Our natural response to a situation is often diametrically opposed to what God calls for. Our human nature is bent toward sin and rebellion. Matthew 16:21-28 presents this reality in several ways. First, natural inclinations
are hindrances to spiritual truth—“You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (v. 23) Jesus gave Peter a sharp rebuke: “Get behind Me, Satan!” The disciple had become Satan’s mouthpiece. Peter was sincerely wrong—Jesus’ death was crucial to God’s eternal plan. He came to die as atonement for our sin. Second, natural inclinations are overcome by intentional actions—“If anyone would come after me, let him (a) deny himself and (b) take up his cross and (c) follow me.” (v. 24) Our natural inclination is to save our life, to avoid any problem. What profit is in this but gaining this world’s stuff and losing eternal life. At the last judgment, when a man faces hell as punishment for sin, with what will he buy back his soul from eternal punishment? Nothing! Third, natural inclinations are useless for God’s salvation—“The Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” (v. 27) This passage speaks of rewards for unbelievers. This is not the rapture! The rapture occurs before the week of tribulation; Jesus’ return with His angels occurs after it. See Revelation 19:11-14. There are times of rewards for believers; Scripture calls them crowns. The believer’s judgment occurs sometime between the rapture and the opening of the tribulation judgments of the earth. We know this because in Revelation 4-5 the church is present with its rewards. Revelation 20:11-15 shows that Jesus is referring to the final, eternal judgment of the lost. Are you confident of your standing in God’s grace? You can be.
Sin cera, Erik
Erik O. Garthe is Associate Pastor at Canton Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.