Monday, March 10, 2014
Heaven Pt 4: That Day!
Heaven Pt. 4: That Day!
Lord Jesus, into whose hands the Father has entrusted all judgment; we long for your return, we deeply desire to be at home with you! But there is this disturbing business about that Day when we must all stand before you and give an account of what we have done. Please help us to hear rightly this evening that we may we be better prepared for that Day. Amen.
Did you ever notice that when you were growing up, you could almost never “pull one over” on your mom or dad? At least, that was the case for me. How many times as a young boy I tried to pull a fast one, and mom or dad saw right through. “Son, did you steal the neighbor’s cigerettes?” “Ummm, uhhh, no.” “Give them here son.” “Dad! How’d you know?” “I’m Dad!” Spank, spank. And remember those times when your dad or mom called for you to come, right then and there, and you could tell from the tone of voice this was your day of reckoning! When you got there, your throat was as dry, and felt as dirty, as the inside of a vacuum cleaner bag; your hands wet and clammy; and your heart about to beat out of your chest!
This evening we need to look into a similar situation as we talk about heaven. Two weeks ago we looked at two historical events – what happens when we die, and then sometime later, the resurrection. Tonight we need to think about the Day of Reckoning, where Jesus comes to judge the living and the dead. But I want to narrow our investigation a bit. I’ve already dealt with this from the unbeliever’s side during our segment on Hell. I only want to focus on That Day for the believer.
Even for believers it will be unsettling! As we read in our OT passage, God’s own selected prophet unravels when he faces God (Isaiah 6). John, Jesus’ own hand-picked representative, comes unglued when he stands before Jesus, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet ( . . . ) when I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw ( . . . ) one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. ( . . . ) When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1.10-17a). It will be no cake-walk, no stroll in a spring-time park, no Google Hang-out, no bellying up to the bar with your buddies! Based on all that I see in Scripture that records anything close to that Day, it will be an unnerving, knee-knocking, sweaty-palm, stammering, fainting kind of moment. And why? Not only because of who we will be coming before, but also because it is Assessment day!
Here is the part that, for us as 21st Century Protestants, is hard for us to understand; so you’re going to need to lean forward a bit, clear your ears and listen carefully. It will be a day of stripping away all of our pretenses and pretexts. For example, there will be no pulling the religiously-self-satisfying wool over the eyes of God. Matthew 7.21-23. Even our Facebook posts, text messages, snapchat texts, Instagrams, emails, words spoken-texted-typed-written will be assessed. As our Lord Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12.36-37).
There will also be shock and surprise for many: Matthew 25.31-40.
And many will hear words they have longed for, words that will cause tears of joy and thanksgiving to swell up and burst forth, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master’” (Matthew 25.21).
Assessment Day will have to do with our works, actions, words etc. Every story Jesus told about the assessment tells us that. Paul clearly warns us of this, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5.10). And Romans 14.7-13. Also, “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1.17-19). And Even our Calvinist-justification-by-grace-alone-through-faith-alone Westminster Confession of Faith alerts us to this; “In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil” (33.1).
As children of God, how should we think about all this works-stuff? 1st – The ability to do what pleases God is the gracious gift of God! Philippians 2.12-13; Ephesians 2.8-10; The Westminster Confession of Faith 16.2-3 (esp. 6).
2nd-These works are evidences, encouragements, indications, confirmations that we have been justified and adopted; strengthening our assurance (WCF 16.2). As James points out we show our faith by our works, so that it can be said our faith is completed by works (James 2.18, 22). Finally, John says that these works are proofs that God has already begun a good work in us: “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2.3-6). Not about earning but evidencing that we are God’s own.
But that day will also be Authentication day.
As Jesus separates sheep from goats, wise from foolish virgins, good and faithful servants from wicked and slothful servants, he will be publically, officially, judicially, forensically announcing to malign spirits, fallen angels, fierce tormentors, taunting detractors, godless tyrants, and all others – these people whom the Father gave me, these people from every tribe and tongue and ethnic group and walks of life who are mine, whom I have prayed for, and died for, and loved from the beginning – they are mine! They are my forgiven, cleaned-up, re-fitted ones. You were wrong to taunt them, shame them, ridicule them, and devour them! Westminster Shorter Catechism 38, “What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection? At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.” Presently, it’s during this time, this sometimes foggy, sometimes bewildering “eagerly waiting” time that we doubt, and fret, and worry. Our own hearts and our hated enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil, taunt us, challenging us with doubts and reservations and misgivings. But then, we will be openly acknowledged by Jesus and acquitted!
But, finally, it will be Amending Day.
Also, we should have a sense of satisfaction that those who have rebelled openly will finally be called to accounts; those who used bullets and bombs and brutality to bully others into submission will be brought to their knees; those who put on sanctimonious faces, who broadcast photo-shopped lives to cover up their villainy perpetrated behind closed doors and in dark rooms, will be exposed and outed; those who have dished out maltreatment and mayhem on the undeserving victims, will be stopped, stripped and served their due. Wrongs will be righted; injustice smothered by justice. Our “How Long, O LORD?” prayers will finally and fully be answered.
“If the righteous are to be delivered the wicked must be judged (and that will only happen if God is actively just). That’s why God’s judgment is such good news for God’s people; only when God comes and puts everything right can there be a universe party (Ps. 96:10-13) and only then can the Lord’s people have rest (2 Thess. 1:6-9)” (Dale Ralph Davis, “The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life,” 130).