In these bulletin articles, we’ve been going through a list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. In previous weeks we’ve seen that both the wicked and the righteous will one day be raised for a final judgement. But what will happen to the wicked on the day of judgement?
Firstly, at the day of the judgement the wicked will be placed at Christ’s left hand. Jesus said: ‘All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left’ (Matthew 25:32-33).
Then the Bible tells us that evidence will be brought forward, which will be in accord even with the consciences of the wicked ones. Paul says ‘Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them…This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares’ (Romans 2:14-16).
After this, the wicked will be condemned and cast out of God’s presence into flaming fire. Jesus says in Matthew’s gospel: ‘Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…” Then they will go away to eternal punishment’ (Matthew 25:41-46).
Paul also speaks of this punishment in his letter to the church in Thessalonica. He writes: ‘He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 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’ (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10)
These are sobering words. We do not like the thought of an eternal punishment and many seek to undermine such a truth.
But in one sense, the graciousness of God is shown when we hear about hell. God didn’t have to advise us about the destiny of the wicked. God could have left us to remain in our sins and face punishment without warning. Instead, God’s Word is like a smoke alarm, warning the world that they should flee from the burning building. God’s Word graciously tells them to turn from a life of wickedness and follow Jesus Christ, the only one who can quench the eternal flames.
And in another sense, the justice of God is shown when we hear about hell. God won’t let grievous sin go unpunished. And as all sin is against the almighty and holy God, all sin is grievous and worthy of eternal punishment.
So do you believe the warning that God has graciously given you about his justice? Have you turned from your sins and believed in Jesus? Or are you still living in your wicked ways?