Be Looking… Be Waiting (November 5, 2017)
Be Looking… Be Waiting
We were driving north. We knew the exit we needed to take. We got to talking, distracted. The exit came. The exit went. Oops. No big deal, we turned back.
But some things are a big deal. On the bridge of a ship in the dark of the night. As the officer of the Deck, you have to watch out for other ships coming your way. You and the other watchstanders can’t let yourselves slump into inattention. Too much is at stake. The safety of your ship and the lives of those sleeping below. You need to keep watch.
Well God’s Word teaches us about a Day to come. Our readings today speak of it. Sometimes it is called the Day of the Lord. God’s Word tells us to be waiting, expecting that day. But how easy it is for every day life to swallow up that expectation. How easy it is to forget about a Day the Lord has written on his calendar. We call it the Last Judgment. So we say:
BE LOOKING…BE WAITING
- The Day is surely approaching
- God himself will sit in judgment
- Then his own will be revealed
What we have here is part of a vision given to the prophet Daniel. It speaks of a succession of kingdoms yet to come. In the vision, they are pictured as a lion, then a bear then a leopard and finally a terrifying beast. They represent Babylon which had taken Daniel into exile with his people. Then Persia. Then Greece. Then finally the powerful Roman empire. These kingdoms would conquer and be conquered over hundreds of years. Kings like Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander the great and the Caesars would rule these powerful empires.
History tells us those kings and their empires have come and gone. But the prophecy does not end there way back when. It points us to another scene yet to come. Thrones are brought into a room and set in place. An awesome mysterious figure takes his seat. He is called the Ancient of Days, a name not seen anywhere else in the Bible. He is called the the Ancient of Days because this King has always been. Then the court comes to order. The Ancient of Days is ready. He is ready to carry out his judgment.
This is a vision of a Day sure to come. The prophets speak of it. Our Lord Jesus speaks of it. The apostles speak of it. The Day of the Lord, an unmistakable day when the Lord comes in all his power and glory.
Many things will happen on that day. The dead will be raised. Every person who lives or who has ever lived will be assembled before God’s throne. This world as we know it will be destroyed by fire. And God will create a new heavens and a new earth.
And notice I said nothing about a millennium, nothing about a thousand year reign of Christ on the earth. That’s because the so called millennium is a false understanding of God’s Word. No, the next thing we await is the Day of the Lord.
The Day of the Lord will be a day of dramatic contrasts. Unspeakable joy and terrible despair. People invited into the blessed presence of God and those rejected to spend an eternity in hell. And the defining moment will be the one pictured here. Judgment.
That Day is surely approaching. When it will come, we cannot say. But we do know how it will come. Jesus tells us it will come like a thief in the night. Suddenly, Unannounced, without warning.
But that doesn’t mean it should catch us unaware. For as Paul wrote in our second lesson, you brothers are not in darkness. God has brought you into the light of knowing. That Day is coming.
So be looking…be waiting. For this is a Day that could come at any moment. That’s why your Lord Jesus who loves you more than his own life says to you: 34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21: 34-36) For the Day is surely approaching.
If you’ve worked around the courtroom you get an impression of the judges who serve there. Some bend over backwards to help the defendant. Some seem a bit more even. In the Coast Guard, I investigated wrongdoing by people licensed to operate the kind of ships that can carry massive amounts of cargo and passengers. Part of my job was to bring charges before a judge. In the federal building in New Orleans, there were two judges you could have. When I turned in the charge sheet, I would ask the secretary. Which judge is up?
Which judge is up? Read Daniel’s words and the answer is very clear. So be looking..Be waiting. God himself will sit in judgment.
“thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. The one who will sit in judgment will not be someone young and inexperienced. He will be full of years, older than the mountains. For he made them.
And look closer at how he’s described. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. (9) If you look at Revelation chapter you see that our Lord Jesus is pictured in the same way. For God our Father has entrusted judgment to his Son. And remember we are dealing with a vision. The details teach us. For in the Bible, white is the color of purity, holiness. So we see that this judge is holy. He sits on the throne with absolute moral authority to judge those who come before him. And every sinful failure, every ugly word, every godless attitude will stand out like an ugly ink stain on a white shirt.
His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 10A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. When God appeared to Moses, how did he show his glory? With fire in a burning bush. When the Lord led his people out of Egypt he led them with a tall pillar of __________. When God the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, he made his presence known by the sound of a win and tongues of ___________. Well here we see the glory of him who will sit in Judgment. We see the Kabod Adonai, the glory of the Lord.
And follow the picture. Right now in Hawaii there is an active volcano that oozes molten lava. What would happen to anything in its way? Houses, fields, vegetation, would all be consumed by fire.
Well so too that judgment that is to come. It will be unrelenting, all consuming. What does the Scripture say? Our God is a consuming fire. And so we dare not take this Day lightly. Instead we need to be watching. Waiting. For the Day is surely coming when God himself will sit in judgment over you and me and all people.
The court was seated, and the books were opened. What books? The Bible describes a book in which every aspect of our life is recorded. A lot of gigabytes of the good, the bad and the ugly. The acts of kindness and the selfish failures to care and love. And there is another book the Bible speaks of. It’s called the Book of Life. In it are written the names of those that are God’s own, those who will hear Jesus say: Come you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you…For on that day, that book will be opened and then God’s own will be revealed.
Now I don’t know if those books are real or also a part of a vision. What matters is the truth they teach us. What matters is that God knows my life, all that I have done and failed to do. He knows yours too. So when we look at ourselves, we might wonder. Will my name be found in that Book of Life…or not?
I remember a man struggling with that question. He was dying. And he was afraid. He knew he was a sinner. And he knew that when he died, he would stand before God as all of us will. So he was afraid.
But he and we have a Savior who says to us, don’t be afraid. By the grace of God, we don’t have to wonder. We don’t have to face that Day with a big question mark. For yes, we know what we deserve. Chief of sinners though I be. But that’s why the Son of God came to be our brother. To take our guilt that would have cried out from the pages of God’s book and condemned us. Jesus took that guilt upon himself, then went to the cross to suffer our judgment. And how do we know? He rose from the grave. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
That’s why God had this Book written. So that you could know Jesus, your Savior, So that you could know your sins are forgiven. So that you could know, not wonder, not wish, not worry, not doubt but know what God’s book will say when it’s opened. Jesus came, lived, died and rose again so you and I can look forward to that day.
So the court will be seated and the books will be opened. But you will not stand there filled with fear. For what does God promise you? Whoever trusts in Jesus, His Son, will not perish but have everlasting life.
And in the meantime? Think about it. What kind of people should we be as we wait for that Day? God’s word is clear. Live a life worthy of your calling. Live a life that Jesus will hold up on that day as evidence of your faith. Live a life of caring regard for the needs of others. Remember his words. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then watch. Then wait. Amen.