In the first part of Luke 10, Jesus sent 70 disciples off on a missions trip. We learned how they were to go two by two, go with prayer, go as lambs among wolves, go urgently, go with support, and go with a simple message.
If the people they preached to did not receive their message, they were to do something unusual: they were to wipe off the dust of the city that had rejected them.
11 Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. (Luke 10:11)
While this is unusual to us, it would have been understood by every Jew of that day. A Jew, when he had visited a foreign land, would wipe the dust off his feet when he returned to Israel. It was a symbolic way of saying that he did not want to contaminate the holy land of Israel with the dirt of pagans.
For the disciples to do this when a Jewish city had rejected the message of Jesus was to say that city was like the pagan Gentiles. That is, they were under judgment. And worse, because Jesus says in our passage here, that they would face greater judgment than the Gentiles.
Judgment from God is something that is looked down on these days, even by many Christians. So before we look at Luke 10:12-16, let’s look at…
THE FACT OF GOD’S JUDGMENT
Does a loving God judge people? Wouldn’t He overlook sin and forgive people instead? Perhaps in our human logic, it would make sense for a loving God to not judge, but our concept of who God is cannot come from our own logic. If it did, there would be as many gods as there are people in the world! That won’t do. To know who God is, we must look at what He has revealed to us in His book—the Bible. What does it say about God’s judgment?
John 3:16 is a verse that someone might use to claim that God is a God of love and would never judge anyone.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
Does this verse teach that God only loves and never judges? God gave His Son because He loved the world. But why did He have to give His Son? Because our sin requires judgment (Romans 6:23).
Notice that whoever believes in Jesus will “not perish.” Perishing sounds bad doesn’t it? It is! It’s God’s judgment on a person.
Oh, but God loved the world and gave His Son, so we’re okay. No, only those who believe in Jesus will not perish—not anyone else. Does everyone believe in Jesus? No, so they perish.
Where do they perish to? There is a temporary place of punishment for the present, but ultimately, every unbeliever will have appear at the Great White Throne. John describes this in Revelation 20—
11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11–15)
One of the reasons people disbelieve in God’s judgment is that it often seems that He is inconsistent in performing it. Many an atheist have challenged God to strike them down for their disbelief and blasphemy. When God doesn’t, they take that to be proof that He doesn’t exist.
Believers sometimes wonder why God doesn’t deal with the wicked people immediately; why does He allow them to live and even to prosper?
One reason that God delays judgment for some, of course, is God wants to give them time to repent (2 Peter 3:9).
But there’s more involved. God knows whether or not a person will repent, and so can choose to execute judgment early or to wait. For example, in Acts 5, we see Him judge Ananias and Sapphira immediately. In Acts 12, we see another immediate judgment:
21 And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. 22 And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. 23 And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. (Acts 12:21–23)
Why God waits to dole out judgment on some, like Hitler, will be a mystery to us. But we can know that God is always accomplishing His purposes. For instance, one good thing that came out of the Holocaust that Hitler created was the reestablishment of Israel as a nation.
We also know that God is always just and righteous in His dealings with people, even when, from our limited human perspective, we can’t see that.
Just as a side note, as I have grown older and, hopefully more mature in the faith, the less I have God all figured out. I am learning to not worry so much about the reasons He does this or doesn’t do that, and to instead simply trust His character.
We can never presume that we can sin freely, and then at the end of our life beg forgiveness and salvation from God, and be okay. Your judgment may be delayed, or it may not. Your death may be long in coming, or it may come before you have a moment to pray for forgiveness.
Mark this, however, God’s hour of judgment is coming for all (Revelation 14:6-7). We’ve seen the fact of God’s judgment, now let’s look at:
THE DEGREES OF GOD’S JUDGMENT
Luke 10:12 But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.
Luke 10:13 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
Jesus mentions three Gentile towns and then three Jewish towns.
“Sodom” was, of course, the city that God destroyed in Genesis 19 because of their sin, including homosexuality.
20 And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; (Genesis 18:20)
“Tyre and Sidon” were two cities on the Mediterranean coast just north of Israel. Sidon was about 30 miles to the north of Capernaum, and Tyre was 50 miles north. Both were very important cities and seaports. Both were well-known for their wickedness and had, at one point, been destroyed because of their wickedness (Isaiah 23:1-8; Ezekiel 28).
“Chorazin” and “Bethasaida” were two Jewish towns that were near Jesus’s base of operations in the Jewish town of “Capernaum.” Bethsaida was the hometown of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1:44). Capernaum is said in verse 15 to be “exalted to heaven,” because Jesus spent so much time there. They had much opportunity to learn who Jesus was and to accept Him as the Messiah.
Jesus had been doing miracles in and around Capernaum (Luke 4:23, 31-41), Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26; Luke 9:10-17), and Chorazin.
His point is that if the wicked, Gentile cities had experienced those miracles instead, they would have repented. But the Israelite cities had seen the miracles of Jesus and were still resistant to the gospel.
Because of this great opportunity to respond to God’s salvation that they had rejected, Jesus says,
Luke 10:14 But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you.
Why would the Gentile cities, for all their sin, be better off at the judgment than a Jewish city who at least were moral people? Both rejected God (by rejecting the Messiah, the Jews rejected God, see verse 16), of course, but shouldn’t the one with the better moral life have a better time of it in Hell?
The difference was this: a city like Sodom had rejected God in the sense that every human being rejects God because of our sinful nature. But Capernaum, Chorazin and Bethasaida had heard the gospel and seen Christ work miracles and still rejected Christ.
God judges based on the amount of knowledge that He as revealed to a person. Don’t misunderstand, everyone on earth has enough knowledge of God to condemn to Hell:
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (Romans 1:20)
We also see this principle of judgment based on our amount of knowledge in James:
1 My brethren, be not many masters [that is, teachers], knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. (James 3:1)
James says that Christian teachers will have a stricter judgment at the judgment seat of Christ (which is for believers, not unbelievers, and is not a punishment) because they have more knowledge. The principle carries over to the judgment of unbelievers as well.
The unbelieving, head-hunting cannibal of the deepest jungle will have a more tolerable time in Hell than the strait-laced American unbeliever who heard the gospel dozens of times during his life.
Make no mistake, however, Hell is Hell. It will be terrible for anyone who is there. Let’s look at…
THE PLACE OF GOD’S JUDGMENT
Luke 10:15 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell [Hades].
The word “hell” here is the Greek word hadēs. Hades is the dwelling place of condemned sinners. It is not the final lake of fire that sinners will be thrown into—
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [Hades] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell [Hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (Revelation 20:13–14)
Yet, Hades is not a pleasant place. We see a glimpse of Hades in Luke 16, in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
23 And in hell [Hades] he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. (Luke 16:23–24)
The sinner’s torment in Hell is conscious (otherwise it wouldn’t be torment) and it is eternal (Matthew 25:46). The reason for this is because the infinite holiness of God that we have sinned against. For anyone to be saved, it required Jesus to die as a perfect sacrifice so that we can have His perfect righteousness to stand in front of God. But, for those who reject Christ, it requires an equally infinite punishment.
It’s not nice to talk about Hell today. You will be looked down on for doing so. You will be declared intolerant and unloving. But Jesus knows this; He told the seventy disciples:
Luke 10:16 He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.
Remember, anyone who despises you—for your stand for the gospel—despises Christ Himself and God Himself.
Is Hell a part of the gospel? Yes, without Hell, there is no gospel. The good news is only as good as the bad news is bad.
God’s hour of judgment will come. But Christ has already faced that judgment for you. On the cross, God’s punishment for sin was poured out on Christ. That’s why on the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus felt the torment of being forsaken by God.
On the cross, Christ became sin for us so that He could take our punishment:
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Now there really is no excuse, you have heard the good news. If you reject it, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah than for you at the judgment. But if you receive the good news, you will receive joy and happiness for eternity. The choice is yours.
When we come to the Judgment Day, the only question that will be asked (that will matter) is, “What did you do about Jesus Christ?”