The Day of the Lord

Wikipedia has lists of dozens of ongoing armed conflicts in different parts of the world. Here’s a couple of dozen for example.

Sudan, Russo-Ukraine, MexicanSudan, Russo-Ukraine, Mexican drug war, Israeli-Palestine, Myanmar, Maghreb, Ethiopia, Columbia, Afghan, Somali, Nigeria, Khyber, Congo-Rwanda, Boko Haram, Syria, Yemen, Haiti, Kurdish-Turkish, Jamacia, Indo-Pakistan, Israel-Lebanese, Balochistan, drug war, Israeli-Palestine, Myanmar, Maghreb, Ethiopia, Columbia, Afghan, Somali, Nigeria, Khyber, Congo-Rwanda, Boko Haram, Syria, Yemen, Haiti, Kurdish-Turkish, Jamacia, Indo-Pakistan, Israel-Lebanese, Balochistan, …

These were in other parts of the world but here in Australia, even in our own town there are examples of hurt, distress and violence.

Every week women are bashed, oppressed or killed by their partners. We hear of gang and drug war shootings, car thefts, shop lifting, vandalism, scams, protests, housing crisis, mortgage stress, rate increases, assaults, environmental destruction, serious illnesses and pandemics, fire ants and varroa mites.

How are we going with peace and justice in the world? 

We often pray, “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, and we wonder why a much repeated prayer like this doesn’t seem to be granted in answer.

It doesn’t seem that all that many people actually want to live according to God’s will. They don’t really want God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. If more of us did then life on earth would be much more heavenly!

If people want God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven they need to know that religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James1:27). Looking after orphans and widows is easy to do compared with keeping yourself from being polluted by the world.

There’s a lot of talk, lots of reviews, reports and recommendations but if you list the biggest registered charities in Australia 23 of the top 25 are “faith based”, that is originating from and supported by Christians.

It is from the Christian faith, from the Bible, that most of the work and all the motivation that has made positive contributions to our society in education, health, freedom, equality, working conditions and so much more.

But the problems don’t go away. Try as we might we can’t solve many of them.

Would you like God to come and clean up the mess the world is in?

A very wealthy man became jealous of his poor neighbour who owned an urn in which lived a genie.  Each morning the man rubbed the urn and when the genie popped out asked for a cup of tea, which was quickly delivered.  The rich man sold up all he had and lived in squalor just to buy the urn with its genie.  The next day he rubbed the urn and when the genie popped out asked him for the return of all his riches.  The genie replies, “sorry, sir.  I only do tea or coffee”.

It can easily happen that we end up regretting the answers to our prayers and wishes. Be careful what you wish for.  Be thoughtful about what you pray for.

If we really want God to clean up the world we should first carefully consider what will happen when he does.

 

No doubt you, too, have wondered or been asked, “why doesn’t God clean up the mess in the world? If he really cared, wouldn’t he step in and fix it.”

 

The answer to that question is laid out in today’s reading. There we read that this is exactly what he is going to do. God wants us to know that one day he will clean up the world. Drastically!

When I am asked the question, why doesn’t God clean up the mess, I sometimes reply by asking, “where do you think he should start the cleanup? And what if he decided to start with you?”

A sensible reply is that God is delaying this cleanup to give you more time to sort out your relationship with God. As it says in verse 9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

The reason God has not come and cleaned up the world is that he doesn’t want anyone to suffer the results of a thorough cleanup.  He is waiting to give us all a chance to repent and to actually start doing our own part to have his will done on earth as it is in heaven.

The church’s season of advent is all about Jesus coming to earth.  It culminates in the celebration of his first coming as a baby born to be crucified, born to be king.

But in the weeks leading to that culmination we are reminded that he will come again but in a very different way to the first time and on a day set by God alone. That will be The Day of the Lord.

That will be the day of the big cleanup and start again. Verse 10 in the reading says,

10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

That sounds like the picture of a nuclear catastrophe we have been warned of from time to time.

Cosmologists expect a complete absorption of the earth, the whole universe falling into an immense black hole. Perhaps that will be followed by another Big Bang and a starting again.

What God has told us will happen is that  Jesus will return as king and judge and that will include the complete destruction of the universe as we know it. It will be the complete cleanup.

This day, the Day of the Lord, the day Jesus returns to clean things up was predicted by the old prophets, by Jesus himself and by the apostles. So where is it? When is it?  In many of the psalms the writer asks our question, “How long, o Lord.”

By the word of God all things came into being so remember, “7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

The whole of creation came about because God decided it should.  It was as simple as the decision for it to happen.  It only took a word from God and the universe came about.  Perfect, ideal, beautiful.  It was good.

Shamefully, the rebellious nature of humans, made in his own image, ruptured the relationship they had with their creator and despoiled the creation they were to enjoy and care for. Clearly that is not a happy thing and we despair at the state of the world and so much human suffering. 

But it’s not just us who suffer the consequences of human selfishness, greed, of sin; it’s the whole of creation including the natural world in which we live.

 (Romans 8:-20-22) 20 Now the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it… 22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time..

But when will this cleanup happen?

Do you remember the cosmological theory that the universe came into being as a result of a Big Bang of what they call a Singularity?  That singularity contained all of time, space and matter.  There was nothing outside the singularity. There was no space outside the singularity. There was no time before the big bang. Don’t ask the silly question, “what happened before the big bang?” Don’t you understand that there was no time before the big bang?

When they are on the spot scientists, physicists, cosmologists tell you they don’t understand how this works but they accept it and work with it as a theory.

So we have no trouble accepting what we are told in 2 Peter chapter 3:

8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Who are we to tell God to get a move on? How offensive on our part to be impatient with God? Why do we think the time of Jesus’ return is dragging on interminably when really, we have no concept of eternity, infinity or the authority and power of our Creator God? We experience time passing but God who invented, who created time, is not measured by and certainly not limited by time.

We experience change. It’s change that causes us to experience and measure time. We even change our mind.  But God who never changes is not slow in keeping his promises but keeps every promise he makes.

Instead, we should be grateful for the time we have. We should repent of the impatience we so often show.

In the meantime we are reminded of something we can easily observe:

3Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ 5But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed.

But don’t be put off by the scoffers.  And certainly don’t be tempted to be a scoffer yourself.

I think we all often wonder how long it will be before Jesus returns.  We can’t help wondering whether it will be in our own lifetime. Judging by the number of scoffers we see nowadays you might think that indicates that we must be in the last days. Some people make the mistake of trying to work out the date and even the location of his return and will try and tell you they can read the signs of the times.

One sign of false prophets in our time is when they prophesy the date of Jesus return. They are wrong, they are lying, they are false.

Almighty God is the creator.  It’s his creation to make, to sustain or to destroy, all in his own good time.

In last week’s reading from Mark 13 we were told, 

Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven….But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.”

Only God the Father knows when Jesus will return, when that Last Day will be. Not even Jesus knew when this would happen.

Last week we were told Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come,

This week we are told (1 Peter 3:)10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

What is clear, though, is that it will most certainly happen and when it happens you won’t miss it. The sound of it, the completeness of it, the universality of it, the totality of it will demonstrate the utter and complete power and authority of God Almighty.

(2 Peter 3:) 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare….That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

But this is not about disaster and destruction alone. There is an amazing turn of events. There is such a happy ending! This and so much more was revealed to the Apostle John in a vision and he reported it in Revelation chapter 21:

1Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

We do as Jesus said and pray, “Heavenly Father… your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

If this prayer isn’t answered before this Day of the Lord it will be answered when Jesus returns, complete with a new heaven and a new earth, the existing heaven and earth having passed away.  Then there will be perfection, the very presence of God himself. And most definitely God’s will will be done on this new earth because it will be heaven. Then there will be nothing but peace and justice and God’s will being done. 

But it hasn’t happened yet so what are we told to do in the meantime?

(1 Peter 3:)11Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming… 14So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

In other words we are urged to live as faithful Christians, ready at every hour for the return of Jesus King and judge. Look out! He’ll be here any minute now! We should be able to say, I’m ready! I’m qualified for the new heaven and the new earth that will come with Jesus. 

(John 6:)28Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ 29Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’

Most importantly, we say, I’m ready to face his judgement because I have been saved by my faith in Jesus who came to earth once before.  The forgiveness he gives me means when I front God he will regard me as spotless, blameless and at peace with him because Jesus, who died to take my sinfulness in return covers me with his beauty, purity and love.

As an amazing act of love, when God looks at me he sees Jesus’ spotlessness, blamelessness  and peace because I do what God wants: to believe in the one he has sent, to believe in Jesus, to trust that his death has paid all penalties I am responsible for.

This has come about because as it says, “9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance…15Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation

There are some ideas that are overwhelming. 

When we try to think about the very reality of God existing independent of all time, space and matter we are overwhelmed by the immensity of the concept. Even more so it is beyond our imaging the creation of the Universe. Even the current science models of the beginning and the end of the universe are beyond grasping or even imagining.

And then there is the reality of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, his life, his sacrificial death, his resurrection and ascension to heaven.  What immense grace, mercy, love and peace that is beyond understanding.

Mind blowing is not enough of a description when we read of Jesus’ second coming leading to the entire destruction of the universe and its replacement with a new heaven and a new earth.

The wonderful thing is that it really will happen one day and that, if you are prepared for it, it will be wonderful beyond all words.

 

At the end of the book of Revelation 22:20, Jesus says, “‘Yes, I am coming soon.’”  The response given is “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”  And to that we, too, say amen, come Lord Jesus!


1476 Modified: 10-12-2023
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