TODAY’S READING: Job 21–24
All cultures and all peoples share the common idea of a day of reckoning. All cultures eventually decline, and all societies have some type of prophecy, mythology, theology, or belief of an end to the world as it’s known. Frustration with the wicked thriving in this world (21:9, 17) is universally balanced with an expectation of doomsday. One day the wicked will get what they deserve. Job put it this way: “For the wicked are reserved for the day of doom; they shall be brought out on the day of wrath” (v. 30). Job tells himself, his friends, and us that this life and this history of the world will never see lasting justice. We might as well get used to dealing with injustice frequently (without resigning ourselves to it), for lasting justice will only come on doomsday, on the day of wrath.
The day of wrath is terrifying because every honest person realizes he nurtures a bit of his own evil within. It is one thing to cheer on doomsday because the wicked—some heinous other people out there—get what they deserve on that day. It’s another thing to cheer on your own doom. Job wrestles with this tension. He wants the obviously evil to be dealt with severely, but what does that mean for me, for us, the quiet and surreptitiously sinful? Job says of God and that day of doom: “He performs what is appointed for me…. Therefore I am terrified at His presence; when I consider this, I am afraid of Him, and the Almighty terrifies me” (23: 14–16). And we all should be likewise terrified.
The Bible story is a missions story. The missions story is an eschatological story. There is an end coming to life on this world as we know it. This world and our human history is going to end calamitously on a day of doom, a day of judgment. On that day, the wicked will finally get what they deserve. And all the righteous will cheer on that day. But those cheers are restrained and ultimately self-silenced by all the honest righteous because they must confess they have a little bit of ugly in them. The terror of God we wish on others is the very terror we deserve ourselves.
Missions cannot be removed from the Second Coming, but the Second Coming is both a day of joyful justice and wrathful doom. The sober Christian cannot think of that day without both crying and laughing. It is this sobriety that urgently launches the missionary out to the peoples of the world shouting out a message of warning and invitation: “Doomsday is coming. It is a great and terrible day. It will cause joy and tears. Come stand with me under the loving protection of the One who has swallowed the wrath of God for us all. Come worship with me the One whose mercy protects us from the justice we plead for, the very justice we deserve.”