Early on Sunday Morning two millennia ago, the most terrifying sound the world will ever hear reverberated in the silence of a dark and sealed tomb. In the pierced pericardium of the Lord of Glory, just a whisper of truth, yet completely distinct, was the faint sound of a heartbeat. Undeniably this bruised, pierced, and suffering servant had defeated death; just as he said, he has risen (Matthew 28:6, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4). He was dead, but now he lives.
In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Spirit of holiness declared Jesus Christ to be the Son of God (Romans 1:4). This proved that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, the resurrection, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by him (John 11:25, 14:6). The hymn declares, "Shout it out, Jesus is alive, he's alive! O happy day!"
But beloved, the first thing we need to see is that for many, this is not a happy day, in the vindication of Jesus Christ in his resurrection (1 Timothy 3:16), he proved, just as Noah proved that the ark was a promise of impending doom (Hebrews 11:6), that God has far purer eyes than to look on sin (Habakkuk 1:13) and has provided just one way of salvation (Acts 4:12). The Holy Spirit came to convict people of sin because they do not believe on Jesus Christ (John 16:9) and to show them judgment because Satan was dealt a death-blow at the cross (John 16:11, cf John 12:31, Genesis 3:15, Romans 16:20). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a very bad day for most of the world, who have sought to dethrone him since the beginning, and seek to do so even today, but in his resurrection he has become King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16), and he is set to tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty (Revelation 19:15).
Many will end up cowering, hiding, fleeing from the Eternal King, desperate not to see his face (Revelation 6:15-17). Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and he will destroy it from the surface of the earth (Amos 9:8).
And we may say, "Right! That is what unbelievers should be doing, fleeing from God for their sin!" And I say Amen, and Amen! But beloved, let me show you some believers who reacted similarly; without grace and mercy we would all flee from the face of God!
Look at Judges 13, I'd wouldn't be exaggerating to say this is one of my favorite passages of scripture. "A man of God came to me (Manoah's Wife), and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome." The messenger of God brought very good news, news of a coming, yet temporary and deficient, messiah (Samson) to judge Israel and redeem them from the grip of the Philistines. A brief conversation ensues in which the messenger calls for a burnt offering to be sacrificed. When the sacrifice is made, the messenger makes it clear to them that he is Christ. 'They fell on their faces to the ground...Manoah knew that the speaker was the angel of the Lord. And Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, for we have seen God (Judges 13:20,21-22)!'"
Compare a moment when Isaiah sees God in a vision, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts (Isaiah 6:5)!"
And let's transfer to the New Testament, "Now as he (Saul, later the Apostle Paul) went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground... (Acts 9:3-4, cf Acts 22:6-7, 26:13-14)" Paul, zealous for his understanding of God, was put on his face, and not just him, but his companions who traveled with him.
The glory of Christ is powerful, on the night he was betrayed, a band of soldiers sought him, when he declared himself to be the I AM, "they drew back and fell to the ground (John 18:6)."
Balaam responded similarly (Numbers 22:31), as did the Magi (Matthew 2:11), demon possessed men (Mark 3:11), and a healed woman (Mark 5:33); simply seeing God has this distinct effect on people; he is of far purer eyes than to look on sin; in his endless burnings, who can stand (Isaiah 33:14)? Who can endure the heat of his anger (Nahum 1:6)?
Others fall farther and harder, Uzzah, perceiving his defiled hands as cleaner than the earth, touched the holy ark of God and fell dead (2 Samuel 6:6-7), as did Ananias and Sapphirah (Acts 5:5,10). God is holy and puts people on the ground willingly if possible, forcefully if necessary (Acts 5:11).
Apostles are not immune, Simon Peter saw the full glory of Jesus Christ and fell down at his knees, begging, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord (Luke 5:8)!"
This is not limited to earth; in Heaven the appointed authorities will bow willingly before the Lamb who was slain (Revelation 5:8).
Jesus Christ is the Light of the World (John 8:12), he has messengers whom he has declared to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), and when his glory shines through them, many fall down in their sinfulness (cf Revelation 19:10, 22:8, Acts 10:25, 16:29, 14:11-15). It is vitally important that we point them to the Righteous One who became sin for us, who bore our sins in his body, who fell down himself.
The night Jesus was crucified, under the weight of the condemnation that he was about to endure at the hands of his Father, he went to the Garden of Gethsemane, and "going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will' (Mark 14:35-36)." The second time he prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done (Matthew 26:42)." He prayed a third time (Matthew 26:44), knowing that to stand in the sight of God bearing the sin of the world would require an infinite payment, for each sin is costly, and unless the cup of the wine of the wrath of God were drained, the saints of God would be without hope. We cannot underestimate, nor even overestimate, the price which Jesus Christ paid for our souls.
Every fear which the previous mentioned prostrates had was well founded, God is of far purer eyes than that he can look on sin. Isaiah cried out in anguish, "Woe is me!" Manoah declared his sure ruin. Peter begged Christ to depart from his sinfulness. Ezekiel, a faithful prophet of God, though far from sinless, fell to the ground and wondered, "Ah, Lord God! Will you make a full end of the remnant of Israel (Ezekiel 11:13)?!" These fears were realized on the cross.
Jesus Christ was put to death as the wages of sin were paid out (Romans 6:23). He became a curse for us, as it is written "cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree (Galatians 3:13)." The sins of those who reproached God fell on Jesus Christ (Psalm 69:9), and the Father turned his back on the Son, causing him to pray the most heart-rending prayer in history, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani (Mark 15:34)?" And the only righteous man to ever live in all of history was put to a full end, it pleased is Father to crush him (Isaiah 53:10), he drained the well mixed cup of God's foaming wrath all the way down to the dregs (Psalm 75:8, Isaiah 51:17).
Manoah's wife prophesied oh so sweetly (which is why this is my favorite verse), "If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burn offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these (Judges 13:23)."
Jesus prayed, showing us the fulfillment, "This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs (Psalm 69:31)." Peter exposited, "Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know-this Jesus, delivered up according to the definitive plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men (Acts 2:22-23)."
Look at how this plays out in the Apostle John's life:
"I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet...I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw...one like the Son of Man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength (Revelation 1:10,12-16)."
John did what I would do, what you would do, what everyone will do, "When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead." But beloved, look at what happens next, "But he laid his right hand on me." He said, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades (Revelation 1:17-18)."
Beloved, if your view of Jesus does not put you on your face, does not cause you to weep for your ruin, for your sin against heaven, does not cause you to dive for cover in the deepest darkest hole you can find, then your jesus is probably made up, and idols cannot save you. But the Living Christ, who laid his hand on John, bore the scars of crucifixion (John 20:25,27-28), and is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17, Isaiah 63:1), able to save to the uttermost all those who draw near to him in faith, he always lives to make intercession for his saints (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus Christ was dead, crucified for lawless men, giving himself for his saints (Galatians 2:20), but he has been raised for our justification (Romans 4:25).
Therefore, beloved, this Easter, make sure your view of Jesus Christ terrifies you; he sees to the very center of your being and all of your thoughts, words, and deeds are laid bare (Hebrews 4:13, Ecclesiastes 12:24). Recognize that without his willful atonement, you would be without hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12), that your soul would be the cost, that Hell would gape wide to catch your fall; fall prostrate on your face in humility, confessing your sins against Heaven (2 Corinthians 7:10), and then look to the cross where the Lord of Glory died and where justice and love kissed; it is empty. Look to the tomb where hope was buried; it is empty. Christ is risen, he has condemned every false way: he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by him.
On the final day, every knee will bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11). Some will do so willingly, but many will do so out of abject terror and/or violence done to them by ministering angels. Beloved, bow willingly, in sorrow for your sin against Heaven, and God promises that he will lift up the humble (Psalm 147:6), but dear reader, if you wait, if you bow out of compulsion, know that God promises that he will cast the wicked to the ground (Psalm 147:6).
I promise that every face will touch the ground in the presence of Jesus Christ, he puts people on the ground. God has accepted the sacrifice of his beloved Son, he delivered him up by lawless men, he has delivered this message to you. He has no delight in the death of the wicked, so turn from sin and turn to the Resurrection and the Life, and live; may he lay his hand on your shoulder before Judgment Day and declare to you with all authority, "Fear Not."
In conclusion, there are two responses on Judgment Day, those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who will step forward willingly and in anticipation to meet Christ (1 John 2:28), and those who will flee in terror (Revelation 6:15-17); there is no middle option. May your sins have been to a cross two-thousand years ago, may you trust in Jesus Christ, and may the fact that his pierced heart is beating today prove to be your comfort and not your condemnation.