Their mother had given each of them 5 dollars to spend at the mall. The older brother had squandered most of it very quickly, but as his brother came out of the candy store, he was regretting a few of those arcade games. No worries, he had an idea. “Joey, come here! How much money do you have left?” His brother showed him a dollar and a few cents but he held a bag full of candy. This idea just might work. “Were you planning on going to the arcade?” The younger looked at the flashing lights and smiled. “Well then, you’re going to need some quarters!” I will trade you three quarters for your one dollar; three is better than one.” His brother eyed him suspiciously; why would his brother try and help him like this? Seeing his brother thinking it through, he added, “But you’ll have to give me one of your candies, too. I think that’ll make it a pretty fair trade. Now come on, mom will be out of that clothing store any second.” Still worrying that his brother might be tricking him, Joey made the trade anyway and ran to the arcade. With a smirk, his brother bought a pop and sat down to enjoy his brother’s candy.
Too often we are the little brother, the devil dangles his promises, his temporary pleasures, temporary glory, temporary happiness in front of our noses. He convinces us that it is a fair trade, that God’s Word and his promises aren’t worth nearly as much. We fall for it. Never realizing when we forfeit God’s treasures for worldly pleasure we trade the temporary, the fleeting, the worthless, for the value of eternal life. Not only will we not receieve a second chance on Judgment Day, but those who fall for the devil’s lies won’t just be out a few extra blessings. They will go to eternal punishment.
These words of Jesus may be some of the most controversial in religion today. “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Many around us are convinced a loving God could never send anyone, well anyone but the worst of the worst to hell. Or they believe that it must be temporary. That once their sins are paid off or maybe just their temporal punishment for sin is paid off, their time will be up and they will go to heaven. Others go to the other extreme and say that this was what God wanted from the start. He predestined those who would suffer forever, theirs is a hopeless life. But Jesus could not have been clearer. These fires were never meant for the crown of God’s creation, but for the devil and his demons. That those on his left enter into fire is not God’s desire, but their choice, for they chose to follow the devil’s lies instead of God’s truth. They reap the devil’s reward, the punishment that never ends.
Some may ask, where is God’s love in eternal punishment? Where is his justice, when so many, good people by our standards, will be punished for what seem to us to be minor sins? We need look no further than the cross for these answers. When we see our Savior’s suffering, when we hear his cries of agony, we see there are no minor sins. When we diminish sin, its damage to lives and the punishment it deserves, we do not amplify God’s love, we diminish it. It is out of love that our Savior became man for us. It is out of love that he died for us. It is out of love that he suffered, suffered the full punishment of sin, for us. It is out of love that he calls us to repentance. It is out of love that he works faith in hearts and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Are we going to let Satan bamboozle us? Are we going to let him convince us, as he did Adam and Eve, that we can have something better than what the Lord has already given us? Are we going to listen when he says God’s love is not so great and the danger of sin is not so real? Are we going to live our lives as if the things we have and enjoy today are all that really matter? Or are we going to live as Jesus urges, with our hearts set on eternity? We live for eternity when we listen to his Word. We live for eternity when we do what it says. We live for eternity when we rejoice over sins forgiven and the hope we have in Christ. We live for eternity when we look forward to the Day of Judgment. Come, Lord Jesus, Come!