The Wrath to Come

Read Together: Matthew 3:1–12

On Sunday, we learned from the Parable of the Net that Jesus was not silent about the destiny of the unrighteous. At the end of time, all those who don’t know God will be cast into the “fiery furnace,” into hell—the place of eternal punishment. This is a teaching that should give us deep sorrow over those who refuse to turn to Jesus. It should also cause us to examine ourselves and repent of our own sin.

The message of Jesus from the start was: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matt 4:17). This was also the message of John the Baptist as we see in Matthew 3:1–12. According to both, the coming of God’s kingdom means both judgment and salvation—salvation for those who repent and trust in Jesus and judgment for those who continue in their sin.

John the Baptist talks to the Jewish religious leaders about the “wrath to come” and tells them that trees (i.e., people) who don’t bear good fruit will be burned. Jesus himself, John says, will baptize people with the Holy Spirit and fire. It is clear from the context that “fire” refers to judgment. Jesus will gather the wheat but burn the chaff with a fire that will never go out. The coming of Jesus is not just a signal of coming salvation, but judgment as well.

If there is no eternal judgment, Jesus’s coming and his death on the cross are meaningless. But there is a wrath that is coming. There will be an unquenchable flame. And Jesus is our only hope. Our response should be to repent and turn to him because he bore the judgment we deserve. And then we too must take up the message of Jesus and call out to others: “Repent and trust in Jesus!”

Discussion Questions

  1. What was the message of John the Baptist? What does it mean for us today?
  2. What does John the Baptist say about Jesus?
  3. Why does Jesus’s coming bring both salvation and judgment?

Ideas for Younger Kids

·      Read all or portions of Matthew 3:1–12 with your children. Talk about how God is the judge, and we all deserve to be judged. We must turn to Jesus by repenting and trusting in him to avoid God’s judgment. Consider reading or memorizing verses like John 3:36 or Romans 6:23 to talk about these concepts.

·      Talk about what it means to “repent” and consider using the following catechism question with your children. (This is Question 50 from A Catechism for Boys and Girls. This question also appeared in a previous faith talk guide—so it may be review!).

o   Q. What is it to repent?

o   A. To be sorry for sin and to hate and forsake it, because it is displeasing to God.

Memorization: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36)

Song: Listen to “Thy Mercy, My God” (Sandra McCracken). As we reflect on future judgment, we praise God that his mercy is “more than a match” for our sinful hearts! (This song is a modern version of an old hymn by John Stocker. All of the original lyrics can be read here.)

Pray Together

Go Together

  • Spend some more time this week discussing why we might have a hard time with the biblical teaching about hell. Work your way through the four reasons Pastor Jerry talked about on Sunday, and ask yourselves: Have we modified our view of God? Is our view of justice flawed? Do we tend to blame our sin on other factors? Does our view of salvation line up with what the Bible says?
If you have any questions, comments, or ideas related to this Family Faith Talk guide or future guides, please let us know by leaving a comment!
Please note that we will be taking a two-week break from our regular faith talk guides. We encourage you to continue spending time in the Word with your family and as individuals! 

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