2013-05-26 Rejecting the Gospel Brings Judgment | Matthew 10:15
Preparing for Christ’s Mission: Day of Judgment, Encouragement and Warning
Christ prepares his disciples to participate in his mission in the world. God sent his Son into the world to seek and save the lost, and the Son in turn sends his disciples – including us – in the power of the Spirit, to make more disciples by going, baptizing, preaching and teaching in our own community and to the ends of the earth.
Jesus prepares his disciples through his own example of teaching and preaching and healing and compassion, by telling them how to pray, empowering them for ministry, telling them where to go, the message they should preach, how their ministry will be supported, and what they should expect as they go.
In our passage today, Jesus tells them what will happen to those who will reject and disobey their message as both a word of encouragement to his disciples and a word of warning to the unrepentant.
Sermon Text: Matthew 10:14-15 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words… 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
According to Jesus’ statement, there will be two results for those who reject the disciples’ message of the gospel.
- We are told first by implication that
Rejecting God’s messengers results in judgment or final condemnation.
14-15 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words… there will be a day of judgment…
Rejecting God’s messengers by not obeying their words will result in condemnation to hell for the unrepentant because refusing God’s messengers is the same as refusing God himself. As Jesus says in Lk.10:16 “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
And in Jn.12:48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
These words of Jesus to the twelve are intended on the one hand to encourage and console and strengthen believers as they endure rejection and persecution.
Paul encourages for the believers in the Thessalonian Church in the same way, 2 Thess.1:4-10 4 we boast about you in the churches for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. 6 God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted….when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day…
The promise is this: For those who suffer persecution for the cause of Christ, God will inflict vengeance on their persecutors with eternal torment and removal from the presence and glory of God on the day of Christ’s return.
As we read in Deut.32:35-36 Vengeance is mine…for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly. For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone…
And this knowledge encourages us, comfort us, and enables us even to love and serve our enemies. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom.12:19-21) Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.. Matt.5:44-45
These same words recorded here by Matthew are intended on the other hand to warn unbelievers that a day is surely coming upon Christ’s return, when those who reject God’s message of repentance and forgiveness of sins, will suffer eternal conscious punishment. That is what is meant by the Scriptural language of the unquenchable fire of hell, being thrown into outer darkness, and weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is unending misery of immeasurable proportions.
By their sustained disobedient rejection of God’s command to repent and receive the gift forgiveness, they will receive instead the eternal wrath of God on the day of judgment. As Paul wrote to the church in Rome, Rom.2:4-8 …do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 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. 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
Not only does rejecting God’s messengers result in judgment, but
- Second we are told that
Rejecting Gospel messengers results in Greater judgment.
15 …it will be more bearable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
That is to say, there are degrees of punishment for the impenitent according to the degree of revelation they have received in their lifetime.
Those who reject the message of the gospel as revealed in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth will suffer to a greater degree because they have received a greater revelation than those who received the message before the Incarnation.
The suffering of hell will be great and unrelenting, but some will suffer more than others. Their sin is greater because the revelation they received was even clearer than that of more ancient times. We are told in Jude 7, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. But those who trample underfoot the Son of God will receive an even more severe punishment.
Ezekiel said something similar to Israel. They were more guilty than Sodom for their disobedience because they had received a greater revelation of God through the law. (Ezek.16:48-49).
Once again, these words of Jesus to the twelve – and to us – are intended on the one hand to encourage and console and strengthen believers as we endure rejection and persecution, and on the other hand to warn unbelievers that a day is coming when those who reject God’s message of repentance and forgiveness of sins, will suffer even greater punishment than those of earlier times.
ILLUST: Does it encourage you to know that those who have or will persecute you for your faith will be punished for the evil they have done to you and others? If you’ve never suffered much persecution it may not mean that much to you. But if you suffer severely or to the point of death as did Jesus and many other martyrs, it will mean a lot to know that your unjust death would one day be avenged.
This is what we find in Rev.6:9-10 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Those who have lost a loved one to murder feel some consolation when the murderer has received justice by the hand of the law. Yet for many it is a mixed feeling of anger and pity toward the law-breaker.
I suggest that is because we are made in God’s image and God’s purpose in arranging for a final day of judgment (acc to WCF 33.2) is to show forth the glory of his mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect and the glory of his justice in the damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient. (WCF 33.2) God is both merciful and just, and because we are made in his image, we desire to be both as well. The day of judgment will glorify God in both aspects of his character.
Application: Of what should we repent and believe?
If you are a believer today, you should repent of any vengeance you wish to take on those who have persecuted you for your faith in the past. And you should trust the God of Justice to perfectly avenge any wrong that has been done to you.
If you are not yet a believer, you should repent of rejecting both the messengers and the message of Christ. And you should place your trust in Christ alone to rescue you from the eternal torment of hell.
The gospel is a message of warning and hope for those who will repent and believe on Christ. A warning is sent out to one is in danger that greater danger may be averted. A tornado or hurricane warning goes out so that those in harm’s way might seek safe shelter from the storm. Some reject and disobey the warning, remaining in harm’s way and thus experience the full fury and destruction of the storm as it comes upon them. Others humbly accept and obey the warning to move to a place of safety and are protected from destruction.
The gospel tells us that ours is a self-inflicted danger, that though we were created in righteousness and holiness in God’s image, because our ancestor Adam fell into sin, we have inherited the sin nature, and thus we too are sinners from birth and sinners indeed, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom.3:23) And like Adam, we are deserving of the pains of hell, For the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23)
Yet there is hope because of the grace of God in Christ. Jesus is the only safe shelter which God has provided from the unrelenting miseries of hell.
As Peter offered it on the day of Pentecost, Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you. (Acts3:19-20)
And Paul to the church in Rome, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Rom.10:8-13).
“20 Therefore, as Christ’s ambassador today, God making his appeal through me, I “implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Co.5:20-21)