The Arms of Love or the Chains of Judgment
I write this with the knowledge that some will not take it well. But in this time that threatens the lives of so many, we need to consider this truth. And it would be criminal for me and any Christian to not share the Gospel to those who need it.
I’m not saying it’s the end of the world, but it might be. I’m not saying that it’s the apocalypse. I know I don’t know God’s timing, so we need to be prepared. It is a time of world terror by means of a virus. And while it might not lead to the second coming of Christ, we don’t know. But we do know is that a lot of people are dying from this disease. For many it is their own apocalypse where their world ends and death comes.
To be clear, I am not driving you to fear. I am not trying to scare you. I am making an honest appeal that will make you think about eternal matters.
According to the Bible, there are only two kinds of people in the world; those who are in the arms of love and those who are confined by the chains of Judgment. We do not like the idea of judgment. So many have abused Scripture by announcing that we “can’t judge them,” as if that makes everything okay. That view does not free us from the chains of judgment. Self-justification cannot save us. We become our own stumbling block.
On the other hand, there are many kept from the Gospel by others. Some have been abused by parents, a pastor, a neighbor, a church, who have bludgeoned you with the Bible as their weapon and using their own sick mind as their law. But I beg you not to let these things, as bad as they are, prevent you from discovering the promises of God.
The kind of judgment, which is the subject here, is the final judgment that God will make against all the earth. Consider this familiar passage of Scripture.
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (Jn. 3:16-18 ESV)
We like to cite John 3: 16 because it highlights the love of God. We tend to think that God’s love is a permissive love. I’m okay. Everything is fine. God loves me no matter what I say and do. This view does not understand the human condition, nor does it understand the love of God or the judgment of God. We are in great need of a savior who saves us from ourselves.
Look at verse 18, “whoever does not believe is condemned already.” Why are they condemned? Because they reject Jesus, they have not believed in the son of God.
We are sinners and people don’t like that pronouncement. We are not so bad, are we? Besides, we don’t want someone to lord over us. We want our independence. We don’t want God telling us what to do. This is the sinful nature, the rebellious nature of humanity. We are all sinners who reject God. We ignore all passages of scripture that says when Jesus returns, he will judge us. And the standard for his judgment is himself, the divine King.
The good news is that God has loved humankind and has gone to extraordinary lengths to save us, to remove our condemnation. God has become flesh to be our savior.
There are many attributes of God We like to talk about the one attribute that says God is Love. But the attribute that is used early in Scripture, from the Old Testament through the New Testament, and used most often is God is Holy. He is completely different from us even though we are made in God’s image. God’s holiness contains his purity, his righteousness, His grace, mercy, and love. All these attributes are the expression of his holiness.
We cannot stand before God’s holiness without being destroyed. The reason is, he is so holy and we are so sinful and cannot bear his purity and righteousness. God hides his face from us, lest we be destroyed, which is grace itself. We are lawbreakers, we have violated the very law of God. The penalty of breaking the law is death. Even though we are already judged, God continues to protect us from his holiness. There are plenty of examples of man’s encounters with God, and God hides his face from them. Some examples, Moses at the burning bush, the children of Israel when they meet God at Mt Sinai, or the experience of God’s holiness by Isaiah in the temple. God, out of his mercy, shields us from his holiness.
Our state of existence, according to John 3 is that we are condemned in our sins. This is the state of existence from which we need to be saved. We can’t get out of this situation on our own. We can’t sweet talk God, we can’t pay restitution, nor can we do enough good works to please God. So, what are we to do? We usually react to this knowledge with rebellion and hatred of God. Or, we deceive ourselves thinking that in the end, God will love us anyway. But we really do know better. The fact remains, we are chained to judgment. Our natural state is that we are condemned, and we cannot change our status by our own terms.
However, God has done something on our behalf. This is the good news. God became flesh so that he might bear our penalty and remove our sin from us through the power of the cross. He became our substitute. The Old Testament word for this is atonement. By the shedding of his sinless blood, his sacrifice covers us, and our sins are washed away forever.
Atonement has a long history in the Bible. The day of atonement was a time God set aside for Israel to understand their need for a savior. On that day, the high priest took the blood from a bull and spread it on the mercy seat, the top of the Ark of the Covenant. You can read about this in Leviticus 16:1–34. This ritual symbolized the forgiveness of sin because of the blood sacrifice. It pointed to the day when Jesus would be our once and for all time Atonement through his shedding his blood on the cross.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,
20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,
21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. (Heb. 10:19-23 ESV)
We acquire this salvation by believing that God has paid our price and through his death, burial, and resurrection. He bought us out of the bondage of our judgment and gave us eternal life. Now we follow the One who loves us instead of being judged by him. It’s that simple and it is that complex. We understand the simple gospel. We come by faith to Jesus. Faith is the evidence of what God has done for us and we believe his actions are for us, and we act on that knowledge by trusting in Christ. We need to understand that God is calling us. He has taken the steps toward us, something we would never do. When our hearts are moved to come to Christ, we can be sure that God has been working on us. Like the first disciples, Jesus says to us, come follow me.
I was reminded of a hymn we use to sing in church. It was from the old Baptist Hymnal, What if it were Today?
Jesus is coming to earth again–
What if it were today?
Coming in power and love to reign–
What if it were today?
Coming to claim His chosen Bride,
All the redeemed and purified,
Over this whole earth scattered wide–
What if it were today?
In dangerous times like we are experiencing, we ought to think of ultimate things, our life and meaning. We should consider our place in God’s world. And we should ponder the fact that Christ will return and those who follow him will be transformed, making us fit for heaven. And what of those who do not follow Christ, eternal separation from God which the Bible calls hell.
Both the arms of love and the chains of judgment have eternity bound to them. Both are cause for serious thinking.
A threatening virus causes us to think about eternal matters. If we turn to the things of God, then our time has not been wasted.