A day of distinction is coming

June 16, 2020

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The first century Jewish follower of Jesus anticipated a climactic day of judgment and justice. In a world still filled with wickedness, oppression, and injustice, disciples of Jesus should be proclaiming something very different than an ethereal future that involves playing a harp and floating on a cloud forever. God has given certainty regarding this Day through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Transcription

Hi friends, Josh here. One doesn’t need to be a news anchor or a politician to know that we live in a world that’s full of wickedness, brokenness, sickness, injustice, poverty, and oppression. Life under the sun has been this way since humanity’s expulsion from Eden’s garden in Genesis chapter 3. Life in the Roman empire during the days of Jesus and the apostles wasn’t any better in terms of those things either. Historians have noted that there was a huge gap between between the wealthy and the poor, overtaxation and extortion were commonplace, all forms of sexual immorality and infidelity were rampant, and the government in charge heavily promoted and practiced the unjust slaughter of regime opponents by public crucifixion. Here we are 2000 years later and while the expressions of injustice and the culture may have changed, the root issue remains - humanity is wicked, selfish, prideful, and continually seeking our own good above the good of others.

In one of my past videos that I titled “Biblical hope: the world will not be this way forever”, I talked about how the first century disciples of Jesus had certainty about what the future held, and how the gospel or the good news that they heard from Moses and the prophets was forcefully affirmed by Jesus’ words, miracles, and especially his resurrection from the dead. The Jewish people were not looking for a way to be forgiven of their sin and to have some good fellowship times before they went to heaven when they died. The gospel for them was apocalyptic - it was the good news of a climactic day in the future where a king from David’s lineage would rule in Israel, crushing their enemies, bringing back the twelve tribes, and reigning forever over all the nations. His reign would bring justice for the poor and the oppressed and he would restore all creation to its original glory, to the way it was before sin and the curse of death entered the picture. He would be the judge of the living and the dead, he would raise the righteous to eternal life and would throw the wicked into a lake of fire, and all creation would then flourish under his leadership. The Jewish scriptures and the writings of the apostles use several similar terms to describe this apocalyptic view of the future - they called it the day of the Lord, or the day of Christ Jesus, or the day of judgment, or the day of recompense, or even just “the day”. And this is what the early disciples of Jesus were certain about. In the face of mounting injustice in the Roman world at the time, the day of the Lord and the return of Jesus was at the center of their proclamation and the reason behind their deeds of mercy and compassion. In light of the day of judgment, God had extended his mercy toward them in offering his own son as an atonement for their sin, and it was both the cross and the future hope that shaped their lives in the waiting. Undoubtedly verses like Isaiah 11 would have been one at the forefront of their minds. This is Isaiah 11 verses 1 through 4:

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Now this isn’t something that Jesus accomplished when he came the first time, as is clearly evidenced by the way the world is today. So as 21st century disciples of Jesus, we ought to have the same assurance and confidence as those first century disciples did - that the day of recompense - the day God repays his enemies, the day of judgment - the day that God punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous, the day God sets the son of David on his throne in Jerusalem to rule righteously and justly - that great day is coming, and God has demonstrated his mercy even toward the Gentiles in the cross as the means to escape the wrath of God on that day.

Now, think about this for a minute - right now, you can walk into your local supermarket or post office and meet random people who share a lot in common with you relatively speaking, but you know absolutely nothing about who those people are, how they are seeking to live their lives, or if they fear God or not. There’s no way to tell just by looking at the person standing at the checkout line in front of you who is truly living in light of the day of the Lord and who isn’t. In other words, there’s no clear distinction right now between the righteous and the wicked. But friends, it’s not always going to be this way. The Day of the Lord is the day that God makes a clear distinction between the righteous and the wicked. I think of Malachi chapter 4 where the Lord says:

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.

So what’s the deal? Why has that day not yet come? Why do the wicked continue to prosper, why is there oppression and injustice and why are the righteous often persecuted? Why is there still poverty and hunger and war? Well, I think of two reasons, and as a disciple of Jesus I think if we can understand these reasons clearly, everything in life right now would make more sense. First reason why life goes on this way is that the faith of the righteous needs to be tested and proven to be authentic. Think about this: when impure gold goes through the fire, it comes out of the fire with more of its impurities removed. Put the gold through the fire enough, and what comes out is actual pure gold. In the same way, the fires and sufferings and difficulties of this age test our faith, they refine it, and prove it to be authentic. So for the righteous, for those who have certainty about the age to come, for those who count God’s words as reliable and trustworthy, the sufferings of this time are not worth comparing to the glory of that day. We don’t live for this age, we live for the one to come. We don’t look to the things that we see in this age as the way the world will always be, because they are transient or temporary, but what we don’t yet see are the things that will last forever, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17 and 18. Secondly, another reason why life goes on this way and that the day of justice and judgment has not come yet is because God is extending mercy toward the wicked. God is delaying the day of distinction, as 2 Peter 3 says, not because he’s slacking off or is apathetic, but because he is patient. 2 Peter 3:9 says:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

So today God is still giving rain and sun to the wicked and to the righteous, so that the righteous can bear witness and implore the wicked to repent and escape the day of judgment. Does this make sense? So whether it be a hurricane or tornado that comes and devastates your region or you look at your bank account and you don’t know how you’re going to pay this month’s rent, or you were just diagnosed with a debilitating sickness in your body, or whether it be systemic injustice or war or famine or pestilence in the world, everything in life right now should make sense because of these two things.

But as we endure the difficulties of this age, we must remember that there IS a decisive end, and this is the hope the scriptures hold out. As we walk humbly before God in this age, as we cling to the mercy shown us in the cross as our hope for deliverance from death on the day of judgment, as we show compassion and mercy toward the poor, the oppressed, the broken, and the forgotten, we live and do those things in light of this soon and coming day of justice. We set our hope fully on that day, knowing that one from David’s line will rule and bring an end to the injustice and oppression and wickedness once and for all. This is where we have to find our joy and peace. This is going to make people mad, glad, and sad - just as it always has - but as disciples of Jesus, this is the message we must proclaim with confidence and boldness.

Amen. If this was encouraging, click that like button. Drop a comment below if you have anything you want to add, and make sure you’ve subscribed to my channel so you don’t miss it when I post more videos like this. Well, God bless, and maranatha.

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