When Moses spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people mourned greatly. In the morning, however, they rose up early and went up to the ridge of the hill country, saying, “Here we are; we have indeed sinned, but we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised.” But Moses said, “Why then are you transgressing the commandment of the Lord , when it will not succeed? Do not go up, or you will be struck down before your enemies, for the Lord is not among you. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will be there in front of you, and you will fall by the sword, inasmuch as you have turned back from following the Lord . And the Lord will not be with you.” But they went up heedlessly to the ridge of the hill country; neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses left the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down, and struck them and beat them down as far as Hormah.
Numbers 14:39-45 NASB
There will come a time in the history of the church that repentance will come too late. The children of Israel here had made their choice the day before, even threatening execution of those who spoke favourably of proceeding with God’s known will.
See here the prophetic pattern of Scripture. When God’s chosen people WILL not obey God’s known command, there are consequences. Here, the children of Israel suffered judgement of one year for every day the scouts spied out the land God wanted to give them, and God’s holy promise was that no one except Joshua and Caleb, the two spies that gave a favourable report, would enter that promised land.
We live now in an age of grace, where Jesus has died for our sins, and those who follow Him are promised eternal life, as well as unimaginable reward. 1 Corinthians 2:9 harkens from Isaiah 64:4, and promises “things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those that love Him.” It is something so indescribable, so unimaginable, that it defies description. What would one say about its loss through God’s judgement, discussed only a few verses later in 1 Cor. 3:10-15? I dare not imagine it, and the context here is discussing the fate of God’s chosen people, those whom Christ has saved and called. Those who will not walk in a worthy manner (described in Eph. 4) will have to answer for it. God’s grace was not intended to be a whitewash for our sinful deeds.
The writer of the book of Hebrews said in Heb. 10:26-27, “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgement and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.” The phrase “sinning willfully” is used in the sense of a final and complete apostasy, an act of the will to deliberately disobey God. Although I do not believe one can lose one’s own salvation, it seems one might be able to willingly throw it away. What madness continuing in sinful behaviour leads us into!
The children of Israel here thought they could rebel and then repent. I have heard this kind of theology spouted for years! It is what one has termed, “cheap grace.” You want to live in your filth and sin just as long as you can and then repent at the final moment? Ask the children of Israel who decided after the Lord had implemented His judgement how that worked out for them. When they decided to go up and enter the promised land, against God’s stern warnings for their own safety I might add, the inhabitants of the land slaughtered them. Their obedience after the fact of judgement did not save them. Their work remained incomplete, never having been able to enter God’s promised land.
In Jesus’ own letter to the Church at Sardis, he addresses what prophetically may be seen as the church of the reformation. (If Thyatira can be seen as the Catholic church, then it follows that Sardis is the church of the reformation. Email me your questions. ) Jesus says to those at Sardis, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” Jesus says this to His chosen people, the Church. I cannot overstate the importance of this. Revelation 3:2-3 says, “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have seen and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore, if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief; and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” Jesus is saying here that if you will not walk with Him in a state of continual repentance and humility, it is possible to miss His coming. I get the distinct impression that this era of grace we now live in has a definite expiry, and that we need to be in a continual state of readiness, by walking worthy of His calling. So I stand with Joshua and Caleb.