Monday, August 15, 2005

Destruction is certain for those who say that evil is good and good is evil; that dark is light and light is dark; that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.
-Isaiah 5:20 (New Living Translation)

Yesterday, Pastor Steve continued his sermon series on the book of Revelation. We had come at last to Judgment Day. Steve was excited about the message that morning, and us along with him. His energy was contagious. At last he read aloud the passage in which Satan's two servants are cast alive into the lake of fire, receiving their just reward, and he called for an amen! ...with rather weak results. He tried again, with a little goading, and we responded loudly, if still a little uncomfortably. Same thing when Satan himself was condemned to eternal torment. It was hard for us to cheer, somehow.

I thought about it during the service, and I realized that they all deserved it. For one thing, God's justice is just. The Bible is clear on that. And if you take into account what Satan and his servants do in the book of Revelation alone, their punishment should be harsh indeed.

Still, it's hard for me to cheer someone else's demise.

A case of sympathy for the devil? Perhaps. Largely, with me, it's just the fact that I myself totally deserve punishment for things I've done. Thanks to Jesus' grace, I'll be fine on the day of judgment. If we take the images from Revelation, God will call me to account for everything I've ever done in my life. Every secret, every vile thought, every drop of malice... and in the end, I'll have no excuse. And in the very end, He'll say, "All right. I'm glad that's done. Welcome home, son." Sometimes I envision myself feeling guilty for accepting grace, like it's a cop-out or something. But nah. I think I'll likely be a little to thankful at the moment.

I hate the idea that not everyone will make it to Heaven. Hate it. Some days it's easier than others to accept the idea that people are given a choice to take in Jesus, and that God knows everyone's heart, and is thus the only person who can rightly judge us. Some days I see people perpetrating evil in the world, malevolent and unrepentant, and I pray for justice. A second later, though, I often pray for their hearts to soften instead.

Some won't repent, but I pray that all will.

Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
-Luke 15:3-7 (New International Version)

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