When I misbehaved as a child and was told off by my parents, there was often a window of opportunity to listen to them, to change my ways, and to start doing the right thing… but, there came a point if I crossed one of their red lines, that I was informed that I was about to be disciplined.
At this point, no matter how much I protested, nothing would change my parents’ mind. Punishment was what I deserved, and to deny me it, would be to deny me my right.
So, I believe, it is with God the Father.
Slow to anger
The Bible in various places describes God as “gracious”, “compassionate”, and “slow to anger”.
In Joel 2:13,
… rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil.
In Nahum 1:3,
The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, and clouds are the dust beneath His feet.
And in Exodus 34:6,
Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth…
Like my parents, who I never once remember lashing out in anger, but who could discipline memorably when the occasion demanded it, “the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished”.
God takes no delight in punishment, but as with your father or mother, if you continue to “kick against the pricks”, you will eventually cross a red line.
You see a similar dynamic with modern law enforcement. Lawbreakers often get away with their fraud or abuse for years. Then, one day, there is a knock on the door, and their life is changed for ever. Scandal, trial, prison, separation, shame…
In these lax times, we have come to expect second chances and soft ‘punishments’. What makes us think that God is similarly tolerant? The God of the Bible is not the Norwegian prison system.
God wants heaven to be a spotless place, not a rerun of this earth which we have filled with iniquity and wickedness.
The Bible says “… the LORD of hosts will be exalted in judgment, and the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness.”
The Bible is clear that God punishes sin.
We do not know exactly where God’s red lines are, but be absolutely assured, if you persist in sin, you will find them, and his punishment – whether in time or eternity – is greatly to be feared!
Two finite things
Here are two finite things: your life and this world.
Both are coming to an end.
The Bible foretells the key events to happen in the eschaton or End Times. Many foretold events are concrete and capable of being envisaged. Others are more elusive, but presumably will make sense to those living in that moment. An increasing number are gaining currency today.
Take the presence of the two witnesses in Jerusalem. The two are seen throughout the earth, a fact that seems far more appreciable in a world where most everyone has access to a screen.
Another prophecy says that the good news of Jesus Christ must be taken to the whole world, and then the end will come. What country today has never had a missionary? How many cannot access at least part of a Bible in their native tongue?
Yet another prophecy says that people will be asked to take the mark of the beast on their hand or forehead in order to buy and sell. In a world where everyone is freaking out about cross-infection including from cash and keypads, where the technology to place a readable microchip under everyone’s skin has been tested and shown to work, where foreheads and hands are the obvious place for microchip readers, where global authorities are in place to mandate such a move, and where rapid mass production and global supply chains make distribution feasible, do you struggle to believe that such an initiative is now within reach? Someone living in the Middle Ages might have wondered; it would have seemed farfetched in the 1980s; today, it seems entirely plausible.
Maybe the mark will be some other technology, but when a mark on forehead or hand is required for buying and selling, don’t even dream of taking it! The Book of Revelation warns that “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger” and warns of terrifying consequences for those who do.
Aren’t you curious about another thing too?! Does it seem normal to you that a book written thousands of years ago should so late in history be rapidly gaining in relevance, suddenly accurately predicting current events?!
Read books of the Bible like Revelation, Daniel, Matthew and Zechariah! Immerse yourself in the Psalms and Isaiah, and decide for yourself! There are 150 Bible chapters whose material primarily concerns the eschaton.
I am constantly amazed at how chapter after chapter is coming alive as we move closer to that day.
And when that time is reached, then be in no doubt that both our lives on earth and this world itself are coming quickly to an end.
The four horsemen of the Apocalypse
And I heard as it were the noise of thunder
One of the four beasts saying come and see and I saw
And behold a white horse
Another Biblical prophecy concerns the ‘four horsemen of the Apocalypse’ led off by a white horse carrying an arcum and a corona.
The white horse mentioned in Johnny Cash’s ‘The Man Comes Around’, a song for our times, if ever there was one.
For years, theologians have puzzled over what the white horse represented, with explanations as widely varying as Christ and the Antichrist.
We know that horses two, three and four represent war, famine and death. The most obvious answer seems to be that horse one represents pestilence: as it says in verse 7, “Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.” Pestilence is the terror without a home.
I might, of course, be wrong.
If I’m not, then a white horseman representing pestilence carrying an arcum and a corona would be our cue that the first seal had been broken.
Going along to get along?
“Ah, but I’m not that bad! I’ve tried to live an honest life. God will have mercy on me.”
You know, man looks at the outward things, but God looks at the heart. None of us have hearts that are worthy. Not Mother Theresa. Not Martin Luther King. Not whoever your ‘moral’ idol is.
The Bible is brutal on this point, describing our righteousness as filthy rags.
It is not wrong to do good deeds, but we should never let ourselves be persuaded that our good deeds need only outweigh our bad ones for God’s justice to be satisfied. Think how human misdeeds would multiply if they could endlessly be recompensed for at some future date down the line! Just as our fraudster won’t be able to persuade the judge he shouldn’t be sent prison because he helps old ladies across the road, so trusting in your good deeds to get God to forget about your bad will not cut it.
Your only hope is Jesus!
The hope laid up for us in heaven
We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel…
It is Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross – God come to earth to pay the penalty on your behalf – that allows you to be absolved of your sin. The One who made you, and who loves you, died to pay the penalty for your sins.
Trust on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!
If God can save a sinner like Johnny Cash, and can save a sinner like me, he can save a sinner like you too. Find a paper copy of the Bible and memorise as much as possible! Who knows how long you will have access to the Word.
Turn from wickedness today!
Repent from your sin!
Seek Him while He may be found!