Why Did God Create Mankind?

Lesson 3, Part 6


Reward and Punishment

God is a God of mercy. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and often delays His judgments in the hope of repentance.

Look at it from God’s perspective. He has already determined to give all human beings every possible opportunity to choose life. What would you do with a person who—whether willfully or through continual neglect—rejects God’s gracious offer of eternal life and deliberately chooses the devil’s way? Would you give such a person eternal life in your kingdom, where he could continue to harm others indefinitely? What option would you choose?

Certainly some people picture God as a monster who punishes failed human beings in hellfire for eternity. Yet when we carefully and prayerfully examine the relevant scriptural passages—coupled with an understanding of God’s true purpose for mankind—that is not the punishment of the wicked.

When will God reward those who love and obey Him?

“But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil ” (Luke 6:35).

“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid [rewarded] at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:13-14).

Is God also a God of justice in the sense that He will punish those who deliberately refuse to repent of their wickedness and wrongdoing?

“Then He will say to those on his left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ ” (Matthew 25:41).

“And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).

The wicked suffer everlasting punishment in the sense that they are forever cut off from God and life itself, but He does not inflict them with eternal torment. Never forget that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life (Romans 6:23). Life and death are opposites, not two ways of saying the same thing. Death means the absence of life, not eternal life in another place.

The final book of the Bible prophesies of evil human beings being cast into the lake of fire. “Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence…These two were cast alive in the lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20). What happens to physical human beings who are thrown alive into a massive cauldron of fire? They burn up and are completely consumed.

The Bible shows that a consuming fire is the ultimate fate of the wicked (Malachi 4:3). In fact, God has used just such a conflagration as an eternal example of the fate of those who refuse to repent of their wickedness. Jude explains: “…Sodom and Gomorrah,…having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7).

Although they are figuratively described as suffering “the vengeance of eternal fire,” the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are not still burning. On the contrary, they are promised an opportunity to yet obtain eternal life (Matthew 10:14-15); (Matthew 11:23-24) in the resurrection to judgment described in Revelation 20 and Ezekiel 37. (For more information about these little-understood biblical truths, please request your free copies of the booklets Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? and God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind.)

Above all, God is a God of mercy. Read Psalm 136. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and often delays His judgments in the hope of repentance. As the apostle Peter explains: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish but all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

In principle, the apostle Paul expresses the same godly hope. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men [all people] to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

It is the eternal purpose of the living God to bring us into His family!

How can you get the most benefit from this Bible Study Course?

Here are some useful tips you can use to significantly expand the knowledge and understanding you gain from your study of these Bible lessons.

  • If you do not have a Bible, we suggest that you buy one soon so you can check all the biblical references in each lesson and study on your own. We recommend the New King James Version as a first translation. In case you choose to buy a used Bible, the older King James Version is usually more readily available in used-book stores.

  • You will greatly benefit from looking up in your own Bible every scriptural reference. This is important! Only then can you be certain that your understanding comes specifically from Scripture. Our goal in this course is to assist you in learning and correctly applying the truths of the Bible. The greatest benefit comes from reading the Scriptures directly from your own Bible.

  • Many thousands of students of the Bible have found that writing out or typing each scripture has increased their comprehension and doubled or tripled what they remember. Reproducing each scripture forces you to look at and carefully consider every word.

  • We suggest that you also acquire and learn to use an exhaustive Bible concordance. A concordance enables you to find every verse in the Bible in which a particular word is used. With this tool you can search the Bible for verses containing words relevant to your personal study. Most exhaustive concordances also contain an abbreviated lexicon (dictionary) of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek words to help you better understand their original meaning. Concordances are available for the most popular Bible versions.

  • If possible, use various translations of the Bible in your study. Since English has changed considerably since the King James Version was first published in 1611, many Bible students find that a more-modern translation greatly helps their study and comprehension. Here are some strengths and weakness of the three major types of translations.

In some translations, like the King James and the New King James versions, the translators do their best to render every word in the original language into its equivalent or close equivalent in English. This can sometimes make the meaning difficult to grasp in our own language. Yet the Hebrew or Greek text is reflected rather accurately. These are known as literal , or word-for-word , translations. These are the best translations to use when accuracy is vital.

In other translations, such as the New International Version, the translators have attempted to correctly render the thought or meaning of each sentence as close to the thought of the original as possible. These are generally called literary or thought-for-thought translations. This approach makes the meaning considerably easier to grasp, providing the translators’ own understanding is accurate. The risk, however, in this type of translation lies in the understanding of the translators. Errors are introduced if the translators’ perception of the original meaning is flawed.

Last, and least reliable, are the paraphrased versions of the Bible. In these versions the translators simply tell, in their own words, what they think the original author meant. They can be useful, but only if the translators have clearly and accurately understood the original text. These loose translations are far more prone to contain major misinterpretations of the Scriptures than the other two types. For that reason we should never use them to establish what the Bible teaches. But, occasionally, they can be helpful in making hard-to-understand language more comprehensible.

  • Occasionally we will recommend additional reading material you may obtain from a library or bookstore. For this lesson we recommend the book Darwin’s Black Box, by Lehigh University (Pennsylvania) biochemist Michael Behe (The Free Press, New York, NY, 1996). Dr. Behe thoroughly explains a fundamental scientific impossibility in the widely accepted theory of evolution. His book is especially valuable for those who desire scientific confirmation that life on our planet was created rather than evolved from inanimate matter. It convincingly demonstrates, from strictly scientific evidence, that life cannot spontaneously evolve.

  • We also sometimes recommend booklets or other items of literature you can obtain directly from the United Church of God, an International Association. We recommend that you request and carefully study each of them. They address specific aspects of these lessons in much greater depth. This literature is available free for the asking from our Web site or by contacting any of our offices . We hope you will request your free copies of this literature. If you have any questions about material covered in these lessons, please contact our office nearest you. We look forward to serving you.

Watch Video: Is Hell Real?


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