Summary: Some things in the Bible are just plain difficult to understand. Matthew 11:20-24 is one of them for me. I know, I don’t have to understand everything in God’s Word in order to believe it because I trust in God who knows what He is doing.
Part 7 - Matthew 11:20-24 - SLOW COOKED OR CHAR GRILLED?
Are there degrees of hell? I asked my friends recently this question and one of them said, "I believe Hell is a place where the presence of God and Jesus does not exist so it must be a horrible place. However, if there is any fairness to life and death (and I really don’t believe there is) then there should be degrees of Hell...this scripture certainly makes you wonder if there is. Whatever - I don’t intend to find out personally!"
Some things in the Bible are just plain difficult to understand. Matthew 11:20-24 is one of them for me. I know, I don’t have to understand everything in God’s Word in order to believe it because I trust in God who knows what He is doing. It won’t always make sense to me. I’m glad that He is God and I am not. But Matthew 11:15 (NLT) says, "Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!" Lord let me hear, listen and understand Your words today.
So what is it that I don’t understand all that clearly? Let me set the scene. In Matthew 11:20 (NLT), it says, "Then Jesus began to DENOUNCE the towns where He had done so many of His miracles, because they HADN’T REPENTED OF THEIR SINS and turned to God." They are unresponsive to Jesus, despite His many miracles.
I have no difficulty here. It makes sense. In fact what I like about this passage is the RAW TRUTH OF ITS JUSTICE MIXED WITH LOVE. Jesus isn’t the SWEET, DREAMY-EYED, EFFEMINATE MAN with a spiritual song in His voice like a "LET’S-PLEASE-EVERYONE" kind of preacher. He lays it on the line and I detect that it’s not without emotional heart wrenching sorrow at their subborn refusal to get right with God.
His LOVE COLLIDES WITH HIS JUSTICE as Jesus says "What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago..."
Now here’s what I find really difficult to understand. He says emphatically "I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will be BETTER OFF on judgment day than you. ... I tell you, even Sodom will be BETTER OFF ON JUDGMENT DAY THAN YOU." (Matthew 11:22,23 NLT).
Tyre and Sidon were OPENLY WICKED and so were Sodom and Gomorrah. Ezekiel 26:7 and 28:11-24, shows that the king of Tyre was so openly wicked he was ASSOCIATED WITH SATAN HIMSELF! Korazin and Bethsaida in Jesus day on the other hand were not openly wicked. They were simply INDIFFERENT.
I’ve got to tell you, this messes with my mind. DEGREES OF JUDGMENT? DEGREES OF HELL? Sodom was a place of open homosexuality and pervertedness and destroyed in a rain of "brimstone and fire" from God (Genesis 19:24 NLT).
How can they be BETTER OFF? And if sin comes in degrees does hell come in degrees - SLOW COOK IN SHEOL, FLAME GRILLED IN GEHENNA, FAIRLY HOT, VERY HOT, MICROWAVE AND SUPERHEAT CRISPY???
When my one year old grandson takes a texta colour and draws in an expensive book, it is destructive but he DOESN’T KNOW that he shouldn’t do it. On the other hand my eldest grandson is without excuse. He knows it is wrong. He has FULL REVELATION of this rule and knows the consequences of such an action. Romans 7:7 (NLT) says "... it was the law that showed me my sin. ..."
The key to Sodom, Tyre and Siddon is that despite their wickedness they WOULD HAVE REPENTED. Jesus says in Matthew 11:21 (NLT) "... For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people WOULD HAVE REPENTED OF THEIR SINS LONG AGO,... For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, IT WOULD STILL BE HERE TODAY."
Are Tyre and Sidon and Sodom going to be JUDGED ON A SLIDING SCALE dependent on the amount of Revelation they had? Julie spoke to some Monks in Cambodia recently and they didn’t know who Jesus was and asked all sorts of questions. Will they be judged according to their response to Jesus based on what they know? What about those who never have the opportunity? Will they be judged on a different scale? Whooh! Overload! Too much to sort out here. Leave that til another time!
Here’s the facts - Tyre and Sidon didn’t have a Bible that ended at Revelation and didn’t even know about John 3:16. It wasn’t fully revealed to them as yet. No miracles, no message. Yet THEY WOULD HAVE REPENTED. Korazin and Bethsaida had it all and THEY WERE INDIFFERENT. Is the sin of INDIFFERENCE higher than the murderous, homosexual pervertedness and wickedness of Sodom? Jesus says it is! How will you respond to Jesus? Any sin can be forgiven except for one - the sin of indifference to Christ.