Malachi 4:5 “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.
Speaking to God’s people the Israelites, the Old Testament prophet Malachi spoke of the day of their Messiah’s Coming as great and dreadful. While what these words actually encompass might not be entirely clear to us, the term dreadful does not inspire comfort and confidence for God’s people today on the eve of the Messiah’s Second Coming. Certainly Malachi’s description of the Day of the Lord applies to both his First Coming and even more especially, his Second Coming.
Jesus himself, teaching His disciples two thousand years ago, in part reinforced this sense of apprehension with regarding to His Second Coming.
Luke 21:25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
…31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. …34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
This will come upon every person on earth
These words are not only for Jewish disciples now living in Palestine, but for “all those who live on the face of the whole earth.” In verse 28 above, Jesus encourages us with positive words of our redemption which will be drawing near with the appearance of certain perplexing and terrifying signs. But then he counterbalances this a few verses later with the warning, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
This admonition means that there is no guarantee that those who call themselves Christians will have an automatic free pass when He appears again to usher in His Kingdom. There is an element of uncertainty regarding what will happen to us when we are told to be very watchful and to pray that we will be able to stand before Him at His glorious Coming.
Luke 13:22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
Jesus taught that many will try to enter through the narrow door which is Jesus Christ and will not be able to. This will obviously include those who call themselves “Christians” and profess to follow Him.
This matter should be of great concern to us who claim to be His disciples. How can we have confidence on the upcoming dreadful Day of Judgment? How can we be assured of our salvation? Let’s see what Scripture teaches.
God is love
1 John 4:16 …God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
We are taught to live in love. This can only mean to live in love to God, and to live in love to one another.
17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.
If love is made complete among us, then in this world we are like God, and we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment when Jesus Christ returns. This brings up some pressing questions. Exactly how is love made complete among us? How many believers are actually like God in this world? Only when love is made complete among us can we have confidence on the Day of Judgment and can we be assured of our salvation. John then goes on to teach us:
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
How are we made perfect in love?
We need not have fear regarding the upcoming Day of Judgment if we live in perfect love. How then can we be made perfect in love? John then teaches:
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.
John teaches us about the two essential objects of love for believers: first, love for God and second, love for our brother. First, we are made perfect in love by loving God. If you do not love God, then you are not made perfect in love.
21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Second, we are also made perfect in love by loving our brother. If you do not love your brother whom you can see, you cannot love God whom you have not seen. If you do not love your brother, then you do not love God and you are not made perfect in love. Let’s now go back to the matter of loving God.
What does it mean to love God?
Now exactly what does it mean in practice to love God? It does not simply entail the warm feelings that we experience in our hearts toward God when we worship Him in church. It is far more than that. In John’s gospel, Jesus teaches us:
John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command.
John 14:24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
Whoever does not obey the Lord’s commands and his teaching does not love God. If you do not love God, then it follows that you are not made perfect in love. Therefore if you
• love your brother and
• obey the Lord’s commands out of your love for Him,
then you are made perfect in love and complete in love, and you can have confidence on the day of judgment because in this world you are like Him.
Therefore the only way to have confidence on the Day of Judgment is to obey the Lord’s commands. This includes loving one’s brother.
“Fear God and keep his commandments”
Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…
Ecclesiastes 12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
If we learn to fear God and keep his commandments now, then we need not fear His wrath on the upcoming Day of Judgment. It is scriptural to fear God and to honor Him as holy and righteous. The fear of God helps us to avoid sin and temptation. King David knew God’s love and grace in unusual measure. God’s blessings upon his life, both spiritual and temporal, were unprecedented. But God’s love and blessings were not enough to keep him from sinning against God so blatantly with the commission of adultery and murder. It was David’s son Solomon who witnessed the tragic generational consequences of his father’s sin. Perhaps it was that which may have led Solomon, the putative author of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, to teach usthe importance of fearing God.
It is not enough simply to say a sinner’s prayer and then to sit in church every Sunday in order to be saved from God’s wrath. Repentance must be proven by the bearing of good fruit for the Lord and His Kingdom.
Luke 13:1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless yourepent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Now what will true repentance entail? Read what Jesus taught in the very next verse.
6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
8 ”‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
The Lord is patient with us, but His patience is not without limit. We are forewarned not to take advantage of His grace and love. If we have not been fruitful for the Lord in obedience to His commands, then there will be reason for fear on the dreadful Day of Judgment. True repentance will result in the bearing of visibly good fruit for the Lord and for His Kingdom.
Be careful of entrusting your salvation to others
Since this is the case, each of us ought to study God’s word carefully to learn exactly what He commands us to do as presumed heirs of His Kingdom. We should be very careful of entrusting this most important matter of our salvation to others. On the Day of Judgment when we stand before the Lord, can we account for our lack of obedience to His commands by blaming our leaders who did not accurately divide Scripture for us? If our teachers do not give us the full counsel of God but instead tickle our itching ears, they will be judged severely (James 3:1). But should we think that we will therefore not be held accountable for being fruitless? Believers in the West all have access to God’s Holy Word.
2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed andwho correctly handles the word of truth.
Unfortunately in many churches today, the emphasis is on what to do in order to secure God’s blessings and comfort and “success” in this life. This teaching sells and brings the people. But Scripture warns us to beware of the many false prophets and false teachings which are proliferating in the end times. There is relatively very little teaching on what we must do in order to stand before the Son of Man on the great and dreadful day of His Coming. In light of eternity, this is far more important than God’s temporal blessings in this life on earth.
Malachi 4:5 “Lo, I am sending to you Elijah the prophet, Before the coming of the day of Jehovah, The great and the fearful.” (Young’s Literal Translation)