“Day of Judgment, Day of Redemption, Days of Distress” (Malachi 4:1-6; Luke 21:5-36)

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
November 13, 2022

“Day of Judgment, Day of Redemption, Days of Distress” (Malachi 4:1-6; Luke 21:5-36)

“Day of Judgment, Day of Redemption, Days of Distress”: We hear about all of these days in our readings today. All these days are guaranteed. God’s word makes it so. All these days will happen. In fact, some of them are happening already. But there is a day ahead that is not yet here. It’s still to come. And we need to be ready for it. Let’s find out.

Day of judgment, day of redemption: That is the day that is still to come. And really, it’s just one day. The judgment and the redemption will happen at the same time, on the same day. Whether it will be judgment or redemption for you–well, that’s the question, isn’t it? But that singular day is coming, no doubt about it, and it could happen at any time.

That day will be a day of judgment. Our reading from Malachi tells us about it: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” Whoa! That is very severe judgment being prophesied! Utter destruction! That’s what will happen on the day that is coming.

Jesus likewise speaks of the day of judgment that is coming on the earth: “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

You see, Jesus tells us when Judgment Day will arrive. It will happen on the day when he himself returns. We don’t know when that will be, but we do know that the day is coming. Jesus guarantees it. And Jesus himself will be the Judge doing the judging. Like we just sang in the hymn: “The clouds of judgment gather, the time is growing late; be sober and be watchful, our judge is at the gate.” Like we just confessed in the Creed: “And he will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead.” Jesus Christ is the Judge who is coming on Judgment Day.

All the arrogant and all evildoers are doomed on the day when Christ returns. Jesus tells of the judgment to come on the world by prophesying the judgment that would come on unbelieving Jerusalem in the year 70. The judgment on Jerusalem would be complete, utter destruction. The temple will be burned and leveled to the ground. What Jesus prophesied then took place 40 years later when the Roman army destroyed the city in A.D. 70. That judgment on Jerusalem serves as a microcosm–that is, a miniature world–a portent and perpetual warning of the final day of judgment that is coming on the earth. Again, one of our hymns describes what will happen: “The day is surely drawing near when Jesus, God’s anointed, in all his power shall appear as judge whom God appointed. Then fright shall banish idle mirth, and flames on flames shall ravage earth as Scripture long has warned us.”

The day of judgment, the day of Christ’s return. Doom and destruction for all the arrogant and all evildoers. It’s easy to condemn them, but how will we escape? Can we stand the scrutiny of an all-seeing judge? Are our deeds, are our hearts, pure enough to pass? Based on God’s law, the Ten Commandments, I know I would fail. My words, my thoughts, my motives do not measure up. Now if I can see these sinful traits in my character, surely the God who reads the heart will know that a thousand times over.

How about you? Are you ready to stand before the Judge? If you’re basing it on how good you are, even relatively speaking compared to others, I can tell you that the Judge will throw the book at you. You will be condemned and cut down with the arrogant and the evildoers. There is no safety in that route, only damnation. Thus it will be on the day of judgment, and that day is coming.

But thank God, the day of Christ’s return, the day of judgment, will also be the day of redemption! Yes, the day when our Lord returns will be for us Christians the great and awesome day of our salvation! “Straighten up and raise your heads,” Jesus says, “because your redemption is drawing near.” Your redemption–that is, your liberation, your deliverance from judgment–your redemption is drawing near. Because Christ is drawing near, and he is your Redeemer. Do you hear that? Our Judge is also our Redeemer! By him, through the redemption he purchased for us with his own blood, you will not be judged and condemned with the world. Rather, you will be redeemed to stand righteous before his throne. “Straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” For those who trust in Christ, the great and awesome day of the Lord will be a day of deliverance, not doom. It will be a day of joy, not judgment. A day of salvation, not damnation. This is why we look forward to that day, and we pray for its coming. It is our great hope.

Hope sealed with blood, the blood of Christ our Redeemer. The blood he shed on the cross for you, to set you free from your sins, to pay a price you could never pay. But he could, and he did. For he is the very Son of God, the Holy One from heaven, who suffered and died for the sins of the world, including your sins. Jesus turns your judgment into joy. He turns your death and doom into resurrection and righteousness. He is your great escape on the day of judgment. Trust in him, for he is your only refuge.

Friends, the day that is coming is both a day of judgment and a day of redemption. Judgment for the world. Redemption for those who are in Christ. And that’s you. God placed you safe and secure in Christ when he took you from the world and brought you into his kingdom. You came into the kingdom when you were brought into the church through Holy Baptism. The Spirit has given you saving faith in Christ, so that now you know Jesus as your Savior. You are a Christian, a member of God’s people, the church.

This is where you need to be. To stand outside the church, outside the community of faith, is a dangerous place to be. Life is dangerous enough as it is, being a Christian living in the world, with all the trials and afflictions we face. But to have no hope, no refuge on the day of judgment, nothing to look forward to–what utter foolishness and lostness and sadness that is. And people don’t even realize it.

And so the days leading up to the day of Christ’s coming–these are days of distress, even for Christians. We Christians are not immune to the turmoil and distress that this world experiences in these days before Christ comes. Tribulation is all around us, and it will be so until that day. Wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, natural disasters, persecution, religious deception, false teachers and deceivers–these are the conditions that surround and afflict the church throughout this New Testament age.

One of the false teachings you may hear in some circles is the notion that the church is going to taken up in a “pre-tribulation rapture,” as it’s called. That way, so the idea goes, we will not have to experience the tribulations that Jesus describes. But that is a bunch of poppycock. It has no basis in Scripture. No, the church has suffered and will continue to suffer distress and tribulation in this world. This will continue until the day when our Lord returns at his second and final coming.

And so these are days of distress, and they call for endurance. These are days of watchfulness on our part. Jesus warns us of the danger. He calls us to wakeful watching: “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.” You see, Satan will continue to try to separate us from our faith and our Lord. The world will continue to attack the church. Our own sinful flesh will continue to mislead and deceive us. Temptations from the devil, afflictions from the world, doubts and struggles from within–such is life on this side of the Second Coming.

But do not despair. Instead, take heart! God will strengthen your weary knees and lift your drooping spirit. The promises of God are as good and as sure as the words of our Lord. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” Jesus says, “but my words will not pass away.” And his promises revive our flagging heart. Days of distress would drag us down. But God’s word lifts us up! His promises cause us to be watchful and wakeful and, yes, even hopeful!

“Day of Judgment, Day of Redemption, Days of Distress”: The day of judgment that is coming is also the day of our redemption. For your Judge is also your Redeemer! He is our Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ is surely coming! Through faith in him, we will be ready for that day. On that day, as Malachi says, “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” What a day that will be! And this promise, this hope, puts a spring in our step even now, in these days of distress. “Straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Published in: on November 12, 2022 at 12:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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