[Stark Reality, 2016]
Daniel 12:2 (NKJV) - 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
John 5:27–29 (NKJV) - 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
As the soft sunlight pours through my window this morning, I am enjoying my newly retired leisure. I have many things to do, but no particular pressure to do them. That leaves time to think, to ponder, and to consider.
For example, the same trees that have the slightest warmth of the sun's orange to them at this moment, were just a few weeks back black and white with icy snow. The leaves are still not out so the only difference between then and now are the circumstances. That which is "real" is that which is, as it is, and understood as it is.
My thoughts drift to Easter and what "it is" and how the circumstances make all the difference in the world about what it means.
I simply don't remember Easter being a miserable day. I am sure there have been a few drizzly, grumpy weather occasions... perhaps I just block them out. But Easter, in my memory, is beautiful daffodils and blue skies and little girls in frocks and white hats. Easter is joy and beauty and the promise of life... life awakening from the dead... life assured to our consciences by the historical fact of Jesus' resurrection. He is alive! And all they who died with Him shall be raised by Him and shall, in no wise, lag behind those who are alive at His coming. Is there, can there be, any more thrilling thought than that?
The Promise of Easter... that is what sells Easter chocolate bunnies and causes the "twice a year Christians" to make their other pilgrimage to the sanctuary. (And heaven help the poor preacher who dares to preach long or too forcefully while they are there.) Everyone loves the promise of Easter.
But what about the threat? What about the threat of Easter?
Easter is not good news for the perishing. Easter is not only the visible justification of the faithful's hope (Rom. 4:25). It is also, most certainly, the guarantee of judgment by this same man whom God raised from the dead (Acts 17:31). With tears we should consider that many who sit in our sanctuaries on Easter Sunday, with smiles on their faces, expressing their delight in the vaulting music ("Jesus Christ is Risen Today! Alleluia!") are celebrating their own ultimate peril.
As Christ rose from the dead to ascend into heaven and mediate the benefits of His finished work on earth to all those whom God has given Him (John 17:20-26), so Christ has also risen to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead. As Jesus told the hypocrites in His day (Mat. 26:64) that "you will see the Son of Man, sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven," so Easter proclaims this same message to those whose ears are tickled with words of peace when there is no peace between them and God.
This is nothing new. Daniel proclaimed it in that Old Testament that so many despise. Many there are who contemptuously dismiss God's word spoken in it. Many there are who claim that they are "under grace" and are not subject to "the law" and hence cherry pick their way through the New Testament, delighting in the promises of Easter and vainly comforting the nagging doubts that rise in the back of their minds. But Jesus did not ignore those words. He knew that those prophets spoke of Him and His words ring out in validation of their message... so close in fact as to be virtually congruent. The promise of the resurrection is the threat of judgment. That is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Far from being a cause for grief, this is good news for those who are living. Those who delight in Christ delight in God's justice as well as His mercy. It is right and proper and much to be longed for, that God will punish evil and injustice. The cross humbles those of us who know what it means because it means that we have been the proper subject of God's justice by being united to Christ and that this state of grace in which we stand is not of our doing but of His. But no Christian doubts that the Hell Christ endured was just... no Christian can say anything other than "that is what I deserved." And if we deserve it then so do all they who despise our Lord.
That is the "Stark Reality" of Easter. As the trees glow in the morning light now, so, the same trees were starkly different to the eye on that day a few weeks past. So Easter portends another day... a day of glorious new beginnings in a glorious new Light for some. But for others it will be a day of darkness and not light, and that promise is just as certain as the other. That is reality... as it is... as it must be... and as it ought to be.
May God bless all who delight in His promises and tremble before His power.