. . . Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”
—2 Timothy 4:2 (ESV)
He tells us these things so that we will be ready. And not just ready, but eagerly awaiting and expecting it. That we will long and yearn for it, the way that children long to grow up, the way that children long for Christmas morning to come and stay awake watching and looking for it, so that when it happens, when that day comes and the Son of Man is seen descending upon the clouds, we will stand up and lift up our heads to see our redemption.
There is perhaps no other season of the church year that better embodies what we experience as Christians than the season of Advent. Observing Advent means learning to wait. It’s a time to wait and to watch, a time to look and to listen. Advent is the season of the now but not yet. It proclaims that the Lord is come, and yet coming still again. It tells us to look up for, for our redemption is drawing near but not yet fully here. It announces the release of the prisoners, but not yet for John the Baptist. In Advent, Christmas is nigh, but not yet here. Advent teaches us to wait.
Thus on the Last Day, the picture our Lord paints for us is one where the heavenly Bridegroom takes his bride, the true church, to his heavenly home, consummating the wedding feast of the Lamb who was slain but lives, bringing to completion what He accomplished by His cross, resurrection, ascension, fulfilling His promise that he will come again to take us to himself.
“And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt” (Matt 18:34). The master delivered him to the jailers. This is true. But it’s not quite accurate. The word for jailers is more specific. The master put him in prison, to be sure, but he delivered the unforgiving servant not just to the jailers but to the torturers. The master delivered him to those who would exact pain to punish and coerce the servant until he should pay all his debt.
This should give us pause, especially in light of what our Lord says next, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matt 18:35).
But this is not all there is. Eternity awaits. And that is what really matters. Jesus tells us the truth. He speaks the truth in all its harshness to rouse us from slumber, to show us that there is far more to life than what we have in this world and in this fallen existence. He speaks the truth in all its sweetness to comfort and console, to give courage and strength.
Who are these arrayed in white? They are those declared saints by God, all of them; kin and friends, children we never met, grandparents we barely remember, loved ones and yet to meet ones, all saints, and they wait for us. They are our people. This is their festival, our festival. For the “all” in All Saints means that we too, by grace, are in that number.
For we will all be judged. We will all stand in God’s courtroom before His throne. And our only plea can be “I a poor miserable sinner . . . . forgive me by grace for Christ’s sake.” And if that is your plea, if that is your confession, the verdict will be “Not guilty.”
Greater love has no God, no Baal, no Allah, no Buddah, no Great Spirit in the sky, than this: that He lay down His Son’s life for His enemies, for His enemies!
You are exalted because Christ became what you are to make you what He is. You are exalted with the work of Christ for you. You are emptied of your sin to be filled with the righteousness of Christ. You are emptied of your own merits and your worthiness, which is death and hell, and filled with the merits and worthiness of Christ, which is life and eternal salvation. You are emptied of your own status as a sinner and given His status as Sons of God the Father.
Two great processions meet at the gate of Nain: one of death and one of life. Which of them will prevail: The boy by sin’s wages slain or the Prince of Life Himself?