TODAY’S READING: Ezekiel 13–15
Ezekiel used the national symbol of Israel, the vine, to show that all creation has a purpose and that if we do not fulfill our created purpose, we will be judged by fire (Eze. 15). Israel’s purpose was to be a light to the Gentiles, a demonstration of how good and glorious Jehovah is. Ezekiel and all the prophets wrestled with the tragedy that Israel rebelled against her purpose and thus faced God’s fire. The covenant was simple, and any violation of it brought judgment and loss.
Ezekiel’s tension was in the discrepancy between the reality of the consequences of the violated covenant that he prophesied and the lies of those who predicted peace (13:10). Through Ezekiel, God said those that espoused peace spoke out of their own heart, followed their own spirit, and spoke nonsense and envisioned lies (vv. 1, 3, 8). The lie was that one can break the missionary covenant of God (to be His blessing to all nations) without consequence. The truth is that those who live unholy, those who are not wholly dedicated to the glory of God among all peoples will face the wind of His fury and the floods of His anger and then they will know that He is the Lord (vv. 13–14).
Missional reality has not changed from Old Testament to New. Jesus said He did not come to bring peace but a sword. Jesus will come in glory to judge the living and the dead, and most will be judged to fiery hell, for narrow is the way that leads to life and few will find it. Jesus said the kingdom suffers violence and the violent take it by force. The reality is God is at war. He fights for His own glory and He fights against all that is wicked. And when God goes to war, we know who wins. Those who fight against the absolute glory of God by diminishing hell and His judgment are insulting His character. You cannot undermine hell without undermining the glory of God.
To diminish hell (disavow eternal punishment and the horribly painful consequences of dishonoring God or breaking His covenant) is to make the same mistake as the false prophets of Ezekiel’s day: “Because with lies…you have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save His life” (v. 22). What distinguishes Christian missions from all other efforts is that we tell the truth about hell and heaven, that we love people enough to open our mouths and tell them that God is at war with them, that judgment looms, and that if they do not repent, they will suffer eternally for their foolish rebellion. In this sense, preaching the full gospel is the greatest act of love we can offer the nations, even if we are hated for so loving.