The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace!
(James Smith, "Gleams of Grace" 1860)
"The Lord Almighty says: Behold! The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace! On that day the proud and the wicked will be burned up like stubble. They will be consumed — roots, branches, and all!" Malachi 4:1
1. THE TERRIBLE FACT. "Behold! The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace!"
The element of punishment is fire — the fiercest, most powerful, most penetrating, and most destructive of the elements!
Fire, and plenty of it, for it is a lake of fire!
Fire glowing with fierceness, fire strengthened, contracted, and fed, for it shall burn as a furnace!
This will be more dreadful than Nebuchadnezzar's burning fiery furnace — more than the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It will be so terrible that . . .
no words can set it forth,
no imagery can represent it,
no mind can conceive it!
The punishment will be irresistible. It is devouring fire. There will be no standing against it. As when the prairie is on fire, and floods of flame come sweeping along — there is no resisting, no escaping it. In the same way, none can resist, or escape from the devouring fire with which the day of judgment shall be ushered in.
The punishment will be eternal.
It is everlasting burnings.
It is unquenchable fire.
It will feed on sinners — but never consume them.
It will punish — but never annihilate them.
It will begin — but never end.
It is forever!
Yet the punishment is just. No one will suffer more than he deserves. Every sufferer's conscience will be satisfied that his punishment is his just due. No one will be able to charge God with cruelty or injustice; for God will have a witness in every man's bosom, that He is doing right. Every sufferer will be silenced with the conviction that he is only receiving the just reward of his deeds.
2. THE CHARACTERS DOOMED. "On that day the proud and the wicked will be burned up like stubble!"
"The proud." Proud professors — and proud worldlings. All who unduly value themselves, and despise others. All, who are too proud to submit to the righteousness of God, or to bow to be saved in the same way, by the same grace, as the thief on the cross, or the immoral woman. All who in the pride of their hearts reject the gospel, put away the invitations of the Savior, and refuse to be reconciled to God. All who despise the poor saints, on account of their poverty; or any of the Lord's little ones, on account of their infirmities. The proud always . . .
yield to Satan, and
grieve the Holy Spirit.
God resists the proud — but gives grace to the humble.
A proud sinner cannot be saved. Pride is the root — and wickedness is the fruit. The proud are always wicked, and therefore the proud, even all who do wickedness, are doomed to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire!
"The wicked." That is,
all who will not observe God's law, to walk by it,
all who will not embrace Christ's gospel, to be saved by it,
all who will not fly to the refuge, provided for the guilty.
3. THE DOOM. "They will be burned up like stubble!" They shall be as stubble dried by the eastern sun, on which the flame seizes, feeds, and strengthens.
They shall be fuel for everlasting burnings!
They shall be utterly consumed with terrors!
Their destruction shall be complete. "They will be consumed — roots, branches, and all!" It shall leave them no ROOT — no hope remaining. While there is a root, there is hope — but when the root is gone, there is no hope.
It shall leave them no BRANCH — there shall be no beauty left. All will be gloom, misery, and woe!
This is certain, for God Himself speaks. He speaks as the God of war, "Behold! The Lord Almighty says!" Here is . . .
majesty — but not mercy;
power — but not pity;
judgment — but not compassion!
How fearsome is divine majesty, stripped of mercy!
How dreadful is omnipotence, when there is no pity!
How direful is judgment, when there is no compassion!