When it was announced that President Trump had COVID-19, some people responded with glee. Some even hoped that he would die.

In my last post, I wrote about people on Facebook responding to tragic news stories by clicking on the laugh reaction emoji under the headline. Many people were laughing that a marriage is over, that relationships are strained, that a man is struggling with addiction, that people are sick, and that people are dying. Laughing.

When it comes to the pleasure and ill-wishes regarding President Trump’s illness, some people offer what they consider to be justification for their attitudes:

  • Trump deserves it because he didn’t take COVID-19 seriously and take necessary precautions.
  • Trump deserves it because his policies cause other people to suffer and die.

Let’s give them the complete benefit of the doubt and assume that their “justifications” are valid. Would it then be appropriate for them to take pleasure in Trump’s illness and even hope that he dies?

To answer that question, let me offer a contrast.

“I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord God.”
Ezekiel 18:32

The death of anyone? Even a person who causes his own death because of his recklessness? Even a person who is responsible for the deaths of others? Are you telling me that God didn’t smile — even a little bit — when Hitler died?

“As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why will you die?”
Ezekiel 33:11

Not only does God find no pleasure in death, He pleads with us to choose life instead. This is in particular reference to the second death. The first death is the end of a lifetime on earth. The second death is a future event — after resurrection — that we typically refer to as hell (see Revelation 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8).

The second death is a natural consequence for those who choose to disconnect from the source of life. The second death is for those who rebel against God — against goodness, light, and life. Do they deserve death? Would their death be justified? When all is revealed, I believe that we will find the answer to be yes. Still, God will have no pleasure.

That is the spirit that we desperately need. We each need a heart that sorrows when others are hurting, a heart that seeks to bless rather than curse, a heart so full of love that there is no room for hate. We need the heart of God.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
Matthew 5:43-44

I just browsed through the stories in my Facebook News feed. I found something in common with these headlines:

Pastor Who Told Congregation They Didn’t Have to Wear Masks Hospitalized in ICU with COVID-19

Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton Are Feeling “Stretched to Their Limit”

The worst coronavirus outbreaks are happening in these 15 cities

911 call from Falwell house reveals ex-Liberty president was drinking, fell down, lost ‘a lot of blood’ after resigning

Christina and Ant Anstead Split After Less Than 2 Years of Marriage

U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Near 200,000

Can you think of what they have in common? Since this is a blog, and we don’t have an efficient way to play a guessing game, I’ll just tell you. In reaction to each of these stories, people laughed.

Precisely, what they did was click on the laugh reaction emoji under the headline. I can understand shock, sadness, and even anger for some of these stories. But, laughter? A marriage is over, relationships are strained, a man is struggling with addiction and gets hurt, people are sick, and people are dying.

Perhaps even worse than these tragedies in the news is the cruelty in the hearts of people who make light — and even fun — of other people’s suffering. We need healed relationships and healed bodies. Most of all, though, we need healed hearts. We need the Spirit of love. The good news? It’s possible:

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26

When I read the first pages of the Bible, I notice that the word “good” comes up frequently. The first use of the word “good” in the Bible is in Genesis 1:4, when “God saw that the light was good.” The word is used seven times in Genesis 1, culminating in this: “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”

The first use of the word “evil” in the Bible is in Genesis 2:9: “The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, along with the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” It is used a second time in Genesis 2:15-17: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’”

Here we see the introduction of the twin dichotomies of good and evil and life and death, which is a theme repeated throughout the Bible. Notice that the classical philosophical dichotomy of heaven and hell is not present here, nor is it present anywhere in the Bible as a dichotomy related to eternal destiny.

Eve and Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil once they believed that God could not be trusted. The human knowledge of evil began when the first humans chose not to trust God. (Similarly, the universe’s knowledge of evil began when Lucifer chose not to trust God. See Isaiah 14:12-14.)

The knowledge of good and evil has been growing since its inception. Someday, when the knowledge of good and evil is fully mature, the question of whether God can be trusted will be settled for all time. Can God be trusted? Just how good is good? Just how evil is evil? These are the questions that will be answered when the knowledge of good and evil is fully mature.

At that time, eternal destinies can be realized. The life-and-death dichotomy that was established in the garden of Eden will come to fruition. Those who choose to trust God will receive eternal life, and those who choose not to trust God will receive eternal death.

  • God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
  • He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:11)

I mentioned that the classical philosophical dichotomy of heaven-and-hell as eternal destiny is not found in the Bible. Notice, too, that the classical philosophical idea of eternal suffering cannot be concluded upon consideration of all of the Bible passages regarding the final destruction of those who do not trust God. Ashes do not suffer (see Ezekiel 28:18, Malachi 4:1-3, 2 Peter 2:6, and Revelation 20:9,15). Good news!

Suffering is a result of evil. Once the knowledge of good and evil is fully mature, it stands to reason that no one will choose evil again. That will be the end of evil, which will mean the end of suffering. More good news!

There was a time when there was only good. Then evil entered the picture. But evil is a companion of good for a limited time only. One of these days, if we choose to trust God, our knowledge of evil will be only a memory. We will spend eternity steeped in a fully-mature knowledge of good. That is the best news.

The three young men were stolen from their country when it was invaded. They were brought as prisoners to the land of the conquerers to serve the king. Back in their own home, they had freely worshipped God, whom they believed gave them life. In this new land, people worshipped objects that they made with their own hands. And they obeyed the king. (Don’t forget that bit; you’ve got to obey the king. He gets awfully cross if you don’t.)

One day, the king ordered an engineering crew to craft a huge idol made of gold — about 90 feet high and nine feet wide — that represented his power and authority (his favorite things!). They held a grand dedication service with an orchestra, ice sculptures, and an open bar. The orchestra prepared a special dedication song, the title of which roughly translates to “The King Is the Best, and You Must Do Whatever He Says, because He Is the Best.” When the orchestra played, everyone was to bow down and worship the idol — because the king said so (and he’s the best).

Oh, and I don’t want to forget this bit: If you don’t worship the idol, you’ll be thrown into the middle of a burning fiery furnace. Not just the edge of the furnace. The middle. Smack dab.

The big moment came. The orchestra played. Everyone bowed down and worshiped the idol. Well, sort of. It seems that a few people didn’t get the memo. Someone went to the king and told him that they saw three men standing when everyone else was bowing.

Yep, those three men. The ones who had been taken as prisoners when their country was invaded by the king’s army. The king had the men brought to him to explain themselves. Maybe they just missed their cue? The king decided to give them another chance. The orchestra had one more song in them!

While the concertmaster got the ensemble tuned again, the king reminded the three men about the furnace’s middle region and challenged them:

“Who is that god who can deliver you out of my hands?”

You’ve gotta hear their answer:

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.”

I love that answer for two reasons. First, it presents good theology. “He will … But if He does not …” They know that God can, any time. They don’t know that He will, this time. I’ll say that again, because it’s critical to understanding how God works:

They know that God can, any time. They don’t know that He will, this time.

God is always able, but He is not always willing. He’s always able because He’s God. He is willing at some times and not others because, as God, He is working a master plan. This plan involves the universe coming to understand just how good good is and just how evil evil is. This is the maturity of the knowledge of good and evil, which began when Adam and Eve decided not to trust God and ate from that forbidden tree.

It’s absolutely necessary for all creation to come to a mature knowledge of good and evil. If God sweeps in and saves the day every time something evil is about to happen, we never will know just how evil evil is. We won’t distance ourselves from it. We won’t realize how good good is. We won’t understand that God can be trusted. So, just as these three men, we can know that God can, any time, but we don’t know that He will, this time.

I said that there are two reasons why I love their answer. “If He does not” illustrates good theology. “Even if He does not” illustrates good faithfulness. They were willing to die a horrible death in order to remain faithful to their God. They would not bow down to another. Even with the nucleus of a fiery furnace staring them down, they would not worship anyone else. I can only hope that my allegiance to God is that strong.

Interestingly, their good faithfulness was based on their good theology. (As I always say, what we believe matters, because we live according to our beliefs.) These men understood that this wasn’t about them in a micro sense; God wouldn’t intervene on behalf of the salvation of their bodies if it wasn’t in complete harmony with the salvation of their souls and everyone else’s (see Matthew 10:28). They understood that this was about the master plan, that their story was only a small part of everyone’s story — the Big Story.

More stuff happened after the men answered the king, but I’ve made the points I wanted to make from the story, so I’ll leave you hanging. If you want to find out how it ends, the story is found in the Bible, the book of Daniel, chapter 3. I’ll tell you this much: The orchestra immediately went home, some people lost their lives in the fire, and the king learned something big — even bigger than his 90-foot idol. Most of all, it became clear who — alone — was worthy of worship.

That’s how this story ends, and that’s where the Big Story is heading. Every day, we’re one day closer to the universal conclusion that good is completely good, evil is completely evil, God is completely trustworthy, and God alone is King of kings and Lord of lords. That’s the day when every knee will bow.

There will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain,
because all the old ways are gone.

This is how I get through the day. Every day. It’s a picture of the future that I am grateful to have been given when I was a kid. If you’ve never heard it, or you need to hear it again, here it is:

There will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain,
because all the old ways are gone.

I hope it gets you through this day and this life. If you’re like me, you’re sick and tired of death, sadness, crying, and pain.

Jesus’s best friend wrote it. It’s something he heard when he was given a picture of our future. It’s forever recorded in the scripture designated as Revelation 21:4. If you want to know a little more about what it means and how it can be true, read the other sentences around it. If you want to know a lot more about what it means and how it can be true, read the whole book. I also encourage you to stay tuned to this site, as I tend to harp on this relief-giving promise.

The best thing about the future isn’t advanced technology or medical breakthroughs or getting further down the path of social evolution. It’s this:

There will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain,
because all the old ways are gone.

Tomorrow we’ll be even closer. Hang in there.