abortion, Biblical truth, Christianity, destruction of family, evil, Gospel of Jesus Christ, repentance, salvation, same-sex marriage, sin, US Supreme Court
A powerful message from Pastor John McArthur of Grace To You:
We Will Not Bow
Also available in audio form here, or download it here, courtesy of Grace To You Ministries (provided here with permission in line with GTY’s Terms and Conditions for sharing GTY content).
Here is the transcript:
A lot is happening at a very rapid rate. And with all the discussion that’s been going on, I’ve been kind of eager to get to you, and maybe help to give you a perspective. And I know that there have been comments made from this pulpit—exceptionally helpful, clear, well-chosen comments on the issues that face our country today. But I need to just kind of add some of my own insights and perceptions, and then direct you to a particular portion of Scripture.
This country talks a lot about terrorist attacks—and rightly so. Almost anybody in America can give you some kind of a listing of the most destructive acts of terror that have happened in our country. But let me suggest to you this: The two greatest attacks of terror on America were perpetrated by the Supreme Court. Not by any Muslim, but by the Supreme Court of the United States. The first one was the legalizing of abortion. Subsequent to that, there have been millions of babies slaughtered in the wombs of their mothers. It’s incalculable to even comprehend that. The blood of those lives cries out from the ground for divine vengeance on this nation.
The second great act of terror perpetrated by the Supreme Court was the legalization of same-sex marriage. The destruction of human life in the womb—in a sense, the destruction of motherhood—and now the destruction of the family itself. No bomb, no explosion, no attack, and no assault on people physically can come anywhere near that kind of terrorism. Our country is being terrorized by the people most responsible to protect it—those who are to uphold the law.
Just a few comments beyond that. No human court has the authority to redefine morality. But this human court has said murder is not murder; and marriage is not marriage; and family is not family. They have usurped the authority that belongs only to God, who is the creator of life, marriage, and family. Any and all attempts to define morality differently than God has is a form of rebellion and blasphemy—blasphemy against God, against His holy nature, and His holy law, and His holy people.
This nation, at its highest level, has taken a position against God. Such blasphemous rebellion is energized—it is energized by the corruption of the collection of sinful hearts, which make up this nation or any nation. There’s no question about that. But behind that collection of sinful, corrupt, human hearts—that make this kind of thing possible and acceptable—is the realm of Satan and demons. The Bible says Satan holds the whole world in his hands; the whole world lies in the lap of the evil one.
God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and the Bible, and the church, and truth are the enemies of Satan. And Satan rules the world. He rules the world of sinners. And he has his power in high places. He is the ruler of the kingdom of darkness, and he hates and seeks to destroy all that is light, all that is truth, all that is pure, all that is holy, all that is virtuous, and all that is good.
I’m saying all of this to let you know that you don’t need to be surprised. I admit, that for a few hundred year America had a very rare reprieve from this normal kind of conflict that most of the world has always known. But that reprieve has come to a screeching halt. And I want to remind you that homosexuality, homosexual marriage, gender transition—these are not the real battlegrounds. The real battle ground is against God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and the Bible, and the church, and the gospel. Any blasphemy against God comes from God haters, Christ haters, Bible haters, gospel haters. And they are fueled by the arch-hater, Satan himself.
Since marriage is vital to God’s design, for ordered society, sensible civilization—civilization able to enjoy common grace—since marriage is, by God’s design, His way to pass on order, to pass on peace, to pass on temporal blessing, and even to pass on righteousness from one generation to the next, family has always been under assault, under assault.
Since Genesis, God makes it very clear: He made them male and female—male, female. Nothing in the middle. Male, female. He said marriage is when a male and female come together and create a union for life and have children. That’s marriage. But you don’t get very far in Genesis until you run into polygamy, incest, prostitution, rampant homosexuality by the nineteenth chapter of Genesis. All the deviations, all the perversions are in the book of Genesis—after the Fall.
These have always been the corruptions that have marked human society. Again, in America and the Western world, we’ve had a bit of a reprieve because of the prevailing influence of Christian morality. The objective of Satan, the objective of demons, and consequently, the objective of all who are the subjects of Satan—the children of Satan, as they’re called in Scripture—is to destroy everything that God has made. They are the enemies of God and Christ and the truth of Scripture and the gospel.
The objective is not simply to redefine gender. The objective is not simply to redefine marriage. The objective is to destroy what God has designed.
Families provide a small, sovereign unit that acts as a small barrier against the corruption that seeks to dominate. Shatter the family, destroy the family and the small sovereign barrier is disintegrated. And by the way, the goal in all of this—you need to be reading to see this—the goal in all of this is not homosexual, same-sex marriage. The goal is the total elimination of all marriage, which then means you don’t possess any privacy. You don’t have that small, sovereign unit, and your children are not yours. They’re public children and they belong to the education system; and they belong to the country; and they belong to the village—but not to you. And so, when they’re fifteen in the state of Oregon they can have a sex change without telling their parents—and the state will do it and pay for it.
This is not about same-sex marriage. This is about the total obliteration of the family. So that there will be no more family, no more covenants. No more private, sovereign units that stand up against the corruption. If you go back to contraception, you go back to where this all began. It is the product, admittedly, of the feminist movement. Go back through contraception; now when contraception comes in, you have sex without children. For the first time, the greatest restraint against having sex is eliminated. The greatest natural restraint against having sex with just anybody any time was children will be produced possibly.
So, contraception comes along and you can have sex without children. But that’s not enough; that doesn’t cover enough ground because that’s not complete enough, so you add abortion. And now you can have sex without children and if it misses and you do have a child conceived, just kill it.
We’ve come all the way from sex without children to, listen to this, children without sex. You can manufacture a baby. Two lesbians can have a baby. A lesbian can have planted in her womb a living being from somebody else. Children can be manufactured. The normal reason for marriage, a man and a woman coming together to produce children, has been completely convoluted. Most people, it seems to me, would rather have a dog. So now you can have sex without children, and now you can have children without sex. You can just make them. Why do you need a family? Why do you need a husband? Why do you need a wife?
We’re at about fifty percent of children in America now are born without married parents. It’s going to get worse and worse and worse as marriage disappears. Why get married? Too many complications. Too many questions. Too binding. People say, “Well the government shouldn’t even be in this.” You’re right, the government should be in this, and they’ll get out of it fast enough. And people will be able to make any kind of contract they want, make any arrangement they want. Same sex. Opposite sex. Polygamy. People will—you watch—marry their dogs, their horses. Because Satan just wants to completely obliterate marriage.
It’s not new. It’s Genesis 19. Homosexuality. And God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah over this sin. They tried to rape angels in Sodom—angels who took on human form to come to Sodom. The homosexuals in Sodom were blinded by God and in their blindness they tried to rape the angels. The Old Testament is not unclear on this issue. Let me just read something to you that maybe you don’t know exists. It’s in Deuteronomy, chapter 22—I’ll just read it to you—verse 5: “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing.” Is that hard to understand? “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”
Transvestism, as it used to be called, is not new. By the way, it is an abomination. That abomination is the exact same word used in Leviticus 18 to refer to homosexuality.
There were men who wanted to dress like women then. There were women who wanted to dress like men. Actually, Deuteronomy 22:5 is more general than clothing. The Hebrew actually says, “It’s not right to wear or to take on to oneself that which appertains to a man.” Anything that is male a female should not adopt; anything that is female a male should not adopt.
There were even people in ancient times, referred to in the book of Deuteronomy who were emasculated—who were deprived of their male-ness, involuntarily or voluntarily. Deuteronomy 23:1 says, any emasculated man was forbidden to enter the assembly of the Lord, forbidden to enter the assembly of the Lord.
These kinds of sins that blur the clear distinction between male and female are satanic. And by the way, no feature of pagan society—no feature of pagan society in ancient times—filled the Jews with greater loathing than the toleration or admiration of homosexuality. They understood what the Old Testament said. The Old Testament specifically prohibits it. Do not lie with a man as a man lies with a woman. That is detestable. Leviticus 18:22. First Corinthians 6:9–10, the New Testament says the same thing: Homosexuals and effeminate shall not inherit the kingdom of God. It is not an alternate lifestyle; it is a deviation. It is a perversion. It is a corruption.
It happens in a fallen world, admittedly. This is a fallen world; corruption is accumulative. You notice that. Evil men get worse and worse. Accumulated corruption leaves room for everything happening. You say, “Well, some of these people feel very strongly about same-sex attraction.” Of course they do, it’s a fallen world. It’s a corrupt and perverted world. And there are more and more feeling less and less guilty because we’re making it possible for them to feel less and less guilty.
In Hellenistic literature of the Roman period, around the New Testament, they knew what it meant—the word “effeminate” in 1 Corinthians 6 in Greek is the work malakos. It is the word for “soft.” Soft. Paul uses two words, arsenokoitēs, which is “homosexual,” and “effeminate,” which is “soft.”
What is the difference? Homosexual is the sodomizer. And the effeminate is the one sodomized. That’s both sides of the homosexual behavior. From the classical period to Phyllo—and Phyllo, I think, lived 50 B.C. into, say, 25 A.D. —from the classical period to Phyllo, the Jewish scholar, extreme distaste is expressed in all Greek and Hellenistic literature—as well as Jewish literature—Phyllo says, “For the effeminate male who uses cosmetics and the coiffuring of the hair.” And Phyllo sometimes takes a word, and he uses that word of them, and it is this word: undragunos. “Androgynous”—male, female.
Listen to a translation of Phyllo: “Another evil, much greater than that which we have already mentioned, has made its way among, and been let loose upon cities, namely the love of boys, which formally was accounted a great infamy, even to be spoken of, but which since is a subject of boasting—not only to those who practice it, but even to those who suffer it. And who being accustomed to bearing the affliction of being treated like women waste away as to their souls and bodies, not bearing about them a single spark of manly character to be kindled into a flame. But having even the hair of their heads conspicuously curled and adorned, and having their faces smeared with vermillion and paint and things of that kind, and having their eyes penciled beneath, and having their skin anointed with fragrant perfumes, it is all a most seductive quality. And then being well appointed in everything that tends to beauty or elegance—and they are not ashamed to devote their constant study and endeavors to the task of changing their manly character into an effeminate one.” Nothing new. Nothing new.
It was revulsion that was the ancient response to that. Now was this sin so horrible that forgiveness was not possible? Turn to Isaiah 56, Isaiah 56. Verse 1: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Preserve justice and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come And My righteousness to be revealed. How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it; who keeps from profaning the sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.’ Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely separate me from His people.’ Nor let the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’ For thus says the Lord, ‘To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters;’ and listen to this, ‘I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off.’” Wow, what a word picture. Even the eunuchs who were forbidden to enter the worship of God, the homosexuals who were scorned by people, find with God forgiveness and an everlasting name.
And then 1 Corinthians 6, we need also to look at that. First Corinthians 6, verse 9: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate”—the malakos, the soft side—“nor homosexuals”—the aggressive male side—“nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” Then this in verse 11, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” Both Isaiah, speaking for God, Paul, speaking for God, offers salvation to sinners. Even to those who have fallen to this vile, perverted, destructive sin.
Now as I have been telling you, in America we’re seeing an aggressive expansion of this sin. I’ve been around a long time; it’s always been there. As a young man, even in the early years of ministry here, it was spoken of—this kind of behavior, transvestism or gender confusion or homosexuality—it was spoken of in whispers and hushes. Not anymore; it’s everywhere. The President, leaders of the nation, the Supreme Court, all affirm the nobility of this, the morality of it.
And that leads me to believe that we’re now living in Romans 1. I’ve told you that. How do you know when the wrath of God is released? How do you know when the wrath of God is unleashed against a society? First, Romans 1:24, there is a sexual revolution. We’ve had that—in the 60s, the last century. Then there will be a homosexual revolution led by lesbians. The women are mentioned first in Romans 1:26. And then there will be the reprobate mind. And that’s when the thinking is really the product of the sexual, homosexual revolutions, and the thinking is so corrupt we can’t find our way back. That’s where we are.
The people in our country tasked with the responsibility of thinking clearly for everybody else—the President, the leaders, the Supreme Court, those who are supposed to be the most clear-minded, clear-headed, who have the greatest responsibility to protect this nation—they literally can’t think straight. The reprobate mind has ascended the bench.
I received a letter from a judge this week—a very significant judge in a very significant court. And he said in his letter, “One of the duties of a judge is to marry people. I am now under government mandate to marry people of the same sex. I cannot do that. I cannot do that.” He will lose his position. Clerks, Christian clerks across the country, who issue marriage licenses, and can’t do that either, are losing their jobs. The takeover is going to be massive. Christian people in high places are going to be replaced by people who will do what this court says you must do.
I wrote him a letter back and I said, “I honor you, Sir. I honor you because you have ascended to that level of responsibility. You’ve shown common sense and wisdom and astuteness and brilliance in your field of law. And you have been given the trust of the people because of what you have demonstrated, and now because of the quality and character of your virtue, you will be replaced, essentially, by someone with no virtue.”
Get ready folks, the reprobate mind has now reached the highest levels. And that level will demand the reprobate mind everywhere else. And where that mind dominates—the end of Romans 1, where there is a depraved mind—then everything that’s improper begins to happen. “All unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossips, slanders, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventers of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful, and though they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but they give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
There isn’t a just a judge, there isn’t a sitting judge on the Supreme Court who doesn’t know what the Bible says about homosexuality. But they affirm it anyway. That’s the reprobate mind. And it’s now going to dominate our society.
So we as Christians are the minority. But we have always been the minority. We’ve just had a reprieve in our little piece of human history. We are defined in the wonderful, inspired words of Peter, as a “separate people,” as a “holy nation.” Christ is our king. Scripture is our law. And in ways that have not been true in the past, Scripture and the laws of our country now collide head on. Head on. We’re going to feel it.
At the seminary, we put an article up on the seminary website about homosexuality. Within a matter of hours, we received a letter ordering us to cease and desist immediately or face a very severe lawsuit. Could we be sued for taking this position? Absolutely. Insurance companies that provide liability insurances for churches so that we’re protected against lawsuits are beginning to say, “We will not accept responsibility for lawsuits on homosexual or same-sex marriage issues.” The church is out there all on its own.
Practical atheism, rejection of the truth, moral relativism has always prevailed in Satan’s kingdom. But here in America we’ve been protected from that in its full fierceness. No more. And by the way, religious liberty isn’t promised to Christians, is it? Freedom isn’t promised to Christians. Persecution is. Persecution is. I think we’re going to feel it.
They’re going to come at us a lot of ways. There’s already a movement to remove tax-exempt status from churches. So that what you give to the church is no longer deductible. So that what you give to a Christian ministry is no longer deductible. Strong movement.
Barry Lynn, who heads up an organization—a hostile, satanic organization against the gospel and against the Word of God—is making all the moves he can to make sure churches lose their tax-exempt status. And the way they’ll do that is they’ll begin to sue and drag the churches into court on that issue. The government provides student loans for students at Christian colleges. But if that school or that college doesn’t affirm same-sex marriage, and have open enrollment to homosexuals, they can cut off all that funding—Cal grants, Pell grants—which enable students to go to college. This is going to come. We enjoy, as a church, a beautiful campus, large piece of property. We don’t pay property tax, because we’re granted freedom from that tax. How long will that remain if we don’t comply?
We are the target now. We’re in the bullseye. And there’s no deception; this is how it really is. Now, just to make it clear: We don’t bow down to Caesar. We bow to our king. We do not…[applause]
I was reading about a Christian college that was confronted on this issue and was told, you will lose your accreditation if you do not immediately provide complete acceptance for homosexuals, and allow them to conduct themselves any way they want in your dorms. The school, when it was founded in 1885, the name of it was the Boston Missionary Training School. Here we are 130 years later, and that school proudly came up with fourteen pro-homosexual initiatives to keep their accreditation. What happened to the Boston Missionary Training School? They bowed.
You know, I ran through my Bible the other day, just looking for everywhere I could find the term “bow down.” Bow down, bow down. It’s all over the Old Testament. People bowed down before a superior. There are many of those illustrations. Look at the life of Joseph and you’ll remember how his brothers bowed down to him.
But the faithful people didn’t bow down. The unfaithful people bowed down to idols. They bowed down to monarchs. They bowed down to godless kings. Faithful people didn’t bow down. Mordecai didn’t bow down. Daniel didn’t bow down; his friends didn’t bow down. Jesus didn’t bow down. Paul didn’t bow down.
There will be a barrage of persecution. These are going to be very challenging days. We will not bow. We will be gracious and we will be loving, but we will render to God what is God’s.
So, what do we do? Well, I want to focus on something tonight that I think is very important. God pronounces judgment on all who blaspheme Him—all who pervert His law, pervert His Word. He pronounces judgment on them. Not only in a temporal sense, such as in Romans 1, where you have an outworking of wrath in the very society itself, but in an eternal sense. In Isaiah 5 we have a series of woes, a series of severe condemnations. One them is in chapter 5 and verse 20. Listen to this: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Woe—damnation, cursing—on those who reverse morality, who reverse righteousness, who swap good for evil. It was the calling of the Old Testament prophets to pronounce damnation on sinful people, sinful nations—to declare coming judgment. We know that; we read the prophets. In the New Testament, Jesus pronounced judgment. And the epistles of the New Testament are full of warnings of judgment.
I’m hearing an awful lot from evangelical Christians these days, reading a lot of articles, that we need to be compassionate toward people in gender transition, which does not exist. We need to be compassionate toward people caught up in homosexuality. I agree. I agree. And the most compassionate thing you can do for those people is, in love, to warn them of eternal damnation—to warn them of eternal judgment. That’s compassionate. That’s compassionate. Preach the gospel; proclaim the gospel; proclaim grace and forgiveness such as we read in Isaiah and 1 Corinthians. But preach judgment.
Now, I want you to turn to the passage I’m going to talk to you about—2 Thessalonians, chapter 1. Second Thessalonians, this is a group of believers and they’re going through some very difficult times. Verse 4 identifies them as model believers. Paul and Silvanus and Timothy speak proudly about the Thessalonians, everywhere they go. They rehearse their testimony. And what is it? It’s about their “perseverance and faithfulness in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.”
There’s gratitude to God here, verse 3, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you.” It is God who is at work in you. It is God who is greatly enlarging your faith. It is God who is calling your love for one another to grow greater. God is at work in your midst. Your faith continues to increase. Your love continues to grow. We thank God for that, and all that is happening in the midst of persecutions and afflictions. And you continue in the midst of that, to persevere in faithfulness.
I’m just telling you that we’d better get ready, because we may be living this very soon. And by the way, it’s not going to take long for this to unfold. Once the Supreme Court made the decision, they were ready. They were standing in the wings with everything ready, and it’s going to come like a blitzkrieg. The end of verse 5 says, they were suffering, suffering. Suffering and worthy of the kingdom of God for the way in which they suffered.
Here is a church, then, that in the midst of persecution, in the midst of affliction, in the midst of suffering, is flourishing. Strong in faith and greatly enlarged in faith. Strong in love and loving in a greater and greater way. Persevering faithfully in the middle of all that is being unleashed against that church.
How could they hold on? What was it that they clung to? Go down to verse 5: “This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you.” Did you hear that? “It is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you. And to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well.”
When, when is that going to come? “When the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. When He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at by all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed. To this end we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
He has great hope for this church because Christ is coming. The key here is at the beginning of verse 7, the middle of verse 7, “when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven.” That’s our focus. It’s ever and always the Christian’s hope. No matter how bad it gets, Jesus is coming. Lord Jesus, now at the right hand of the Father, exalted as the sovereign Lord of the church and faithful High Priest, interceding for His people, shall be revealed. The Lord Jesus shall be revealed.
The apokalupsis, the unveiling, the appearing of Jesus. Sometimes, the apostle Paul uses parousia, which means “presence.” Here he uses apokalupsis, which means the unveiling of something that is hidden. Jesus, who is, as far as the world is concerned, hidden, will be unveiled. At His coming, the book of Revelation says, that people are going to cry for the rocks and mountains to fall on them, to hide them from the face of His blazing glory.
Here, and in 1 Corinthians 1:7, Paul uses that word, apokalupsis, the revelation, the unveiling. And this is the unveiling to those who do not know Him. He’s coming. And He’s not coming alone. Verse 7 says, he “will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels.” With His mighty angels. Matthew 24:30 says, you “will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds in power and great glory.” Matthew 25:31 says essentially the same thing. The next time He comes, there will be no Bethlehem, no stable, no manger, no infancy, no carpenter shop. No humble Nazareth, no poverty, no dusty roads, no sinners to grieve Him, no false religious leaders to oppose Him, no hellish fiends to attack Him with their demonic power. No soldiers to pound nails into His hands or a crown of thorns into His head. No, when He comes the next time, He will come as the sovereign of the universe. This is the apocalypse.
Three prepositional phrases modify the revelation: “from heaven,” “with His mighty angels,” “in flaming fire.” “From heaven,” where He now is seated at the right hand of God, interceding. Back in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 1 verse 10, it says, as believers we “wait for His Son from heaven.” We wait for His Son from heaven. He will come from heaven.
He will come with His mighty angels, the angels—literally—the angels of His power. He will come back with ten thousand times ten thousand angels. The whole world will see that event—those that are alive at that time.
He will come in flaming fire. That could be what Peter talks about—the elements melting with fervent heat, the implosion of the whole universe as it goes out of existence. But it probably refers, rather than that, to the explosion of glory. You know that the Bible says that the stars go out, the moon goes out, all the lights in heaven go dark. The universe is pitch black, and then comes the blazing, fiery return of Christ.
It’s the fire of judgment. Psalm 50. Psalm 97. The Lord comes and fire goes before Him. The Lord comes and fire goes before Him. That scene in Revelation, chapter 6 is about as dramatic as you can imagine. Verse 12, “I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it’s rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. Then the kings of the earth and great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’”
There are two words here in this passage that define the characteristics of His coming. One is retribution, the other is relief. One is retribution, verse 8. The other is relief, verse 7. For the believer, this is relief. For the unbeliever, this is retribution.
Look at verse 8 for just a moment. When He comes from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire—verse 8—“dealing out retribution.” What does that mean? Punishment. Full vengeance. Isaiah 59:17, “He puts on clothing of vengeance.” Ezekiel 25, “I will lay My vengeance down according to My wrath and My anger.” Deuteronomy 32, “To Me belongs vengeance.” Romans 12:19, “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
Vengeance. Vengeance on who? Those who do not know God, and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Folks, we have to warn this generation, don’t we? We have to warn this generation. It’s enough to know you’re going to die, and seal forever your eternity in hell if you don’t believe. But one day, Christ Himself will come to bring retribution across this entire globe. And they will suffer punishment. They will pay the penalty. They will pay the penalty.
What is the penalty? Verse 9, they “will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” And by the way, verse 6 says, “It is only,” what’s the next word? “just.” It is only right. It is not unloving of God to do that. It is just of Him to do that. It is righteous.
They will pay the penalty. From the Psalms we read things like this, “The righteous will rejoice when he sees vengeance. He will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.” “God will shatter the heads of His enemies.” “Add to them punishment upon punishment.” “Return seven-fold into the bosom of our neighbors the taunts with which they taunted you, O God.” “Let there be none to extend kindness to him, nor any pity to his children.” “Do not I hate them that hate You, O Lord?” “Do not I loathe them that rise up against you? I hate them with a perfect hatred,” says the psalmist.
The godly in the Old Testament understood the justice of God’s wrath. When God reveals to Jeremiah that some are plotting his death. Jeremiah prays, “O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously, who tries the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I’ve committed my cause.” And God replied to Jeremiah. “I will punish them. The young men will die by the sword, the sons and daughters will die by famine, and none of them will be left.”
Later, we find an even more terrible prayer, “Give heed to me, O Lord, and hearken to my plea. Is evil a recompense for good? Yet they have dug a pit for my life. Remember how I stood before You to speak good for them, to turn away Your wrath from them. Therefore, deliver up their children to famine; give them over to the power of the sword; let their wives become childless and widowed. May their men meet death by pestilence, and their youth be slain by the sword in battle. . . . Blot out their sin from Your sight.” God responded to Jeremiah. “I’m bringing such evil on this place that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. . . . because they have filled this place with the blood of innocence and built the high places of Baal.
The Bible is very clear on judgment. You say, “Well that’s the Old Testament. What about Jesus?” I wrote a book called, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore. Some of you remember it. It is the Jesus that seems to be the one who is ignored. Jesus was a judgment preacher. He said far more about hell that he did about heaven. Started with John the Baptist. John the Baptist announced to the leaders of Israel that judgement was going to come with an unquenchable fire and consume them all.
Jesus told a story in Luke, chapter 20, about divine judgement that would take the unfaithful and shatter them into pieces. Jesus announced in John, chapter 5, that He would come in the end, and that there would be a resurrection unto damnation. The apostle Paul said, if you don’t love the Lord Jesus Christ, you’ll be damned, 1 Corinthians 16:22.
When Jesus described His own part in the judgement day, He said, “Depart from Me into eternal fire.” Into eternal fire. He said, “Woe to you, Chorazin.” “Woe to you, Bethsaida.” “Woe to you, Pharisees.” “Woe to you, lawyers.” “Woe to the one who has betrayed Me.” He preached judgment all through His ministry. That’s loving. That’s compassionate. That’s necessary.
So, I’m just getting you ready. We’re not going to do some kind of dance into marginal realms where we don’t say anything. We will preach the gospel with loving hearts to a nation of sinners, a world of sinners. But at the same time, we will preach judgment. We will proclaim judgment.
Jesus is coming, and He is coming to repay, with affliction that is everlasting, those who have afflicted His people. It’s not vindictive. It’s right; it’s just.
Beyond that, just to conclude, when our Lord comes, it’s not just retribution, it’s also relief. And this is so hopeful for us. Verse 7, “To give relief to you who are afflicted, to us as well”—meaning the apostles. Paul was afflicted, wasn’t he? And those who traveled with him—and all those early believers were afflicted. And they were looking for relief.
Those who don’t know God, those who reject the gospel, will be afflicted, everlastingly. They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, and forever they will be away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power. They will know neither His person nor His power. They will live eternally in a realm without God’s presence and without God’s power. Totally dominated by all that is “God-less.”
But that same event brings us relief, relief. Verse 6, “It is only just for God to repay with affliction.” And implied, it is only just for God to give relief. He will give relief to His own. Affliction will end. Persecution will end. Suffering will end. That’s His promise. And it will end for those that belong to Him—those who have been afflicted by a God-rejecting, Christ-rejecting world.
And what does that relief look like? Verse 10, we’ll be glorified with Him on that day, “to be marveled at among all who have believed.” I love to think of that. We’re going to look at each other and say, “Whoa, did you turn out amazing! I never could have imagined.” I’ve told you before, I know there are many of you, that when we get to heaven, I won’t recognize. Perfection with obliterate any memory of what you used to be.
We’re just passing through, aren’t we? We’re just passing through. He’s going to be glorified in His saints; His saints glorified in Him. This is how we have to live, people. We live above the world. We’re in the world; we’re not of the world. We’re in the world—we love the world with a gospel love. We’re in the world, and we love them enough not only to preach grace and the gospel, we love them enough to tell them about eternal judgment—hell, fire.
That’s not what you’re going to see happening in the evangelical world. Already, I’m seeing all kinds of responses that we need to be sympathetic to people who are going through gender transition, which doesn’t exist. It’s a perversion. It’s a corruption. It’s a deviation. It’s a blasphemy.
Yeah, our hearts break that they have no power to resist that temptation. Our hearts break that now it’s everywhere. I saw the other day, some parents of a three year old, saying they were so happy that this three year old was making a gender transition. Tragic.
Let me give you a little hint. If you’ve got boys, you better be sure they become men. If you’ve got girls, you better be sure they become women. Don’t let them be tempted to this deviation and corruption. You never thought you’d have to fight that, did you? That’s where we are.
Our Lord is coming.
When we think about things the way they are, we would all say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” right? We’re ready. Get us out.
Let’s pray. Such a joy to be together, Lord, and to know the truth and to love the truth and to hear the truth, embrace the truth. Make us not only people who know it, love it, believe it, but proclaim it. Give us courage. Give us boldness. Protect us. Protect Your gospel, Your truth. We don’t want to say we’ve given up. You can do anything. You will build Your church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. You will call out Your people. You will preach Your gospel. You will draw Your own to yourself. Use us for that. Make us a light in the darkness. May we be known for our love and our truthfulness. May we be faithful to preach the gospel of loving grace and the threat of eternal judgment. And Lord Jesus, be glorified in your church, and Lord, be glorified in the world. Come quickly. Come quickly. Amen.
Copyright 2015, Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Sola Scriptura said:
I love his thoughts on sin and judgement. It is NOT love to allow our friends to live in sin and end up in hell forever. We must be bold in an attempt to save them from the flames!
I also love how he describes the end of the end. Jesus ain’t coming back as a hippie carpenter. He is coming back as a warrior and a king and he will tread the winepress of the fierceness of God’s wrath. That…is how it is going to go down. I wrote a short essay on the reality of hell and the wrath of God. It is real…and it will be ugly:
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The Narrowing Path said:
Amen brother. I have just sent this and some other resources to our pastor. Our laws may change here soon, as a new bill to legalise same-sex marriage is to be voted on as early as next month. It’s time to ‘stand up and be counted’, and to proclaim God’s truth in love.
Jamie Carter said:
But he is bowing to the idol named Family that is enshrined in Christian teachings. Jesus’ words on family basically said that anyone who left behind their family to follow him would find a new family in Christ. Christians are ignoring that and marginalizing its singles and widows and widowers and divorced individuals and childless couples because they have repaced the cornerstone (Christ) with Family. I cannot tell you how many times I cannot paticipate in Christian events because their Family-centered design leaves me out in more ways than one. Go ahead and bow to Family, but I will follow Christ instead.
The Narrowing Path said:
I am so sorry for the delay in responding to your comment!
I do think I understand the frustration and concern you are expressing. I have some young (20’s) single friends in other churches (even really solid churches) that have expressed similar frustrations, and it certainly seems like something the body of Christ could do a lot better at.
I wonder if you would be willing to expand a bit on what types of events and activities you are excluded from and why, as I think you have raised a very valid challenge facing the church. I am curious also as to what type of churches you have attended, if you are willing to share more of your experience. I would be interested in knowing what suggestions you have for changing this (and yes, if they are good ideas, I am planning to use them!).
I have come to the opinion that always separating people into ‘life stages’ can be very harmful to the spiritual growth of the church and its members (even the littlest members). So is focusing too much on one group/life stage or another, at the expense of others. I have read some great articles on this over the years, which I found challenging to me in being more considerate in how I engage in church life. I know of some churches that are mainly older folks who would LOVE some families to join the church, but the families don’t because there aren’t enough ‘activities’ for their kids, or the older folks won’t compromise on anything. Others churches devalue older people, and they end up leaving. This is so heartbreaking. I have seen church situations where people were starving for contact with and spiritual encouragement from other groups within the church, but were virtually unable to access anyone outside their assigned peer/life group. How utterly unbiblical! For teaching purposes, I understand some separation at times, but really I am very against it overall. We all need to benefit from the gifts, practical abilities, life experiences and godly wisdom of all the people in our congregations. I certainly don’t want to spend all of my time just with my peer group!
However, there can be no avoidance of the reality of families as a mainstay of church life. We parents are to train our children up in the faith, and we need all the help we can get. Parenting (especially in the early years) is a time of life that is incredibly challenging and can seem all-consuming. However, I agree with you that we do need to be so careful not idolise family or youth (or anything else!), as Janet and I have recently discussed in the Comments section here. I would love to have more help and family involvement from unmarried/childless people in the church, but then again…I wouldn’t want to seem like I am just trying to milk them for assistance! 🙂
To give a positive example, the church I attend doggedly persists at trying find a place for everyone – including the single, divorced, disabled or elderly brethren. Although I know it doesn’t get it right all of the time, I do see a sincere and godly commitment to this on an ongoing basis. It is hard to do! The church may not meet everyone’s needs (or desires) in this area all of the time, but the recognition that it is an obligation of the Body of Christ to be inclusive of all members is a guiding principle at this church.
I think for single men this can be more complicated, especially where children are involved. I know this can be very hurtful, but is a reality of our society and our obligations to children. To give a slightly different example, as a divorced person, and out of love for my brethren in Christ, I want to ensure that I do not cause others to stumble. Therefore it can be challenging to know how to best interact with and conduct friendships with married couples, and/or single men. It is very different from having the ‘cover’ of a husband. In part, it is just something we have to accept and bear graciously. I don’t really know what the answer is, but I certainly think such frustrations and challenges should be openly discussed in churches so that all members can find a way to fellowship, serve and learn from each other, in Christ’s love and for His glory.
Thanks again for your thoughtful comments.
Blessings in Christ Jesus,