Commentary by Walter Albritton
Choose God’s Eternal Reward Or Face Everlasting Punishment
Key Verse: Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus. – Revelation 14:12
John the Revelator did not flinch from speaking of fire and brimstone. He warned his readers that everyone would experience one of two realities in the next life: eternal reward or everlasting punishment. His thinking is not vague but clear. People have a choice. They can choose Christ, who is Life, and be rewarded with eternal life, or they can refuse Christ and face everlasting punishment.
The issue is one of endurance. God calls us to stay the course, endure the race to the end, by keeping the commandments of God and holding fast to the faith of Jesus. To refuse this call is to worship evil and suffer the punishment of those who ignore God’s commandments. Those who choose Christ will suffer but after the death of the body, they will enjoy eternal life in heaven. Those who turn their backs on Christ will drink the wine of God’s wrath and be tormented “for ever and ever.”
Does this make John a “hell fire and brimstone preacher”? No, but it does make him a faithful preacher of the full gospel. John’s major emphasis is on the love of God, not on his wrath. He does not water down the gospel, however, to make it more palatable to people who prefer their own ideas to those outlined in the Word of God. Many people blindly rationalize that because God is love, he would never condemn anyone to hell. Others, among those who refuse Christ, conclude that there is actually no such thing as hell; God, they assume, is a benevolent Creator who will eventually take all people to heaven regardless of their behavior in the world.
Such logic is obviously flawed. Heaven seems like a good idea so it is embraced. Hell seems inconceivable so it is discarded. Those who reason like this have made their own minds their source of truth, rather than the Word of God. They presume, in foolish pride, that what they think is more important than what God says. To reach this point, of course, these persons have first decided that the Bible is not the Word of God but a book of history and outmoded ideas about God. For them there are no abiding standards of right and wrong; morality is whatever society wants it to be.
Those who choose to worship Christ and keep God’s commandments have a different perspective. They believe that the Bible is the ultimate source of truth, offering us changeless standards of right and wrong. When these standards are overridden by a morality gone to seed, that society has chosen to oppose God and renounce Christ. Christ cannot be Savior and Lord of anyone who refuses to obey the commandments of God. Jesus made it plain that those who love him will obey his commands. Christ and God’s commandments are inseparable. God still calls his people to holiness and purity of life. Irreverence and depravity are still an abomination to God.
John’s words are a strong warning. Unrepentant sinners will not escape the wrath of God. As Christians are “sealed” with God’s protection, so unbelievers are “sealed” for everlasting punishment. Our choices are important. Our decisions determine our destiny. We can choose Christ, or refuse Christ. In this world we will suffer, but as believers we will know in our pain that He is with us. By choosing to endure, to keep the faith, to honor Christ in all ways, we are accepting God’s offer of eternal life, an eternal reward of living in his presence.
John is no “foaming at the mouth” preacher shouting about hell as though he wants sinners to go there. If I knew a bridge was out, would I not want to tell people driving on that highway about the danger they faced? John had received a revelation of truth from God. He knew those who refused Christ were facing death on life’s highway unless they turned from their evil ways and began to worship the Lamb. Those of us who preach and teach the gospel today would do well to imitate John’s urgency in calling people to “fear God and give him glory” by renouncing evil and choosing Christ. When we choose to endure in the faith, God comes to our side in every night of pain and bewilderment. He comes. He keeps his promises. We are not alone, and we can witness to others that despite our trials, we have known the strengthening Presence of the Comforter. No matter how dark the night, we have a song, while unbelievers hear only the frightening discordant sounds of hell.
In the course of our endurance, we can choose also to tell others of the great faithfulness of our God. We can tell any who will listen that all we have needed, “His Hand has provided,” and invite them to take His Hand and join us on this exciting journey to heaven. Anyone on his way to heaven surely ought to invite someone to come along!
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