Who are the enemies of God, on whom God will unleash His wrath at the end of time? And what is the difference between them and me? Scarier still–how do I really know I’m not one of them? We shouldn’t take these questions too lightly, because God warns us, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” (II Corinthians 13:5)
“But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.” (Luke 19:27)
A commentator once observed that it is our beliefs that put Christians at odds with non-Christians, yet it is not our beliefs, but our allegiance to God that does so. It isn’t really what we believe that bothers other people–quite frankly, no one really cares what you believe, so long as you don’t try to impose your beliefs on others. That, actually, is the whole argument of the secular push to replace freedom of religion (the freedom to practice our beliefs) with freedom of worship (the right to merely believe what you want). No, what bothers people about real Christians is that they are not content to hold to their own beliefs in private, but insist on sharing them with others in accordance with Christ’s parting directive. Yet who, exactly, are the “enemies” of God?
If you take what some teach at face value, it is difficult to understand how it can be that “…wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” (Matthew 7:13) If merely saying a prayer “saves” you, why wouldn’t everyone go through that formality–just in case? Yet the truth of the matter is that it is exceedingly difficult to be saved, “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14) Not my words–Christ’s! But why is it difficult? Isn’t salvation a free gift from God? Isn’t it true that “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast”? (Ephesians 2:8, 9) We cannot–nor could we ever–earn the forgiveness God freely bestows on us because of Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection, yet many will not be saved. Why is this?
The answer to this is implicit in the Greek words translated into the English “belief/faith” and “believes.” This kind of faith or belief is such as produces a change of behavior–a submission to His authority. Take another look at today’s verse. What does it say? Those whom God identifies as His enemies are those who do not want Him to reign over them–those who do not want to submit to His rightful authority over their lives.
Christ said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37) This is why the rich young ruler walked away from Christ–he wasn’t prepared to give up control of his life.
Furthermore, did you know that Jesus actually counsels us to realize how much following Him will cost?
“Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also [put Christ and following Him first] he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it — lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:25-33)
Here’s another one:
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45, 46)
So who are the enemies of God? The enemies of God are those who refuse Him control of their lives. The reason so many will be damned is because people don’t want to give up the self-rule of their existence to God. So what should we do? How should we comport ourselves in light of this truth? We must certainly not take God’s patient mercy–the fact that we’re still alive to read this–for granted!!
“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance [to changing our behavior]? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek…For there is no partiality with God.” (Romans 2:4-9, 11)
Help me deny myself, take up my cross, and follow You! Amen.