Preaching the good news and healing the sick
in New Zealand, Nepal and the world
Some Scriptures are just plain scary: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars―their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).
I mean, that terrible list seems to include everybody! What’s more, it’s Jesus himself speaking. Are we all going to hell then? No! Let’s look a bit closer.
Firstly, these are all identity―those who continue in these practices because it’s who they are, not what they’ve done. We’ve all done stuff (confession time – I admit to at least 6 of them – and you just re-read the list to work out which, didn’t you?)
But those who have been made righteous in Christ have a new identity. We are the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21) by faith in his grace. Forgiven! My heart is filled with thanksgiving to Jesus who ‘became sin’ in my place.
For only in Christ can we avoid the lake. If you haven’t yet surrendered to Christ, you have an identity crisis. Do it at once! Today is the day. No one is promised tomorrow. We all need an identity change!
What else strikes you about the list? ‘Cowardly’ is first. Seems odd―surely there are worse sins than that? But it’s first because it takes courage to admit we’re wrong, and God is right. If we hide from the truth (that we deserve the sulphur), we will never turn to God. You can’t have a solution without a problem. Repentance means choosing to change, and is ALWAYS the first step toward rescue.
‘Unbelieving’ is second. Having turned to God, we can only change our identity by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Romans 10:9: If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. We become a new creation.
And the rest of the list? Murder includes abortion. Of course sometimes it’s necessary to save lives, but most abortion today is to protect our own lifestyle. We want the pleasure without the consequences (check out Genesis 38:8-10). We are sacrificing our children on the altar of Molech, which was the last straw that drove Israel into exile. (But please know, if you’ve suffered abortion, there is healing and forgiveness through the precious blood of Jesus.)
Sexual immorality includes adultery, incest, homosexuality, and fornication―the latter being sex outside marriage. Our permissive society turns a blind eye to unmarried ‘partners’, but it’s fornication. If you’re living with a partner, please get married and get off the list!
‘Well, at least I’m not an idolater!’ you might say. Hmm. What about Ephesians 5:5: For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person―such a man is an idolater―has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. So even greed is idolatry! Greed is spelled ME and god.
Our culture is awash with idols: TV, film and pop stars; music; sport; money. Even love and relationships can be idols; in fact anything that sets itself up above the Lord himself. If you’re not willing to yield to Christ because it means giving up your boyfriend, he’s become an idol.
Even scarier, Paul tells us, the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons (1 Corinthians 10:20). Oh, no, not them!
Thank God we’ve been set free from all this by the love and grace of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, whom, in our new identity, we honour and adore above all things. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!