God has a blueprint. A plan is in place. This plan involves both justice and mercy.
“The present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:7-9 NIV).
God’s attributes are perfectly balanced. He is just and merciful, holy and patient. This is a cause for rejoicing! Often our longing for God’s justice is greatest. We’ve all been wronged by others. We crave justice. We want the wrongs to be righted. Our spiritual blindness causes us to forget our own culpability. As flawed human beings, God’s judgment affects us personally.
Thankfully, God’s mercy motivates his patience, longsuffering, and kindness. Everyone will stand before him to give a verbal account, but he offers a way of escape—Jesus Christ, God’s One and Only Son, God in the flesh. At this Christmas season, we contemplate God’s astounding mercy.
Every one of us is a sinner. Our sin separates us from this holy God. But God doesn’t want us to perish. So Jesus came. Jesus’ perfect life, his sacrifice for us, and his resurrection provide a way out. When we secure our faith to Christ, when we rely on his righteousness because we have none of our own, when we yield to him as Lord of our lives, God welcomes us into his family.
We turn from our sins. Jesus’ righteousness is applied to us. We are reconciled to God. Through Christ, God reaches down to rescue us.
God promises that those who entrust themselves to Jesus will be with him forever. A day in Christ’s proximity will be so full it could fill up one thousand earth-years. The richness of joy in his nearness, the wealth of knowledge to be gained from his words, and the encompassing love to experience cannot be comprehended from this vantage.
We will overflow with happiness. We’ll be ecstatic with joy.
Likewise, a thousand years in his presence will be so joyous and full of fruitfulness and fulfillment that it will seem as though a mere day has flown by. It will seem as if we just arrived, as if it’s our first day, when we’ve actually been there a thousand earth-years.
All will be new and filled with anticipation.
Conversely, a day in the outer darkness will destroy the spirit and soul of those who face the promised destruction. Away from Christ’s life-giving person, a day will tick away more slowly in total nothingness than can be imagined. It will hold only torment. The enslaving darkness will bar all happiness, all measure of passing, and all sensory stimulation.
A single day will feel like a thousand earth-years of anguish. And a thousand years of anguish will be as nothing in the eternity of torment over being excluded from salvation. It will be as a mere speck of a day, because being outside in the deep darkness will go on and on forever.
We are made in God’s image with all the faculty to think, imagine, and desire. So this state of existence will destroy the personalities of those who have deliberately rejected Christ and have chosen not to seek his face or to know him from the Bible. They will be completely unlike what they were before, merely because they are separated from God.
“If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:11-12 NIV).
God sent his Son to seek and to save the lost. That’s me. That’s you.
Grab hold of Jesus. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. He wants all to know him.
He wants us each to say: “There is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).