Wednesday, January 18

The fiery furnace

Scripture: Matthew 13

Matthew 13:41–43 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everything that causes sin as well as all lawbreakers.42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one who has ears had better listen!

Matthew 13:49–50 It will be this way at the end of the age. Angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Observation

Yes, Jesus said these things.

In this chapter, Matthew has collected many of Jesus’ parables (stories) about the kingdom of God. In two of them—the story of the weeds and the story of the net—Jesus says that at the end of the age, there will be a judgment, a separation of the evil and the righteous, and the evil will be “thrown into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 

Yes, Jesus said that.

And it makes me pause.

Application

It seems clear that Jesus understood there to be a heaven and a hell, and a final judgment where the good will go to heaven and the evil to hell. 

I recently had a friend justify his bad decisions by saying that life is short and God wants us to be happy. I read these verses and thought that life is eternal and God wants us to be holy. (To be clear: I don’t believe that being holy and happy are mutually exclusive. The best way to be happy is to be holy.) 

I don’t ever want to be cavalier about God’s grace and forgiveness. Judgment is real. Hell is real. Don’t ever think that you can trade on God’s grace and sin without consequence. I’m not denying forgiveness—I live in God’s grace. I just don’t want to cheapen it by thinking I can do whatever I want and God will just look the other way.

Prayer: I love you Lord. I don’t pretend to understand how all this works—grace and truth, good and evil, love and judgment. But I know that I’d rather not test your grace by pushing the boundaries of sin. Let your grace motivate obedience, not disobedience.