Even as Christians we can be lulled into complacency towards the danger and the consequences of sin. Only as we appreciate what sin deserves will be truly value what Christ has done to deliver us and why we as his children must hate it with a holy loathing. There is, however, another reason why these things need to weigh heavily upon us. They provide the ultimate impetus to tell the world—including our family, friends, neighbours and all we meet—the good news of Christ and his salvation.
The day of Christ’s return will be the day he will ‘judge the living and the dead.’ Christians have confessed this in the words of the Apostles’ Creed for centuries; but, as so often is the case, we can rehearse these words without feeling their weight. More than that, it can be all too easy for those who are already Christians to so gravitate towards the blessing of that day for ourselves, that we do not stop to consider and shudder at what it will mean for those who are outside of Christ.
There is nothing academic about this. It relates the most serious thing any human being will ever have to face. So we need to be clear about it – not just for our own sake, but also for those around us who are not yet ready for that day.
It has much wider significance as well. A significant amount of research has been done to explore the correlation between societies that believe in a future day of reckoning and levels of crime and antisocial behaviour within them. One such article by Wynne Parry in 2012 declared, ‘A strong belief in fiery punishment is good for a country’s crime rates, indicates a new study that looked at religious belief and crime data from around the world’. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that there is a connection between the decline of social order in every sphere of life in many Western nations and their widespread rejection of the doctrine of Hell.
What, then, does the Bible teach regarding what will happen to those who reject God in this life when they finally face him on Judgment Day? The Westminster Larger Catechism provides a helpful summary of what it will entail.
Q. 89. What shall be done to the wicked at the day of judgment?
A. At the day of judgment, the wicked shall be set on Christ’s left hand, and, upon clear evidence, and full conviction of their own consciences, shall have the fearful but just sentence of condemnation pronounced against them; and thereupon shall be cast out from the favourable presence of God, and the glorious fellowship with Christ, his saints, and all his holy angels, into hell, to be punished with unspeakable torments, both of body and soul, with the devil and his angels forever.