The Day the Earth Will Stand Still

[I. Introduction] When I was a young boy there was a movie that was popular entitled The Day the Earth Stood Still. It was released before I was born, in 1951, and I remember seeing it on television. It is a classic science fiction film. It was remade in 2008 starring Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly. Even though Reeves and Connelly are both outstanding actors (and two of my favorites) and even though the special effects are head and shoulders above the original, critics widely agree that the original movie is much better. 

That makes for good science fiction. We can imagine that if aliens ever did visit our world that the world would, indeed, stand still. Everyone would stop what they are doing and be glued to their televisions, radios, and the internet in order to find out what would happen next. Well, not quite everyone. After all, there are people living in remote parts of the world – in China, in India, in Africa, even in the Philippines, that do not have access to any media at all. They just go about their lives farming, or raising livestock, just trying to survive and raise their families. There are many millions of such people. But there is coming a day when, literally, every person in the world will stop what they are doing and will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ to be judged. Further, whereas a visit by aliens would only affect life in this world, the next visit by the Lord Jesus Christ will affect life in the next world.

Turn with me to Acts 17:22-31. 

[II. Explanation] The great apostle Paul is at the Areopagus. He had been preaching in the marketplaces of Athens nearby and his message aroused the interest of some of the philosophers who heard him. So they brought him to the Areopagus for a more full and quiet exposition of his doctrine. The Areopagus was the seat of the ancient and venerable supreme court of Athens where law-breakers were tried and also where the worthy were rewarded for virtuous deeds. Steep stone steps, still in existence, lead up to Mars Hill, the location of the court. There, Paul would have been brought to the middle of the hill where, in the open air, he would have been surrounded by his listeners seated in stone seats.

As Paul concludes his sermon he says in verse 30: 

"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all people everywhere to repent…"

The philosophers, despite all their intellect and all their learning, were ignorant. Not only them but all of mankind, except the Jews, who had revelation. When Paul says that God overlooked their ignorance, he does not mean that God does not hold them accountable for it. Only that God did not bring immediate judgment in previous times. Now, from the time that the apostles went forth from Jerusalem until this present day, God commands all people to repent. Why? Because all people are guilty of violating God's laws and repentance is the response that is necessary to receive forgiveness when it is joined to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Belief without repentance does not save. Sadly, such a false salvation has been preached in the modern era. "Just believe that Jesus died for your sins and you will be saved." So someone will raise their hand at some meeting and think that they are right with God while all the while their life never changes.

Neither does repentance save without faith in the Lord Jesus. Simply being sorry for your sins and trying to do better will not save because the guilt of previously committed sins has not been removed (expiated, to use a biblical term). It is the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus and trust in Him that takes away our guilt.

God commands all people everywhere to repent! What is repentance? It is the changing of our mind and heart to forsake sin and to follow Jesus.

In verse 31 Paul tells us why all people must repent. "Because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness…"

Paul preached about the coming Judgment Day. But he received this doctrine from Jesus. Jesus, in his preaching and teaching, spoke about judgment nearly continually. It was one of the main themes of his ministry if not the main theme. For every teaching that Jesus gave in the gospel of Matthew that was longer than six verses (what we might call medium to long sections), we see that 81% of the time he spoke of the Judgment Day. There are 27 such instances and in 22 of those, he speaks of judgment. The coming judgment was on his mind!

Let us look at just one of those. Turn to Matthew 25:31-46. 

This description of the Judgment shows that the whole earth, every living person, will stand still and face judgment. It will be the greatest and most momentous day the world will ever see. The consequences are both terrifying and wonderful. For those who do not belong to Jesus, it will be terrifying beyond description because the results are almost unimaginable. It is to be cast into eternal fire! If these words were spoken by anyone else besides Jesus we could not believe them. They seem to be too awful to happen at the hand of God who we know to be a God of love. But Jesus' teachings are always true. Yes, God is a God of love. But He is also a God of justice. Love does not cancel out justice. They exist in harmony within the being of God. The love of God makes a way to be delivered from wrath, but it does not eliminate it. God's nature is both love and justice. Neither is compromised.

Because the horror of hell is so great many have tried to deny the endlessness of it. For this, more than anything else, is what gives it its horror. The suffering in hell will dreadful in and of itself. Though the suffering in hell will be intense, if there were some hope of coming out then a person might be able to bear up under it. If one were sent to hell for one year, after the first day of suffering you could say, "I have only 364 days left, then I can leave this place!" There would be hope. If one were sentenced to hell for 10 years, after the first day of suffering you could say, "I have only 3, 649 days left, then I can leave this place!" That hope would keep you from sinking lower. If you were condemned to 100 years in hell, after the first year of suffering you could say, "I have only 99 years left, then I can leave this place." There would still be hope, though a long way off. If one were decreed to 1000 years in hell, after the first year of suffering you could say, "I have 999 years left, then I can leave this place." I am not going there but if I were, and my sentence was 1000 years, I would keep looking to that day when I would one day leave. I think that distant hope would keep me going. Even if one were sentenced to one million years in hell, after the first year of suffering you could say, "I have 999,999 years left, then I can leave this place." That hope would just be a speck in a vast canopy, but it would still be a hope. What makes hell so horrible and so hard to believe is that it is eternal. It is a place with no hope whatsoever. The absence of all hope makes it so utterly forlorn. To enter and to know that one will never be able to leave will be in itself a hell of hells.

Yes, Judgment Day will be both terrible and wonderful. For those who belong to Jesus, it will be a wonderful day. The Person we have loved, have prayed to, the One we have longed to see, the One we have longed to thank face to face, we will finally see and we will be able to live with Him in His kingdom forever! The beauty of that time and place we cannot fully understand but we know that nothing in this time can compare to it.

Jesus and the apostles continually spoke of that great day of judgment. 

[III.] Because there is a Judgment Day coming, we must live with that day upon our minds. Since it is a certainty that there will be a Judgment Day, this day should be upon the mind of every person.

[A.] It should be upon the minds of those who have not yet made peace with God. The truth that we must be judged by God is not one that people want to face nor think about at all. Most people ignore it. They fill their lives with all kinds of activities and pursuits that help them to ignore the thought of that day. They will think about so many things. They will think about:

Their studies when they are in high school or college
Their duties at work
Where they will go on vacation
How they can get ahead in life
How they can win the heart of someone they like
So many things!

Judgment day, however, is seldom considered. 

There was a recurring dream that I used to have starting in Middle School. I had it in High School  as well as college. I continued to have this dream even five to ten years after graduation from University. I dreamt that I was in school and I was trying to find my classroom. I have difficulty finding it even though it is already the end of the school year. I peer in this classroom and that one. The reason I have trouble is that I seldom attended the class. Finally, just before the bell rings, I find it and take a seat. I hear the other students talking that there is going to be a final exam today. I realize that I have not read the textbook. I have not paid much attention to the teacher whenever I was in class. And I had no notes. A great fear begins to arise in me and I think, "Why did I neglect this class?" The test gets passed out and I look at the questions and I do not know any of the answers. Then I wake up with my heart beating fast.

If someone were to be so foolish as to sit down for an exam without having thought about it the whole semester, fear would be the normal response. Think about what is at stake on the Day of Judgment! One's eternal destiny hangs upon it! How much more should that day be upon the minds of all as compared to an exam concerning history or math!

It is foolishness to the extreme to avoid thoughts of Judgment because of the enormity of that day. Rather, the enormity of that day should compel you to think about this day until you are assured that you will be counted among the sheep and not the goats.

[B.] The Day of Judgment should be upon the minds of those who have already made peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew 25:31 begins, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory…" The Judgment of eternal destiny will take place when Jesus returns to the earth. Yet, there is another, separate judgment for those who belong to Jesus that will also take place when Jesus returns. It is not mentioned in our Scripture reading here, but Jesus does teach about it in the first part of chapter 25 in the parable of the virgins and the parable of the talents. Further, the apostle Paul teaches concerning it in his epistles. It will be a judgment not to determine eternal destiny but, rather, to determine rewards or discipline, as well as our place in his kingdom that is coming. This also is a judgment that transcends in importance and consequence all earthly judgments with which we are familiar. Therefore, we believers ought to have our own judgment on our minds.

Since it is a certainty that there will be a Judgment Day, this day should be upon the mind of every person.

[IV.] Because there is a Judgment Day coming, we must prepare ourselves for that day. Since it is a certainty that there will be a Judgment Day, every person must prepare themselves for that day.

[A.] Those who have not yet made peace with God must prepare for that day. It is bad enough that many go through life purposely not thinking about that day. Thinking about it, realizing that it is not merely something our parents may have taught us, but that it is something the Lord Jesus himself taught, is a beginning. However, if all a person does is think about it and never prepares then their end will be the same.

If you are among this number you can prepare by:

becoming conscious of the fact that you have failed love to God with all your heart, with all your mind, and all your soul
that you have gone your own way and sinned against God many times
knowing that God has made a way for you to have forgiveness and even a whole new life!
He commands you to repent. That is, to renounce all sin and to follow His Son Jesus.
And, to believe that Jesus died for your sins, leaving them on the cross forever, and rose again from the dead as proof that all these things are true.

Do not put off your preparation! Be ready for that day!

[B.] We believers must prepare for Christ's judgment of his saints. We must:

Live in obedience to Christ's commands
Mortify sin in our lives
Love virtue and turn away from unwholesomeness
Love one another
Serve each other
Check our motives for the things that we do and say
In short, live for Jesus!

All these things we cannot do. But Jesus can do these things in us as we are in union with Him! The closer our walk with Him, we discover that these things arise with us spontaneously. 

We enjoy obeying him.
We hate sin in ourselves and we gladly take measures to put an end to it
We desire goodness
We love
And we serve joyfully, knowing that from the Lord we will receive a reward.

[V.] Because there is a Judgment Day coming, we must talk about it. Jesus talked about it. Paul talked about it. Peter talked about it. John talked about it. James talked about it. Jude talked about it. Can we do less? What kind of a neighbor would we be if we saw a fire burning in the basement of a house but we failed to warn those within of their peril? People's houses are burning! When the fire reaches their bedroom that is the Day of Judgment. Let us warn them! That is not always an agreeable topic of conversation. There are ways, though, to get the message out. One opening is saying something like, "When I read the gospel accounts of Jesus' life I noticed that the one subject he talked about more than any other is the coming Day of Judgment. Jesus thought it was so very important. Have you given that day any thought?" That takes the burden off of you (as if you have to defend the notion of a judgment day as your idea) and puts it on Jesus. Even unbelievers respect Jesus.

[VI. Conclusion] A young woman, who had been brought up in a Christian home and who had often had very serious convictions in regard to the importance of coming to Christ, chose instead to take the way of the world. Much against the wishes of her godly mother, she insisted on keeping company with a wild, hilarious crowd, who lived only for the passing moment and tried to forget the things of eternity. Again and again, she was pleaded with to turn to Christ, but she persistently refused to heed the admonitions addressed to her.
Finally, she was taken with a very serious illness. All that medical science could do for her was done in order to bring about her recovery, but it soon became evident that the case was hopeless and death was staring her in the face. Still, she was hard and obdurate when urged to turn to God in repentance and take the lost sinner's place and trust the lost sinner's Saviour.
One night she awoke suddenly out of a sound sleep, a frightened look in her eyes, and asked excitedly, "Mother, what is Ezekiel 7:8,9?"
Her mother said, "What do you mean, my dear?"
She replied that she had had a most vivid dream. She thought there was a Presence in the room, who very solemnly said to her, "Read Ezekiel 7:8,9." Not recalling the verses in question, the mother reached for a Bible. As she opened it, her heart sank as she saw the words, but she read them aloud to the dying girl:
"Now I will shortly pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger upon thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations. And mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: I will recompense thee according to thy ways and thine abominations that are in the midst of thee, and ye shall know that I am the Lord that smiteth."
The poor sufferer, with a look of horror on her face, sank back on the pillow, utterly exhausted, and in a few moments, she was in eternity. Once more it had been demonstrated that grace rejected brings judgment at last.

God has made a way and He has even warned you of the Day that is coming. Do not ignore his warnings. The whole world will stand still on that day. It will be too late to think about it then, so think about it now. It will be too late to prepare for it then. Prepare for it now. It will be too late to warn other then. Let us warn others now.