November 10-12, 2018
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Malachi 4:1-2 (EHV)
“THE DAY IS COMING!”
1. A day of absolute Hell.
2. A day of absolute Heaven.
Malachi 4:1-2 (EHV) “Look! The day is coming, burning like a blast furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble. The day that is coming will set them on fire, says the LORD of Armies, a day that will not leave behind a root or branch for them. 2But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise, and there will be healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”
Do you have a favorite day of the church year? I’m thinking of other than the main festivals like Christmas or Easter. If I had to pick one I’d choose next Sunday, known as Saints Triumphant Sunday. I love that Sunday because it focuses our attention on the joy and happiness of brothers and sisters who have made it from this veil of tears to the triumph of heaven. With both my parents in heaven Saints Triumphant Sunday puts a smile on my face as I picture them there. Hymns for that day like “Behold a Host arrayed in white” with its picture language. I still remember when my dad called to let me know my mom just went to heaven and I walked through the church on the way to my office and Mickey Schultz was practicing for Saints Triumphant Sunday playing “For all the Saints”. That’s a great memory. That’s why I would pick next Sunday as my favorite. And if I’d have to pick a least favorite it would be this Sunday, Last or Final Judgment. The list of hymns written especially for this Sunday include the one we just sang, “The Day is Surely Drawing Near,” and one we will sing, “Day of wrath O Day of Mourning.” An old hymnal also had what must have been a favorite, “Day of wrath that dreadful day.” And then I started to wonder. Why is it that I don’t like something the Bible clearly teaches, the fact that our Holy God makes just judgments and the last day they will be announced and for some it will be a day of wrath and mourning? And that set me down another path. We hold a service once a month at Forest Ridge apartments in Hales Corners. All they have for us to use for hymnals are ones produced by the Methodist Church from the mid 1980s. You know I couldn’t find one hymn in there that even alluded to the fact that at the Day of judgment unbelievers go to Hell. It made me wonder. Has our enemy the Devil been at work in the church on earth? Is he at work on me? Poll after poll still show that the majority of Americans believe there is some kind of heaven but fewer believe there is a Hell. Our enemy has been at work! For if there is no Hell, then there is no need for rescue, for a Savior. That’s what he’s trying to do, to get rid of Jesus. Not so among us. While Last Judgment may not be my favorite Sunday of the church year and while I might not like the contents or melodies of Last Judgment hymns and you may feel the same, this is a message we need to hear. The Day is coming.
The Day is coming! That’s a message God wants all people to hear. So He put it in a prominent place. Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. Chapter 4 is the last chapter of that book. Malachi was the last prophet God would use to speak His words until Jesus would come some 400 years later. What was the last word that God wanted His people to remember so they would be ready to receive their Savior? The Day is coming. What day? Judgment Day. A day of absolute Hell. “Look! The day is coming, burning like a blast furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble. The day that is coming will set them on fire, says the LORD of Armies, a day that will not leave behind a root or branch for them.” Malachi directs our attention to the day that is coming. It is not a good day for the arrogant and evil doer. Who are they? When we think of arrogance or evil, we in these days, think of those who arrogantly commit the evil of taking other’s lives in these mass shootings. That is arrogant and that is evil. But what is most arrogant and evil is to reject Jesus as Savior. God could have justly destroyed the world when Adam and Eve plunged it into sin. Instead in love God put into place His plan of salvation. He did so even though it meant Jesus would have to be punished for every sin. Heaven is a free gift for all. To reject God’s way of saving through Jesus or to in any way suggest that our own good deeds can pay what Jesus paid for is a slap in God’s face, spitting in His eye and taking Jesus and throwing Him into an outhouse. That is arrogance and evil. And for those who do so the day is coming. Absolute Hell.
Hell is consistently described in the Bible as a place of eternal burning, hopelessness and despair. When God says not a root or a branch will be left. He means no second chance. No hope. Just despair. This is not a pretty picture. It is absolute Hell. Some of you may remember a book that was made into a movie, “Heaven is for real!” Did you know there was another book written? Hell is for real. Not a best seller. No blockbuster movie. Not what people want to hear. And yet the Day is coming. A day of absolute Hell.
And at the same time a day of absolute Heaven! The Word of God goes on. “But,” now I hesitate to say this because I know how your juvenile minds work. However you need to understand this is a really big but. It means everything that follows is the opposite of what you heard before. “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise, and there will be healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.” You are described as those who revere the Lord’s name. Revere has that idea of loving respect, wanting someone’s approval. That’s a good description of believers. We know the Lord as the Savior God. We know we deserve punishment for our sins. We know that we can’t make up for even one sin. We sadly see what Jesus has gone through instead of us when He was forsaken on the cross. At the same time we are happy and thankful for it. For Judgment Day, the day that is coming, we will be among those who see a day of absolute heaven.
Malachi describes our judgment day as the sun of righteousness rising with healing in its wings. Picture the sun rising and feeling its rays warm you on a cool fall day. That’s a picture of the Son, Jesus, who by rising from the dead has his forgiveness of sins touching every believer. Maybe a picture will help. It’s judgment day. You have watched the line of unbelievers stand before the judge. You hear the long litany of their sins revealed. You see their shame and despair. Now it’s your turn. You walk forward and sweat is beading on your brow. You see family members, neighbors, co-workers and you dread them hearing the sins you have worked so hard to keep hidden. Now they will know what you said about them behind their backs. They will hear what you really thought. The shameful embarrassing sins you thought to keep secret. Exposed! Reluctantly you step forward. The judge says. “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. You made sure I knew I had a Savior. You served the needs of others. Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your Master’s happiness.” And so you leap for joy like a calf getting to run free for the first time. It’s absolute heaven. You are sin free. Pain free. Healed from every sickness of sin, body and heart. That day is coming. Absolute heaven.
Brothers and sisters, I began today expressing the truth that the reality of Hell is something we need to talk about as much as the reality of heaven. It’s what we need to hear so we see our need for Jesus as Savior and appreciate what He has done. This Day that is coming, the last day, Judgment Day is when God will make public what happens the day you die. Do you die trusting in Jesus or rejecting Him? You younger people especially need to understand that the Devil is going to work hard on you to give up your faith in Jesus, to not value it and take care of it and feed with regular word, worship and sacrament. Take heed. The Day is coming! Only with Jesus is it absolute heaven. But friends, others need to hear too. The unbelievers. We can snatch them from the fires. This Christmas churches of the WELS throughout the nation are banding together with the goal of inviting one million unchurched people to come and hear the Good News of a Savior. St. Jacobi is joining that effort and we’ll talk more about your part at the end of service. We need to. For the day is coming. Amen.