family, a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, an acquaintance.  Through the power of God the Holy Spirit we “revere” and “hold in honor” God’s holy Name every time we place the very best of our offerings on His altar.    So ask the Holy Spirit to help you “revere” and “hold in honor” the holy Name of the one and only Living God.  For then just as surely as the sun rises in the east every single morning so also the Son of righteousness (Pointing to the cross) will daily rise upon you with healing for your soul.

 

I am sure that some if not many of us have a little book like this or perhaps a calendar on the refrigerator which reminds us to be prepared for the important days that are coming up in our lives.  My prayer this morning is that each and every one of us will stay in such close contact with this Book so that we will always be prepared for the most important day of all— the day of Last Judgment, the day when the Son of righteousness will arise to heal us for all of eternity.

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen