Daniel describes judgement day in the celestial courtroom. An angel brings out a magnificent throne and sets it in place. Then another throne is brought out and set in place. Soon to follow was another throne and another throne after that until finally four thrones are placed in a circle. The thrones are set in place and the elders take their seats. Yet they are not the focal point of this vision. The interplay of light and shadows pulls our eye elsewhere until we notice there in the middle of the circle stands another throne. This one is different from the others. It is ablaze with fire. The throne in the center has wheels like a war chariot. The wheels, like the chariot itself, are burning fire. And as we watch we see an Ancient One take his throne; his clothing is white as snow, and the hair of his head is like pure wool. The color white has always symbolized holiness. God, the Holy One of Israel, as we might expect is dressed in a clean white robe. Even the Lord God's hair communicates holiness for it is white like wool. This Holy one of Israel, He is able to take His seat on the flaming throne of justice.
Now Daniel looks around the celestial courtroom and notices the attendants of the Lord. In his vision, Daniel saw that thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. They are God's holy angels and ten thousand times ten thousands, one hundred million angels await God's command. When the verdict is read, when judgment is pronounced, the angels will carry out the sentence. What a glow of heavenly light there must have been surrounding the twenty-four thrones and the Ancient of Days. What a vision of power. It leaves us flabbergasted.
The scene is now set and the action begins. The court is seated and the books are opened. Envision the Lord God putting a hand on the cover of a book and slowly the book is opened. The book contains the irrefutable evidence of peoples' lives. Not a word has been unheard not a thought has been left unrecorded. Now the vision turns from awe into fear. An awesome God, seated in a flaming chariot, surrounded by powerful angels and he has the unedited book of people's lives. That book will be opened. The evidence will be presented. It will be admitted. Based on that evidence an eternal, non-pardonable, irrevocable verdict will be rendered. At this point we may feel a sense of fear arising in the pit of our stomach. None of us wants to be judged and especially not by God. If that was the final thing Daniel had to say we would leave here in fear and trembling because there is none of us who is perfect. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Just when we are falling into fearful despair another character appears in the vision.
This one looks like a human being and we recognize this person as Jesus Christ our Lord.
When we see Jesus in the celestial courtroom we immediately remember another vision of Jesus before a throne. There are two characters in this vision. There is Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea. And there is Jesus Christ, described in the previous vision as "one like a human being."
Pilate walks back into the palace and calls for Jesus. He says, "Are you the 'King of the Jews'?"
Jesus answers, "Are you saying this on your own, or did others tell you this about me?"
Pilate says, "Do I look like a Jew? Your people and your high priests turned you over to me. What did you do?"
"My kingdom," says Jesus, "is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here."
Then Pilate says, "So, are you a king or not?"
Jesus answers, "You tell me. Because I am King, I was born and entered the world so that I could witness to the truth. Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice." (John 18:36-37, MSG & NRSV)
We see Jesus on trial before a Roman Governor. And the eternal judge, Jesus, will be tried and sentenced and crucified for our sins so that when we stand before Jesus and he sits on the throne of judgement, and the book of our life is opened, and Jesus calls our name, and we dare to glance up into his eyes, we will see there only love. Only love. And we will walk away free men and free women. The good news of the gospel is that the cards are stacked in our favor. When it comes to judgement day, the Lord God is dealing from a stacked deck and the cards are stacked in our favor. Our judge is named Redeemer!
Here at the end of the church year, after living through another cycle of hearing the story of Jesus' life, of being taught by him in miracle and parable, we come to the end of another cycle of the liturgical year. After another year of living our lives, burying our dead, baptizing our babies, struggling and thriving, we bring all of the year's experiences to the climax of this day. We lay it all back at the feet of Jesus, the one who stood trial for us so that when we are judged in the celestial courtroom we will stand a chance. Thanks to Jesus, our King and our Redeemer, we stand a chance we stand before the judgement seat of God.