He was asked about a barbaric act in which Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, had slaughtered a number of Galileans—people from Jesus’ homeland—and desecrated the Jerusalem temple with human blood. That tragedy reminded Jesus of a disaster in Siloam, where 18 people died in the collapse of a tower.
In His response, Jesus did not try to explain or justify the suffering and death. He did not question God or blame the victims. Instead, He used the occasion to issue and repeat a solemn warning: “Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3, NIV).
I doubt that anybody listening to Jesus expected such an answer. Repentance—turning away from sin to God—was the heart of His message.
There are no guarantees in this life. Some people die in infancy, others live to a ripe age. Some die in excruciating pain from disease, while others pass quietly. While in Scripture there are many references to how or at what age people died, Scripture is very clear that the ultimate issue is what happens when you die. Are you ready to face God? Have you turned away from the futility of sin and turned to the Savior in saving faith?
According to 2 Peter 3:9, the Lord is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” John 3:16 makes a similar distinction: “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
In the world we live in, death is inevitable, at least until the Lord returns. Yet Jesus makes it clear that there is an eternal difference between a body dying and a soul perishing. If we are born again, we don’t have to fear the second death—eternal separation from God in hell, the ultimate place of unending suffering.
In all the worldwide ministries of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, we make it clear to individuals that repentance—turning away from sin toward the cross of Jesus Christ—is essential to salvation.
All who listen will have experienced some degree of suffering—physical, emotional, relational. The Suffering Servant and Savior, Jesus Christ, understands our sinful plight, and through the cross provides reconciliation and redemption. Though we still face tribulation in this world, we have the Lord’s mighty help and comfort (John 16:33).
And one day, all who have believed in His Name will live eternally in the beauty of Heaven. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
©2010 BGEA. Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version.
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