Part APart BPart C

C-1: Fate of Judas
C-2: Rewards, Rehabilitation, or Both?
C-3: A Word of Comfort
C-4: What Does the Bible Really Mean by “Everlasting Punishment… Forever and Ever“?
C-5: Deliverance from the Lake of Fire? Society of the Future!
C-6: Lake of Fire – What Is It For?
C-7: Conclusion

C-3: A Word of Comfort

After all this talk so far about judgment and punishment, it might be easy to get rattled or fearful – and to lose one’s perspective about the nature of God. Much of the focus in this study has zeroed in on the “tough love” side of God’s nature. But it is well to keep in mind His tender, merciful side:

 “As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14) Christ exhorted His followers, “Come to Me… I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Matthew 11:28-30, Luke 12:32) “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

For those whose hearts and deeds are right, there is no need to worry. For any of us whose hearts and deeds are not right, even then there is no need to worry or fear. But yes, to feel a little uncomfortable is helpful – or convicted might be a better way of saying it.

For that nagging feeling that something is amiss can be our lifesaver, prodding us towards repentance and restoration – now in this life rather than having to experience it in the next. When life seems to go awry, this could be our lifesaver, a warning signal that we may be going off track in some way.

But no matter what we think about ourselves or how poorly we think we may have scored, it is helpful to keep in mind that each one of us is loved individually by God; each of us is extraordinary and special to Him.

(Message from Jesus:) You are the reason for My existence. I love you as if you were the only one. You’re not lost in a faceless crowd called humanity. You’re not just one of the billions, but you are special and unique to Me. I know and love you as an individual. I died for you personally, so that you could experience My love, so that we could be forever one. (“True Love – Forever Love!” publication of The Family International)

Knowing how much Christ loves us, His creations, we can be confident that whatever correction we may have to endure in the Afterlife will be carried out in a loving atmosphere. No doubt, there will be many souls who once came to Christ at some point in their lives but then went back and did not “live a life worthy of the calling” (Ephesians 4:1) They became hypocritical, lazy, or unprofitable servants, and disobedient to God’s ways.

They are not thrown out of the Kingdom, for Christ has promised: “the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37) But they may have to spend time in the outer fringes, in the “detention houses” of the Kingdom… which might even seem like hell in heaven – for a time at least.

The comparison was made earlier that certain levels in the Kingdom could be like reformatories on Earth – environments where a “tough love” atmosphere is maintained and designed to help wayward teenagers rehabilitate from their waywardness. Eventually, they are ready to enter society as responsible citizens; or in this case, to enter the heavenly Kingdom and partake more fully of its blessings and privileges.

Even in this life we may recall such experiences. When we are undergoing a period of re-training, correction, or rehabilitation in our personal lives, it is difficult. But when we know the Lord, we can always sense the comfort of His presence… and the knowledge too that it is “for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness” and that “afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:10-11) 

And likely, none of us will be exempt from some correction in the Afterlife; we all have things to learn. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) But “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 21:4)

So these Scriptures about shame and contempt (and to some extent “outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth”) can be applied to God’s people. But they are meant as a warning, just as a loving father warns his children against bad behavior and the consequences. This inspires a healthy fear and respect, knowing that our Heavenly Father loves us enough to chastise us when we need it.

In our earthly penal systems, the threat of jail and punishment has deterred many a would-be criminal from wandering down the wrong path. And would not God in His great love also seek to deter His people from unfruitful paths of lethargy and disobedience? He offers them the blessing of chastisement – not to make life difficult, but to make their lives, both now and in the Hereafter, happier and more blessed.

A little note here about this word “chasten”: As used in both Old and New Testaments, it emphasizes the instruction and training aspect of correction, not just the punishment side of it and can be translated as instruct, teach, correct”.  When our children are naughty, we don’t throw them out of the house. We love them, and they are still our children.

But of course, when our children are naughty, then we, as responsible and loving parents, have to discipline (or chasten) them. We make them sit in a corner, deprive them of their privileges or rewards. In other words, we “punish” them – but the punishment is for a purpose, and the aim is to restore the child to a pattern of good behavior and acceptance into our fellowship.

If we in the earthly realm have the wisdom, capacity, and compassion to properly discipline our naughty children so that they will turn into law-abiding future citizens, how much more is God willing to go to the trouble to discipline His wayward children and bring them into a state of blessedness. “As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13)

So even if we have to “sit in the corner” for awhile and endure “shame and everlasting contempt”, this need not be as permanent a condition as the English translation would suggest. (And this will be the subject of the next chapter.) It is “everlasting” in that it happens in the Unseen Realm and will last for an unknown period of time. Once we can accept and learn whatever is needed, then God in His mercy will restore us to a state of well-being and peace (even if it seems to take “forever” for that to happen).

But how much better to arrive into the Kingdom and hear the Lord’s, “Well done, good and faithful servant”. (Matthew 25:21,23) It is certainly a goal worth aiming for – to “obtain a better resurrection” and “receive a full reward.” (Hebrews 11:35, 2John 8) As an incentive, the angel Gabriel, in Daniel 12:2, holds out the promise of heavenly reward and honor. The “wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

To achieve such reward is not something that can be worked up in the energy of the flesh, nor is it wise to judge one’s efforts by human standards which are apt to differ from God’s standards. (“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” – Isaiah 55:8.) We should strive and work hard towards godly goals, yet at the same time carry the spirit of rest and trust in the Lord, remembering that “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

Continue to C-4: What does the Bible Really Mean by “Everlasting Punishment… Forever and Ever”?

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