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God’s Word for You

Luke 10:12-15 Woe to you, Chorazin

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, June 14, 2018

Jesus has just described what the disciples should do when a town rejects the gospel. His warning showed that the blessings of the gospel would be removed from them because of their unbelief. Now he continues along the same lines, explaining what will happen on judgment day and in eternity.

Remember that the Bible presents only man’s guilt for sin and his unbelief as reasons for eternal damnation. “It is your own evil that will bring discipline on you. Your backsliding will judge you” (Jeremiah 2:19, EHV). “Whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16, EHV).

12 I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom on that day than for that town.

Is one sin worse than another? The sin that damns is unbelief, and no sin is more devastating for the soul. Of course, many sins are simply manifestations of unbelief, but the unbelief damns. The people of Sodom were guilty of horrific sexual sins: covetousness, perversion, homosexuality, gang rape, and murder (Genesis 13:13, 19:5,9; Jude 7), and they were also condemned for being “arrogant, overfed, unconcerned, and they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49).

Yet, Jesus says, Sodom’s judgment will be relatively better than that of those cities of Galilee and Judea who rejected Jesus when he came. This suggests different degrees of punishment in hell. Let’s listen to what Jesus says next before we comment on it.

13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But in the judgment it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to heaven? No, you will be brought down to hell.

Everyone damned to hell will have the full measure of God’s punishment: pain in both body and soul, agonies that will be God’s full judgment and justice. “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you… He will punish those who do not know God…with everlasting destruction and shut [them] out from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:6,8,9). Professor Adolph Hoenecke wrote:

“But that does not exclude degrees of torment in hell. We have good reason to teach a difference in view of Luke 10:12 (etc.). That is the conclusion Quenstedt draws: ‘In hell there will be various degrees of punishments.’ And Gerhard notes, ‘In the past, the Jovinianists denied this doctrine and said that all sinners will be equal in both guilt and punishment. They followed the Stoics, who also made all sins equal, as Augustine reports….’  All the (Christian) fathers unanimously took the opposite view Our (Lutheran) dogmaticians thoroughly support the fathers. With their usual care, though, Gerhard and Quenstedt make the following observations concerning this diversity of punishments:
    1, All the punishments of all the damned will be eternal; hence
      in regard to duration, there will be no diversity.
    2, The difference is to be affirmed not in regard to diverse kinds
      or distinct places but in regard to distinct degrees.”
(Hoenecke, Ev. Lutheran Dogmatics, Volume IV . 316).

What a different degree of suffering might be like is not for us to say. We don’t want to sound glib, but what we need to do is make every effort not to experience the torments of hell at all. That means letting Jesus carry us, body and soul, into paradise.

The Lord’s judgment on the cities of Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethsaida was only one example of the judgment of God on those who turn away from him. This judgment leads us to keep reaching out to the lost. Only the gospel of Christ can change hearts, and it isn’t our place to judge who should or shouldn’t receive God’s grace (Jonah 3:10-4:2). When Philip found an Ethiopian man reading from Isaiah, he asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” (Acts 8:30,31). Explaining the forgiveness of sins is one of the simplest things we can do, but it’s the most important thing any of us will ever do. Share the gospel; share the gift of eternal life.

Notes:

  1. Hoenecke’s additionally cited passages here are: Matthew 10:15, 11:22,24, 23:15; Luke 12:47,48; and Romans 2:9.
  2. Johannes Andras Quenstedt (1617-1688) was a German Lutheran pastor and professor at Wittenberg.
  3. Jovinian was a fourth century Christian who opposed monasticism and asceticism. He is regarded by some as a heretic but understood certain doctrines in the same way that Lutherans do today and has been compared to Martin Luther or John Calvin.
  4. Johann Gerhard (1582-1637) was a German Lutheran pastor and professor who taught at Jena. He was regarded as the leading theologian of his generation and received calls to teach by virtually every university in Germany (and some in Sweden) during his lifetime.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

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