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
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
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
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
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
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.