Monday, March 16, 2015

When You Have a King for a Friend

Monday, March 16, 2015
Then I saw a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was someone like the Son of Man.  He had a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.   Revelation 14:14 (NLT)
The scene John the Revelator describes is at a critical juncture of the drama unfolding in Heaven.  God is in the midst of finishing his judgment of the world system and sin. 
As John ponders all he sees, there is suddenly a clear vision of Jesus Christ in Glory, his kingly crown and sharp sickle for a scepter casting a foreboding shadow over the future of humanity.  The judgment of the harvest is about to begin, and for a period of time known as The Tribulation, there will be suffering and death the like of which has never been seen by human beings. 
And after earthly judgment comes the heavenly white throne, where all persons who refused to accept Christ will appear and receive a just recompense for their personal rebellion against God’s will.
There is another throne of judgment; it is called The Bema, a place where there is no punishment, only rewards handed out by the king for “works of righteousness” – acts of kindness, mercy and generosity done by the king’s servants here on  earth. 
There are the two “polar opposites” of end times presented in Scripture – one ends in rewards from the king for faithful service; the other ends in catastrophe of judgment, banishment and punishment.
I’m writing this the day after getting involved (again) in a clergy (Face Book) discussion on Hell.  I’m sorry to say that the debate (which is what those things really are) was started by a clergyperson who asked a simple – but loaded – question, Is there a hell?
Yup – there are clergy lurking in pulpits who don’t believe in hell.
Someday I believe they will!
Before I get into judging other people’s eternal final state, let me get back to the point.
Logic demands that hell is real.  God, who proclaims himself just and holy, and never changing his character of justice and goodness, often presents in Scripture the concept of punishment for unrepentant rebelliousness.  The key word there is “unrepentant”.  Some people want to dwell so much on God’s love and mercy and grace, that they forget God created this universe with certain rules and boundaries. 
For instance, if I choose to step off a steep mountainside cliff, I am going to experience one of God’s natural laws…and quite soon at that.  There are spiritual laws also.  One of those is about “unrepentant sin” and death:
 The person who sins is the one who will die. The child will not be punished for the parent’s sins, and the parent will not be punished for the child’s sins. Righteous people will be rewarded for their own righteous behavior, and wicked people will be punished for their own wickedness.     Ezekiel 18:20 (NLT)
Common sense (even if you don’t believe the hundreds of mentions of judgment in Scripture) arrives at the conclusion that, if God is just, and will right what’s wrong, there must be a judgment that includes recompense.  If not, God himself becomes a liar.
Jesus told the story of a rich man (Dives) and a poor man (Lazarus) in Luke 16.  Both died and wound up in their reward.  The story ends with the man in hell pleading for a little relief.  But the Father sadly reminds him that it was his rebellious callousness that put him there, and there was no way out.

But, when you have a KING for a friend

All of this business about sin and punishment gets a little too much press.  But it’s necessary.  Sometimes, in order to appreciate and respond to the light, we have to frame it with darkness.  So, now that we’ve seen the dark side – here’s the light side:
There is a king who wants you close to him so you can be blessed forever.  King Jesus is his name, and he died for you so you don’t have to experience hell.  And the only requirement for that blessing is to repent, do an “about face” from sin, and follow Him.

For You Today

Not many earthly kings want to be my friend, but that doesn’t matter because I’ve got a heavenly king Who is a better friend than I deserve or could hope to know.

[1] Title Image: By National Museum of Korea, Seoul, Established 1946, via Wikimedia Commons

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