Second Sunday of End Times: Last Judgment

Preached: November 9, 2008

How Awesome the Reign of the Ancient of Days
Daniel 7:9, 10

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to our everlasting King is Daniel 7

“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 then thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:9, 10 NIV)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

The elections have come and gone. Isn't it nice to be done with all those campaign commercials? But maybe everything didn't turn out the way you wanted. The churning sea of politics brings its crests of celebration and its plunges into disappointment. What a stormy world we live in with all the doubts and uncertainties swirling around. Politics, economics, foreign affairs, terrorism, pandemics, health costs who knows what's coming next? The worldly powers are continually changing. But the Ancient of Days, our unchanging, eternal Lord rules all of history for his people. That's one point for you to take home today.

And the second point also comforts us. The Ancient of Days will judge justly according to the books. Despite the ravenous work of all who oppose him and trouble his people, in the end on Judgment Day, justice will be done.

As you take to heart these two promises, may the Holy Spirit work in you that amazement that shouts out: “How awesome the reign of the Ancient of Day!” That's the theme this morning.

A. He rules all history for his people

1) How does the vision show the changeable affairs of the world and the trouble for God's people?

These two verses bring us to the climax of a vision that the Lord gave the Prophet Danie, recorded in Daniel 7 so that you can read the whole account at home later on. Daniel and others from Jerusalem and Judah had been taken into exile by the Babylonians. Nearly seventy years had passed, since then. Nebuchadnezzer, who had conquered Jerusalem, has died. Others have succeeded to the Babylonian throne. It is the first of Belshazzer's reign when Daniel saw this vision.

First he sees the four winds churning a great sea. Out of this sea comes a lion with eagle's wings. After a time the wings were torn off and the lion lifted from the ground and given the heart of man. This was the Babylonian Empire with Nebuchadnezzer as its head.

Then came a bear-like creature, raised up on one side with throne bones between its teeth. This was the Medo-Persian Empire which devoured Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt. Then came a leopard with four wings and four heads, the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great and his four general that split the empire at Alexander's untimely death.

Finally came a terrifying and powerful beast with large iron teeth, crushing, devouring and trampling its victims. This was the Roman Empire. Ten horns grew from it. Then another horn, beginning small, grew up and replaced three horns. This horn spoke boastfully. It waged war against God's people and was defeating them. And what greater danger to God's people is there than false teaching, boastful words that lie about God's truth? For persecution or threat of death can only rob the body of life. False teaching robs the soul of eternal life. That boastful horn with its words was defeating God's people. For that horn claims to be head of the church, seated in Rome, boastfully usurping to itself God's authority to forgive and save.

2) What great truth comforts our hearts as we see the Ancient of Days seated on the throne?

But then into the midst of all this horrendous trouble and turmoil comes the Ancient of Days, the unchanging, eternal Lord. He makes his promises and keeps them, for he does not change. He is the Ancient of Days. He sits on his throne, for he rules over all history. Thousands upon thousands, ten thousands upon ten thousands of his angels are ready to serve, carrying out his rule over all history. Know that his rule will not fail. Empires come and empires go, like those beasts out of the sea. But our God rules. Elections put candidates into office. But our God rules. The wealthy and powerful buy advertisements and push their agendas. But our God rules. No matter what the economy, no matter what the state of world affairs, no matter even when false teachings seem so wide-spread no bad news changes this truth: Our God rules. How awesome the reign of the Ancient of Days!

When you hear bad news out there, when you face uncertainties and fears of the future, when you worry for your kids or grandkids, remember who rules. Your God rules over all history for his people. That's the first point for you to take home today to comfort your heart. Your unchanging God, the Ancient of Days, rules all history for you, his people. How awesome the reign of the Ancient of Days!

B. He judges justly according to the books

1) What terror does God's just judgment bring?

And he judges justly. “The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7: 10 NIV), Daniel writes. He is an honest, upright judge. No sin, no wrong, so error is in him. That's why Daniel sees his clothing as white as snow and the hair of his head white like wool. The Judge is holy, pure, and good.

Nothing evil, nothing sinful, nothing impure or tainted can exist in his presence. For his throne is flaming, the wheels of his chariot-throne are ablaze. In fact a river of fire flows out before him, consuming, burning way all that is impure, all that is lacking, all that is wrong or unrighteous. He judges justly according to the books.

But how can we stand in his presence? God knows the secret sins of your heart. He knows the worry, the doubt, the lust, anger, envy, greed, jealousy. He knows the shallowness of your love for him and the coldness of your love for your neighbor. He knows all our sins. The evidence is clear. Our crimes against God are plain. Justice cannot ignore our sin. Justice demands the fitting penalty and nothing less. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 NIV). When those books are opened, no amount of good you try to do can erase even one entry against you.

How is this picture of the Ancient of Days judging justly any comfort? Do we face a hard life on this earth only to be justly condemned for our sins in the end, consumed by the fire of his holiness? How can we stand in his presence? He is a consuming fire; we are but dry stumble and chaff.

2) What does faith plead so that we can rejoice at God's just judgment?

But faith claims the record of another as our own. Faith pleads, “Don't judge me by my record, for I am a sinner, guilty, deserving death and hell. Judge me by Jesus' record. He is my Savior. Open the books and see all the good he has done for me. I plead Jesus' life and righteousness as my own.”

And how does Ancient of Days respond? His unchanging Judge says, “Yes, justice has been carried out. For Jesus, your God and Savior has paid for all your crimes by his death on the cross in your place.. That's what the book says.” Justice has been satisfied, and you, dear friend, have been justified through faith in Jesus Christ. Your name is recorded in the book of life. How awesome! How awesome the reign of the Ancient of Days! He judges justly according to the books, according to record of what Jesus has done for you, which is yours by faith alone. This verdict stands, for the Ancient of Days reigns. He reigns eternally, so this verdict stands forever.

What comfort for you and me! As we stand before the judgment throne by faith, we stand with confidence in Jesus, with assurance that his record counts for us, with trust that his death has satisfied justice's requirements in our place. We stand in faith that fixed with all confidence, assurance, and trust in our risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

And this faith, this faith within you, expresses itself day after day. Your faith expresses itself in your love and kindness to others. The good we do toward others is the outward evidence of the faith inside you. Such love and kindness produced by faith helps our neighbor in the way that is best. But faith doesn't do good hoping to get something from others or from God. Faith doesn't do good wanting God to record in the record books so that we can be judged by it on the Last Day. No! Faith does good because the Ancient of Days has done an eternity of good for you by judging you according to Jesus' record. How awesome the reign of the Ancient of Days!

And so remember, remember these two truths for your comfort. He rules all history for his people. He judges justly. How awesome the reign of the Ancient of Days. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313