(It is highly recommended to go back and read Part 1 of this continuation to have a better understanding of the main premise.)
Counsel Between Friends
While on their way to judge Sodom and Gomorrah the Lord and His angels stopped at Abraham’s encampment. Sodom and Gomorrah had become the most wicked cities on the face of the earth. A grievous cry against the people of this valley had reached the throne of God and come before the face of the Lord. Genesis 18:20 tells us, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave“. In these cities, perversion was not only permitted but was also encouraged and promoted. Romans 1:32 and Hebrews 6:4-6 describes such behavior as representative of a debased mind, a mind that is reprobate…so seared that it is impossible to renew it again to repentance. The bowl of iniquity hanging over Sodom and Gomorrah was full, and God was about to allow them to reap what had been sewn, but on His way to judge, God stops to discuss His plans with Abraham. Why?
The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?” (Gen. 18:17). How would you like to be such an intimate and trusted friend of the Lord that He would join counsel with you before taking action? In the Lord’s eyes, because of his faithfulness and obedience, Abraham was found worthy to be called a friend of God. This is what friends do; they talk to one another, they help one another, and they share counsel with one another. God came to Abraham to inform him of His plan, but He also came looking for something.
It is the full desire and work of the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, to bring every believer into this place of intimate friendship and authority.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. (John 15:13-16)
In Jeremiah’s day, Israel was about to face the Lord’s judgment because of their sin. The Lord told Jeremiah, “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; see now and know; and seek in her open places if you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks the truth, and I will pardon her.” (Jer 5:1) This was what the Lord was looking for; He was looking for someone to stand in agreement with His righteousness and justice. He was looking for someone to stand in the gap for these cities, because the Lord desired to pardon them. This meant that the Lord desired them to repent and return to Him, and He would use any disciplinary means needed to accomplish it. This is exactly that for which Abraham prayed. He stepped into the breach before God, to turn away His wrath, to intercede for God’s mercy to be extended.
Abraham knew God as just and righteous, that He would not slay the righteous with the wicked, so humbly and sincerely he reminded God of His character. Abraham knew God did not desire to destroy, but to save and redeem. Abraham says in Genesis 18:25, “Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Abraham knew his God; he knew his Friend, and he answered His call to intercede. God honored his prayer.
Genesis 19:29 tells us, “And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt.” The Amplified tells us that God “earnestly” remembered Abraham, that Abraham was “imprinted and fixed indelibly on God’s mind.” Abraham, in the image of Christ (who, at this very moment intercedes for the world), Abraham, the friend of God, interceded for the righteous of these cities. God’s holy nature was satisfied; He saved the righteous and judged the wicked.
Behold the depravity of man
Jeremiah tells us, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The hearts of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah certainly bore witness to this truth by their actions. Their hearts had become so dark, so twisted, that when the two holy angels entered their city, the men of Sodom and Gomorrah wanted to drag them into the streets to engage in sex. They had become completely animalistic. It is interesting to note that I Corinthians 2:14 in the French Bible, the phrase the natural man, is translated as “l’homme animal,” or “the animal man.”
No matter how depraved and debased a human heart is, the Lord’s heart ceaselessly desires to save and to redeem it. King Nebuchadnezzar, in the book of Daniel, gives us another example of God’s patient longsuffering with man’s wickedness and His persevering desire to redeem and restore even the most animalistic of our race.
While Nebuchadnezzar was at rest and flourishing in his palace, he had a dream, which made him afraid and troubled him. In His mercy God gave the prophet Daniel the interpretation. Daniel was so troubled by the interpretation that the king had to encourage him to answer. Daniel humbly shared the disquieting gravity of the king’s situation and concluded his interpretation by counseling the king, “Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.” (Dan 4:27)
In His patient lovingkindness God allowed Nebuchadnezzar a season to consider his ways. However, Nebuchadnezzar remained proud, unrighteous and hardhearted. Therefore, when the prophesied time of grace ended, God turned Nebuchadnezzar over to the animalistic nature resident in his hardened heart, and he became severely demonized. As prophesied he was driven from men, and for seven years he ate grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of the heavens, until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws (Daniel 4:33).
However, God’s heart is always to restore. In his own words, Nebuchadnezzar stated,
And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; he does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”…Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down. (Daniel 4:34-35, 37)
The mercy and grace of this judgment allowed Nebuchadnezzar a season to experience the omnipotence of the living God. The experience changed his thinking and he saw the truth. When the Lord brought back his understanding, Nebuchadnezzar choose wisely, and praised and extolled and honored the King of heaven, and God blessed him and his rule.
Behold The Kindness and Severity of God
There is a point in time when the righteous holiness of God demands a dealing with the wicked and sinful choices of man. God would not be holy if He allowed wickedness to endlessly continue. Most people in the church, and probably all people in the world, do not understand the righteous holiness of God. Romans 11:22 reminds us, “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.”
There are far too many who have become fixated on John 3:16 and say to themselves, “God is so loving, He’ll overlook this,” or “He loves me so much, He’ll be nice about that.” This is not God.
God IS kind, but He is NOT nice. Nice people will sometimes lie to us, not wanting to hurt our feelings. This is a coward’s way out, many times, of an uncomfortable situation. But, God is kind, and His kindness means that although it may temporarily hurt me, it is done, in truth, with a view that it will bring about change and maturity. God cannot and God will not wink at sin. God reminds us in Ps. 14:3: “They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.” If you think God winks at any sin, even the most innocuous, you had better think again.
God is one hundred percent the very essence of love and goodness. He is patiently longsuffering and merciful toward us; however, God is also just. When He judges, He must judge righteously. He does not turn aside His righteousness to stand in His love. He is fully righteous in His love and fully loving in His righteousness. The Judge of the earth does right all the time.
One day all men and women will stand before God to give an account of their lives. God will open the books of good and evil deeds, and He will render a judgment. Those who do not know Jesus, who have not surrendered to Him and have not applied the Blood of the Lamb to their life will receive punitive judgment. They will not go to heaven. The sum of both their good and bad deeds will determine the severity of their punishment in addition to the torment to be suffered as a consequence of eternal separation from God.
For those who have rejected Christ, this will be the most hellacious moment in their history. All of their lives, they longed for fulfillment. All of their lives, they went from one relationship to another, from one thing to another, trying to find unconditional love, trying to fill that relentless empty ache inside, trying to find what they knew would fulfill them. They couldn’t find it in money, possessions or position. They couldn’t find it in women or in men, in friends or in fame. They couldn’t find it in work or in entertainment or pleasure. They had the Gospel preached to them, but they shunned it. They had it presented to them, but they said, “No, I don’t want that.” They simply disregarded or rejected it outright.
There will come a day when the lost find themselves standing before the Living God. As they stand before Him, this Man who is absolute Holy Truth, this Man who is the fullness of all things, they will feel wave after wave of His mercy, wave after wave of the healing they longed for, wave after wave of the unconditional love they craved and sought out in all of the illegitimate ways they participated in, and then they will hear Him say, “Depart from me, you who work iniquity.” From that point on, they will never experience Him again. That is Hell!
He is a just, righteous and holy God, and He will do this. He will do this with tears in His eyes, but He will send people away to outer darkness, away to the lake of fire because that was their choice, not His. Jesus tells us that hell was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt: 25:41). God never created hell for mankind; He created man in His image and His likeness. He created man to live eternally in an intimate relationship with Himself. God will never send anyone to hell—man individually, willfully chooses to go there. God also never drags anyone kicking and screaming into heaven. Individuals willfully choose to accept His invitation and pardon. No one goes to heaven his own way; everyone goes God’s way. He is a just and holy God.
Those who have surrendered their lives and wills to the Lord Jesus will not experience punitive judgment. He or she will still be judged according to their deeds in the body. However, instead of receiving punitive punishment, he or she will receive rewards for what was done with the gifts and graces that He had given for service. The Lord makes this very clear in the parable of the sower. “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matt 13:23)
The choice as to what we do with what we are given is always personal. At some point, an account will be exacted and a judgment rendered; for those who accept the Lord, eternal oneness and for those who reject Him, eternal separation.
We can begin to see that judgment is God’s response to our choices. Righteousness draws us near while unrighteousness hardens our heart. Because man is made in God’s image, satisfaction and fulfillment only come as we rightly relate to our Creator. The entire history of man can be summarized as the journey to reclaim what Adam lost.
Man’s identity is intricately intertwined with the Godhead and is only found through righteousness. As we rightly relate to our God, we understand that identity is birthed through relationship. As man embraces relationship with God, man begins to become what he beholds; he becomes more like God. Individuals who have found their identity in Him are the ones God empowers and releases to fulfill His purpose.