The cup of Judah’s iniquities had reached the brim: “Their transgressions are many; Their backslidings have increased” (Jer. 5:6). Like her sister Israel to the north, idolatry, adultery, selfish indulgence, oppressive leaders, false prophets, and faithless neglect of God headlined her sins (Jer. 5:7-8, 11-13). Yet they were sure punishment would not come upon them (Jer. 5:12-13; Micah 3:11-12). Even to this moment, many have created a view of God that takes everyone to heaven. Sin is minimized out of existence; therefore, they eliminate the prospect of punishment. “A loving God will not send people to hell!” they proclaim. We must divest ourselves of this illusion. Yes, God is love. His severity is also real (Rom. 11:22). Our God is a consuming fire against evil (Heb. 12:29). Over and over, God called His people to turn from their sins and return to Him (Jer. 3:14-18, 22; 4:4; 7:13, 25-26). Because Judah and Israel rejected God’s word and refused to repent, God had no choice but to exact punishment. God’s word is clear; those who “do not know God” and those “who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” “shall be punished” when Christ returns (2 Thess. 1:8-9; Matt. 25:46). Now is the time to repent and turn to the Lord. Now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:1-2).
22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” (Romans 11:22–23, NKJV)
In considering the purposes of God that brought Gentiles into His kingdom while at the same rejecting unfaithful Jews, it is imperative that we recall God’s goodness and His severity. His goodness leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). So does His severity (Heb. 10:26-31). It is altogether proper to use God’s punishment of sin as an incentive to be faithful to Him, because our God is a “consuming fire” against transgressors (Heb. 12:29). This verse tolls the death knell for the doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy. Those who do not “continue in His goodness” do not remain in His favor (“the soul who sins shall die,” Ezek. 18:20). God’s severity is impartially meted out against those who do evil (Rom. 2:9-11). God goodness is extended to and received by all who will “fear God and keep His commandments,” including Jews who “do not continue in unbelief” (Rom. 11:23). If Paul can use the goodness and the severity of God to urge people to follow Jesus, then we are confident we can, and should, do the same.