Friday, December 24, 2010

Was John the Baptist a Crackpot?

Matt 3:3-6 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.'" Now John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. (NKJV)

My first thought of John the Baptist is that he must have been a very unusual sight even in 30 AD. I imagine a man with scraggly beard and unkempt hair squatting by a fire in the cold of the desert night. He scratches frequently because of the course camelhair robe cinched at his waist by a wide leather belt with a big buckle. His sunken eyes and scrawny arms reveal a poor diet of bugs and honey. Why in the world would someone go out into the desert to listen to someone like that? If you can’t image that, then think about the cartoons of a weirdo carrying a sign that reads, “The End Is Near.” How much do I miss in Scripture because I read in my own perspective?

After thinking about this for some time, I think that I have read more into the Scripture than is there. I’ve made conclusions that are not justified. According to Luke 1:15, he was not to drink any alcoholic beverages. I assumed that meant that he was a Nazirite, however the Nazirite restriction of never cutting his hair was ever mentioned. Even if he didn’t cut his hair, it is my own personal bias that would lead me to think it would be unkempt. Finally, why do I think that a camelhair coat would be itchy and rough looking? I once had a camelhair jacket and it was very smooth. In fact, camelhair fabric is very soft, lightweight, and warm.

I could be just as wrong about how healthy his diet was. John the Baptist could have been a very distinguished and well-dressed man. Living in the desert didn’t mean he camped out every night or wandered without shelter. It doesn’t mean that his life there was isolated either. There is nothing in the Word that should make me think that a strange or weird man. The image that he was weird is most likely fueled by today’s bias against people of faith who aren’t afraid to speak the truth.

As I consider this, I wonder how many times I’ve read a passage of scripture and viewed it out of my own experience instead of the reality of the time it was written. It certainly shows me that I must be very careful when I draw conclusions about how the Bible should affect my life. I can easily read into a passage something very different from what God originally intended and what He intends for every person since then to understand and follow.

This also brings up the fact that different forms of writing require different ways of understanding the meaning. The quote about one calling in the wilderness is taken from Isaiah 40:3. When I copied the quote in Matthew, I removed the formatting. Most versions of the Bible formats poetic passages differently so that it can be recognized. Matthew 3:3 or Isaiah 40:4 is show as poetic. Matthew most likely quoted this from the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament written two to three hundred years earlier. Therefore, it varies somewhat from the translations we now use. Since it is poetic, I can rightly assume that preparing a way for the Lord and making His path straight is not referring to building a physical road in the desert and filling in every valley and removing hills and mountains as Isaiah 40:4 says.

Instead, Matthew is pointing out that John’s ministry is exactly what the angel predicted in Luke 1:16-17 "And he will turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (NASB) John’s ministry was turn hearts back to God. This takes place as family relationships are restored and the attitudes people are turned back to righteousness. In doing this, he was able to get many people ready for Jesus to appear and accept Him.

In application to myself, I can see that I need to make sure my family relationships are loving. I can do this by following many Scriptural commands such as Eph 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (NIV) I need to make sure I’m not disobedient in my attitudes about righteous living. Rom 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (RSV) Many passages describe unrighteous behavior and the behavior that should replace it.

I can also see that if I want to prepare someone to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior, then I should also instruct him in these two areas. Especially important is explaining the attitude of the disobedient, helping him know that he is a sinner. Without this understanding, he will not see the need to repent. It is also one of the toughest things to do because it means I may be accused of being intolerant, arrogant, and other things. Later we’ll see that John was beheaded for pointing out sinful behavior.

Why would so many people go out to the desert to listen to John? I think it is because Luke 1:15 says that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. The fruit of the Holy Spirit must have been evident in his life. Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (NIV) When God calls a person to a ministry such as his and his life is characterized by these virtues then it would make sense that he would attract people. If my life is filled with the Holy Spirit, then it makes the task of instructing others easier, whether it is a large crowd or just one.

If I’m honestly looking for God, I will listen to someone like John. Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (RSV) One of the reasons that few people are looking for God today is that they have been taught that there is no God. Teaching the religion of evolution in our schools has replaced God with nature. It has reduced man to an animal that is has no more right to the earth than any other animal. I am no longer a being created with a special purpose – to worship God. If my faith is in nature, I would not seek God. A man like John would indeed sound like a crackpot – especially if he says that some of my evolutionary instincts are sin.

God may trip me (or knock me off my horse as he did to Paul) so that I’m suddenly aware of Him. Eccl 3:11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end. (NLT) Whether God trips me or simply awakens this yearning in my heart for eternity, a man like John will fill in the blanks so that I can begin to understand the beginning of God’s work. Like the multitude that went to John, I will confess my sin as I realize that the His work was to send Jesus to pay for my sins. Turning to Jesus, I to will be baptized as a public declaration of my repentance and a changed life.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Kingdom of Heaven

Matt 3:1-3 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.'" (NKJV)

When John said the kingdom of heaven was near, he knew it. He knew he was born to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3 as quoted in Matt 3:3. He knew it because that was the prophecy given to his father in Luke 1:16-17 even before he was conceived. He knew it because the Holy Spirit revealed it to him. John 1:32-34 Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God." (NIV)

So what exactly is the kingdom of heaven? The New Testament has 32 references to the kingdom of heaven in Matthew and four references to the kingdom of God. There are another 62 references to the kingdom of God in the other books of the New Testament. The kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are interchangeable since Matthew recorded Jesus using the Kingdom of heaven in Matt 4:17 and the kingdom of God in Mark 1:15 in exactly the same way. If I were to look at all of these references, I could come up with a lot of details about the kingdom of heaven. However, those who heard this first use of the phrase by John didn’t have all these verses. What did they understand?

At that time, people were familiar with the book of Daniel. They knew of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that Daniel was able to interpret. God gave that interpretation to Daniel. Dan 2:28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnez'zar what will be in the latter days. (RSV) Daniel then tells that the dream was about kingdoms down through history, one replaces another as time passes and the “latter days” arrive. Dan 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. (NASB) This is what the people understood when John or Jesus first spoke of the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. It would be a physical kingdom that God would establish and it would dominate every other kingdom on earth. It would last forever.

They didn’t view this kingdom as a kingdom of another spiritual realm. That view was also available to them from the book of Daniel. Dan 4:3b His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation. (NIV) Nebuchadnezzar, the first king in the interpretation above, provided that view. He knew and recognized it because God took his sanity from him until he humbled himself under God.

As the book of Matthew unfolds, Jesus’ primary references to the kingdom of heaven describe who will enter or not and who will be greatest or least. There are only two places where He gives any indication that it isn’t an eternal physical kingdom. Matt 12:28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (NIV) Jesus certainly did drive out demons by the Spirit of God, which means that the kingdom of God was right there at that time. Yet it was not manifested physically as prophesied in Daniel. Jesus had just spoken about Satan’s kingdom. With this in mind I can safely assume that just as there is a spiritual realm in which Satan is ruler, so is there a spiritual realm where Jesus in currently king. Speaking of God’s power to raise Jesus from the dead, Paul gave us a glimpse of the kingdom. Eph 1:20-21 [The power] which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (NIV) This provides us with the dual nature of the kingdom of God, the current spiritual kingdom and the one to come.

Luke 17:20-21 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." (NIV) The only way Jesus could make this statement is in reference to the spiritual kingdom when the Holy Spirit lives in us. This is a kingdom that can not be seen. However, Jesus also makes it clear that there is more to come. Mark 14:24-25 And He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. “ Truly I say to you, I shall never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." (NASB) I think He was referring to His millennium reign when we will reign with Him. Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. (NASB)

This is all cool, head-knowledge type stuff. How does God want me to apply this to my life?

Since God’s kingdom is everlasting and endures from generation to generation it means I need to find out which side I’m on. Am I part of His kingdom or Satan’s kingdom? Jesus didn’t give any room to be anywhere else. There is no question that one day everyone will realize this. As I read through Rev 20 and 21 it is evident that everyone will be resurrected from the dead. Some will enter eternity in heaven in God’s kingdom and others will enter into eternal punishment along with Satan. I have to make sure that I’m in His kingdom before I die. Heb 9:27 And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, (NLT) makes it clear that there are no second chances after this life.

Assuming that I’ve decided that I want to be in God’s kingdom, I need to realize that I can’t act any way I want and call myself a Christian. Matt 7:21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (NIV) John 6:40 “For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." (NIV) I can’t believe anything I want. I must believe Jesus and what He has said. Some of those things follow.

Matt 18:3-4 And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (NIV) A child is totally dependent on adults. When I depend on myself to earn my way into heaven, I will never make it. I have to be like a child and depend totally on Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for my sin. I can’t depend on baptism, being good, tithing, or any other work. If I don’t humble myself in this way, I’ll have no part of His kingdom.

Matt 13:45-46 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (NIV) Attaining God’s kingdom is so valuable that there is nothing in this life that is more important or valuable. If I’m not willing to give up everything in this world to enter, then I’m not worthy of the kingdom. This is not a matter of buying or working my way into heaven. It is about the attitude of my heart. When I face persecution, am I willing to die rather than denounce Jesus? Am I willing to do what is right in my business practices or work ethic and possibly lose everything so that I don’t tarnish the name of Jesus?

The chief priests and elders in Jerusalem were the religious leaders who believed they were going to earn their way into the kingdom of god but challenged Jesus’ authority. From Matt 21:23 through 43, Jesus has a dialog with them. He told them a couple of parables. The first had to do with obeying God and repentance. He declared that prostitutes and tax collectors were entering God’s kingdom before the leaders because these sinners had not initially obeyed but repented and obeyed. The religious leaders said they obeyed but didn’t. The second showed them that they would completely reject Jesus and even have Him killed. Jesus finished with Matt 21:43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (NIV) I need to produce fruit that is consistent with His kingdom. By using a negative example (the religious leaders), and the parables, I can see that obeying God and receiving Jesus are things I must do.

If I want to see what my fruit should look like, I can look at Gal 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (NIV) When I belong to Jesus, I die to my sinful nature, passions, and desires and let His Holy Spirit control me to produce the fruit of His kingdom.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What Does Repentance Mean?

Matt 3:1-2 Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (NASB)

John called people to repent because the kingdom of heaven was at hand. So what does it mean to repent? The world’s view of repentance is described in various dictionaries. Repent is defined as follows:

1. To feel remorse or regret, as for something done or undone; be contrite.
2. To change one’s mind concerning past action because of disappointment, failure, etc: with of: He repented of his generosity to the old man.
3. Theol. To feel such sorrow for one’s sins as to reform.
4. To feel remorse or regret for (an action, sin, etc.)
5. To change one’s mind concerning (a past action): He repented of his decision.

Websters Comprehensive Dictionary (J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company, 1984) Volume Two Page 1068

As I look at these various definitions, a couple of things stand out. The first is that these are all based on emotions or feelings. Even the theological is based on a feeling of sorrow. While I would agree that repentance does incorporate a need to be sorry, I need to look to the Bible to tell me what true repentance is. I think that the following verses shed much light on what repentance is all about.

1 Kings 8:46-51 "When they sin against you — for there is no one who does not sin — and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to his own land, far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their conquerors and say, 'We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly'; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their conquerors to show them mercy; for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace. (NIV)

The very first thing in this passage is a general confession of sin. The sin is against God. While we need to repent of sins committed against each other, the ultimate problem with sin is that it is an affront to God. There are consequences to our sins and the worst is that God becomes angry. When I sin, He will discipline me so that I will learn. Heb 12:9-10 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn't we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God's discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. (NLT) God’s anger with His children seemed very harsh when He allowed them to be conquered, killed, and sent into exile. The N.T. puts it in perspective. Part of what happened in the O.T. was to demonstrate the seriousness of sin but the bigger picture is that God wants me to have a better relationship with Him. That can only be done as I live a holy life. His disciple pushes me in that direction.

Back to 1st Kings, I can see that the second thing that repentance requires a change of heart. Most people place a huge emphasis on a change of behavior when they talk about repentance. I usually think the same way; however, a change in behavior without a change of heart is not true repentance. Without a change of heart, a change of behavior is called reformation or turning over a new leaf. It has nothing to do with God but is done out of a person’s own power and strength of will. True repentance can’t occur without God. It is God who gives me the change of heart that is required. Ezek 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (NKJV) This is a mystery. I have to have a change of heart, but it is only God who can give me that change. It is the same with the faith required for salvation. See Eph 2:8-9.

I can see that the third component of repentance in this example is a more detailed confession of sin. While this passage isn’t significantly detailed, the concept is apparent. The context of this example is Solomon praying for the future sins of the Israelites so the exact details are missing. However, the repetition of sinning, doing wrong, and acting wickedly shows that when I repent, I need to understand exactly what I’ve done. I can’t really repent of a sin that I don’t understand is wrong.

I need to admit my guilt to God. In this passage, Solomon says that if they plead with God. Guilt means that I’m legally punishable for my sin. I plead for forgiveness with the full knowledge that I should be punished for my sin. I’m throwing myself on the mercy of the court when I plead with my Lord. One of the reasons that many people reject God is that they don’t like the idea of pleading for anything. That is beneath them and they are too proud to beg for mercy. Pride is probably the worst sin or the root of it because it means I think I’m better than God.

That pride must be broken in order to turn back to God. Of course, if a person has never been with God, then it isn’t turning back to Him, it is turning to Him for the first time. As a Christian, when I sin, I must turn back to Him. Either way, the concept is the same. It is a change of attitude toward God as detailed above.

Matt 3:8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. (NIV) John explained that repentance must result in a change of behavior to prove that it has taken place. Just as my faith must be seen by my actions to prove my salvation (James 2:18), my change of heart when I repent must result in a behavioral change. The cart can’t be put before the horse. My works will not save me and my changed behavior will not change my heart.

Jer 26:13 But if you stop your sinning and begin to obey the Lord your God, he will change his mind about this disaster that he has announced against you. (NLT) Note that God knows the heart of each person. He knows whether or not a person has truly repented. So when He commands me to stop sinning and reform my behavior, He already knows that I can do it.

So where does being sorry fit in? The best explanation comes from 2 Cor 7:8-10 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it — I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (NIV) The Greek word sorrow is most often translated as distressed or sad in the NIV. This is a strong emotion and strong emotions oftentimes work wonders. When those emotions pull me back to God, it results in a repentance that works in conjunction with God to produce a changed heart that He desires. This is a sorrow for having offended God.

The worldly sorrow that is mentioned is more like the dictionary definitions. It is a feeling of regret. It sometimes comes because I was caught, or even because I may have hurt someone. However, worldly sorrow doesn’t bring about true repentance. At the best, it will bring about reformation but without the change of heart that I need to turn back to God. At the worst, it will not even bring about reformation, but despair and even suicide.

When I am sorry as God wants, I will repent. When I repent, and confess my sin, then God is faithful. He will forgive me and purify me. (1 John 1:9) When He does this, I can depend on Him to remove my guilt. This means that I will not be punished for my sins in hell. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t any consequences in this life, but it means that in eternity, I’ll be able to stand before Him just as if I had never sinned.

The reason that worldly sorrow brings death is because there is no removal of guilt. I may confess my sin to another person and even a person I have offended. That person may even forgive me, however until I have dealt with my sin with God, my guilt is not removed and the end is death.

So John’s message was simple – repent – but with a lot of meaning packed behind it. He was preparing the way for Jesus – telling people what was needed to be saved. When Jesus died on the cross, He took that punishment for my guilt long before I ever existed. However, it wasn’t until I repented and turned to Him in faith that His payment was actually credited to me. So, if I never acknowledge Jesus as my Lord (changing my attitude and obeying Him) I would still be guilty. I repented by first confessing my sin to God and acknowledging my need for Jesus to be my Savior. There is no other way – Jesus said so.

Friday, December 3, 2010

When God Speaks – Matt 3:1

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, (RSV)

Why would John the Baptist start preaching? How does God communicate His will to me? Let’s check out John’s history. In Luke 1:17 John’s mission was announced by an angel before his birth. He was to go before the Lord and turn the hearts of Israel to the Lord. John’s father, Zechariah, was unable to speak after the announcement because he doubted what he had heard and asked for a sign. I think there is an important lesson to be learned from Zechariah.

To understand the lesson I need to understand who Zechariah was and what was going on. First of all, he was a priest and second he was the one who was selected to enter the temple to burn incense. He was all alone, in God’s dwelling place. Then an angel appears. His first reaction is fear. This is a very normal reaction to a true angelic appearance. You can look in Daniel 8:15-18 and observe the physical effects of the visions he had when Gabriel appeared to him. Since Zechariah was a priest and he was performing his duty in the temple, there is no reason that he should have suspected that this person was anyone other than an angel. The angel told him his prayer to have a son had been answered; another clue he was sent by God. Furthermore, he told Zechariah exactly what John’s mission would be and how he should be raised. This is very similar to the instructions and prophesy that was given to Samson’s mother when an angel appeared to her. (Judges 13:2-5) This would have been very familiar to Zechariah.

Given Zechariah’s position as priest, his location in the temple, and his knowledge of Scripture, it was an affront to God that he asked for a sign to prove that what the angel said was true. You can compare this to Gideon (Judges 6:11 and following) who asked for a sign. Gideon was not a priest, he was not in the temple rather, he was threshing wheat in a winepress out of fear of the enemy. He was the opposite of Zechariah in most ways. When he asked for a sign, God accommodated him because he didn’t know better. He needed encouragement to trust the Lord.

Zachariah got his sign. He was struck with the inability to speak until his son was born. I think he learned his lesson. After John’s birth in Luke 1:77, Zechariah prophesied that John would give people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. After such a dramatic introduction to his son’s mission, Zechariah would not have neglected teaching John what he needed to do.

What did I learn from all this? When God speaks, I better do what He says.

Fortunately, we have God’s Word for general direction. A great passage is 1 Thess 5:16-22 Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. (NASB) I think following these commands will not only enable me to follow God’s will for my life in general, but also specifically.

If I’m joyful in all circumstances instead of complaining, God can use me anywhere. If I’m praying always, He can lead me and help me. If I’m thankful for everything, He will be pleased. If I don’t suppress the prompting of the Holy Spirit and pay attention to prophetic utterances, then He can speak to me directly or through others. If I examine everything carefully, then my own sinful nature and those who claim they are speaking for God won’t trick me. If I always try to do what is right using my abilities to further His kingdom and abstain from sin, I’ll probably be doing what God wants. I don’t think He will need to tell me to do something specific. However, if He does, I’ll be ready without asking for a specific sign.

If a non-Christian wants to know what God wants him to do, I can always use Jesus’ response to that question. John 6:29 Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." (NIV)

However, I’ve heard people say they would believe in Jesus if God would give them a sign. Their sin is worse than Zechariah’s. Zechariah obeyed after receiving his sign. Jesus has already given everyone a sign; it is His resurrection. They don’t want to believe that sign just as Jesus said. Luke 16:31 "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'" (NIV) Jesus said that anyone who rejects the Bible will not be convinced by His resurrection. They will still ask for signs. Matt 12:39-40 But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (RSV)

Rejecting Jesus and the sign God provided by resurrecting Him is the ultimate affront to God who allowed His son to be killed as a sacrifice for our sins. It will result in eternal death, not just a few months with the inability to speak. The good news is that it is never too late to change your mind and believe in Jesus.