In Dwight Moody’s 1880 book called “Heaven,” he uses the story of Noah to explain that just because God is merciful in nature does not mean Heaven will be for everyone. Moody writes, “Noah was the only righteous man, but according to the theory of some people, the rest of those men who were so foul and so wicked—to wicked to live—God took them and swept them all into heaven and left the only righteous man to go through this trial. Drunkards and thieves and vagabonds all went to heaven, they say. You might as well go forward and preach that 'you can swear as much as you like, and murder as much as you please, and it will come out right—that God will forgive you; God is so merciful.’”
Let me ask you something. Suppose Gov. Brian Kemp made a decision today to show mercy on every criminal currently in a Georgia prison? Suppose Mr. Kemp just opened every door and set them all free? Murders, rapists, sex offenders… all set free with no penalty for their actions. How long do you think Mr. Kemp would be our governor? I’d say not very long. In fact, I’d say many of those in church this morning making their Easter appearances would say Kemp should be immediately impeached.
Paul writes to the church in Corinth, “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Moody goes on to say, “But the unrighteous—the adulterers, the fornicators and thieves—these men may all inherit heaven if they will only turn away from sins.”
We serve a big God who not only can forgive the vilest of sins but wants to forgive. However, this idea that we can live sin-filled, filthy lives on earth with no regards to a Holy God... and then that same God will just sweep it all under the rug when we have our face-to-face encounter with Him completely contradicts Scripture.
Moody continues, “If the unrighteous man says, ‘I will not turn away from sin; I will hold on to sin and have heaven,’ then he is deceiving himself.”
Jesus did die so that the murderers, drunkards, thieves and liars could be forgiven and receive eternal life in heaven. He is a merciful God! But let’s keep sharing the full message that he’s also a just God who must punish sin. God doesn’t give out free passes. If he did, those in Noah’s day would have been washed right up to heaven. Free passes would mean God wouldn’t have seen a need to send Jesus.
It comes down to whether you want your sins judged on the cross 2,000 years ago or you'd rather handle the payment yourself when you leave this earth.
And so we come to Easter Sunday. The day we celebrate the full package of God. His love, His mercy, His grace and His justness. There is no other way in which we can be saved but through the full works of Jesus that started on a cross and ended on a wonderful Easter morning when He rose the Victor over sin and death.