Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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by George C. Clark, Sr. and John D. Clark, Sr.
“For the great day of his wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
“The wicked are overthrown, and they are not, but the house of righteous men shall stand.”
Jesus’ disciples asked him, “What will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Mt. 24:3). Part of his answer read like this: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Mt. 24:7). These troubles, and many more, are certainly coming. Child of God, pray, pray!
Jesus also told his disciples that “immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will then mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming upon clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And with a great sound of a trumpet, he’ll send his angels, and they’ll gather his elect from the four winds, from one extremity of heaven to the other” (Mt. 24:29–31).
The beloved disciple, John, while banished on the isle of Patmos, was given a vision of the foregoing narrative of Jesus. Here is part of his vision: “I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood, and the stars of heaven fell to earth the way a fig tree, shaken by a strong wind, drops her summer figs. And the sky was split apart like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island were shaken out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the military leaders, and the rich, and the powerful, and every slave and free man hid themselves in caves and among the rocks of the mountains, and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of his wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’ ” (Rev. 6:12–17).
In his vision, John saw twenty-four elders in heaven praising God for bringing these things upon the earth: “Your wrath has come, and the time for the dead to be judged, and to give the reward to your slaves, the prophets, and to the saints, and to those, small and great, who fear your name, and to destroy those who destroy the earth” (Rev. 11:18).
Jeremiah, speaking under the inspiration of the holy Spirit, gives us this description of the great day of God’s wrath: “At His anger, the earth will quake, and the nations will not be able to endure His indignation” (Jer. 10:10b). When Malachi saw the things that are coming, he exclaimed, “Who will stand when he appears?” (Mal. 3:2). And Nahum gave us this vivid description of our Lord’s power when He comes to bring judgment: “Mountains quake and the hills melt away. The earth heaves at His presence, both the world and all its inhabitants. Who can stand before His indignation? Who can withstand the fury of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him” (Nah. 1:5–6). Evidently, John the Baptist, during his time in the wilderness, also had a revelation from God concerning this oncoming wrath, for “when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for his baptism, he told them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?’ ” (Mt. 3:7).
When wise men read such prophecies, they tremble and pray to be counted worthy to escape the wrath of God. My Friend, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31), and Jesus, with all the prophets, stressed the importance of having the fear of God in our hearts: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, but after that, have nothing more they can do. But I will warn you whom you should fear. Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into Gehenna. Oh, I tell you, fear Him!” (Lk. 12:4–5). Jesus himself feared God, and “in the days of his flesh, he offered, with strong crying and tears, both prayers and supplications to the One who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his fear of God” (Heb. 5:7). Every true man of God knows, with the apostle Paul, “the terror of the Lord” (2Cor. 5:11), and the psalmist expressed this when he cried out, “You alone are to be feared, for who can stand before you, once you are angered?” (Ps. 76:7).
Righteous souls have always taken the judgment of God seriously, striving to be blameless before God, so that in the day of His wrath, they may rejoice. The Bible gives us this splendid Psalm, which encourages us all to do that: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of scorners, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and he meditates on His law day and night. He shall be like a tree planted beside streams of water, which bears its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. And He will make all that he does to prosper. The wicked are not like this, but are like the chaff that the wind blows away. So then, the wicked shall not stand in the Judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of righteous men, but the way of wicked men shall perish” (Ps. 1:1–6).
Jesus warned us that “heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away,” adding this: “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be dulled by dissipation, and drunkenness, and cares of life, and that day come upon you unexpectedly, for as a snare, it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. So then, stay alert and always pray, so that you might be counted worthy to escape all the things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of man” (Lk. 21:33–36).
Some years ago, it was rumored that professors in a nearby seminary were teaching that Jesus’ death does not save us. My first reaction was indignation that they would teach such a doctrine to impressionable young ministers. Not long afterward, upon boarding a bus, I happened to sit beside a seminary student, and I asked him about it. He confirmed that what I had heard was true, but then he helped me understand why his professors were teaching that, and why he believed it. He explained that Jesus’ death justifies us when we believe in him but that it is his life, not his death, which saves us. In other words, as Paul said, “If Christ is not risen [from the dead], your faith is pointless; you are still in your sins” (1Cor. 15:17). I continued listening as the young man reminded me of what Paul taught the saints in Rome: “Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom. 5:9). And again, “We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10).
I was convinced. We are justified and reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and after that, we are saved from sin and wrath by the life of His Son. As the author of Hebrews said it, “[Jesus] is able to save completely and forever those who come to God through him, seeing that he is always alive to make intercession for them.” How wonderful this realization was to me! I now understood that when we come to God for forgiveness, Jesus is our Mediator, making peace between God and us. Then, after we are born again, Jesus becomes our Intercessor, keeping peace between God and us. No believer would ever be saved from God’s wrath without this intercessory service of our Lord Jesus, who is alive “at God’s right hand, making intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34), for as James said, “We all offend in many ways” (Jas. 3:2). Yes, we all have needed Jesus to intervene for us since we were born again; we have all needed to be cleansed anew, and because Jesus is alive, we can be. His life is what saves us.
Jesus said in Matthew 24:13, “He who endures to the end, the same shall be saved.” Obviously, then, whether one will be saved from the coming wrath of God doesn’t depend entirely upon one’s having been reconciled to God. A thousand times no. One’s entrance into the kingdom of God by the new birth, and one’s inheritance of the kingdom of God when Jesus returns for us are completely different experiences. What a rich heritage will be ours if we endure to the end! This is why Paul warned the saints, those who had received the holy Spirit (Gal. 3:2), against falling back into the deeds of an ungodly lifestyle, “which,” he tells us, “are adultery, immorality, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, emulation, angry outbursts, rivalries, disputes, divisions, envy, murder, bouts of drunkenness, revelings, and things like these.” Then he goes on to say, “Concerning which things, I forewarn you, as I also warned you previously, that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19–21). Paul understood Jesus’ words: “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Mt. 22:14).
Jeremiah was growing weak in faith when God spoke to him and said, “If you have run with footmen, and they have wearied you, then how will you contend with the horses? And if you are weary in the land of peace in which you trust, how will you do in the swelling of Jordan?” (Jer. 12:5). Thankfully, Jeremiah recovered his strength. The “swelling of Jordan” is used here to signify the wrath of God, which will bring the final separation between the faithful and the unfaithful. My Friend, if we are not able to stand now with victory over the world, how can we expect to be able to stand in the day of God’s wrath, the day His Son ceases to be our lawyer and becomes our judge?