In 1999, Cornelius Anderson robbed the manager of a St. Charles, Missouri, Burger King at gunpoint when he was attempting to make the restaurant’s night deposit at a nearby bank. An eyewitness reported the armed robbery to police and Cornelius was soon arrested, convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison. Shortly after his conviction, he was released on bail while his appeal was being considered. Cornelius lost the appeal, but because of a clerical error he was never picked up and taken to prison. Apparently, the Missouri Department of Corrections mistakenly thought he was already incarcerated.
Over the next 13 years, Cornelius Anderson lived a normal life. He got married, started a business, voted, and renewed his driver’s license. He went on living his life as if the conviction and sentence had never happened.
In July 2013—13 years after his conviction—Cornelius Anderson was scheduled to be released from prison. It was on his discharge date when the Missouri Department of Corrections realized he had never been in prison. A warrant was promptly issued for his arrest, and he was subsequently picked up by authorities.
His lawyer said he always told Cornelius this day was coming. He knew that eventually Cornelius would have to pay the penalty for his actions.
For many of us, because we may not receive swift punishment for our sin, we may wrongly assume that there will be no penalty for our sin. Like Cornelius, we may erroneously think that life is going well and that we have escaped judgment for our actions. However, just as his lawyer reminded Cornelius, the Bible reminds us that a day of judgment is coming.
Do not be fooled — just because God may delay the judgement for our sin, it does not mean he has eliminated the judgment for our sin. Peter wrote these words to remind us of the purpose for God’s delay:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 1 Peter 3:9-10
While God is patiently waiting for people to repent, we are still reminded that His judgment is imminent.
The good news is that there is a way for us to avoid punishment for our sin. When we trust Jesus as our Savior, the Lord accepts Christ’s atoning death on the cross as the payment for our sin. The debt accumulated for our sin is marked paid in full if we accept His redeeming work of grace.
So today, my brothers and sisters, do not keep living like the penalty our sin deserves will never be enforced. Rather, follow Christ, trust in Him for salvation from the coming judgment and encourage others to do the same!