Judgment for Unbelievers
Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where he had done so many of his miracles, because they hadn’t repented of their sins and turned to God. “What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse. I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you.
“And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you.” Matthew 11:20-24 NLT
My Thoughts: Our last study ended with Jesus speaking truth to his listeners that believers will face opposition when we share the gospel. He paints a picture of a discontented generation that is unwilling to find joy (Matthew 11:15-19), which sounds eerily familiar with today’s stubborn generation, wouldn’t you agree?
What is the most interesting to note in these verses is that Jesus had full knowledge that these three towns would turn away from him before he even left! Yet he still went, he performed miracles, and he shared the good news about everlasting life (the gospel) when they repented of their sins.
In the end, Jesus denounced the people in Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum because although they would accept his miracles, they would not repent of their sins or believe in him. He compares their disbelief and wicked behavior with the cities Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom. These were ancient cities with a long-standing reputation for wickedness and each was destroyed by God for its evil (you can read more in Genesis 18; 19; Ezekiel 27; 28). Jesus tells them because they saw him yet they didn’t believe they would suffer even greater punishment than the people of those wicked cities that had not seen Jesus.
This also paints an ugly picture for unbelievers today that have access to Jesus from churches, Bibles, and fellowship with believers, yet still choose not to believe.
Even more important, it tells believers that we must take responsibility for sharing the gospel with unbelievers more seriously, whether we think it’s a waste of time or not! Every day there is a battle for the lives of unbelievers and they are either headed for everlasting life or everlasting death.
So, what is our (my) role in this epic battle?
I believe that my role in the battle is sharing the gospel through this blog and ultimately through the book I am writing. However, it doesn’t relieve me of the responsibility of sharing the gospel verbally when those opportunities come to me. There are days when the battle to be obedient to this calling are more difficult than others. There are days I worry that I am not making a difference, but then I remind myself this isn’t about me getting a pat on the back each time I take a step of faith! It’s about me trusting that God will use what I do, when the timing is the most right for the Kingdom and not for me.
There is a verse I learned when I took a study of the book of Romans at our local church called “The Roman Road.” We were given a series of verses to memorize as we walked through this book in the Bible. Those verses are still so meaningful to me and I have used many of them in this very blog.
One that I truly love, that reminds me that I am not in control is Romans 11:33 (NIV). I am going to include verses 33-36 because of their amazing wisdom:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out. (Verse 33)
Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Romans 11:33-36 NIV
The first verse (verse 33) reminds me that I can never fully understand the depths of God’s wisdom and knowledge. But more important, I can’t really even understand his judgments or where he is going with a particular situation. In fact, I can say with certainty that I rarely know where God is going, but I do get to see where God has been! Based on the truth of this one verse it is imperative that I am obedient to my call to share the gospel even when I can’t fully understand what is happening in a given situation.
For instance, perhaps I am confused about why someone isn’t/hasn’t been judged by God immediately when they stand against his people or commit a heinous crime against an innocent man/woman (example: King Herod punished John the Baptist for his own sin)? What if we looked at it from God’s perspective? Let me give you an example:
My daughter and her children were victims of domestic violence. Initially, this Momma wanted the LORD to rain down a multitude of revenge on that man! However, when I prayed about it the LORD answered with a simple command (a command, not a suggestion!): I want you to pray for him. This, however, was not the revenge I was seeking! I wanted him to be hurt just as badly as he had hurt my daughter and my grandchildren!!
But the Lord has something to say about how we are to treat our enemies:
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. Proverbs 25:21 NIV
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28 NIV
Right here in black and white we see that God commands us to pray for our enemies! Why? Because we do want them to repent, we do want them to change their evil ways, otherwise, they will continue to do evil!
This was especially important for me when I realized the courts would still give this man visitation rights with the very children he had abused. Once the reality of this truth hit my heart this Momma hit her knees and prayed for him to become a man of God!!!
I wish I could tell you that he is now a believer and he has changed dramatically. What actually happened is he learned I was praying in earnest for him to be a man of God. He was completely taken aback that I would pray for him because of the circumstances! He knew full well he didn’t deserve my prayers but that knowledge caused him to suddenly stumble in his headlong walk toward evil and wrong doing, to a place of confusion and asking a lot of questions.
He looked up what it meant to be a ‘man of God’ and he told my daughter it was an impossible goal for him or any man. However, his shock didn’t stop me from continuing to pray that goal for him and it didn’t stop him from thinking seriously about what that meant.
Today he is still a self-centered man and selfishly considers his own needs above his children, but he hasn’t put a harsh hand on those children, nor has he had rage episodes against them, and it’s been three years. To GOD be the glory!
The day will come when he will have to face God for his sins (just like us!), and how and what God does is God’s business not mine. The last paragraph in our verses above in ‘Thy Word,’ tell us that if he refuses the Truth of Jesus Christ he ‘will go down to the place of the dead.’
Ultimately, once the gospel has been given to him, it is his full decision what to do with it. Conversely, we are not Jesus Christ and we cannot save him or anyone else, we can only present the gospel so they know enough to make an informed decision.
Our verses today are specifically about judgment against unbelievers but we can’t ignore the importance we as believers have in sharing that good news first, just as Jesus did.
Closing Prayer: Father God, this message is so much ‘more’ that it originally appeared to be for us! Thank you for this strong reminder that once we say ‘yes’ to You, it’s our responsibility is to share that good news with others. Father, I don’t know where You are going with the words You give me for this blog or for my book, but I do know what You have done for me, and that alone is worth joyfully sharing with anyone who is willing to listen. Thank you, LORD, for Your patience with me and for pointing out the importance we have as believers so I didn’t carelessly place my focus on the wrong thing as I read Your word today. Pour your wisdom and courage into my heart so I am prepared to be obedient to the call to share the good news. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.