Do you ever get nervous about what’s going to happen to you in the future? Will you get a good grade on the test? Will you ever make enough money to pay the bills? Will you ever get your dream job? Will you ever find the right guy to marry? Will you get cancer? Will you get ebola? How long will you live? Will you be happy?
It’s nerve racking to think about the future. The reason is that we don’t know what the future holds!
Except…sometimes, we do.
We know exactly what will happen.
Normally when we gather together on a Sunday morning for worship, we discuss things that have already happened. The Israelites sinned; God punished; they repented. Jesus lived; Jesus died; and Jesus rose. But this Sunday we’re going to begin a three week series where we take a different glimpse at the timeline. Instead of looking back, we’re going to look forward. Through the eyes of the prophets, we will look not into the past, but into the future.
Nervewracking? Maybe, not as much as you think.
Our first glimpse into the future comes from Daniel. He’s the guy who was in the lion’s den last week, but God kept him safe. So you know…Daniel was on God’s good side. In fact, the following vision takes place before the Lion’s Den. Again, you know it’s going to be truth…otherwise God would have let those lion’s tear him to pieces in response to any lies Daniel had written down.
But since God protected Daniel, we know God was also protecting the truth. Here is the truth God revealed to Daniel about the future.
In his vision, Daniel saw 4 beats rise up out of the earth. One looked like a winged lion; one was like a flesh eating bear; one was like a leopard, and was a giant, iron crushing beast that was so destructive it was hard to describe.
But suddenly, all of these beasts stop their destruction. They stop their fighting. Because someone more incredible than any type of creature J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings could never come up with what had appeared. Daniel describes it this way:
As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:9-10)
Wow. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Despite the destruction, despite the scariness of these beasts, they are nothing compared to this judge. He commands their attention and they stop.
Why does the world stop for him? You’ll find the answer in who that judge is. Look at the clues in the text:
1) He’s Experienced.
Verse nine calls him, “The Ancient of Days.” Ancient means “around a long time.” He’s garnered respect with his judgments in the past since the Genesis of the world.
In fact, Genesis – the first book of the Bible – records some judgments made against sinners. A flood to destroy the blood thirsty, unbelieving people at the time of Noah, a confusion of language for the proud who wanted to build a tower to heaven, fire from heaven to burn up the sexually deviant of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The judge in question judged then AND he will judge in the future.
2) He’s Holy.
Look at what the judge is wearing: “Clothing as white as snow; hair as white like wool.” This isn't written down to tell us that the judge was a clean freak. Nor it is a quick subliminal message in the Bible for Clorox bleach.
The truth is that the color white in the Bible – pure white, not beige – stands for purity.
The point then is not that the judge is a certain race. The point is that the judge is pure! He is without sin. He is without corruption. He is holy. He doesn't accept bribes. He doesn't let things slide. He doesn't let people off easy. He uphold the Law.
3) He’s Powerful.
If you’ve ever been to a court room, you’ll notice the judge’s seat is very professional looking. It usually has a large back and is very ornate. The higher up you get in court the more ornate. Supreme court? Rich mohagany, right?
Look at what this judge’s throne is made of. Look at verse 10 it says, “His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him.”
You ever sat down on fire before? Me neither.
This shows you the power of this judge. He is not some guy phoning into the police that “the kids are on my lawn again,” whom the police ignore, and the man remains powerless to stop these kids.
This is a judge who has a river of fire at his disposal. And then, just so that we get a real clear picture of his power, listen to how verse ten continues, “Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.”
Of course, if you saw him riding his river of fire, it’d probably be in your best interest to serve him, right?
Then, perhaps the scariest thing happens. The judge opens the books. Court is in session. It’s time for this all powerful, completely holy, no nonsense, all experienced, fire wielding judgment judge to put men on trial.
“Boy,” I bet your thinking, “I’d hate to be the bloke who got stuck with him as the judge for his trial.”
Umm. Here’s the truth. You…are…that…bloke.
Because this judge, Daniel reveals later in chapter 7, is “the Most High,” and those mythical beasts were none other than different kingdoms on earth. Each rules for a time, but then is that kingdom’s time is judged to be up. Judged by the ONE in control of it all….God.
And you…are a part of all nations. You too will have your time on earth come to an end. You too will be judged by God.
This is what Jesus recorded in our Gospel. On the Last Day God will separate the sheep from the goats…the righteous from the unrighteous. (Mt. 25:32) And he will do it, by looking at your deeds.
How do you think you’ll do? When you face the fire wielding, dressed in holiness, sin hating, history of judging with complete wrath Ancient of Days…how will that court session go?
Immediately, you might want to start gathering evidence for your case. Find the list of charity donations you've made in the past year. Print off photos of you doing nice things for your kids. Get a few signed testimonies from your coworkers about how nice you.
But then again, what can you do? You can’t delete your Internet History files. You can’t hide in a portion of the mountains where the satellites haven’t been trained to pick you up yet.
The judge is God. He knows all sin. He hates all sin.
This is not good news.
But here’s the thing. The Bible tells us more about this End Time Court room in the book of Revelation. Revelation 20 tells us that God actually will open two books. The first will contain all the deeds of unbelievers. Those who rejected their Savior. They will have to answer for all their deeds on their own.
Here’s a mystery. In Revelation 20 there is another book opened by God. This book is different. It’s shorter. It doesn’t contain deeds. It only contains names. It isn’t written in ink either. It is written in red. Blood red.
This is the book of Life and it is the only book that matters. For this is the book that Jesus promises to place the name of every believer in. Revelation 3:5 has this promise from Jesus, “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my father and his angels.”
Do you get what’s going on here?
When someone is getting ready for court, it’s important to get your documents straight. It’s amazing how many times in People’s Court, someone may have a case, but they don’t bring any photos, any documents, any bills, nothing. Because you need proof. You need evidence to prove your innocence.
What do you need to prove your innocence before your Father? Only one thing. EXHIBIT A: An empty cross.
Remember what the Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23) Justified is a courtroom term. It means “Declared not guilty.” And it means “Declared not guilty” by faith in the Son of God. Not by our works. Not by our trying harder. Not by our “not being so bad.” But by faith in Jesus, our Savior.
Understand then. This is your future. One day you will meet God. God will judge you at this meeting. If you choose to go to this meeting based on your own merit, you don’t stand a chance! But if you go with your Lord Jesus, well, you’ve got one awesome lawyer working for you. Through faith in Jesus you will be saved from condemnation and you will enjoy eternal life.
1) Sleep peacefully. You don’t have to convince God worthy of being saved. Jesus did that for you. He is your proof. He is the evidence God needs to set you free from eternal condemnation.
2) Live thankfully. If you just got off of death row, what would you do? Celebrate? Give thanks? Find the people you love and squeeze them real tight? Why not do the same thing this afternoon!?! You have just been taken off of spiritual death row! Celebrate. Go to Golden Corral. Give thanks to God!
3) Tell others about your awesome lawyer. Perhaps you’ve seen those commercials on TV for lawyers. The commercials have real people (you know they are real because of how bad the acting is), but these people are excited to share their story. They are excited because they had good lawyers and they want you to use the same good lawyers. There is no better lawyer than Jesus. And he doesn’t just save you from earthly lawsuits. He saves you from eternal punishment. Tell your friends about him. Pass this sermon onto your friends. Pass invites out to your friends. Tell them to come and hear about what Jesus will do for them.
Here’s the truth about the future. Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us who we’ll marry, where we’ll live, when we’ll retire, and when our favorite football team will win the Super Bowl again. The Bible doesn’t get into the specifics for such minimal things.
But when it comes to our eternal salvation the Bible is clear: God will judge you. But through faith in Jesus, right before he strikes the gavel, He will look at you, smile, and say something marvelous, “This one is innocent. They will enter paradise.” Amen.