"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven."
- Matthew 10:32-33
Jesus had just sent the disciples to the people of Judah, the Jews. He told them NOT to go to the Gentiles, including the Samaritans (Matthews 10:5), but only to go to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." He then warned them of the persecution they would face because of their testimony that Jesus was the Messiah and that they were healing and casting out demons in HIS name. The verses quoted above were spoken to comfort the disciples as they faced the danger of the reaction of the Jews who did not believe Jesus was the promised Messiah. Some would be beaten, some killed, but great would be their reward in heaven.
Why did Jesus send them to the Jews? Because without believing in Jesus, even the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were going to face God's judgment in hell. In John 5, Jesus was testifying again to the Jews when He said, "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:22-24).
The Jews needed to repent of their sins and believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Savior whom God had promised in the Garden of Eden and to their forefathers. As I have quoted often, John 3:16 says that "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." Someone might ask, "What about verse 17?" Let's go on to verses 17-18: "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him (saved from what?? God's judgment!). Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
It is being said and taught by more and more and more people, even in the visible church, that God saves anyone who seeks Him, whether they are Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or followers of any other religion. While it is true that people can say or teach anything they want, that doesn't make it true! The ONLY book we have that tells us who Jesus is, why He came, what He accomplished on the cross, how to be saved from God's wrath against our sins and what lies ahead in the future when Jesus returns is the Bible. You can't pick a few verses out of the Bible and say that all Jesus talked about was loving other people. He told His disciples to love other people by doing good to them in His name so that they could offer them God's grace and forgiveness through faith in Him!
Today people think it is wrong and unloving to have an "agenda" to do good things for people and then "hammer them" with the Gospel. Satan has been hard at work convincing people who do not know the Bible that it is unloving to offer LIFE to people who are dead!! It is not "judging people" to declare that those who do not know Jesus are spiritually dead, no matter how "good" they might be. People are going to hell without ever hearing about the cross. GOD says through the Apostle Paul that He demonstrated HIS love for US in this, that "while we were yet sinners, Christ DIED for us" (Romans 5:8).
What was happening when Jesus cried out on the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Again, God tells us: "For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (II Corinthians 5:21). As Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 53:4-6: "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrow; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for OUR transgressions; He was crushed for OUR iniquities; upon HIM was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with HIS stripes WE are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned - every one - to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
On the cross Jesus suffered the wrath of God against sin. His death was sufficient to cover the sins of the entire human race, yet there is only one way to benefit from His sacrifice: to believe on Him, to confess Him as Savior and Lord. That is why Jesus sent His disciples out into the world with this message, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. ALL people are sinners. ALL people deserve God's judgment. And only by hearing the Gospel and being moved by the Spirit to repent and believe in Jesus can anyone be saved from an eternity in hell. The Gospel is the sword of the Spirit that cuts to the heart of unbelievers and moves them to confess their sin and to trust in Jesus for forgiveness.
Paul states it this way in Romans 10 when he asks, "What does the word of God say?" "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:8-9). He says the Jews and Greeks (Gentiles) all need to call on Jesus to be saved, and then he asks, "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent! As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" (Romans 10:14-15). And finally, verse 17: "So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."
People need to "call" on the name of the Lord (JESUS - the name that is above every name!). But they need to believe on Him before they will call on Him, and they need to hear of Him before they believe in Him. And so these first disciples, and many after them, even today, risked their very lives to proclaim this Gospel, this good news, this message of forgiveness through faith in Jesus. Why? Because they knew, they believed that those who have not heard of Jesus and who have not confessed Jesus as Savior and Lord are going to suffer an eternity of God's wrath and judgment in hell. Men, women, boys, girls ... generation after generation of those who are in bondage to Satan's lies and deception through other religions or through self-deception that they are somehow good enough to stand before a holy God, are all subject to facing the wrath of God unless they hear, believe and call.
While I realize that there are some who take the name "Christian" who look down on others and who think THEY are good enough in their own self-righteousness to stand before God, I continue to be amazed that those of us who know all too well our own sin and who claim only the grace of God through Jesus Christ for forgiveness and life are considered "judgmental" and "unloving" for speaking the truth. Actually, I am not amazed, for Jesus said it would be so, but I am saddened that these "attacks" are increasingly coming from within the visible church.
I know that talking about the reality of hell and actually believing that people who don't know Jesus are going there is not popular, but it is still true! Preachers like Robert Schuller and Joel Osteen and others are deceiving people and bringing dishonor to the name of Jesus Christ by refusing to declare those who do not confess Christ to be outside of God's kingdom ... UNLESS they repent, unless they hear the Gospel and turn away from their sin and place their faith, their only hope, in a Savior who died for them. THIS is why we preach the Gospel, and I will be the first to admit that we are not doing it enough! The task of the true Church is to preach the Gospel and to equip God's people to declare the Gospel wherever they go ... to their family, friends, co-workers, classmates and strangers.
EVERYONE needs to hear the Gospel, and at the center of the message is the cross of Jesus Christ. To deny the necessity of the cross in removing God's wrath from sinners is to deny Christ and to bring even greater judgment on yourself and those to whom God has sent you. To his young friend, Timothy, Paul wrote, "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths" (II Timothy 4:1-4).
Let it not be said that we failed to fulfill our calling by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people. Let us say with Paul, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith'" (Romans 1:16-17).