Hebrews: Judgement’s Coming

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Its earliest origins were in the 1720s in a small Dutch Reformed Church in New Jersey, but the First Great Awakening caught fire in 1741 when Jonathan Edwards preached the sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edwards’ message revisited the biblical truth of God’s wrath on unbelievers. He reminded his listeners that all men are sinful creatures and under the condemnation of God. ButGod is withholding His righteous wrath so that all may have an opportunity to repent and turn in faith to Christ. Faced with the fearsome wrath of God, people fell trembling and wailing, “What must I do to be saved?” I wonder why people are not asking that question anymore.

The final subject in Hebrew’s “elementary teachings” is “eternal judgment” and I daresay that is even rarer today than it was in Edward’s day. We talked about God’s wrath when we dug into Hebrews 2:2-3 so I won’t belabor the point (I will post a link to that devotional in the comments) because there’s something else I want you to see. 

The writer had previously listed “the resurrection of the dead” as another foundational truth of the faith. The two are intrinsically linked. The church has claimed “resurrection from the dead” as something saved people have to look forward to, and rightly so. But Jesus didn’t teach resurrection as a “saved-only” deal. “A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29). The wicked will be raised also, but for the purpose of judgment and eternal punishment. Paul said, Those who do not know God (through Jesus) “will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord . . . on the day He comes to be glorified” (2 Thess. 1:9-10). Yes, God is infinite love, grace, and mercy, but He is also infinite holiness that cannot tolerate wickedness. The world needs to hear the whole gospel.

I ask the same question I’ve asked again and again throughout this section. What does the church know of this today? Very little. I say that because if we did every lost person in the church (yes, there are many) would be trembling and wailing, “What must I do to be saved?” And every saved person would be begging sinners to come to Christ. No one will be left in the grave – everyone has an eternal destiny. Beloved, your family members, neighbors, friends, and coworkers need to know.  Will you tell them?

Please Forgive Me (Part 9 in the Apostle’s Creed series)

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’”  Luke 23:34

 

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Crucified, dead and buried;

He descended into hell, The third day He rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand

of God the Father Almighty;

From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit; The Holy catholic Church;

The communion of saints; The forgiveness of sins;

 

I believe in the forgiveness of sins.  I am grateful to the depth of my soul for the forgiveness of my sins.  Let’s take a closer look at this part of the Apostle’s Creed.

Why do we need forgiveness?  Because we are creatures given to sin.  The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, committed what is known as the “original sin,” and mankind has born the burden of that sin ever since.  But surely, we don’t consider ourselves as “sinful.”  We are making “life-style choices,” living as the “free people” we are.  This is a new age, and the concept of “sin” is terribly outdated.  Our society has tried to deny the truth of sin, to call it less than what it is- a personal offense against God’s holiness.  It is the true story of the history of man.  Paul expressed it like this: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23). The penalty of sin?  “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23).

Well sure, we are all going to die, right?  But this is an eternal death that is best described in Revelation 21:8: “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murder, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This will be the second death.” I tried to find a nicer way to say it, but the Bible is very clear about the result of man’s sin.  If I water it down, I am not being faithful to the Word of God.  It’s not popular or “politically correct,” but hear Paul’s words: “For those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:8).

I hear you saying, “This is so depressing, I thought this was going to be about forgiveness.”  And it is, but we cannot understand and appreciate forgiveness until we understand the truth about sin.  When we are faced with the darkness of our sin, the glory of God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ shines like stars in the night sky.

Paul recognized the blackness of his sin in Romans 7:24 when he cried out: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from the body of death?” It is a question that has only one answer, and Paul followed his lament with a blessed proclamation: “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)

Jesus Christ is the answer to man’s sin problem.  He gave His perfect life as the only acceptable sacrifice for our sin.  He bought our forgiveness with His blood.  There was nothing you or I could do to gain forgiveness. Jesus did everything necessary for us to be forgiven and made right with God.  Romans 4:25 says “He [Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  To be justified means that we are declared innocent in God’s sight – “Just-if-I’d never sinned”  Paul goes on with this thought in Romans 5:9 – “Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!”   Do you see now why we needed a Savior? Forgiveness is possible only through Jesus Christ.

If Jesus did it all, what, then, is our part?  Peter tells us the most precious truth you and I will ever hear, “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” (Acts 10:43).  Simply believe.   Believe that you are a sinner, helpless against God’s wrath.  Believe that Jesus Christ paid your sin-debt and His sacrifice on the cross is all you need to be forgiven and made right with God.  1 John 1:9 makes this promise: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Sweet, glorious forgiveness from the merciful and loving heart of God, made possible by the sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ.  It can be yours right now, by praying this simple prayer:

God, I know that I am a sinner, and I cannot save myself.  Thank you for sending Jesus to take away all my sins. I accept Your gift of forgiveness today.  Thank you for giving me a new life in Christ.  Amen.