Based on: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Have you ever had something stolen out of your house or car? I remember a time during one of our many moves when some cash was stolen from us. It wasn’t a large sum of money, but it still doesn’t feel good to know someone took advantage of you. Of course, if I had known it was going to happen I would have put the money somewhere safer.
What if you knew a thief was going to break into your house and you knew that as he took your property he might also take your life? Wouldn’t you get ready so you could stop him? Even if you didn’t know when he would come – it could be days or months or even years from now – you would still be ready. You would put locks on all the doors and windows. You would check them every night. You would take whatever precautions necessary to protect yourself. You would be ready for him to come.
There is someone coming. He is not coming after your earthly possessions. The Almighty Judge of the earth is coming to judge your immortal soul. Just like a thief in the night he does not tell us when he is coming. He simply tells us a final judgment is coming and so be ready.
One look at this judge and you know that those who disregard his warning will not fare well. As Daniel describes him we see the eternal God in white clothes with white hair – we are looking upon his holiness, and we know his judgments will be righteous. The river of fire coming from the throne reveals his punishment for all who disobey. This judge will not overlook sin. You cannot plea bargain with this judge. If you were ever able to talk your way out of a punishment from your mom or dad, those same clever words will not work here.
You do not want to meet this judge unprepared, but so many will. The Apostle Paul writes what people are thinking, in his day and ours – “Peace and safety.” They think the human race is doing just fine – even improving – and there is no need to worry about a coming judgment. They think the world has been around for billions of years and they are sure it will be around for billions more. In fact, to them the Judge doesn’t even exist.
They are spiritually drunk. They are intoxicated with themselves and their own ideas. They imagine that they have discovered the sum total of human existence with their own intellect.
Many others are content to be spiritually asleep. They go about their lives ignoring God’s warnings. They are concerned about their own happiness on this earth and are relatively unconcerned about God’s commands – going through life as if this life is more important than the next. But they are living only a dream.
Suddenly, the spiritually drunk and sleeping will find themselves in God’s courtroom without a suitable defense. The unexpected will be reality. They will not escape righteous wrath as God opens the books where the sins of the entire world are recorded and finds their name and starts reading.
Not so with you and me. You and I are not like the rest of this world. Certainly we do not know when this day will come, but by God’s grace and through faith we are prepared when it does come. We are ready for God’s judgment.
We are not spiritually drunk. Instead, we think clearly as we take in the sober truth of God’s Word. Hearing God’s Word in church and reading God’s Word on our own gives us a clear perception of this world the way it really is – destined for God’s judgment – destined for condemnation by a holy judge.
Just like every one else whom God has brought to faith in his Son, we are spiritually alert and self-controlled. Our regular diet of God’s promises in his Word and the forgiveness we receive in the Lord’s Supper keep us ready for the coming judge. We have prepared ourselves by “putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.” We know that this life is not where its at. We have hope in the life to come as we seek to serve our Savior in love while we live here.
Now I know this description does not fit me perfectly. There are times I fail and I go through the day acting as if this life is more important than the next, not even thinking about the judgment to come. I sometimes act like the rest of the world that is spiritually drunk or asleep, but I know Jesus died for me and his blood covers those sins. I want to be more sober and alert than ever before, always keeping in mind what will happen to me in God’s courtroom on that last day.
I will face the same “Ancient of Days” that the unbeliever will face – with the white hair, the white clothes, and the river of fire. Those same books with the sins of the world will still be stacked before him. If he looked for my name in those books, I know I could not plead innocent to a single charge.
It would be a day of terror except that someone else will also be there – my Savior, the God-man, Jesus Christ. As man he lived and died in my place. As God his suffering counts for me. He will walk up to the judgment seat of the Almighty. He will point to the wounds in his hands and feet and the gash in his side – the evidence of justice already carried out. He will point to another book – a book that sits all alone, separate from all the others. It is called the book of life and there in that book the Ancient of Days will find my name . . . and your name . . . right where he wrote it before the creation of the world.
You see, you deserve God’s wrath, just like everyone else in this world, but God chose you from before creation to be his child. He worked in your life to bring you the Gospel and create faith in your heart so you would enjoy the blessings of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.
You are ready for judgment. Whether you are physically awake or asleep when our Lord returns, you will live with him forever. You will see yourself clothed in the white robe of Christ’s righteousness . . . but more about that next week!