Time of grace
God’s anger is burning against those who do not believe in Christ. The Bible says, “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already.” He will drive them from his presence into eternal torment in hell. But you do have this day as a time of grace to repent of your sins and believe the good news that Jesus Christ has washed your sins away. Now isn’t the time to behave as though you had a thousand tomorrows to live.
“Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
“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.
Babies seem to be born when the Lord is ready to bring that life into the world whether or not the parents are ready. You could tell me stories about all the funny things that happened to you because the birth of your children didn’t come quite the way you had planned. No matter how prepared for that baby we may think we are, there are always surprises – some good and some not so good. At such a time, parents really realize that our lives are in the hands of God. We cannot control childbirth. The same can be said about the world in which we live.
We live in a pregnant world. There will be signs in the world, in nature and in the church that are described by Jesus as “the beginning of birth pains.” A new and wonderful place is about to be born. St. Peter says that this day will come “like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” He says, “that day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.” But the Christian church is “looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” Jesus gave to John a glimpse of the birth of this wonderful place and John wrote, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” There will be a “last day” for this world. And a brand new day for God’s church to enjoy!
The idea of a “last day” scares a lot of people. People like to think that there is always a second chance. If the last day catches you unprepared, if you’ve been so busy with the busyness of life, people would like to think that God is going to give you a warning ticket or a “do-over” giving you a second chance to get your spiritual house in order. There is no second chance. There will be no “do-over.” If you don’t use these days to prepare for the last day, you won’t be ready no matter when it comes. So, don’t think that God is going to wait for you until you are good and ready for the end to come. There is one last day. There is one return of Christ. Therefore …
No One Will Be Left Behind
God’s anger will burn the wicked
God’s Sun will heal the weary
The Word of God we are looking at today comes from the last chapter of the Old Testament. The Israelites had returned from captivity and had rebuilt the temple and the city walls. All looked well, but it wasn’t. It was a time of outward prosperity, but spiritual poverty. The economy was good. People lived in nice homes. But their spiritual lives were a mess. They brought diseased and blemished sacrifices to the Lord and defiled God’s altar. They robbed from God the glory that was his. The spiritual leaders were no better. They failed to practice what they preached and dishonored God’s name with their lies. Family life was appalling. People were breaking faith with the Lord by divorcing their spouses and living in sin. This sounds as much like Georgia as it does Judah! Malachi wrote, “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.”
The anger of the LORD Almighty will burn the wicked! God is angry at the wicked! Psalm 11 says, “the wicked and those who love violence (the LORD) … hates.” God has good reason to be angry. He created mankind and loved mankind. God wanted mankind to respond to his love for them with thankful, grateful obedience to his will. So, God gave us time to enjoy life on the earth while serving God daily. But we despised God’s love for us. We chose disobedience and became enemies of God. We loved what God hated and hated what God loved. The LORD Almighty who fought for us will on the last day, direct his anger against impenitent sinners. A day is coming when the LORD will say “enough.” The LORD will give the command and he will burn the wicked. There will be no second chance – no one left behind.
The wicked are described here as “arrogant” and “evil doers.” Arrogance doesn’t just describe those who were contemporaries of Malachi. That describes people of every age. It is not just our kids who scream “me first!” We do it too! We call that attitude in children “strong willed.” God calls it arrogance. Evil doers transgress God’s holy will. They do their own will while ignoring God’s will. God’s condemnation of sin is universal. “All” the arrogant and “every” evildoer are inclusive words for all who fail to be holy as God demands.
The Lord tells us that that day will burn “like a furnace” and sinners will be “stubble.” They will have no attachment to anything, yet they are not dead! They will have no root or branches. They will have no foundation on which to stand nor will they have “family” to lean on. You’ve heard people joke about going to hell by saying, “well, then I guess I’ll be there with all my friends.” The sinner won’t have any friends there. He will be a loner and a loser in the worst sense of the word.
The LORD says in another place, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” The “day” isn’t here yet. Terrors of conscience that fill our hearts may still be lain at the foot of the cross and find forgiveness! For just as surely as God’s anger will burn the wicked so surely will God’s Sun heal the weary.
The LORD says, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” The last day will not spell disaster for everyone. Rather it will be a day on which God will do great things for all who “revere my name.”
To revere God’s name is to have a sense of respect, awe and honor for everything God is and says. This reverence leads to adoration and worship. Consider that God’s name is the name by which you are saved. God’s name tells you that he is compassionate and gracious; slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. God placed his name on you at your baptism and washed your sins away. God’s name is everything God has revealed to us about himself in the Bible. By God’s name, the child of God receives healing to comfort us while we endure hardship in the world.
The Sun of Righteousness is coming. What a great promise! We live by faith confident that one day the righteousness that our Savior has earned for us will bring us into God’s glory. But the days drag on – the battle against sin is long and difficult and marked with failure. The shield of faith and the armor of salvation is pelted again and again by Satan and our own doubts. We hold on to the promise that God will remember us and rescue us. How we long to see the Sun of Righteousness with healing in his wings.
Then there will be no more mourning, or crying, or thirst. The older order of things will pass away. Then we will share in the victory in heaven. When the Sun of righteousness appears, it will be the end of suffering and struggling against our own sinful nature and against a sinful world and against Satan himself. God has never promised us that our lives will be easy in this world. Quite the opposite, the Lord has said, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” But he has promised us that he will come back one day to bring all believers home to glory.
God requires righteousness of all who live in his presence. Only God possesses the righteousness that is required to live in heaven. For Jesus’ sake God credits his righteousness to us! St. Paul says, “this righteousness comes through faith to all who believe.” No one who reveres his name will be left behind!
The promise of one final day is a message that terrorizes our sinful flesh and at the same time brings the sweetest comfort to every Christian. We can make sense of this only by fixing our eyes on Jesus. He is our Sun of Righteousness. His perfect life has provided the holiness we need to enter the home of our holy God. He has paid for all our sins and removed the threat of further punishment. What a day that will be when Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness appears accompanied by his holy angels with healing in his wings to transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body so that we may live in his presence eternally!
Surely God’s anger is burning against those who do not believe in Christ. The Bible says, “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already.” He will drive them from his presence into eternal torment in hell. But you do have this day as a time of grace to repent of your sins and believe the good news that Jesus Christ has washed your sins away. Now isn’t the time to behave as though you had a thousand tomorrows to live. This may be the last day of your life. How do you want to spend it? Spend your time wisely. Grow stronger in your faith through faithful use of God’s Word and Sacraments. Go about your Father’s business compelling others to trust in Jesus.
Always marvel at God’s unfailing love for you. He has clothed you with Christ’s righteousness so that he might present you holy and perfect to your Father in heaven. The blood of Jesus has purified you from all your sins. So prepare yourself for the birth of a brand new life in heaven’s glory. There will be surprises – wonderful ones! You won’t be left behind because the Sun of Righteousness is coming to take you home.