It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Text: Malachi 4:1-6
In the name of Jesus.  Amen. 
The end of the world, as we know it, is coming.  It will be a great day. 
On that great day, Jesus will come back again a second time. But this time, Jesus will be far from meek. His second coming will not be a coming of grace and mercy but a coming of Judgment.  It is a coming of fire and a sword.  At the second coming, Jesus will come in Divine Majesty, surrounded by the host of Angels.  When He comes a second time, He will return visibly in the sight of all to bring a hammer of judgment.  No soft manger.  No calm donkey. No wavy palm branches. But instead, great power, a trumpet blast, a majestic-powerful-glory – and fire! 
And that fire? It is going to burn everything. 
Just like the Lord sent massive floodwaters from the sky and the depths of the earth to flood the entire world, at the second coming, there will be sudden crackling, sizzling, sputtering, and a roar due to fire consuming everything. 
This is precisely what we hear in our Old Testament reading from Malachi. The Prophet Malachi tells us that a day is coming like a blazing forest fire. On that last day, all the arrogant will be burned up like wood chips in a fire.  It will be a hot day where nothing will be left – everything will be an ashy black day.  It sounds terrifying.    
The Apostle Peter speaks of this day as well in his epistle.  Peter tells us that there is a day coming when the sky will collapse with a loud bang, and everything will melt and dissolve by fire.  It certainly sounds frightening. 
Now, all this talk about the end of the world should make us alarmed. It should unsettle us. This talk about the second coming and the end of the world should make us shuffle in our pews. Instead of wanting to put our heads in the sand, this news of the end of the world should cause us to lift our chins and open our ears to listen for more. 
When we do hear more, Malachi tells us that the coming of that last day will be like a two-edged sword. Indeed, the coming of Jesus at that great judgment day means two different things for two different groups of people. 
You see, just as fire can both burn and warm, the second coming of Jesus is both good and bad news - it will burn some and warm others.
Dear friends, if you think you can live as the master and commander of your universe, making up your own rules as you go along, God’s message to you today is to repent or perish.  The Lord has promised to come for the arrogant people – perhaps like you - and call you out onto the carpet.  And so, if you have no fear, love, and trust for God, be afraid. Yes, be very afraid, for that day is coming to you like a burning oven to set you ablaze. 
Dear friends, God will not be mocked. He will punish the wicked. He will judge all things.  No one will escape.  The proud and mighty of this world who live life as if they are strong iron will be powerless in this last day.  Everything will burn by the Lord’s wrath down to the root.
Now, all of this may be difficult for you and me to hear, especially during the time of Advent and Christmas.  This message from Malachi is undoubtedly not a very festive Advent and Christmas message.  But even if it were not Advent or Christmas, Malachi’s message would still be challenging to hear for the news of this great last day instills fear, anxiety, and perhaps stress. 
Keep in mind that there are entire church denominations that spend a great deal of time, energy, and effort to avoid topics like the one we are covering right now. They believe that messages of God’s judgment at the last day, along with fire that will burn everything up, are just too harsh for spiritually sensitive ears.  In an attempt to protect so-called sensitive spiritual ears, as well as the desire not to drive visitors away from the church, these churches and denominations downplay the judgment of Christ.  Some of these churches are more concerned with protecting the feelings of people in the pew than conveying the message of Malachi. 
With that said, do you want to know a little secret? The message from Malachi is indeed too harsh for spiritually sensitive ears.  As it should be.  It will, indeed, make newcomers extremely uncomfortable. It should make you want to tell your pastor to preach more flowery and happy sermons.  Indeed, the message of Malachi is not politically correct, for it shows that Jesus is not just a Savior that brings love (which He does) but a Savior that brings judgment as well.  Malachi displays to us that the second coming of Jesus will bring heat – heat that many are incredibly uncomfortable with because it makes us understand that Jesus is not a pushover Messiah that we can easily manipulate. 
And so, frankly stated, the message of Malachi should alarm you. The message of Malachi should make you want to hide behind your pews.  It is intended to wake you up. It is intended to make you fearful. It is intended to drive you to look for security when that great Day of Judgment comes upon you and me. 
But didn’t we say that the coming of Jesus at the great Judgment Day means two different things for two different groups of people? Yes, we did.
Keep in mind that just as the Lord’s Supper can bring forgiveness and judgment at the same time, the second coming of Christ is both good news and bad news at the same time.  You see, a person receives forgiveness of sins when they receive the body and blood of Christ from the altar by faith.  That is to say, when you approach the altar with repentance, knowing that you are a sinner in need of grace, well… Jesus meets you with his forgiveness. But if you approach the altar with arrogance, self-righteousness, and apathy, well… the Lord will meet you at His table with condemnation.  The same Lord’s Supper brings both forgiveness and condemnation.  And the same is true for the second coming of Christ.
And so, Malachi’s message is to repent of our sins. We are to beat our chest with contrition with the news of that great last day is approaching.  But notice how Malachi speaks of this great last day. He tells us that it is coming, which means that we have time. And that time is right now to lift our heads in the sanctuary and see the only one who can grant us security on that last day. 
You see, it is quite easy. To be ready for the second coming of Christ, you must have the first coming of Christ. To be ready to meet Jesus in judgment, you must first receive Jesus with His forgiveness, life, and salvation
Dear Baptized Saints, you have heard about the first coming of Jesus in our Advent services. You have heard all year long about Jesus coming to humanity – in love - to offer Himself in exchange for you at that cross.  And you have been receiving the benefits of his first coming in the Word and Sacraments. 
And so, you have the benefits of the first coming that prepare you for His second coming. 
Because of Jesus’ first coming, the second coming of Jesus becomes a little less fearful.  Well, actually a lot less fearful.  Jesus will still come again to judge all things; however, we know that He has already judged our sins on Calvary’s cross and that He is a friend of sinners like you and me.
So the second coming for you is not a day of fear, stress, or anxiety but a day of joy, anticipation, and healing.  You have the benefits of the first coming of Jesus through the Word and Sacraments; therefore, you can know with absolute assurance that you will meet Jesus at his second coming with a smile and relief.  Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem, his scars of Mount Calvary, his baptism of you, and his body and blood given to you, grant you the confidence to know that the second coming will not be a day of judgment for you but a day where you will be fully healed from all the sin and troubles that have plagued you in this life. It will be a day that the weakness and the constant fallings and tears of your repentance will be healed forever.  They will be all gone. 
Without Jesus first coming, we have only fear.  But because of His first coming, you will burst with energy, leaping like a calf that has just been let out into the pasture when Christ comes again.
Thus, together, today, we can say with confidence, not fear, “Come Lord Jesus, Come.” 
In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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