I was reading Isaiah 2 this morning, and I was overwhelmed by the thought of the day when God brings life as we know it to an end. We do not talk about this much anymore. This used to be the subject of all the revival preachers that came to my church growing up, and as a four-year-old, I remember going to the altar to repent because I was terrified. Judgment Day is such a scary thing to think about, because inwardly I think we all wonder if we could stand before God Almighty. I know that it strikes fear in my heart.
Isaiah chapter two paints a very big picture of all the ways things that are high will fall before God. He talks about the tall trees and the manmade fortresses crumbling before Him. “The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of man humbled; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, and the idols will totally disappear (v. 17-18).” The verse from this chapter that I like the best is verse 12: “The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted (and they will be humbled).” It is a bittersweet verse, sweet because regimes that oppress their people will be eliminated, and bitter because we know that we are all proud. In the presence of Jehovah, who could stand?
The trouble that I have with the evangelists that preach about Judgment Day and the fires of hell is that I think their focus is off. I do believe that this day will be the ultimate bad day for anyone who does not know Jesus, and I do believe that those who have rejected him will spend eternity in hell, and when I think about hell, I do not feel angry or fearful…I feel immense and almost unbearable sadness. I know so many people that would go there if Jesus were to come back today. I don’t long for Judgment Day because I want for them to have another chance at life, I want to have another chance to tell them about this amazing love of God. I can’t help but think that God feels the same way too, that He will put that day off as long as possible. If that day will be sad for me, to see my friends spend eternity outside of the presence of God, then I can’t imagine the terrible sadness that God will feel as He banishes the ones He loves from His presence.
Why would a God of love send those He loves to such an awful place? This question is often asked in the same breath that we plead for Him to race into our painful situations and rescue us. Part of us longs for God to set all things right, but we dread the day when that takes place because evil cannot stand in the presence of God. We have become so accustomed to living with the evil in this world that we cannot imagine a world without it. We have become so accustomed to the secret sins and pleasures in our own lives that we cannot imagine life without them. What would happen if today were the day when God came to set the world as it should be? Are you ready for this day?
For those of us who follow Christ with all of our hearts, we have a strange and mysterious longing to stand in the presence of Jehovah. For me, I know that I have had moments when the holiness of God has so overcome me, that I felt I would be crushed under the pressure. However, the thing that amazes me about those moments, is that I walk away longing to have stayed there forever. The weight of God’s holiness in standing in His presence did not bring a sense of Judgment, but rather of a peace that overwhelmed my situation and a love so strong that it made me want to sob uncontrollably. Everything that had been lacking in my life was expressed by the empty cup that I brought to Him. It was the wholeness of His presence and the awareness of the healing of my heart that brought the wonderful pain. My cup that was once empty overflowed with fulfillment. It was not a horrible thing, but an intensely fantastic experience. It reminds me of the old Martins song that says, “In the presence of Jehovah, God Almighty, Prince of Peace, troubles vanish, hearts are mended in the presence of the King.”
A while back I read the very popular book Heaven is for Real (which took place just a few blocks from where I grew up, and in the same hospital I was born in, might I add) and I read it cover to cover without stopping. I cried through at least half of it. One of the parts from that book that has stuck with me is Colton’s experience in the throne room of God. We all have our ideas of what it would be like to stand before His throne, but through the eyes of a four year old, this is what he said: It was big, Dad…really, really big, because God is the biggest one there is. And he really, really loves us, Dad. You can’t belieeeeve how much he loves us!” This child stood in the presence of Jehovah, and the overwhelming impression he walked away with was not the intensity of the light or the power of the Almighty, but the intensity of God’s love for us. What a thought.
It is a scene like this that makes me want to cry and makes me long to just sit in His presence all day long. I want to feel and experience a love like that. I want all the lies that I have always believed about myself to vanish in the presence of such a love. It is a shame that at four years old, I was overwhelmed by the fear of God’s judgment, while Colton at four years old was overwhelmed by the love emanating from that same throne of which I was afraid. Why should a child be afraid to stand before God? Why should an adult child of God be afraid to stand before Him either? Maybe this is why Jesus said over and over that we should become like little children. Our grown-up faith becomes polluted with preconceived ideas of God’s presence, and we avoid it because we are afraid. The love and truth of God is so simple that a child can grasp it; indeed it is so simple that an adult can completely miss it. What a shame it is to fear standing in the presence of Jehovah. If we follow Christ, this presence is everything we need.
It has been newsworthy the past few months about the coming Judgment Day, and we have all heard about the man who “figured out” what day that would be. The reactions of people astonished me, because I expected no one to care. Perhaps no one will anymore now that it did not come true, but people were spending their life savings on the last things they wanted to do or have before Judgment Day as a last “hurrah” before they were doomed. This shows how warped our view of God has become, that so many would assume they are destined for eternal destruction and believe that this life is the best thing they could ever know. I have friends that were hiding in freezers at work because they were afraid of God. What a tragedy that they feared and avoided the presence of Jehovah instead of running toward it. I KNOW GOD, and He is Almighty and powerful and worthy of being feared, but the only entity that should be running from His presence is Satan. We, His creation and the object of His affection should not fear His presence. He is LOVE.
It is because of Jesus that we can stand in the presence of God and not be consumed. Hebrews 10:19-23 says, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
The cost of rejecting God is something to be feared, however. Hebrews 10:26-31 says, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and a raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
If you are someone who has always feared the presence of God, please be encouraged that He is not waiting to destroy you in His anger. No matter what you have done or where you have been, His love for you is reaching out. He longs to bring you into His presence and lavish His love on you. The truth is, we have all rejected God and deserve His judgment. We deserve to be destroyed. However, Jesus Christ made a way when He died on the cross and rose again for us to come to God. In the final day, everything that is proud and lofty will be humbled. We have the choice to either humble ourselves before Him today or be humbled before Him on that day. If we choose to reach out for this grace that God is offering us and the forgiveness that He longs to give, Hebrews 4:16 says that we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” When we accept this grace, we no longer need to fear the presence of Jehovah or His destructive wrath. We have been bought with the price of God’s Son and have been washed clean of all that cannot stand in God’s presence. Like Colton, we can look at the throne of Almighty God and say, “You can’t belieeeeve how much He loves us!”
One day, God will set all things right. On that day all who have rejected Him will be sent away from God’s presence forever. It is the absence of this presence that is the ultimate destruction. However, on that day, all who have been washed by the blood of Jesus will spend forever in the presence of Jehovah, a place where evil is banished forever and our God who is Love will reign in all His glory. This is the invitation. Do not live another day outside of God’s presence. Don’t wait to come to Him. His grace is reaching for you.