Growing up I went to a church where we would say "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again." I got that Christ has died. I got that Christ has risen but I didn’t think much about Christ is coming again. Which is surprising because there are more references, in the Bible, to the second coming of Christ than the cross. This is the one bible truth the Chinese government forbids churches in China to teach. You can see why, if Jesus is not coming back then Christianity is dead in the water, it's just a fairy tale.
Today's passage focuses on the Day of the Lord when Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. This section of Malachi has 5 references to the Day of the Lord. But the elephant in the room is this: It's been 2000 years and Christ has not come back. But know 3 things (1) Christ didn’t tell us how long he would he would take (2) He did promise that every nation must hear the gospel before he comes back and (3) His delay means another generation can be saved.
It's not like those carpet stores. Every week the sign says "Closing Down Sale, ALL Stock must go!" Then years later it is still open. Friends, be assured Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
In todays passage the Day of the Lord refers to the second coming of the Lord Jesus. To make sense of the reading I need to cover some of last week passage. Here are 5 big things to say on the Day of the Lord.
1. A Day of Distinction - Malachi 3:18
And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. (NIV)
For now the faithful and faithless live together. Together they sit at the same table for a meal, side by side on buses and trains, together they laugh cry and cough, even at church. But a day is coming, when there is a parting of the waves. Jesus speaks of that separation in Luke 17:34-35
I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left. (NIV)
You don't want to be the one left behind. This eternal separation, will turn on whether you have turned to the Lord Jesus.
2. The Day exposes two hearts to God
Those who fear the Lord Those who don’t fear the Lord
Those who serve the Lord Those who don’t serve the Lord
Those who honour the Lord Those who are arrogant & evil doers
Those who are righteous Those who are wicked
Friend, which one are you?
God says in Malachi “return to me and I will return to you.” For those who return, it’s a day we look forward to. For those who will not it’s a day to be feared. As one man said "I pray that I never lose the fear of the Lord. "Please don’t put your head the sand like Mick Manson, author of the famous book, “The subtle art of not giving a Fig” (F word) G rating. Manson wrote:
I've never worried about the afterlife. To me, what happens after we die is an unanswerable question, so why worry about it? I'm a big proponent of the "cross that bridge when we come to it" philosophy of life. And in the case of the afterlife, I'll worry about being dead when I get there.
Tragic, there are no second chances. But so important is this Day of Judgment that God gives his people every opportunity to not miss out.
3. The Judgment Day is forewarned - Malachi 4:5-6
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” (NIV)
God won't bring that judgment before he brings his prophet. The prophet Elijah is a picture of John the Baptist. John who called on Israel to repent, preparing God's people for God's king. it was time to start again. John preached, see Matthew 3:11-12
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (NIV)
John points out that the Lord Jesus is more worthy, and more powerful than he, Jesus is the giver of the Spirit and bringer of judgment. The Lord Jesus will sift those who are for God and those against him. The image is of pitch fork sifting wheat from chaff, Jesus announced when he returns how the separation will go in Matthew 25:34
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. (NIV)
Friends we have been lovingly warned.
When I spoke at an evangelistic dinner, one response was "too much heaven promising and hell threatening." But there can’t be too much, if these are Jesus words who will judge the living and the dead. He is lovingly warning us! The charge is these are scare tactics. If Jesus did rise from the dead they are NOT scare tactics, if there is a hell then they are NOT scare tactics, they are love tactics.
When you see sign of a shark with its jaws open on a beach. Is that scare tactics or love tactics?
When you see pictures of mouth cancer on cigarette packages? Is that scare tactics or love tactics?
They are expressions of love, because they tell us the truth, and nothing but the truth. Here is the loving truth!
4. Those who do not fear God should fear Judgment Day - Malachi 4:1
Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. (NIV)
God's word is clear and certain. The day of Judgment is coming. It's a great and dreadful day. The images here are overwhelming, the enemies of God are set on fire. That destruction will reach every person who does not fear the Lord. It's so complete that no root or branch will escape. Jesus picks up these word pictures and their job is simple: To scare the hell out of us; To scare you out of hell.
I will defend Israel Falou's right to speak. But he was wrong when he linked the bush fires to God's judgment on Australia because of same sex marriage. He has no word from the Lord on these fires. He would have done better to quote Jesus in Luke 13. Those who die in disasters are not worse and we who survive are no better, but unless we repent something worse will happen and that something is Judgment Day and Hell.
To those who say, "I am not worried about going to Hell because I’ve experience hell on earth" We gently say “I know you have suffered a lot but you have not seen anything yet...”
Jesus picks up these images, He adds weeping and gnashing of teeth. Weeping because of the pain, Gnashing because of ongoing rebellion. Jesus speaks of being bound hand and foot, of utter darkness, of eternal destruction where the worm does not die out. Worst of all is being shut out from the presence of God forever. Jesus takes us to the edge of the cliff and points out those who went over. Don't end up that way. Heed the warning.
I once went to Kangaroo Island off South Australia. We stayed near the light house, next to it was a grass paddock on a headland with a steep cliff face. There was a sign which read "beware of snakes!" I thought it was a sign discouraging people from going near the cliff and falling off. The National Parks Ranger said, "I thought so too but I have been picking up a brown snake from your back yard every month.”
Take heed of Jesus warning, He is not joking. Judgment day is coming. Are you ready to meet Jesus?
5. God's people look forward to Judgment Day
In Malachi we are told - "Those who fear the Lord are spared." They are treated as God's special possession. He will remember his people but he will not remember their sin. That is why we in Christ really look forward to that Day. Look at Malachi 4:2
But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in it's rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. (NIV)
The sun of righteousness will rise. If Jesus is your Lord. The day of the Lord will not only declare you righteous, friends, you will be righteous. You will be given a body that will not, NO, cannot sin ever again. No self denial, No more temptation, No more war between the flesh and the spirit.
The sun's rays will not burn us they will heal us. We are given a body that cannot suffer ever again. No more anxiety and depression. No more crying or grief or pain or death. Jesus will wipe away every tear.
We will be Free at last. Like calves leaving stalls after a long winter. Freedom, its what people of Hong Kong are so desperate to not lose.
I am the son of goat herder. My mum told me that the working animals back in her village in Malta lived in her house penned up during cold winters. When spring came and they felt the sun on their back and the taste of freedom they kicked their heels
Friends we have been penned up in a broken body, and in a broken world all our life. A bit like a bad winter full of sickness and shut indoors. With the sun of righteousness on our back. And being made right with God. On the day of the Lord we will cut loose and be set free. And for those who did not fear the Lord, We will leave those we once envied in our dust. Their judgment will not intrude on our joy of heaven. That is why the Bible ends with “COME LORD JESUS!
Friends, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
I heard this week that humans spend 30% of their time thinking about the past, 15% thinking about the present and 55 % thinking about the future. Often, we think of the PAST with regrets and shame, we think about the FUTURE with anxiety and fear and we are distracted in the PRESENT
But the Christian looks back to the cross of Christ who made full payment for all our rebellion. The Christian looks forward to the Day of the Lord where God will set us free from sinful nature and suffering. That is why we can enjoy the now, we can endure the present and we must pass on the good news. The day of the Lord is coming. This world is facing God's judgment. We must warn our family and friends. We must not remain silent. We must not think we are wiser or more merciful than God.
Are you ready to meet Jesus?
Will He know you when He sees you or will He say, "Depart from Me"?
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.