Stewart

27 articles written by Stewart

The following is a sober reminder from William Plumer. This and other articles on various topics are available for free online or in print from here.

The Day For Which All Other Days Were Made

William S. Plumer (1802-1880)

GOD has not concealed His intention of bringing every work into judgment with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil. From the earliest ages, inspired men have spoken freely and clearly of the Day of Judgment. Enoch, who was the seventh from Adam—all of whose life on earth except the last twenty-two years was cotemporaneous(1) with that of Adam—prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 14-15). Three thousand years after Enoch, Jude found no fitter words by which to warn daring sinners of their coming doom than those just quoted from the antediluvian(2) prophet. The doctrine of a judgment is a familiar theme among inspired writers of both testaments. It is taught in the Law, in the Prophets, in the Psalms, in the Gospels, and in the Epistles. It was so well understood in the days of Christ and of Paul that they simply call it “that day,” thus designating it as the Day of days, “the day for which all other days were made,” and in comparison of which all other days are as nothing.

The Day of Judgment will be the Great Day—so inspired writers often and properly style it. It will exceed all other days for the brightness of its beginning. Other days had their dim twilight, but this will begin in ineffable effulgence.(3) Their light was from the sun; the light of this shall be from Him Who made all things. Other days dawn with general quiet, but this shall begin with great and unusual noises. “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people” (Psa 50:3-4). Jesus shall come in like manner as He went up on high: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God” (1Th 4:16). On that day, men will see sights and hear sounds unlike all that ever struck their senses before. The brightness of Immanuel’s coming will extinguish the light of the heavenly bodies; and the sounds that shall be heard shall make the earth reel and stagger like a drunken man! This day will be crowded full of wonders. It will be begun, carried on, and closed with such displays of miracles as the world has never seen before. The results accomplished by it will be as wonderful(4) as the progress of its events. Every way of God to man shall then be justified. All wickedness shall be put down. All cavil(5) shall be forever silenced. All judgment shall then be executed…

The Day of Judgment is a day fixed. The time for it is set by God Himself: “He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained” (Act 17:31). To God that day is known; to us it is unknown. To Him it is certain; to us it is doubtful. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Mat 24:36). It will come as a thief in the night, as the flood came on the old world, as the tempest of wrath came on the cities of the plain. Yet it is unchangeably determined by God. Men may not be looking for it, but God sees it afar off. As nothing can hasten it, so that it shall come before God’s purposes respecting the world are accomplished, so nothing can delay it one moment beyond the time fixed in God’s eternal counsels for its coming.

Frequently the Day of Judgment is called “the day of the Lord.” It will be the day when the Lord Christ shall appear in glory, display the wonders of His mediation(6) and the perfection of His government, and will publicly be owned and crowned as Lord of all. There will be no disputes concerning the divinity of Christ, on or after the Day of Judgment, which will be His day…“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (Joh 5:22). That day will be the Day of the Lord Jesus.

The Day of Judgment will be above all others a day of convocation.(7) The heavens and the earth shall furnish the assembly. The chariots of God, which are twenty thousand, shall roll down the skies, bearing in them ten thousand times ten thousand, an innumerable company of angels. Fallen angels too shall be there, and them that sleep in Jesus shall God bring with Him. All that died in their sins shall be there. All that are alive on the earth shall stand before God. Not one of all God’s rational creatures shall be missing. Prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, saints, sinners, liars, hypocrites, infidels, blasphemers, haters of God shall all be present. The assizes(8) of the universe shall then be held. Millions on millions shall crowd this greatest of all congregations. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2Co 5:10). This will be the first and the last gathering of all the denizens(9) of the universe…

The Day of Judgment will also be a day of great surprise, both to saints and sinners. So Christ expressly informs us: “Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?” (Mat 25:37-39). In like manner also shall the wicked say unto Him, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?” (Mat 25:44). If the sentences of the just and unjust were reversed at the Day of Judgment, the surprise would not be half so great. Jesus said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Mat 7:22-23). Many will be saved, and many will be lost, contrary to the judgments formed of them by their neighbors. But more will be saved, and more will be lost contrary to the opinions they had of themselves…Many doubts, mysteries, and perplexities will be removed fully and forever in that great day. Things, which in this life were full of grievous darkness, will then be satisfactorily cleared up. God’s providence, which is now accompanied by a thousand inexplicable things, will then be made plain. Now the wicked are exalted; then they shall be brought down to hell. Now the righteous are forsaken, afflicted, tormented; then the Lord will bring forth their righteousness as the light and their judgment as the noonday. That Day will wipe off all aspersions(10) from the innocent and fix guilt where it belongs, though never suspected before. God’s truth, wisdom, holiness, justice, and mercy will shine brighter than the sun on that day. The slandered, injured, and abused will then be vindicated. The oppressed will rise up and clank the chains with which tyrants had bound them to the eternal confusion of wrongdoers. Many a righteous man, judicially murdered, will then face his corrupt judge with the suborned(11) witnesses and perjured(12) jurors who were at his trial. There will be a wonderful clearing up on that day.

It will also be a day of exposure. “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after” (1Ti 5:24). The fraud, cunning, hypocrisy, and deceit of wicked men will then appear. All those dark designs and plots, which meditated ruin to individuals, distress to families, perplexity to nations, or dishonor to God, shall be held up to reprobation.(13) The light of that day will shine through and through the thickest web of iniquity and show all its foul intricacies…

The Day of Judgment will also be a day of separations. Here, saints and sinners are strangely mixed together; there, it will be very different. Christ says, “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” (Mat 13:30). “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left” (Mat 25:31-33). This separation shall be final. The righteous and the wicked shall that day part to meet no more.

To Christ, His saints, and angels, the Day of Judgment will be a day of triumph. The Lord will then make a show of His enemies openly. They that would not kiss the Son shall be dashed in pieces like a potter’s vessel. In His triumph, all His saints and angels shall share and glory!

To the wicked, the same day will be full of despair. They will cry to the rocks and to the mountains, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Rev 6:16-17). Was more dreadful despair ever portrayed?…

Reader, are you prepared for your last account? Have you made peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ? Is all your hope in the precious blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ? Nothing of your own can save you in that day. It will burn as an oven. It will try your works and your hopes as by fire. If you have built on Christ and on Him only, then hold fast your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward.

But if you are yet in your sins, then be persuaded to flee for refuge to the hope set before you in the Gospel (Heb 6:18). “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (Joh 3:36). Nor can you be in too much haste or too much in earnest in this weighty matter. It is your life. “Behold, the judge standeth before the door” (Jam 5:9); and He says, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rev 22:12)…

To some minds, the greatest wonder of the Last Day will be the composure and calmness with which that day will be met by the righteous. John says, “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment” (1Jo 4:17). I never should have thought of boldness at such a time, but there I find it in God’s Word. It is attained by love to Him, Who on that day will be our Advocate, the Lord our righteousness (1Jo 2:1).

 

1 cotemporaneous – living at the same time.
2 antediluvian – before the Biblical flood.
3 ineffable effulgence – indescribable brightness.
4 wonderful – astonishing.
5 cavil – petty or trifling objections.
6 mediation – Christ’s work as a go-between to reconcile God and man. “It pleased God in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son according to the Covenant made between them both, to be the Mediator between God and Man; the Prophet, Priest and King; Head and Savior of His Church, the heir of all things, and judge of the world: Unto whom He did from all eternity give a people to be His seed, and to be by Him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.” (Second London Baptist Confession, 8.1; available from Chapel Library)
7 convocation – a large, formal assembly of people.
8 assizes – sessions of the court.
9 denizens – inhabitants; citizens.
10 aspersions – damaging, abusive speech regarding someone’s character.
11 suborned – bribed to give false evidence.
12 perjured – having willfully told untruths when giving evidence in a court.
13 reprobation – condemnation.

 

Matthew 2: 1-12

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who is born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he asked them where the Christ would be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written through the prophet, ‘You Bethlehem, land of Judah, are in no way least among the princes of Judah: for out of you shall come forth a governor, who shall shepherd my people, Israel.'”

Then Herod secretly called the wise men, and learned from them exactly what time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, and said, “Go and search diligently for the young child. When you have found him, bring me word, so that I also may come and worship him.”

They, having heard the king, went their way; and behold, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. They came into the house and saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Opening their treasures, they offered to him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Being warned in a dream that they shouldn’t return to Herod, they went back to their own country another way.

It is not known who these wise men were. Their names and dwelling-place are alike kept back from us. We are only told that they came “from the East.” Whether they were Chaldeans or Arabians we cannot say. Whether they learned to expect Christ from the ten tribes who went into captivity, or from the prophecies of Daniel, we do not know. It matters little who they were. The point which concerns us most is the rich instruction which their history conveys.

These verses show us, that there may be true servants of God in places where we should not expect to find them. The Lord Jesus has many “hidden ones” like these wise men. Their history on earth may be as little known as that of Melchizedek, and Jethro, and Job. But their names are in the book of life, and they will be found with Christ in the day of His appearing. It is well to remember this. We must not look round the earth and say hastily, “all is barren.” The grace of God is not tied to places and families. The Holy Spirit can lead souls to Christ without the help of many outward means. Men may be born in dark places of the earth, like these wise men, and yet like them be made “wise unto salvation.” There are some traveling to heaven at this moment, of whom the church and the world know nothing. They flourish in secret places like the lily among thorns, and “waste their sweetness on the desert air.” But Christ loves them, and they love Christ.

These verses teach us, that it is not always those who have most religious privileges, who give Christ most honor. We might have thought that the Scribes and Pharisees would have been the first to hasten to Bethlehem, on the lightest rumor that the Savior was born. But it was not so. A few unknown strangers from a distant land were the first, except the shepherds mentioned by Luke, to rejoice at His birth. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” What a mournful picture this is of human nature! How often the same kind of thing may be seen among ourselves! How often the very people who live nearest to the means of grace are those who neglect them most! There is only too much truth in the old proverb, “The nearer the church the further from God.” Familiarity with sacred things has a dreadful tendency to make men despise them. There are many, who from residence and convenience ought to be first and foremost in the worship of God, and yet are always last. There are many, who might well be expected to be last, who are always first.

These verses teach us, that there may be knowledge of Scripture in the head, while there is no grace in the heart. Mark how king Herod sends to inquire of the priests and elders “where the Christ would be born.” Mark what a ready answer they return him, and what an acquaintance with the letter of Scripture they show. But they never went to Bethlehem to seek for the coming Savior. They would not believe in Him, when He ministered among them. Their heads were better than their hearts. Let us all beware of resting satisfied with head-knowledge. It is an excellent thing, when rightly used. But a man may have much of it, and yet perish everlastingly. What is the state of our hearts? This is the great question. A little grace is better than many gifts. Gifts alone save no one. But grace leads on to glory.

The conduct of the wise men described in this chapter is a splendid example of spiritual diligence. What trouble it must have cost them to travel from their homes to the place where Jesus was born! How many weary miles they must have journeyed! The fatigues of an Eastern traveler are far greater than we in England can at all understand. The time that such a journey would occupy must necessarily have been very great. The dangers to be encountered were neither few nor small. But none of these things moved them. They had set their hearts on seeing Him “who was born King of the Jews;” and they never rested until they saw Him. They prove to us the truth of the old saying, “Where there is a will there is a way.” *[see note below]

It would be well for all professing Christians if they were more ready to follow the wise men’s example. Where is our self-denial? What pains do we take about our souls? What diligence do we show about following Christ? What does our religion cost us? These are serious questions. They deserve serious consideration.

Last, but not least, the conduct of the wise men is a striking example of faith. They believed in Christ when they had never seen Him–but that was not all. They believed in Him when the Scribes and Pharisees were unbelieving–but that again was not all. They believed in Him when they saw Him a little infant on Mary’s knee, and worshiped Him as a king. This was the crowning point of their faith. They saw no miracles to convince them. They heard no teaching to persuade them. They beheld no signs of divinity and greatness to overawe them. They saw nothing but a new-born infant, helpless and weak, and needing a mother’s care like any one of ourselves. And yet when they saw that infant, they believed that they saw the divine Savior of the world. “They fell down and worshiped Him.”

We read of no greater faith than this in the whole volume of the Bible. It is a faith that deserves to be placed side by side with that of the penitent thief. The thief saw one dying the death of a malefactor, and yet prayed to Him, and “called Him Lord.” The wise men saw a new-born babe on the lap of a poor woman, and yet worshiped Him and confessed that He was Christ. Blessed indeed are those that can believe in this fashion!

This is the kind of faith, let us remember, that God delights to honor. We see the proof of that at this very day. Wherever the Bible is read the conduct of these wise men is known, and told as a memorial of them. Let us walk in the steps of their faith. Let us not be ashamed to believe in Jesus and confess Him, though all around us remain careless and unbelieving. Have we not a thousand-fold more evidence than the wise men had, to make us believe that Jesus is the Christ? Beyond doubt we have. Yet where is our faith?

-From J. C. Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels – Matthew 2

*Please note that I do not endorse everything an author writes just because I quote some of their work. Where I find valuable or noteworthy points for consideration I may quote the whole piece for full context. For example, I do not agree with the old saying, “Where there is a will there is a way”, etc. though I understand what he is trying to convey in the diligence of the wise men. There may be other similar things throughout but I believe the overall points are worthy of consideration.