2011 08 21

The Day of the Lord in Detail

Reverend Anthony R. Locke

August 21st, 2011  www.FirstPresTucker.org

at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker

Click HERE for the Zephaniah Sermon Series. Sermon # 5

Zephaniah 1:15-18 English Standard Version

15  A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness,

16  a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements.

17  I will bring distress on mankind, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.

18  Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the Lord. In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.[1]

In the King James Version of the Bible, 1 Corinthians 16:22 says, If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. Those last words are Greek words.

The same verse in the ESV says, If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! It’s a little less polite, but it communicates better. The word Maranatha is like a Pentecostal prayer for Jesus to come back.

The Second Coming of Jesus is the catalyst for all of God’s Big Pans. It is the day when all of God’s promises come true for believers. It is a day of distress and despair for unbelievers.

This is a reoccurring theme: God loves us enough to warn us. God doesn’t stay silent as He sees us headed for the cliff of destruction. God climbs to the roof top and shouts for us to repent.

God knows that trouble is going to hit sinners like a ton of bricks. Like getting hit by a freight train. Commenting on this passage John Calvin says that the ungodly entertain vain imaginations that with no trouble they will pacify God’s anger. God tries to combat this error.

Another reoccurring theme: Jesus won’t come back gentle (mounted on a donkey).

Revelation 19:11-16 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Feel overwhelmed by these images. That’s God’s intent.

Saints should rejoice (Maranatha!) as our Lord conquers sinners and destroys sin. Sinners should lament knowing that the days for their salvation will be gone forever.

Here, in just four verses, Zephaniah crowds together a host of powerful words designed to impress his readers with the details of Judgment Day.

Now if you have seen the Terminator movies, then you know something about the horrors of judgment day. It’s the last day of civilization as we know it. Computers take over the world, use nuclear bombs to destroy humanity and usher in The Rise of the Machines.

In God’s version of Judgment Day, the Sarah and John Conner’s of this world only survive by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Nothing else will help.

Also similar to the movies, judgment day can’t be stopped. The prophets told Israel they could not change the future. God wants us prepared for His Big Plans and Judgment Day.

Your final day might come earlier than others. Jesus told about a man in Luke 12 who thought he had his whole life to delay his preparations. Luke 12:20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.

We must be ready to come face to face with God at a moment’s notice.

The organist at my last church was in perfect health, about my age, and was playing the organ on Sunday morning when a brain aneurism took her immediately into the presence of Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

This is one of the three foundational doctrines to the Second Coming of Jesus. The imminent return of Jesus. The other two doctrines are the bodily return and the moral imperative to be ready.

Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.

108 people die every second world wide. 3,500 people will die while I am preaching my sermon. We might die at the same time, but we will stand before God alone. One by one.

Whether we stand before God after our death, or stand before God on the Day of the Lord which is described in our passage, if we are unprepared, then it will be a bad day.

How bad will it really be? Zephaniah tries to put it into words. A day of wrath is that day

The only person who knows the fierceness of God’s wrath, the distress, the anguish and sorrow, is Jesus. On the cross Jesus was rejected by the Father. The punishment for our sin hit Jesus like a ton of bricks. Like a freight train. He still bears the scars.

Jesus was swallowed by the darkness. Jesus is forever known as the Man of Sorrows.

Jesus bore our distress. The peace and fellowship He enjoyed within the Trinity was devastated. Jesus was our curse while on the cross. His blood was poured out.

If we do not believe, then we will pay for our sins. We will stand alone before God. We have a date with destiny. God will expose our deeds and compare them to His Holy Laws.

How will the sinner fair on the Day of the Lord? Zephaniah gives us some details.

Like Amos before him, Zephaniah describes the judgment as a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like Joel, he describes it as a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers. In the end the whole world will be consumed and God will make a sudden end of all who live in the earth.

Jesus claimed the same thing. Matthew 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

On the Day of the Lord, Jesus determines your destiny. The sadness of being cast into Hell will terrify and unravel the soul. All of these words are images of despair, panic and fear.

If you love Jesus, then it will be a day of great joy and comfort. Jesus will stand up in the Courtroom of Heaven to plead for your salvation by pointing to His own shed blood on the cross.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Zephaniah will comfort us in chapter three. Right now Zephaniah is sharing how sinners fair. 1 Corinthians 16:22 gives the bottom line. If anyone has no love for the Lord, then he will be accursed. What does it mean to be accursed?

Even these words from Zephaniah fail to fully detail the personal tragedy of being cursed. Describing the journey into Hell is just as hard as describing the opening of the gates of Heaven. The Bible says, 1 Corinthians 2:9 No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. On the other hand, it has not entered the imagination of any man the trouble that will befall those who do not love Jesus.

The Day of the Lord is a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness.

Let’s move to verse 16. Our fortified cities are only fortified in our own imagination. We make towers of self-justification where we feel safe.

We assume our good works will save us. Our good works are nothing more than our self-sufficiency, our pride and our attempt to please God without Jesus. How offensive to think that we can earn God’s favor better than Jesus. It is faithlessness in Jesus to hope that our good deeds, rather than His, will prepare us to stand in the presence of a holy God.

Our religious commitments, our church attendance, tithing, reading our Bibles and being do-gooders will not diminish God’s wrath against our sin. These are false towers of protection from God’s wrath. Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

We assume good intentions will shield us. No. Maybe we think that giving to charitable causes, volunteering at the local food bank or homeless shelter will distinguish us from our less noble countrymen. No.

Don’t flatter yourself. It’s the lie from the Devil himself that you can ascend into the presence of the Most High God on your own merit. (Isaiah 14:13)

The only bulwark that will withstand the wrath of God will be the blood of Jesus. He is the only shield that will protect. He is the only shelter from the storm. He is the only door that leads people out of wrath and into peace. Jesus is the only person who can merit God’s favor.

If we do not have saving faith in Jesus, then we are unprepared. Without faith we remain the objects of the wrath of God. The wages of sin is eternal death. We have earned, by our sin, eternal separation from the joys and pleasures of God’s goodness and love.

On the Day of Judgment, God will destroy all excuses. a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. God will march around the fortified walls, sound the trumpet, and like the walls of Jericho, all defenses will collapse.

Really, God will make easy sport of His enemies.

Verse 17 explains that God will bring the same distress on the sinner that was brought on the men of Sodom. They were blinded by the light of the glory of God and were left helpless and defenseless as they fought against the Lord. Resistance is futile.

Revelation 14:20 says that the blood of the enemies of God on the Day of Wrath will flow into the valley of Armageddon as deep as a horse’s bridle. Zephaniah 1:17 because they have sinned against the Lord; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.

Overwhelming isn’t it.

Verse 18, Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the Lord. Rich people are accustomed to getting out of trouble with money. Bribes, insurance, hedging your bets, there are lots of ways that money can protect the rich from risk.

But money will not save a soul on the Day of the Lord.

Finally, look at verse 18. In the fire of his jealousy, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full and sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth. God predicts His own demeanor.

Our God is a jealous God. That’s a topic worthy of a good sermon or two. The bottom line, God is not willing to stand idle while we give our worship to worldly things. God is like a jealous husband. God will not feel conciliatory having watched us give our love to someone else. The demeanor of God on the Day of the Lord is like a raging husband setting things right.

Revelation 6:15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains.

But you can’t hide from God. The earth cannot hide a sinner from God’s wrath. The sea cannot hide a sinner from God’s fire. Only repentance from sin and faith in the work of Jesus on the cross can prepare a sinner for that terrible day.

A final reminder. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?

God shares His Big Plans so we will change our ways and repent. God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:4 

And for those who believe, 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.

The wisest man to ever live was King Solomon. He counseled in Ecclesiastes 11:9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.

God will not bend the rules when He comes to judge sinners. God will not go gentle. God will not dilute His wrath or diminish the fires of Hell. God will show no mercy on that day. If we want mercy, then we have to receive it now. These are the days of His patience.

May we look to Jesus and receive mercy. May we seek His face. May we turn from our wicked ways. And may we grow to love Jesus more than anything else we have ever loved.

Even so, come Lord Jesus! Maranatha and Amen.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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