Forgiveness and Consequences

Forgiveness and Consequences
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Forgiveness and Consequences

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10

The bible makes it abundantly clear that our actions in this life have eternal consequences. We do nothing to earn our way into heaven, because salvation is by grace and grace alone. But although salvation is in no way based on our works or our merit, it is equally true that the quality of our eternity is based on our works. How we invest our life on earth will determine how we live out eternity in heaven (see, e.g., Matthew 6:19-21, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, and Revelation 22:12).

Many modern Christians are uneasy with the teaching of eternal accountability, instead preferring to believe that God’s forgiveness wipes out all consequences of temporal (i.e. earthly) sin. However, the idea that forgiveness eliminates consequences is not biblical. As an example, consider the story of Israel’s rebellion at Kadesh Barnea, found in Numbers 13-14.

God commands Moses to send spies into the Promised Land in order to see what the land is like (Numbers 13:1). Twelve spies, one from each tribe, go out on the mission. Two spies, Caleb and Joshua, give a good report of the land. They argue that Israel should go up and take possession of it, in obedience to God. But the other 10 spies argue that the people in the land are too strong for Israel. Sadly, the Israelites go against Caleb and Joshua’s counsel, and instead they follow the advice of the 10 spies. They grumble against Moses, and they cry out that they want to go back to Egypt. In doing so they go against God’s promise and plan for Israel. God had promised the land to Israel.

Note God’s response to Israel’s sin:

The Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst? I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they.” Numbers 14: 11-12

Moses, the great deliverer, begs God to reconsider, and to forgive Israel’s sin. God agrees, and in 14:20 He states, “I have pardoned them according to your word.” Thus we see that God forgave the Israelites their sin at Kadesh Barnea.

But God’s forgiveness did not eliminate the consequences of Israel’s sin. Note the consequences that God describes for Israel as we read further in Chapter 14:

“Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it.” Numbers 14:22-23

“Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey – I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.” Numbers 14:30-33

Because of Israel’s unbelief and disobedience, what should have been a 12-day journey ended up taking them 40 years. An entire generation of Israelites died in the wilderness, never able to experience God delivering on His promise to bring them into the Promised Land.

Never be presumptuous that because God has poured His grace on you, that there will be no consequences for your sin. Your thoughts, words, and actions in this life matter. They matter now, and they will matter in eternity. Commit to spending your life on the things that will lead to treasure in heaven, and repenting and dying to those things that will lead to loss on your Judgment Day.

For more articles by Micah Olson