A question which often perplexes Christians is that there are people who will be lost, who will not spend eternity with Jesus. We spend time with people who are religious and do so many good things but have never put on Jesus by being immersed into him. Sometimes we may even begin to question whether baptism is even important.
Jesus addressed this in what we call “the Sermon on the Mount.” “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven – only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many powerful deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’” (Matthew 6:21-23 NET).
Jesus is quite clear: not everyone who claims to follow Jesus will be saved. Good works, no matter how incredible, won’t save anyone. After all, if doing good would save us, why did Jesus need to die? Those who are saved will be those “who do the will of my Father in heaven.” Obedience to what Jesus said cannot be undervalued.
When Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, he had a similar emphasis. They were suffering for being Christians. Paul offered this encouragement to these Christians.
“For it is right for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to you who are being afflicted to give rest together with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels. With flaming fire he will mete out punishment on those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will undergo the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his strength, when he comes to be glorified among his saints and admired on that day among all who have believed – and you did in fact believe our testimony” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
Notice that Paul mentioned two groups who would receive punishment when Jesus judges people. The first is those who do not know God. Although that should be obvious, some even struggle with the idea that God could punish anyone. This cannot be backed up by scripture.
The second group who will not be saved is those who “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Paul is very specific about what being “punished” means: “They will undergo the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his strength” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
This punishment is “eternal” – it will not have an end. And it is being put away from the presence of Jesus. I can’t think of anything worse that could happen to someone! This will happen to those who “do not obey the gospel.”
But what is the gospel? The Greek word simply means “good news” – the good news of Jesus. In his letter to the Christians in Corinth, Paul referred to the gospel as being the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-11). In Romans 6, Paul connected the idea of Jesus death, burial, and resurrection with our being immersed into him.
What are we to do? We need to teach everyone the whole gospel of Jesus, leaving nothing out. And we need to live so that we will be with Jesus for eternity.
“And in this regard we pray for you always, that our God will make you worthy of his calling and fulfill by his power your every desire for goodness and every work of faith, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
Readings for next week:
15 January – 2 Thessalonians 1-2
16 January – 2 Thessalonians 3
17 January – 1 Timothy 1-2
18 January – 1 Timothy 3-4
19 January – 1 Timothy 5-6