This sermon address the nature of God’s judgment at the end of time and how it relates to the suffering we are encountering in the midst of the struggles of this present life.
All sin is inherently self-destructive because all sin is turning away from God and God is the source of all life. God doesn’t have to cause harm to the sinner directly because the sinner’s own sin does that. God in his mercy tries to keep people from going down this path of death, but when God sees his mercy is simply enabling people to get more entrenched in their sin, God has no choice but to let go. This is what it means to come under the “judgment” or “wrath” of God.
Along the same lines, God appointed humans as the caregivers of the earth and animal kingdom and thus there is an intrinsic connection between humans and the earth. When humans live in sin, this way of life has an organic impact upon creation. We see this in Hosea 4:1-3:
Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel,
for the Lord has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or loyalty
and no knowledge of God in the land.
Swearing, lying, and murder,
and stealing and adultery break out;
bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Therefore the land mourns,
and all who live in it languish;
together with the wild animals
and the birds of the air,
even the fish of the sea are perishing.
This passage does not say that God is afflicting the land, wild animals, birds and fish. Rather, our corruption corrupts the earth, and when the corruption of the earth has run its full course, it ends up destroying the inhabitants of the earth. By God’s design, we either flourish along with the earth by loving God, neighbor as self, and God’s creation, or we get sick and eventually die along with the earth, because we fail to love God, our neighbor as ourself and God’s creation.
Whether the horrendous events that are occurring in our world today related to extreme climate events are pointing to the ultimate judgment of the end time, we don’t know. The one thing that we do know is that the struggles that we face now pale in comparison to the glory that we will experience in the future. This is what Paul is talking about in the focus scripture quoted above. The sufferings of our current fallen world, as utterly terrible as they are, can’t hold a candle to the glory that will be revealed to us when God finally brings this current fallen world order to a close.
This current fallen creation is waiting with eager longing for the revelation of the children of God. For only when God’s image bearers are fully restored will the earth and animal kingdom be restored. Until then, it groans because God subjected the creation to futility. God allowed creation to be subjected to futility because God saw that this was the only way we and all we are entrusted to care for could someday experience a “glory” that renders all current sufferings inconsequential.
The final judgment is the culmination of the labor pains and futility of this current fallen world order. It is the final push, and the final scream that brings forth the new life of our transformed bodies and transformed character and a transformed earth and animal kingdom. We do not put our hope in the present, but we look forward to God’s redemption of all things, and we work to align our lives with that coming future.
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