JUDGMENT DAY ~ 11/23/09

*It’s 1998, and there is pandemonium at NASA. After a series of small asteroids come out of nowhere to destroy New York City, a larger one the size of Texas is also detected, hurtling its way through space with no more than an 18 day notice before it’s catastrophic rendezvous with planet Earth. Unless something is done, everyone in the world can expect to die…

*It’s 2004, and humanity is finally paying for the sin of global warming. Dr. Jack Hall, a scientist in the field of paleoclimatology (you figure it out), postulates the immanent arrival of a worldwide climate change that could threaten to decimate human life as we know it. Only days later, the unthinkable occurs, as tidal levels rise to unprecedented heights, drowning coastal cities in polar ice cap melt-off. Unfortunately, the sudden change in longstanding ocean current routes subsequently leads to the rapid cooling of the planet and the dawning of a new ice age…

*It’s 2012, and mankind literally has a date with destiny, a date the ancient Mayan calendar has for centuries heralded as the year the earth will abruptly end…

If the arts are humanity’s ‘canary in the coal mine,’ it’s fascinating to note the shrill tune this bird’s singing. The funny thing is, I’ve only named three movies from ‘recent’ years; there were about ten others I thought of offhand that had to be cut from this letter for the sake of length. So what’s this fascination with the final destruction of the human race? Why the obsession with worst-case scenarios, the determination to cinematically punish ourselves through such a vast array of gruesome implements? I think the answer is probably pretty simple. The book of Romans, chapter 8, describes the context of our toxic coal mine this way…

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

The melodramatic self-flagellation in so many movies today is a manifestation of humankind’s guilty conscience, seeping through the façade of ‘fine.’ Forget the reasons you’ve heard; the human psyche (soul) is haunted by its suppressed awareness of an impending Judgment Day, a day of reckoning for a willful rebellion against spiritual Truth. And the unsaved are right to be afraid, because God is threatening—“But He threatens with Justice” (R.C. Sproul)… Although this is a critique meant for non-Christians, I’ve been surprised to find uncertainty even among the saved as to what awaits them on the ‘Day of Judgment.’ Some Children of God have been taught that fear of this impending day applies to them as well, as if they should expect some big screen debut of their life’s most shameful secrets:

*It’s the end of time, and the entire world is watching as God begins the midnight screening of (Your name here)'s life on His heavenly flat screen, in all its high-def splendor… To which I respond with a resounding “NOT SO!”

In John chapter 5, Jesus buries his spurs in the sides of the Pharisees after they grow indignant

about a comment of his which seems to imply equality with God. He does this by… agreeing with their observation. The comment that got them so riled up was this one: "My Father is working until now, and I am working." Jesus had just healed a lame man on the Sabbath day, and they were angry; didn’t Jesus know this was a day for rest? NO HEALING ALLOWED. Jesus scoffs at this by pointing out that just as God the Father is constantly at work to sustain His creation, so He, as the Son, works despite the calendar date to sustain and bring wholeness to the created order, Sabbath or no Sabbath. Besides, he points out, the Sabbath itself was created for man, and for just such a purpose—renewal. What better day to renew a person’s health?

Jesus was not a good politician; this only made the religious scorekeepers even madder. ‘He’s doing it again! Claiming equality (gasp)WITH GOD!’ To which Jesus replies, ‘Oh, you think that’s impressive? If you like my working to heal on the Sabbath, you’ll really be impressed by my working when 1) THE DEAD RISE AT THE SOUND OF MY VOICE & 2) I JUDGE THE WHOLE WORLD.’ Yikes. Jesus then goes on to say this…

24”Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

27…And he (the Father) has given him (Jesus) authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29and come out, those who have done good (hearing Christ’s word and believing) to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment(ESV version, parenthesis mine).

The resurrection of the Christ-follower looks like LIFE, not JUDGMENT. Why? Because for those who have already responded to the voice of Jesus with belief, Judgment Day has already happened! In his sermon last weekend, Pastor Bill talked about the meaning of Passover, that the lamb slain to provide the blood smeared around the house doorways of God’s people represented Christ, ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (Jn. 1:29)! A Judgment Day is coming because God demands justice for sin, so that, as in the story of the first Passover, His retributive justice will one day come calling at the threshold of all humanity, unless the price for justice has already been paid, unless a death has already occurred! This is what Jesus did on the cross, placating the wrath of God by accepting on Himself the judgment of God for the cumulative sins of all humanity. Jesus died in our place. He was punished in our place, once, and for all who will accept his substitutionary sacrifice by faith. Through His death, Jesus offers the world a way out of the 'judgment' in Judgment Day.

This is why the Bible says “1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). What will be a Day of Judgment for the unsaved will not be a time of condemnation for you if you are a follower of Jesus; it will be a day of commendation, because we will ultimately be judged according to the life of Christ! Will there be varying degrees of commendation for those who believe? Yes, absolutely, our rewards will vary according to what we did with the gift of a redeemed life while on earth, but not one of us will be publicly shamed or punished for our shortcomings on that Day, because our day of punishment has already come—but it came to Christ, and through Him, “It is finished!”—thanks to God's judgment, poured out on Him at Calvary. We who are saved live post-Judgment Day lives!

If you are a Christian, your Judgment Day has already come—and gone!—transforming a day of condemnation into a coming day of commendation. As you celebrate Thanksgiving this week, be at peace, and joyfully give thanks… for that.

Surrounded By Grace,

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*Grace induces faith & Grace is obligated to faith ~