Shelter on the Day of Judgment

Malachi 4:1-3 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. You will go out and jump around like calves from the stall. 3You will trample the wicked. They will surely be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I take action, says the Lord of Armies.

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his own blood and made us a kingdom and priests to God his Father—to him be the glory and the power forever.” (Revelation 1:5–7)

Have you purchased your Vivos underground shelter yet? Vivos is a company that builds and sells fortified underground shelters that are said to “withstand virtually everything.”

You never know when your existence will be threatened by an earthquake, tsunami, nuclear fallout, a terrorist EMP attack, asteroid strikes, widespread anarchy, or a pandemic that turns the infected into zombies or wipes out humanity to make the earth a planet of the apes. While the earth is going insane, you can live in safety and security for up to a year in your fully-stocked underground shelter.

Jesus promised that there will be wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes, persecution, false prophets, and the love of most will grow cold (Matthew 24:4-13).

One modern-day observer of this “wrath of God type stuff” described it as “dogs and cats living together; mass hysteria!”

We are living in the End Times that Jesus predicted. But there will be an end to the End Times.

I’m not suggesting that you need an underground shelter from Vivos or any other company. An underground shelter might be able to keep you safe from natural disasters and man-made destructions, but it won’t keep you safe from the Lord. When the time is right, God will either call you to Him with a stroke, heart attack or accident – or the trumpet call of God will announce the Day of Judgment. When that happens, it won’t matter how far underground you are or how thick the walls may be or how much food you have stored up. When the trumpet call of God announces the Day of Judgment, the dead will come out of their graves and those who are still alive will meet the Lord together in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17).

That Day of Judgment will be one of wild extremes. It will be a day of terror and panic for the unbelievers. It will be a day of tranquility and peace for the believers.

With vivid imagery, the prophet Malachi paints a sobering picture of the coming day of the Lord’s judgment. “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. You will trample the wicked. They will surely be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I take action, says the Lord of Armies” (Malachi 4:1,3).

Artist, John Martin (1789-1854) portrays the red and orange of the fire that burns but will not burn up, in his painting of the Great Day of His Wrath. The Day of His Wrath is the third in Martin’s Judgment series created for a triptych. The other two paintings are The Last Judgement and the Plains of Heaven.

In the Day of His Wrath, a blood-red glow casts an eerie glow in the center of the scene. The mountains are transformed into rolling waves of solid rock. Lightning splits the giant boulders. The helpless fall into the black abyss that has opened at the bottom of the painting.

Those falling into the abyss are helpless because they are arrogant evildoers. In their arrogance, they live in their sins, not wanting God, not desiring a Savior, not wishing to give their sins to Jesus.

They are doers of evil. They were born evil. They live in that evil. They will die in that evil. They do not want to follow God’s will for their lives. They are not desiring a Savior from their evil. They are not wishing to place their evil upon Jesus’ cross.

So, in their arrogance and evil, they perish in eternal hellfire.

We have all suffered first-degree burns. We put some salve and a Band-Aid on our wounds and we move on. Third and fourth-degree burns are injuries that expose nerve endings and involve deeper tissues like muscles, tendons, and bones. These are burns that create excruciating pains for the remaining hours of that burn victim’s life.

God promises excruciating burning for an eternity of hours. That is reserved for those who did not take the coming day of the Lord seriously. They did not want God’s healing gospel salve. These people were unprepared. In their arrogance and evil, they refused to believe in the Savior who would extinguish that eternal burning for them. They seemed to prosper in this life, but they will end up like plant stalks at harvest. Nothing of what is harvested will remain. They become ashes – powerless and helpless.

All because they refused to accept God’s gift of a Savior from His Son, Jesus Christ.

Hell is the ultimate expression of a fair and just Creator. He is God who is punishes evil. He is also God who has been patient for several millennia. But like the father who counts to three before the spanking and grounding in order to teach his son a lesson, so our Heavenly Father has been counting for thousands of years, but there will come a time when His patience will run out and the unbelieving world will receive more than a tanned behind and a timeout. When Judgment Day comes, it will be a day of ultimate terror and misery for those who removed God from their lives here on earth. For God is a loving and just Father. He will then honor their choice and remove Himself from their eternity.

Hell is the fate of those who did not avail themselves of God’s mercy.

In contrast to the heat that burns up unbelievers, the heat from the sun of righteousness brings healing through Christ. “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise, and there will be healing in its wings. You will go out and jump around like calves from the stall” (Malachi 4:2).

Winter in Wisconsin seems to last six months. For those six months, you are cooped up inside. It is cold, dreary, windy and depressing. You feel achy and icky because you haven’t exercised in months. Then, on the first day of spring, the sun finally comes out! It is glorious – the ground is dry and the sun is bright and warm. The sun brings healing to your aching bones. You aren’t ashamed to run outside with your kids or grandkids to play. All of you are excited to finally be outside.

That is the way it is with us who accept God’s love and believe in His Son, Jesus, as our Savior. When we get to heaven, we won’t be sick with our sin any more. Our spirit feels good. We want to kick and frolic in God’s Sonshine forever!

We are the arrogant who continue to live in our sins. But, by the grace of God, we have been humbled. In humility, we repent of our arrogant lifestyle and give our sins to Jesus.

We are the doers of evil who continue to live apart from God’s will. But, the grace of God made us believers. Water and the Word was poured over our heads and into our hearts through Baptism. The Word and Sacrament continue to feed our faith so that we repent of our evil ways. We give our evil to Jesus on the cross. He replaces our evil with His righteousness.

The blood of Christ shed on Calvary’s cross extinguishes the eternal flames.

The suffering of Christ takes away the sickness of sin and brings the healing of salvation.

The hours of hellish agony that Christ endured on the cross brings an eternity of hours in heavenly pleasures.

The fiery judgment we deserved for our arrogance and evil was exchanged by Christ for the sunlight of God’s pardon won by Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

No sick calf feels like jumping. But on Judgment Day, that sickness of sins is past! Our spirit feels good. There is everlasting health and eternal sunshine! No more cancer or canes. No more arthritis or Alzheimer’s. No more sorrow or sadness. Not for those who revere God’s name. Those who revere God’s name are those who believe in God’s gift of His Son, who appreciate the Son’s sacrifice, and who honor the Spirit’s work by living lives of faith and joy. Through their Christian faith, they are prepared for the coming day of the Lord.

This is the pleasure of those who have prepared for the coming day of the Lord by trusting in God’s mercy through Christ.

All of us know people at work, in our neighborhood, in our own families and homes who are not prepared for Jesus’ return. Out of fear for their souls, let us be moved to share the saving gospel of Jesus Christ with them. Out of love for their eternal salvation, let us be moved to point out their arrogance and evil, and pray that the Holy Spirit move them to humility and repentance. Then, the coming Day of the Lord will not be a day of fear and dread for them. Rather, it will be a day of peace and rejoicing. Just like it is for us.

Earlier this week, I asked one of our teachers if she had purchased her Vivos underground shelter yet. After I had explained to her what that was, she replied rather sarcastically, “Oh yeah, I’ll get right on that.”

I don’t think she’s going to do it. That’s because her faith is the same as ours. She’s prepared for Judgment Day. We are, too.

We don’t need an underground shelter to protect us from hurricanes or tsunamis. The Lord is our shelter. “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5).

We don’t need an underground shelter to protect us from asteroids or nuclear fallout. The Lord is our shelter. “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1)

We don’t need an underground shelter to protect us from Judgment Day. As Christians, we don’t want one. It would be worthless, anyway. The Lord is our shelter and refuge. “Therefore, they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence” (Revelation 7:15). Amen.

“May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, both soul and body, be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24)