Why doesn't God do something when terrorists are bombing, murderers are killing and child molesters are raping? There's isn't a quick, easy answer to this question. But we can at least say that God WILL do something. The scales will be balanced and there will be accountability and appropriate punishment. Every sin, every thought or action that falls short of perfection, will be accounted for.
You might be thinking this is bad news for the human race, and you're right. In our natural state, none of us are fit for heaven. Heaven is a perfect place, and it lasts forever, so it SHOULD be perfect! If it was anything less than perfect, it would only be a matter of time before we hurt each other and bring pain and selfishness back into our lives. For heaven to be "heaven", it has to be nothing less than perfect, filled with perfect people, ruled by a perfect God. And we simply aren't qualified to live there. (Romans 3:10,12, 23)
But if we choose to know God, we become qualified. Not because we earned it by our faith, but because God changes us in response to our faith. Because he loves us. (Romans 10:9-13) It's a gift. (Romans 6:23, boy we probably ought to look at Romans, sometime, huh?)
But is it really our choice to know God or not? What about the guy in the deep jungles of Africa? Will God condemn him for his ignorance? Is that was verse 8 of this chapter means? According to the Bible, everyone has knowledge of God on some level at some time in their lives. However, we can make the choice to ignore that knowledge and replace it with lies, believeing what's comfortable or whatever we want to believe instead of pursuing truth. (Romans 1:18-25) So everyone knows "enough" to either pursue knowing God or ignore him. Because of this fact of the universe, all who choose not to know God will have their choice respected even by God. But the consequences are more severe than we can imagine.
Verse 8 says that "those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" will pay the penalty of "eternal destruction". To the casual reader, this may seem harsh. But I believe that's because we don't really understand the worth of God. To even begin to understand this, we have to run a self-diagnostic and repair our thinking a little bit.
If we execute a serial murderer, our reaction may not be very strong(debates over the death penalty aside). If someone kills a "Mother Teresa", however, we are outraged. It doesn't seem right for bad things to happen to "good" people. But God is perfect. Think about that. Perfect. To us, perfect is just an idea. Something to aspire to. But we really don't know what perfect is like, because we've never experienced anything that is truly perfect; that could not be any better by any stretch of our wildest imaginings. But God IS perfect. His worth is infinite. So when He is treated badly in any way, it is an evil beyond what we can comprehend. Choosing to ignore God, the maker and sustainer of every moment we can call good, is the ultimate evil.
That form of evil, along with all others that rank beneath it, will be punished and dealt with by God. And because this kind of evil is immeasurable, the punishment will be also, lasting forever.
I'll admit, this is not happy stuff to think about. It would be much more pleasant to ignore this part of the Bible. But if we did, it would misrepresent the perfection and justice of God. If we ignore this, we ultimately have to devalue his incredible, mind-boggling love. Because God knows we're broken and he knows we run from him at every opportunity. But if we choose to know him, he will fix us and ultimately make us perfect like him.
In verse 10, we see that Jesus will be glorified in his "saints"(and that word means EVERYONE who is being "set apart" for him, not just a list composed by organized religion) when he returns. The people that have chosen to know God will be examples to the universe of God's amazing forgiveness, love and ability to make broken things perfect like he is.
(As a side note, when you look at verse 11, be sure to look at the notes from last week relating to verse 5.)
When Jesus finally makes us perfect, we will be "glorified" along with him. The Greek word used here for "glorified" means that Jesus will be recognized for all that He is and we will be recognized by every living thing in the universe for the incredible beings that Christ recreates us to be. It will be the most spectacular thing anyone has ever experienced!
A lot of mind-mending stuff to think about, and we've really just scratched the surface. Unfortunately, if we want to keep going, we've gotta keep going!
Next time, we see what else we can learn about the future in Chapter 2!
Coffee House Question-
What do you imagine heaven might be like?
What do you imagine heaven might be like?