The Bible tells us about an event that causes the heavens to be glad and the earth to rejoice, the sea and everything in it to roar, the field and everything in it to exult and all the trees of the forest to sing for joy. What could possibly be so momentous and glorious as to bring about this kind of response?
The answer is in Psalm 96.13: [the Lord] comes to judge the earth.
Is that how you think about the day of Judgment? Do you yearn for its coming? Do you pray every day, as the Lord taught us, ‘Your kingdom come’? Do you say with Paul and John, ‘Our Lord, come!’ and ‘Come Lord Jesus!’? (1Cor 16.22; Rv 22.20)
Perhaps we are too comfortable in this world. We’ve forgotten we are exiles in the world, sojourners whose true home is in a different world entirely. Perhaps the pleasures and treasures of this world have taken the edge off our longing for spiritual things. Or perhaps it’s the pressures and stresses of life in this world that take up so much of our bandwidth that we just don’t have time to lift our eyes up and away from the relentless demands of work and family. Jesus did warn us about the thorns that are the cares of the world and which can so easily choke spiritual vitality. If you hold up a penny to the sun you can blot out its the light—not because the penny is bigger or more glorious than the sun, but simply because it’s closer to us.
Or perhaps our hearts don’t fill with joy at the prospect of the Lord’s coming in judgment because we have a skewed understanding of what it means. The word ‘judge’ in Hebrew has a wider meaning than in English, which focuses on the judicial sense of deciding a case in court. So we think of the Lord sitting in judgment, pronouncing a verdict on every individual. And that is certainly part of what he will do. Rev 20.12: And I saw the dead, great & small, standing before the throne, & books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is book of life. And dead were judged by what was written in books, according to what they had done.
It’s a tremendously solemn thought! But judgment in the Bible is so much more than this. It means ‘to exercise the processes of government, to act as a ruler.’ Carrying out judicial decisions is certainly part of that, but only a part. Think of the Judges in Israel—they set things to rights, mending broken relationships, settling disputes, ending injustice and wrongs, promoting peace, security and happiness. That’s what the Lord is coming to do! No wonder the universe rejoices! Ps 96.10: Say among nations, The Lord reigns! …he will judge the peoples with equity.
This is good news—the best of all good news! And how much we need that good news today, as we look at our broken, tear-stained world—someone is coming to fix it. He will do away with tyrants and slavery and cruelty of every kind. There will be no more war or hatred or killing. No more pollution. No more aborted babies, trafficked women, abused children or drug addicts. It will be the end forever of misunderstanding, disappointment, crying, frustration, loneliness, illness and death. The Lord will take away every evil thing and replace it instead with a world of happiness, joy, peace, beauty and satisfaction.
He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness. (Ps 96.13)
The Lord is coming to heal not just us but the whole world—to bring in a new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2Pt 3.13) A world where there will be no earthquakes to bury thousands alive as they sleep. As Paul puts it in Rom 8.21, Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay.
Andrew Bonar wrote of this day, ‘It is the happiest day our world has ever seen. Who would not long for it?’
Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!