This article was written on March 19, 2020 by Chuck Hetzler, Ph.D., Senior Associate at Christian Union Day and Night and Pastor at Bethesda Grace Church, NYC.
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” ~ Luke 13:1–5
Wide-scale disasters are a reminder of the mortality of life, the coming Day of fire, and the need for everyone everywhere to repent and trust Christ.
When public tragedies took place in Jesus’ time, He used them as opportunities to call people to repent. Was Jesus insensitive to the feelings of His countrymen who may have feared for their own lives? Was He cruel and heartless to dismiss the felt need of hurting people who may have lost a loved one in the current calamities of His day? We know better than to accuse Jesus of anything but compassion for people.
Our Lord had His mind set on a far more disastrous event awaiting every single person who has not fled for safety in Him. The apostle Paul set an example to live with a constant awareness of Judgment Day. For instance in 1 Corinthians 3:13, Paul writes, “each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.” And again in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
Paul’s constant awareness of the coming judgment for all people – Christians and non-Christians – gave him the right perspective to live wholly for Christ. The coming Judgment Day of fire did not paralyze Paul with dread. Rather, it gave him sobriety and accountability to work hard and win as many people as possible to faith in the Messiah. Hence, in light of the impending universal judgment of Christ, Paul wrote: “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” (2 Corinthians 5:11).
For Christians, judgment reminds us to live in a healthy fear of God, so as not to take His grace for granted or become lazy servants or disobedient children. We will be saved from God’s end-time condemnation because we are hidden in Christ, even though we may “suffer loss” if our earthly works are not built on Christ (1 Corinthians 3:15). Even if we have already “repented” and turned to Christ, large scale travesties remind us to keep walking in repentance and loose our hearts from the things of this world.
For non-Christians, the Last Day will become an awful, terrifying reality. Every tragedy in all of human history put together will be as nothing compared to that Day. Every fear and regret and dread that anyone has ever felt in this life will be magnified a thousand times over. No last chance to repent will be given.
But Jesus is merciful today – today is the time when salvation can be yours through repentance. Now is the time when Jesus says, “Do you wonder about the extent of the devastation caused by the coronavirus? I tell you the truth, unless you repent, you will likewise perish.” He tells you as One who knows what the future holds. He tells you as One who created you and came to die for you. He tells you with all seriousness, that you may escape the flames today. Delay no more, repent and run to the Savior today.
Lord Jesus, we hear Your voice warning us of a far greater devastation that awaits us if we do not repent. We repent O Lord! We flee to You! We do not look back. We do not hold on to our own lives, our own desires, our own choices. We choose You and only You. Teach us Your ways and let us walk with You always. Amen.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.