Two Final Things, Then Home at Last - page 5


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From the Spring 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Two Final Things, Then Home at Last

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
City Director, C.S. Lewis Institute - Washington, D.C.

 
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  A significant but often neglected aspect of the final judgment is that there are degrees of punishment for the wicked and degrees of blessing for the saved. Regarding the wicked, Jesus makes this clear in His condemnation of three cities in which He performed amazing miracles for their lack of response to His message.

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you. (Matt. 11:20–24)

  The punishment of these three cities would be greater than others because they sinned against the light they had been given, that is, the mighty works of Christ and His call to repent.
  Paul expresses the same idea when he says of the unbelieving, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom. 2:5). By their rejection of God’s truth, these people were accumulating more and more punishment for themselves. They would be judged by the written word of God if they had it, or by the light of conscience and the word written on their hearts if they did not (Rom. 2:12–16).
   Jesus also speaks of degrees of reward for faithful believers. In one instance, Peter said to Jesus,

“See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Matt. 19:27–30) 

  In another place, He says to those who care for the poor and needy, “and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14). Jesus promises that the sacrifices His followers make for Him and His kingdom in this world will be rewarded in the world to come. He rewards our works, imperfect though they be, out of His abounding grace and love toward us, not because we deserve it. This is a cause for great rejoicing and encouragement in our earthly pilgrimage.
  However, rewards can be missed through our neglect or forfeited through faulty work. Some people are too busy with other things to serve the Lord. Others are lazy and negligent. Still others are building their service on a faulty foundation. In each case, there will be little, if anything, for the Lord to reward. This was a problem in Corinth. Paul warned the believers there of the very real risk of losing rewards if they built their ministry on a flawed foundation:

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