Editorial: July 2011
An Italian history professor recently claimed that the Roman Empire fell due to the rise of homosexuality. The historian, Robert De Mattei, said in a radio interview: "The collapse of the Roman Empire and the arrival of the Barbarians were due to the spread of homosexuality. The Roman colony of Carthage was a paradise for homosexuals and they infected many others. The invasion of the Barbarians was seen as punishment for this moral transgression." He went on to add that the Japanese tsunami was divine punishment. Some fellow historians have expressed their outrage over Robertís claims. Whether Robert was right or not, the Word of God is very clear in stating categorically that effeminate men and homosexuals have no place in the Kingdom of God. They are marked out long ago for eternal punishment.
The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah was great and their sin was very grave (Gen.18:20). "The men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter surrounded the house (of Lot) and called to Lot and said, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally'" (Gen.19:4-5). These cities were among the widely known of ancient times for their wickedness and final destruction. We read that "Smoke went up like the smoke of a furnace from Sodom and Gomorrah and all the land of the plain, when God destroyed the lands of the plain" (Gen. 19:28,29). Jude says that "Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire" (v.7).
Jude has given two more examples from the Old Testament of the punishment meted out by God to ungodly people. "The Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, destroyed those who did not believe" (v.5). These were people who had witnessed the plagues in Egypt and escaped from the slaughter of the first born. They had all partaken from the Passover Feast and seen the deliverance through the Red Sea. But they did not all enter the Promised Land. They were destroyed on the way because of unbelief. The angels, who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgement of the great day (V 6). Even supreme heights of spiritual attainment are no guarantee of ultimate victory. Contending for the faith in a consistent, persistent and victorious walk with God is essential. Praying the sinnersí prayer is not enough. Those who are tempted to follow in the footsteps of those who rebelled, should see what is in store for the wicked, regardless of their former attainments.
Jude is reminding through these three examples that the ungodly men, who turn the grace of God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ, are marked out for condemnation. He goes on to say in verse 13 that blackness of darkness is reserved for them forever. Though he speaks of judgement and punishment, he is careful to point out that the true believer is preserved in Christ. Bible insists that sin does not go unpunished and God will judge. Sin necessarily and inevitably involves punishment. Being a holy and righteous judge, God must punish sin (Jn.5:26-29, Rom.2:1-6). In an ultimate sense, God will see that this is done. But, temporarily the obligation is on the governmental authorities to ensure that wrong-doers are punished. It is widely accepted also that the punishment should be proportionate to the crime. William Barclay warned of "the permanent truth that no man and no nation can escape the consequences of their sin."
The New Testament does not indicate that the punishment of sin ever ceases. All will live eternally-in heaven or hell (Jn.5:28-29). Enochís prophecy confirms that the punishment of people characterised by ungodliness is certain (Jude 14,15). If we follow Jesus Christ, we will live eternally with Him. If we reject Christ, we will live eternally where Satan abides.
No one had believed Noahís revelation that the Flood would come and destroy the world. Similarly, in our time, the unbelieving world refuses to embrace the literal return of Jesus Christ.
In the New Testament, Ďpunishmentí is not as common as Ďcondemnation.í To be condemned is sufficient, since punishment is implied. The removal of punishment is brought about by the atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ (Heb.9:28, 1 Pet.2:24). In the light of the cross, the mercy of God reaches as far as mercy can reach. God has done all that can be done for manís salvation. Beyond that is the permanence of the doom of the wicked.
Godís judgement will come. It is certain. The Bible makes it clear. "For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed" (Acts 17:31). Sincere repentance is our only hope.
For some people, including some top Bible teachers, it is difficult to reconcile the idea of eternal hell with the love of God. They teach that grace permits them to live as they pleased. There were such people in the Church right from the first century. This is total perversion of the grace of God. Twisting of the doctrine of grace, they feel that no care is needed in their personal lives. The Biblical truth of justification by faith is misinterpreted to mean justification to sin, rather than justification from sin. They think that grace implies a change in Godís mind, rather than a change in human nature, experience and conduct. The doctrine of grace is thus perverted into a pretext for sinning. They think that the more sin they commit, the more grace they will receive. This is exactly opposite to what Paul says in Romans 6:1-2, "Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?"
Many of us want it both ways. We ally with God when it suits our purpose, and then sup with the devil. But, as in the US raid on May 1, our double games and duplicity will be revealed shortly in real life.
As a just God, He condemns the wicked. Godís holiness and righteousness are not separate from His love. He has therefore provided a way of salvation. Those who repent are forgiven and receive eternal life. Christ bears the punishment for their sins (Heb.9:28, 1 Pet.2:24). Those who refuse to repent remain unforgiven and suffer eternal punishment (Matt.25:46, 2 Thess.1:9). God cannot treat evil as if it does not matter. Awful doom awaits those who reject Christ, live ungodly lives and teach Satanís lies, still believing that they are saved. The ultimate fate of the wicked is eternal punishment; however, we now have no way of knowing what exactly that punishment is. If you live ungodly lives, you will experience it first hand in a while. So, if you do not want the punishment, repent. Scripture uses many symbolic terms to refer to the realities beyond the grave. "The hell of fire" (Matt.5:22), "eternal fire" (Matt.18:8), "the unquenchable fire" (Mk.9:43), "the outer darkness" (Matt.8:12), "the worm that does not die" (Mk.9:48), "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Lk.13:28), "being sentenced to hell" (Matt.23:33), being 'lost' (Matt.10:6), 'perishing' (1 Cor.1:18), are some of those. With such a variety of terms, it is not advisable to press one of them as if it gives a complete picture. We should also not succumb to the sentimental demand to water down the expressions.
False teachers deliberately teach lies in the hope of promoting themselves and getting financial gain. They live in sin to please themselves. They use deceptive means and twist the Word of God to suit their fancies. These false teachers will be destroyed. But God will preserve and deliver His true saints, as He did with Noah and his family, and Lot. The false teachers may seem to be successful and protected, but their punishment will come like labour pains upon a pregnant woman (1 Thess.5:3).
Christ on the cross absorbed the wrath of God. Everyone who is united to Him by faith is forgiven of their sins and counted righteous in Christ and has eternal life. This is the most important news in the entire universe, the Good News.
When the Gospel takes root in our souls, it impels us outward to all the unjust human suffering. It awakens us also to the horrible reality of eternal suffering in hell under the wrath of a just God. It impels us to rescue the perishing from the wrath to come. The cosmic purpose of God is to display the infinite glory of His wisdom to the authorities and the rulers. God has chosen that some of His servants suffer and be imprisoned as a way of bringing about His purpose. Paul asks us not to lose heart over what he is suffering. He wants us to see his sufferings as our glory (Eph.3:13). By this, God is displaying His infinite wisdom. "He is infinitely wise in magnifying a people for His name through the glory of the unsearchable riches of His Son through the suffering of His emissaries." For the sake of Christ, we should care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering. As John Piper points out, Christ does not want us to choose between the alleviation of unjust human suffering now and pouring out your life to rescue the perishing from everlasting suffering. The latter suffering, according to Piper, is "10 million times worse than anything anybody will ever experience in this world." Resistance to the fact of eternal suffering can only be due to a "defective view of hell." If we do not care about human suffering now, most likely, we have a "defective heart."
When Paul was willing to go to prison for the sake of Christ, he showed that Christ is more precious than freedom, comfort, security and prosperity. The infinite value of the wisdom of God is revealed not in the prosperity of Paul, but in Paulís pain, in his prison for the spread of the Gospel and the extension of Godís Kingdom, thereby saving many from eternal punishment. This is the wisdom of the cross and we are called to pick up our crosses and display to the world that we treasure Christ more than any human comfort.
In our willingness to suffer in our pain, we draw our neighbours to see the beauty, value and glory of the unreachable riches of Christ and our suffering becomes the glory of the nations through the Gospel. Paul says, "I count everything as loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil.3:8). This can happen only when divine, supernatural, sovereign power breaks into our lives with the burden to save the world from eternal punishment. May we be burdened with this to surrender ourselves to Godís will.
We must deal drastically with sin in our lives, both for our sake and for the sake of others. The fires of hell are real and everlasting. Jesus compared hell to a furnace (Matt.13:42) and an unquenchable fire. Lost souls will suffer in hell for ever. Do we have a love for the lost, or are we only concerned about being the Ďgreatestí? It is important that we be salt of the earth and maintain true Christian character and integrity so as to save others from eternal punishment.