By Marty Beamer
Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Now, I understand that Jefferson was a deist and he said this it was in the context of slavery (which he owned many), but that in no way diminishes the truth of what he said. In fact, the more I reflect on these words, the more I see the truth of God in them.
At the end of Revelation, John says in verse 20, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Many Christians have taken this verse, and some others in the New Testament, and saying them often. And I’m afraid they do this without much reflection. I do understand where they are coming from. I see what they see. I see the evil in the world. I have stood at an abortion clinic and seen people go in to kill their child. I have watched the news and I get the Amber Alerts on my phone. I have been to India, Africa, and Brazil and have seen evil that just makes you want to scream out “Come, Lord Jesus!” So don’t hear this as a rebuke because I have very rarely found people who desire the Lord’s return more than me (although I’m sure you’re out there). Instead, hear this as a call to reflect more deeply.
Amos 5:18-20 says,
Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?
When I read this passage it immediately made me think back to what Jefferson said. Do we really know what we are asking when we ask for the Lord to return, for the “day of the Lord?” Because what we must realize is that we are asking for the justice of God. We are asking Him to make all evil in the world right. Yes, we are asking Him to right the wrongs of every death in the abortion clinic, every stolen child, every starving child, every corrupt man. And we rejoice at that! Justice for that kind of evil makes it easy to desire for the day of the Lord! But, did you also know that you are asking Him to bring justice down on everyone who ever had an evil thought? Or everyone who ever looked lustfully at a woman? Or anyone who dishonored their parents? Or every unkind word you have ever spoken?
When I think of what Jefferson said, my heart breaks and my soul, with him, trembles. I tremble at the justice of God. I tremble at what that means for our country. I tremble at what that means for family members. But where Jefferson stops, I continue. Where his trembling never stopped, mine does because of the blood of Jesus Christ. I do not have to be in a paralyzed fear that God’s justice will awaken on me because it was already roused and poured out fully on Christ. The just demands of God have been met.
So what I am calling for is a balance. Christians should be ones who tremble and, yet, stop trembling. We should know what we ask for when we say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” It should make us tremble to think of His justice. Yet, we do not continue in that state because the justice of God has been satisfied by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Let us together cry for the Lord’s return with joy knowing that we have escaped the wrath of God! But, let us never forget what we are asking for when He returns. A somber joy. A trembling assurance.
Marty Beamer is the Assistant Pastor of Faith Community Church