God is long-suffering with sinners. He does all He can to get them to repent and turn from their evil ways, even if they backslide. When they repent and cease doing wrong He extends His forgiveness. Such is the message of Isaiah: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7; see also Ezek. 18:20-24) Any sin can be forgiven unless the sin is persisted in for too long.
When the Israelites obeyed God’s law they were blest and protected from their enemies. When they grew careless in their worship and made other gods of wood and stone, neglecting their service to the true God, famine and pestilence came upon them. Before sending such judgments, God always sent His prophets to warn His people, but in many cases His warnings were disregarded and the people refused to turn from their evil ways until it was too late.
Always keep in mind the apostle Paul’s warning: “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” (Romans 11:22).
The popular theological concept that God and Jesus love everyone regardless of their character is not taught in the Bible. In John 17:9, Jesus said: “I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me.” The people in the world most precious to the Lord are those who are serving Him and making themselves worthy of sharing eternity with Christ on this earth. All others are outside God’s eternal plan.
God is most loving and merciful to those who seek Him, but He is also a God of justice and judgment. If we want to partake of His love and mercy, we must live as He would have us live. On the other hand, if we have agreed to serve Him but apostatize and neglect our duty, we will find ourselves partaking of His severity. But that severity is never cruel or vindictive.
How can apostasy be avoided? The first step in the Christian life is to learn what God requires of us to obtain salvation. In the words of the Wise Man, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7). The next step is to live out that knowledge in our everyday life. The third step is the change from mortality to immortality which is beyond our power to take on our own but which Christ will bestow on all who meet the requirements.