Sunday – May 5, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 17:20-37 “Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs”

Sunday – May 5, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 5, 2019

Luke 17:22
And He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.”

One thing that Jesus has pointed out about the Pharisees is that they tended to appraise things by appearances. The Sermon on the Mount makes much of this. The Lord Jesus told men that sins were not merely external (murder, adultery, etc.), but internal (anger, lust, greed). So, too, righteousness was not so much the doing of external acts (fasting, tithes and offerings, long prayers), but in the attitudes of the heart. In chapter 16, Jesus accused the Pharisees of being far too external in their orientation: “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things, and they were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:14-15).

Is it not easy to understand that when it came to the coming of the promised kingdom of God, men would expect its arrival to be signaled by various external “signs and wonders”? And who but the Pharisees would expect to observe them and recognize the kingdom first. In the gospels of Matthew and Mark, we are told it was the Pharisees who persistently challenged Jesus to prove Himself by performing signs (Matthew 12:38; 16:1; Mark 8:11).

There are three errors described in our text, all of which have to do with the second coming. The first is the error of the Pharisees (verses 20-21). The second error is that of the disciples (verses 22-25). The last error is that of the people as a whole (verses 26-32). From a study of the gospels as a whole, we can see that no one fully understood the prophecies of the Old Testament and how they would be fulfilled in Christ. At best, some had bits and pieces of the story, but no one could put them all together. If this is true, we should be instructed that none of us in the 21st century have a complete understanding of Bible prophecy. We may, like some in Jesus’ day, feel that we are experts in the area of the coming of the kingdom, but we, like they, are not. We have many misconceptions concerning the return of our Lord and the establishment of His kingdom on the earth. We need these words from the lips of our Lord as much as the people of His day needed them.

If you have not yet trusted in Christ as your Savior, you should do so today. Jesus tells us you will not have any warning signs of the coming day of judgment, any more than the preaching of the gospel. There will be no time to repent when that day comes. If you would believe and obey, if you would acknowledge your sin and trust in the work of Christ in your place, for the day of judgment does draw near. Let neither you nor I be unaware or apathetic about its coming. Let us find in Christ that our judgment has already been meted out, and that all that we await is our salvation.

Sunday – April 28, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 17:5-17 “A Lesson in Faith”

Sunday – April 28, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 28, 2019

Luke 17:3-5
“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

How many times have you thought the reason why you could not obey a command of our Lord was you had too little faith? If our problem is one of insufficient faith, we seem to have only two options. First, if faith is only given by God, then faith is God’s problem. How can we be responsible until He provides it first? That almost seems to be the mindset of the apostles. The second possibility would be to try and conjure up the faith on our own. Nowhere does Jesus teach us how to build faith in the way we try to build our bodies. There is not a problem with the quantity of our faith, but a failure to grasp the nature of faith.

Jesus did not minimize the need for faith, but neither did He say a lack of faith was the disciple’s problem, and so granting more faith was not the solution. Jesus’ response in the parable of the slave and the one grateful Samaritan focus on obedience and gratitude. The slave of verses 7-10 is to faithfully obey his master, and not to expect him to show gratitude. The master has the right to expect obedience of a slave, but has no obligation to be thankful for it. In the same way, when the disciple is obedient to Christ, he does not see it as meriting anything from God, nor does he equate his worthiness with it. For all men, even the most obedient of them, are unworthy of divine favor.

If this is true, then what we do not need is a system of rules to keep, for in keeping them there is no reward. If we are unworthy even at our best—even when we keep all of God’s commandments—then what we need is not Law, but grace. Grace is God’s favor bestowed upon us because we are unworthy, not because we are worthy. Grace and mercy are always prompted by our unworthiness, while God’s gratitude cannot even be prompted by our best efforts.

It is the grace of God, poured out freely upon sinners, which produces gratitude. It is grace produced gratitude which serves to motivate the recipient of grace to also bestow it on others, not more faith. Just as God has forgiven us of our sins against Him, solely on the basis of our confession of sin and repentance, so we are to forgive others on the same basis. It is not a greater faith that is required for us to do this, but a better understanding of what faith is and how it works.

Easter Sunday – April 21, 2019 – 2 Corinthians 5:1-19 “Why the Resurrection Matters”

Sunday – April 21, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 21, 2019

1 Corinthians 15:1-2
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

The resurrection is not a religious myth, which coincides with springtime to inspire us with hope and positive thinking. Rather, it is an historic fact that Jesus of Nazareth rose bodily from the dead. It was a physical, not just a “spiritual” resurrection. To be sure, Jesus arose with a resurrection body, which has different properties than our earthly bodies, as Paul explains (15:35-49). But it was a body that could be seen and touched, that could eat and drink.

The resurrection is a matter of great import to the apostle Paul. Few men can claim to have been more impacted by the resurrection of our Lord than Paul. The resurrection of our Lord was the means by which Paul was converted from an enemy of Christ to a true believer. Three times in the Book of Acts (chapters 9, 22, and 26) Paul’s conversion experience on the road to Damascus is reported. This appearance of the risen and glorified Christ blinded Paul, stopping him in his tracks, and led to his conversion. No wonder Paul saw the resurrection of our Lord as such a significant event. It turned Paul’s life upside-down.

Just how important was the resurrection of our Lord to Paul? It was not only the basis for his salvation and apostleship, it was a constant theme in his preaching (Acts 17:30-31; 24:15, 25). It was the reason for Paul’s imprisonment and trial before Caesar (Acts 23:6; 24:21; 26:6-8; 28:20). No wonder Paul is so emphatic about the resurrection of our Lord and about the error of those who say there is no resurrection of the dead. The gospel is the starting point and standard for all Christian teaching and practice. Paul takes us back to our origins to reinforce the vital role which the resurrection of our Lord plays in our salvation and Christian life.

Jesus indicated that the way for Him to bear fruit was to die. And then He applied this same truth to His disciples. Those who love their lives will lose their lives; those who hate their lives in this world will keep them eternally. The way Jesus would “draw all men to Himself” was by being lifted up on the cross of Calvary. Jesus taught that the way to life was the way of the cross. By means of His death, burial, and resurrection, we have been given life by faith in Him. Now, as Christians, we are to apply the same principle to our earthly life. We are to take up our cross, to hate our life, to die to self, and in this way, we will obtain life eternal. Here is an entirely unique approach to life. It is one you will never find originating from unbelievers, but you will find it repeatedly taught in the Word of God. Death is a defeated enemy; death is now our friend, and our way of life. To God be the glory!

Sunday – March 31, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 16:14-18 “Heart Knowledge”

Sunday – March 31, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 31, 2019

Luke 16:14-15
Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

When we experience the rejection of the world for our faith, we gain a small glimpse of the rejection our Lord Jesus experienced. We tend to think that all who scoff at Jesus are outside the religious establishment, similar to our experience. But the gospel accounts show us there are many who put on a pretense of being religious, but who scoff at the Savior. Sadly, not much has changed as the world of religion is filled with those who wear the mantle of piety, but inside seek attention of world over the approval of God. The word “scoff” literally means, “to turn up one’s nose” at someone. It is a term of utter contempt and disregard.

But what, specifically, were the Pharisees scoffing about? They judged on appearances. Jesus was talking a great deal about money, and how to use it. They could well have said to themselves and others, “Who is this expert on money, anyway? Who does He think He is? How much money does He possess? He is so poor that He has to have women of means accompany Him, to provide for His needs!” They may very well have mocked Jesus’ teaching, based simply upon His poverty.

In response to these scoffers, Jesus did not bother pointing out that the Pharisees were really “lovers of money.” Jesus was interested in the source of their problem, not just in symptoms. Loving money was a serious problem, but it was not the root of the Pharisees problem. In verses 15 Jesus exposed the root problem—The Pharisees sought approval from the wrong people, on the wrong basis. I can see why the Pharisees valued money so highly. Money, to the Pharisee, was one of the external proofs of piety. After all, had God not promised to prosper His people Israel if they kept His laws (Deuteronomy 28:1-14), and to bring them great poverty and adversity if they disobeyed (Deuteronomy 28:15)? Money was the proof of piety that would cause an externalist to love.

The Pharisees’ love of money was an indication of their attachment to external standards and appearances, in order to obtain the praise of men. In the process of seeking men’s praise, they also obtained God’s condemnation. It is God, however, who justifies and not men. God does not judge on the basis of outward appearance, but He knows and bases His judgment on what is in man’s heart: “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Sunday – March 24, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 16:1-13 “To Commend a Crook” Part 2

Sunday – March 24, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 24, 2019

Luke 16:9-11
And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?

Did Jesus praise the steward for his shrewdness? We can easily see that the master praised his steward’s shrewdness and we can even understand why he would do so. But would Jesus join with the master in his praise of this man’s shrewdness? The answer is unequivocally NO! In my understanding of the Scripture, this answer is clear, though sadly many Christian leaders have accepted it, choosing rather to see this parable as teaching Christians to be more shrewd, especially in the way we handle money.

The word “shrewd” or “shrewdly” is found twice in the parable, but not in the Lord’s interpretation and application of it. Never does Jesus imply or state that Christians should be shrewd in any way that the “unrighteous” steward has been shrewd. The application found in our Lord’s interpretation of the parable is FAITHFULNESS- not shrewdness. Faithfulness and shrewdness, in this text, are diametrically opposed. The steward “had to” be shrewd because he had been unfaithful. Disciples who are faithful do not need to be shrewd.

Jesus carries over from the parable of the unjust steward, a parallel to what Christians should practice. The unjust steward saw that his days were numbered, and that he would not be able to take his master’s money with him. He then began to use his master’s money in such a way as to make friends, because they would outlast his master’s money. He used his master’s money to make friends. Christians should act similarly, but not the same.

We, like the unjust steward, are stewards of all that God has given us. We do not own anything, but we are given custody of certain resources by God for a time. We need to understand that our Lord’s return is at hand (or our own death will arrive first), and we will neither take money nor possessions with us. Money will not last, but we will last for all eternity. The way to use money so that it will last forever is to “make friends” of men, who will gratefully receive us in heaven. I know of no other application of this more important than evangelism. By using our money in ways that manifest Christ to men and which draw men to Christ in faith, we “make friends,” we invest in men’s souls, so that they will await us in heaven. Thus, though money will not last, investments in men’s souls will last. In this way, we can imitate, in a measure, the unjust steward. He at least can see that friends outlast money.

Sunday – February 17, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 14:1-14 “Table Talks”

Sunday – February 17, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 17, 2019

Luke 14:1-2
It happened that when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, they were watching Him closely.

The meal table is one of the social centers of the home. Think of some of your warmest memories, and many of them will be associated with meal-time. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, usually include a festive meal, fellowship, and pleasant memories. The “external glue” of Luke 14, which gives it a unity, is the dinner table. Everything which is said here is said at or near the dinner table, and about the dinner table. But there is an “internal glue” which should be recognized as well, providing us with an even deeper unity. That “silver thread” is the concept of self-interest. Think about the ways in which self-interest can be found at the heart of every sin which our Lord condemns in these verses.

Self-interest caused the Pharisees to reject Jesus, angry that He spent great amounts of time and energy with “sinners” and the unsuitable people, rather than with them. Self-interest caused the Pharisees to want Jesus out of the way, lest He overthrow their system, and prevent them from all the “perks” which it afforded them. It was also self-interest which motivated each person to seek to sit in the places of honor at the dinner table. And self-interest that caused the Israelites of Jesus’ day to reject Him as Messiah. It is self-interest which keeps men from coming to Christ for salvation. Men wish to enter into the kingdom, but do not wish to create any pain, displeasure, or sacrifice for themselves.

Our culture is more permeated by self-interest than any other people at any other time in history. We may laugh at the antics of the Pharisees to get the best places at the dinner table, but we also sign up for classes which teach us how to assert ourselves, so that we can be more successful. Nearly every problem which man experiences today is now linked (in some mysterious way) to a poor self-esteem. We are truly a self-oriented society, just as Paul described the culture of those in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-5). While we may not fight for the chair of honor at the dinner table, many Christians will line up for leadership training classes, positions of prominence and public visibility. At the same time, those tasks which call for menial service, with little recognition, seem to go begging for faithful people to carry out. Ministries where people don’t seem to appreciate us and our contribution are quickly left behind, replaced by some ministry which is more “fulfilling.”

Let us recognize how much self-interest paralyzes and perverts our ministry, our worship, and our Christian walk. Let us learn from the Master our reward in heaven will be great, and that it comes to those who “give up their life” to gain it, while those who seek to save their lives lose them. May the Spirit of God work through the Word of God to replace self-seeking with self-sacrifice, to the glory of God and for our own good as well.

Sunday – February 10, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 13:31-36 “Christ Would But They Would Not”

Sunday – February 10, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – February 10, 2019

Luke 13:31-33
Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You.” And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.’  Nevertheless, I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem.”

We have been told by Luke (once again) that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, teaching and ministering as He went (Luke 13:22). Jesus’ exodus from Jerusalem (via His death and ascension) will eventually close the narrow door, which He has urged His listeners to pass through. Verses 23-30 therefore stress the implications of Jesus’ approaching Jerusalem for the nation Israel. Verses 31-35 stress the implications of arriving in Jerusalem for Jesus.

Some Pharisees arrived, seemingly from Jerusalem. It appears that they have a kind of “news flash” for Jesus. Apparently, they have learned of Herod’s intention to put Jesus to death if He made an appearance in Jerusalem. They had come to warn Jesus of the danger of persisting on His present course. Herod earlier was desiring to see Jesus (Luke 9:9). The Pharisees, on the other hand, had rejected Him and had determined to put Him to death. Did they really wish to save Jesus from Herod’s treachery? It didn’t matter. Jesus would use this as a further occasion for teaching.

Jesus’ response to this warning was to tell these Pharisees to report back to Herod His commitment to carry on His ministry, as given by God, and as planned. It was business as usual for Jesus, even if that was dangerous, even if it meant death. Jesus was determined to finish what He had been sent to accomplish. No threat of danger would turn Him from His mission or from His ministry. The fainthearted might be tempted to pursue the same ministry, but in a safer location. Jesus was not going to let anything cause Him to take a detour, so that He could avoid the danger which lay ahead. How much this is like the warning which Paul received in Acts 21, telling Him that persisting on with his course would lead him into bondage. Paul’s response is in the footsteps of His Lord’s. Neither would let danger keep them from fulfilling their mission.

Jesus made it clear that He knew He would die in Jerusalem. He was not naive of the danger. He was not oblivious to the pain and the persecution which was ahead. He was conscious that this was His calling. Would He urge men to “strive” to enter the door? He was striving to open the door to salvation, by His sacrificial death. Today, when “playing it safe” seems to be the name of the game, even the smallest danger or threat may be enough to deter us. We conclude that “the Lord has closed the door,” when He may only have purposed for us to walk in His footsteps.

Sunday – January 20, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 13:22-35 “Strive to Enter the Narrow Way”

Sunday – January 20, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 20, 2019

Luke 13:23-24
And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

Somewhere in some village some unnamed person in the crowd asked Jesus an interesting theological question: “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” I don’t know the man’s motives for asking the question. Perhaps he saw the increasing opposition from the religious leaders and he could sense that the crowds tended to side with their leaders. But he asked this question, “Are there just a few who are being saved?” It would have made for an interesting theological discussion. But Jesus directed the question away from abstract theological speculation and toward specific application for each person in the crowd. The man had asked, “Will the saved be few?” Jesus turned it around to ask, “Will the saved be you?”

The man who put the question to Jesus seems to have assumed that he was among the “few” who were being saved. He may, like his fellow Israelites, have thought that the “few” being saved were Israelites, while the “many” who were not were Gentiles. Jesus has some very distressing words for those who would think such thoughts. Jesus first shocked His listeners by indicating that they were not already on the inside, so far as the kingdom is concerned. Then, He went on to say that many of His fellow-Israelites who were not on the inside would not ever be in the kingdom.

They believe that mere association with Jesus was sufficient to save them. They had eaten in His presence. He had taught in their streets. Wasn’t this enough? No. John the Baptist, followed by Jesus, required the followers of Jesus—those who would be truly be saved—to identify with Him. This is what baptism was all about. Did the Israelite(s) think that being a Jew saved him/them (choose sing. or pl. for both)? He was wrong. Baptism was a public testimony of the Jew’s break with his culture, and with the legalism and ritualism of Judaism. It was a profession of identifying with Jesus as the Messiah. Identification with Jesus was, to put it in the terms Jesus is using in our text, passing through the narrow door.

May I press this point a little more personally? How many people think that they are going to be in God’s kingdom because they are a part of some religious sect or denomination? How many suppose they are saved because they come from a Christian family? How many think that they are saved by mere association with spiritual things? Nothing could be further from the truth. You are only saved by identification with Christ. Association with Christ (by going to church, reading the Bible, or whatever) isn’t enough. It wasn’t the truth for the Jews of Jesus’ day. It isn’t enough for you either.

Sunday – January 13, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 13:1-21 “A Matter of Perspective”

Sunday – January 13, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 13, 2019

Luke 13:1-3
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

In the past year we have been shocked by the shooting of 17 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We hear of natural disasters that have killed thousands around the world. On a personal level, many of us struggle with private tragedies—loved ones who die untimely deaths, accidents that leave devastating consequences, children who suffer from birth defects or serious diseases. Naturally, we always ask, “Why?” Why did this have to happen to this person? I can understand why many people question God’s goodness and fairness, even doubting His existence. It’s the classic philosophic problem of evil: How can an all-good and all-powerful God allow good people to suffer and wicked people to prosper?

The Lord Jesus gives us some answers to these difficult questions in Luke 13. We don’t know any more about these events other than what is reported. Pilate had sent in his troops to break up a gathering of Galilean Jews that he deemed dangerous. The Roman soldiers did not care that the Jews were worshiping God by offering sacrifices. They slaughtered them so that their blood flowed together with the blood of their sacrifices. Then Jesus brings up another tragedy when a tower fell down and killed 18 people.

Jesus was speaking to people who did not apply spiritual truth to themselves (12:56-57). From His reply, we can see these men were smugly thinking that those who suffered such tragedies were deserving of God’s judgment, but the fact that they had been spared such tragedies meant that they were pleasing to God. Their theology was like that of Job’s comforters, who thought that Job was suffering because he had sinned. Jesus corrects this mistaken view by showing that we all are sinners worthy of God’s judgment. Twice (13:3 & 5), He drives home the application: Were those who suffered greater sinners? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Rather than asking the question “Why?” with regard to suffering, we should ask the question, “What?” What does this tragedy teach me? The fact that a tragedy has not hit you should show you God’s great patience. If you have not repented of your sins and if you’re not bearing fruit in God’s vineyard, there is still time. But, don’t mistake God’s patience to mean that His axe will never fall. His patience does have a limit. Life is fragile; none are exempt from tragedies. But, if you have fled to Christ for refuge and you are bringing forth the fruits of repentance in your life, you are ready if/when tragedy strikes.

Sunday – January 6, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:49-59 “The Consequences of Christ’s Coming”

Sunday – January 6, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – January 6, 2019

Luke 12:49-51
I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!  But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division.

The word “fire” can arouse a wide variety of responses. If someone were to yell, “Fire!” at the top of their lungs, it would probably produce a great commotion. One the other hand, on a cold winter night, the suggestion to “build a fire in the fireplace” arouses all kinds of warm emotions. And who can forget singing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” at Christmas time? Now, that give us a warm, sentimental feeling. But when Jesus said/says that He had come to “kindle a fire,” He was/is saying that He has come to bring about the outpouring of God’s wrath on sinful Israel. That certainly is neither warm nor sentimental!

There are a number of seeming contradictions in our Lord’s words, here and elsewhere in the gospels. He is the Prince of Peace, but He will bring division. He promises men life, but He calls on them to give up life. He tells men to lay up treasure in heaven, but they are to give up the pursuit of riches in this life, and to give to the poor. The difference is between the “ends” and the “means” by which they are achieved. “Peace” is the end, but a sword and division are the means. “Life” is the end, but death—our Lord’s death, and the/each disciple’s “taking up his cross” is the means. “Blessing and riches” are the end, but giving up the pursuit of them is the means. Since the means appear to contradict the ends, we must go about these means by faith, and not by sight.

But how can Jesus be so zealous for this “fire” to be kindled? If He is going to bring about the judgment of God upon sinners, and if this is not a work in which He takes pleasure, why is He eager for the “fire” to be kindled? I think the answer is simple—this painful and unpleasant (for both God and men, I believe) outpouring of wrath is a prerequisite of and preliminary to the establishment of the kingdom of God. In order for the kingdom of God to be established, sinners must be punished and sin eliminated.

The means by which God has determined to bring about His kingdom is not just painful to sinful men, it is exceedingly painful to God. Not only because men will suffer for their sins, but because Jesus Christ, God’s Son, will suffer His wrath as a payment for man’s sins. Jesus said that before He casts fire on the earth, He had a baptism with which to be baptized. This baptism is the death which He would die on the cross of Calvary. His death on the cross would set in motion a series of events, which will conclude in the pouring out of God’s divine wrath on sinners. The sad reality is that it is not really necessary, because Jesus experienced the full extent of God’s wrath on the cross. For those who trust in Him, that is the full payment for their sins, but for those who reject Him, there is yet to come the outpouring of God’s wrath in the day of judgment.