There is only one place in all the world where the past, present, and future are combined in one record—the past in authentic history, instructions for consistent living in the present, and clear statements about the future, the end of the age and beyond. All these are found in the Bible.

When our Lord spoke of his return, he compared Noah’s day with world conditions that will exist when he suddenly appears in the clouds of heaven. And the Bible does not leave us in ignorance as to what those conditions will be: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.… The earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (Gen. 6:5, 11).

He also tells us of the general secularization of that day: “For as in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man” (Matt. 24:38, 39).

The trouble with the people of Noah’s day was a preoccupation with this world—“the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16a). How similar to the day in which we live! Our Lord also foretold about the end-age that “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold” (Matt. 24:11, 12).

In all of this Jesus was preparing mankind for certain judgment. This is no longer a popular subject. On every hand we hear a “gospel” that proclaims “ ‘peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14b). But if the Bible teaches anything it teaches, along with the love and compassion of God, the certain judgment of God on sin and unrepentant sinners. The Gospel is the message of the One who came into this world to take that judgment for us. It is also the message of the dénouement of history, when this world and all in it shall be destroyed by fire.

God’s loving mercy is shown by the fact that he always warns of impending judgment. He also always gives the reason for judgment, for he wants men to be saved, and he has provided the way of escape.

Perhaps the chief reason so many in the Church reject the certainty of coming judgment is their low estimate of the nature of sin and its consequences. But nowhere is God’s love more clearly seen than in his judgment on sin. The nature of sin requires judgment by a holy God. But God demonstrated his great love by sending his own Son to take the punishment in our stead.

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I am well aware that many theologians reject this explanation of the Cross. I realize also that the Bible unquestionably teaches this truth, and I prefer to stick with the Bible’s explanation of God’s love and compassion, his holiness, and his judgment on sin. The Gospel of man’s redemption must be preached against the backdrop of God’s holiness and the certainty of judgment.

The nature of the world’s destruction is clearly foretold: “The world that then existed [Noah’s time] was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist have been stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:7). The Holy Spirit, speaking through Peter, goes on to tell us the manner of that destruction: “The day of the LORD will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10).

That Peter’s description of the final destruction of the world by fire fits in closely with what we now know of the effects of atomic fission is perhaps far more than a coincidence. I believe the Holy Spirit was foretelling the manner of the judgment, out of which there is to come “new heavens and a new earth.”

Peter’s admonition to the early Christians certainly applies to us today: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:11–13).

Is Peter telling Christians to sit down and wait with folded arms until the Lord comes? Certainly not. He warns of future judgment so that we may keep this world and the one to come in proper perspective: “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability” (2 Pet. 3:17).

We are living in a day when lawlessness is found on every hand, when violence covers the earth, when iniquity abounds. Let us beware lest we become cold in our love for the One who came into the world to deliver us from its certain judgment.

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The Apostle Paul speaks of the same day in words that should sober all who read. He describes it as the day “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thess. 1:7b–9).

Who will suffer? The willfully ignorant (read Romans 1:19, 20) and the willfully disobedient. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews puts the question clearly: “Therefore we must pay the closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For if the message declared by angels was valid and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him” (Heb. 2:1–3).

I want to bear this personal testimony: There is no fear of the future in my own heart because I believe that Jesus bore my punishment and that as a result I am a free man. With that freedom I wish to live day by day with love in my heart for him, and for my fellow man. I want to be the best neighbor possible. I want to glorify God in thought, word, and deed, because, like the Apostle Paul, I believe “everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets, having a hope in God … that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.”

Before us all there are two alternatives: God’s salvation in Christ, or God’s judgment.


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