The words Judgment Day either strike fear into a person’s heart, or remind them of a movie title. Both responses tend to run hand-in-hand. Judgment Day for that person, the second-coming of Christ in judgment, scares them so much, even if that person won’t admit it, that it isn’t going to happen. A person has to think that if Jesus hasn’t come yet to stop this mess, especially the mess in the news this week in San Bernardino, California, then He’s a definite no-show.
There is a third option: the option of being at peace and even longing for Judgment Day. Christians once began their day by praying, “Let me expect the dear Day of Judgment with longing and pleasure.” Why would anyone think of praying for the world to end with Jesus appearing to judge the living and the dead? We confess it every week in the Creed, but do the words we confess hit home for us? Jesus is coming to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom never ends.
Just the mere thought of what lies beyond Judgment Day is enough to keep you up at night. The New Creation is so new, so beyond our understanding, that thinking about it blows your mind. That’s the point. It wouldn’t be called the New Creation if you knew exactly what was coming. There is a picture of what’s coming in today’s Gospel when Jesus says the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Jesus also says, when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. There is a waiting through and from faith in Christ’s words here and elsewhere in the Gospels. Jesus has never lied to you. He keeps every promise He makes. He will keep this promise to you as well: your redemption is drawing near.
Your redemption is drawing near every time you see 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. Another sign happened this past week with a mass shooting in California and flooding in southeastern India. It’s enough to make you ask, “When is Jesus going to put an end to this mess?”
That’s a good question. The answer is “All in good time.” Just because the times are bad now doesn’t mean the times haven’t been worse in the past. Natural disasters and random acts of violence show us that we live in a sinful world. What has happened before continues to happen today. Today will end and tomorrow will come, as the Lord wills. Something awful will happen to someone tomorrow as it happened today. It may be your turn tomorrow.
Our heavenly Father does not merely make a random selection of whom to zap with bad things. He doesn’t have a list of who has been naughty and nice. He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. The difference is whether or not you recognize these signs as a call to repentance or as the acts of a clockmaker God Who hides Himself from His creation and is mad at what we’ve done with His stuff.
Do not ignore the signs. Judgment Day is surely near. 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. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.
Okay, Jesus says to watch and stay awake and all times. How does that happen? It happens in patient waiting, a waiting with expectation. You bake cookies or grill a steak knowing that, if you watch what you’re doing, you’ll have something good to eat.
Saint Paul tells Saint Titus, the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
God’s grace is His undeserved love given to us through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus applies the Father’s love to us in His Gifts that He gives His Church. His Word proclaims you not guilty of sin because of Christ’s innocent suffering and death. Jesus’ blood completely covers every sin. You are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. Robed in His righteousness, you live as one who receives good things from God. His grace gives you patience and hope, two things you can’t get anywhere else. Eating and drinking Christ’s Body and Blood, you live through the random events of life keeping your focus on Jesus and His promise of His Advent now in the Gifts and later in His bodily appearance to raise the dead and take His beloved into the New Creation.
You long for Judgment Day because that day brings you total redemption. All consequences of sin, together with our last enemy, death, will be removed. Saint John’s words in his first epistle will come true: beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.
Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come.