A day or two ago we left off at Matthew 10:31 and did not make it to Matthew 10:32. It says this:
Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.
Really you need to read the whole passage where Jesus goes on to suggest that anyone who loves their father or mother more than him is not worthy of him, and even says that in losing your life for his sake, you will find it. Then, in chapter 11, He suggests certain cities are even worse than were Sodom and Gomorrah. He says it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for those cities.
These verses mean something. Even through the lens of ultimate redemption we have to heed Jesus’ warnings of judgment. The question is: What is their purpose? What is the purpose of the warnings and what is the purpose of the judgments? What does Jesus mean when He says, “day of judgment” and do we need to conclude, for some people (or for some cities, maybe), the judgment will be merely punitive, retributive, punishment for punishment’s sake, the just consequence of rebellion and not in any way restorative?
To answer these questions, we have to consider Jesus’ warnings within the context of the passage they’re in and also within the theme of Scripture as a whole. To begin, an overall theme of Scripture seems to be a juxtaposition between the path that leads to life and the path that leads to death. Right at the beginning, God’s warning to Adam and Eve regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was “on the day you eat of it you shall surely die.” For the Israelites in the Old Testament, obedience to God’s commands would result blessing but disobedience would mean being cursed. Following Jesus is life; pursuing sin is death. This is a theme of Scripture as a whole.
We also find the same theme within this passage in Matthew. In one breath Jesus says “woe” to disobedient cities, and in the next, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” A bit earlier he says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” He warns against loving your father and mother more than Him, and also says that anyone who gives even a cup of water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple will not lose his reward. In Jesus there is rest, life, and reward; apart from Jesus, in disobedience, there is judgment and loss. Sin brings death; Jesus brings life. Humankind messes it up; God sets it right.
At times all of us need encouragement. At other times we need admonishment. Sometimes we need assurance and sometimes we need a warning. We can be weary and burdened and need rest; we can be selfish and need conviction.
If you are discouraged today, if the weight or pain of life has you down, Jesus wants to say that in Him you will find comfort and peace through the knowledge of His love for you and His ultimate victory in the world. If today you are arrogantly boasting in your own achievement, looking down on those who haven’t accomplished what you have, Jesus wants to warn you that you are walking down a road that leads to judgment and loss. You think you’re going to find life but instead you will find death. He implores you to turn around, repent, come to Him, for in Him life is found.
I don’t know that we need to take it further than that. I don’t know that this passage in Matthew, verse 10:32, or the theme of Scripture as a whole requires us to conclude that judgment is eternal, final, or irreversible. We don’t need to conclude that Jesus disowning anyone before the Father means that person is lost forever. What we can take is that life is found in Jesus. What we can believe is that Jesus is always there, always ready to receive us. The judgment on Adam and Eve, the curses on the Israelites, the warnings for the world never happened without a provision for return, without the possibility of redemption. Maybe it’ll take judgment and loss for someone to finally turn to the life Jesus offers, but I think Jesus offers it forever.
And that is good news.
Besides, didn’t the apostle Peter disown Jesus before men? Three times? And yet Jesus forgave Him and restored Him.
Really good news, really.