PUNISHMENT OF THE GODLESS . . . . It will come. But do not live for that day!

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (Reference: 2 Peter 3:3-7 )

Scoffers have come and gone, writer of 2 Peter. Generations of them. And yet the world goes on. We have had proclaimers of the world coming to an end in all shapes and sizes. And each one of those proclaimers has passed on to the next world. But this world goes on. If we are in the last days, the last days have gone on for hundreds of years.

But I am not scoffing, beloved. Neither am I following my own desires. I see proof all around me that God’s power and might is as strong now as in the past. What I do not see is any proof that these last days are any different than the last days of decades ago. So what must I understand, writer of 2 Peter?

Walter of Stoelwijk posed the question, “who are these unbelievers, who do not believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and shall therefore suffer everlasting pain?” and answered it saying, “They are those who now do not observe the commandments of Jesus Christ, and will not suffer for the name of God, or confess the truth according to the instruction of the Gospel . . .“ Many of the historic Anabaptists believed they were living in the last times and they would be delivered from the persecution and oppression that was pressed against them. But the Day of Judgment did not come, and all of those who lived in that time, both the historic Anabaptists and their accusers, they all passed away as mortals do.

Hear me well, beloved. If you are living for the day that the “godless” will be punished and the “Godly” will be rewarded, you are not truly living. It is not the Day of Judgment that you should be ready for, but the daily question, . . . . are you living for yourself? Or living for God? This is a question some of the historic Anabaptists wrestled with, and this past year we have heard their voices speak of their faith. If you would remember them for anything, remember them for sincere efforts to live as they felt God called them to live. Selah!

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PUNISHMENT OF THE GODLESS . . . . Does this mean you?

They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. “ (Reference: 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 )

The writer of 2 Thessalonians was writing to a people who had believed in God, and the writer’s warning about those who did not believe was tempered with the assurance that the writer’s audience did believe – therefore I believe it was a positive message.

The historic Anabaptist, Lenaert Plovier, wrote to his children saying, “Behold, dear children, that the Word of the Lord is food for the soul, by which the soul must live; and he that does not govern his life according to these words, is threatened with eternal damnation, as Christ says: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3. Hence Christ says: “Repent ye, and believe the gospel; for the axe is laid unto the root of the trees; therefore, every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” Mark 1:15; Matt. 3:10. Therefore, dear children, see that you escape punishment; for those who do not obey the Gospel shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. 2 Thess. 1:9. O dear children, behold what punishment shall come upon him who does not obey the Gospel—eternal banishment from the face of God, and everlasting punishment. Hence, dear children, prepare while you have time.” And this seems like a negative pessimistic message to me.

I have read writings where the message is of constant correction and need for repentance. Not all of the historic Anabaptist writing comes from that exhortation, a “hellfire and brimstone” perspective if you will; but it is hard to remember that when it seems like for many weeks we have been steeped in that sort of message. And it is especially hard to read, and write on in the Christmas season. Five years ago it seems I was more able to address these sort of verses without becoming weary of the constant message of correcting wrong living. Back then I wrote This includes you! which also noted that the message of Plovier was for those not living as he and other historic Anabaptist thought they should.

And I wonder, off and on, why it is draining on me. Part of it might be my own health is more precarious than 5 years ago. Another reason might be that I have also been writing Advent and Christmas themed posting and so have been looking at our coming hope rather than doom. And I cannot discount the fact that I have been writing solo and that I have been doing this for many years. I think than the change I am planning for 2015 will be good for me, and I hope it will be beneficial to you too beloved.

It is my hope and prayer that you are not among the godless, beloved. It is my hope and prayer you are like those Thessalonians who believe in the life and testimony of Jesus Christ. Selah!

PUNISHMENT OF THE GODLESS . . . . Those who have placed themselves outside of faith in God

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” (Reference: Romans 1:16-18 )

I almost feel like these verses could be a continued theme from yesterday. I ended yesterday’s posting with a declaration of faith for all of us, that we believe in God and want our lives to be filled with God. Historic Anabaptist Balthasar Hubmaier wrote a scathing indictment of those he and his fellow believers labeled as “godless” and wicked. But it was not just (or was not at all) their own opinion, but one that they felt God had established. Hubmaier wrote, “This is a judgment of the righteous God on account of their own wilfull [sic.], wanton, and unrepentant evil, because they fight against the known and recognized truth. Yes, they turn their backs on God and say that he will not let himself be seen. They stop up their ears so that they do not have to hear his voice. If they were to hear his voice they think they would have to die, even though it is in that way that one must and should become alive. They turn their eyes away from God and blame him for not wanting to know them. They close off their hearts and hide themselves and yet complain that he does not knock at their heart’s door nor seek them. . . . the time is coming when they will seek God, but will not be able to find him.”

I had posed the question yesterday as to whether the “godless” are those who do not believe in God, or simply those who do not do God’s will but their own will and wicked agenda. Hubmaier adds another layer to this when he says they refuse to believe in God even when the evidence is presented to them and is before them. I guess there are many ways to be “godless.”

But what comes through very clearly in this verse, aside from not being ashamed by the gospel and spreading true faith in God, is that it is God’s task to judge who is godless and who is not. We can, as Hubmaier has, describe the type of people who we think are godless and what sort of godlessness we think they practice. But it is for God to judge them and release God’s wrath on them. And that is an important word to be heard in our current world. And if we claim and cling to being Godly, then we should not exact any punishment on one another, leaving that to God.

As the final days of this year close out beloved, may you invite God into your life (again) for the coming year, filling yourself with God. Selah!

PUNISHMENT OF THE GODLESS . . . . Again, what does it mean to be “godless”?

Woe be unto thee, Assur, thou that hidest the unrighteous in thee! O thou wicked people, remember what I did unto Sodom and Gomorrha; Whose land lieth in clods of pitch and heaps of ashes: even so also will I do unto them that hear me not, saith the Almighty Lord.”
(Reference: 2 Esdras 2:8-9 )

Five years ago I think I did a masterful job of looking at this text in the post What does it mean to be godless? I am not sure I could much improve upon it, though I did do a little minor tweaking. I posed the question as to what it means to be “godless”, meaning devoid of the attributes that mark believers of God.

But it seems to me, some five years hence, there could be another way to look at it. What does it mean to be a person or a nation that does not believe, espouse, or follow God? Does it mean to be without compassion, ethics or morality? Are those attributes of a person or nation only available with belief in the one monotheistic God?

It is possible to be “godless” yet believe in God. Historic Anabaptist Dirk Philips makes this point when he reminds his reader that “the church in Thyatira was reprimanded by the Son of God (although it was adorned with several virtues and gifts of the Spirit) because it permitted the prophetess Jezebel, (which means false doctrine) by whom the servants of God were seduced, Rev. 2:18-23.” And that when one sees evil, one is to separate one’s self from it. Does this mean it is possible to be not “godless” but not follow God? There are no easy answers in our world. Sometimes the old ways from the past do not work in the present. That is one of the things I have come to realize over this past year.

But, you beloved and myself, we believe in God. We seek to follow God. We turn from evil and rather than be without God, we seek God each day. And if we have a time or a day when we have not been “Godly” we ask for forgiveness, and seek mercy and redemption. As we come out of this Christmas season may be resolve to be God-filled! Selah!

PUNISHMENT OF THE GODLESS . . . . Do we receive what is truly due to us?

If the righteous receive their due on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner!” (Reference: Proverbs 11:31 )

A large message in just a handful of words – if the good that people do here on earth is rewarded, the evil that people do will also receive the consequences that evil doing deserves. However, according to some commentators there is another way to understand this verse – if those who try to do good get punished for the small sins they do, think how much more those who commit evil by intention and design will be punished! Or as historic Anabaptist Jan Hendrickss wrote to his wife, “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

But these are heavy thoughts for the day after Christmas. We are more likely to be thinking about the presents given and received, the fine feast that has been prepared and eaten, and the friends and family with whom we have enjoyed Christmas cheer. I am pretty sure we did not stop and think if these were things that were “due” to us as rewards. And it is doubtful we received them with as a punishment; more likely with joy and thanksgiving.

And looking at the theme of Christmas more specifically, the gift of the Christ child was neither something that was our reward for correct behavior, nor our punishment for sins. In fact what is due is thanks to God for the gift of the Messiah and salvation. Thanks for the love that God shows to us not just at Christmas but every day of the year.

I hope in addition to expressing thanks for the gifts you received, the meal you enjoyed, and the companionship that was offered, you have thanked God for the blessings that have been bestowed upon you. Beloved, I do not think we always receive what is due to us – either as reward or punishment. So let us take what good comes to us as God’s blessing to us. And if there are unfortunate things in our lives, let us not assume we are being punished. The historic Anabaptists had at times a dim and melancholy outlook on life. Let us, in the keeping of the season, raise a song of praise and thankfulness to God this Christmas season. And may God bless you abundantly. Selah!