Friday, April 5, 2013

Judgment and Justice

One of the things that is hard for Christians to accept is divine judgment. I do not mean the simple fact of judgment, but that some of the judgments found in the Bible seem a bit extreme. We have God ordering the Israelites to conquer Canaan and to slaughter its inhabitants. Noah builds a boat to save a remnant of humanity, but saves only his own family. The rest are wiped out in a flood. We see God's own people, the Israelites, decimated and taken into captivity. Even when a remnant returns, most are still scattered all over the pagan world.

And those are just temporal judgments. Eternal judgment is far worse. Multitudes are cast into a Lake of Fire to burns forever after the Great White Throne Judgment. There are indications that the torment of unbelievers will last forever. It seems to go beyond what is just and necessary even for the worst of sinners.

The question we have to ask ourselves about this is twofold. First, are we willing to accept the Bible for what it says no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel? Second, are we willing to set aside our own judgments on these matters and accept God's?

It used to be very simple. Those who believed in Christ and the scriptures accepted the judgments as being from God as the just punishment for sins committed. Those who did not believe the scriptures rejected the judgments, often calling them unjust.

Now we have a different situation. Some claiming to be orthodox Christians are now rejecting these judgments as relics of an ignorant and superstitious people or as errors added to the Bible by ancients who, unlike us, enjoy this sort of thing. Like many unbelievers today they say that God would never do those things. After all, did we not just pass through a period of history when the Nazis tried to commit genocide against the Jews. Was this not condemned by all?

But then we could respond that in order to stop the Nazis from committing such atrocities that we had to kill many thousands of them. We bombed their cities and decimated their armies. And we do not feel bad about it now. Why? Because we were preventing the evil from continuing and punishing those responsible. That is what God does when He brings judgment.

Those who deny that God brought the biblical judgments have set themselves above God and judged Him for His actions. I even read just today from the pen of an evangelical who said that God put the so-called Canaanite 'genocide' in the Bible so that we would despise genocide. Really? That's absurd. God did not order judgment on the Canaanites to teach us how bad genocide is. He did it to warn us of the consequences of our sins.

God judges sin. Those who reject Jesus, the sacrifice for our sins, will receive a greater judgment than we might think is due. This ought to cause us to fear and to live in the fear of the Lord. The book of Hebrews says that it is a "fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." We have forgetten about this side of God. We only want to acknowledge the pleasant things that God promises us. We have forgotten his just judgments. "Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness,[f] if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off." (Romans 11:22)

The greater His goodness is, the greater His severity is. None us wants to see people judged. (At least, I hope we don't.) We want people saved and set free by the power of God. That's why we have the Great Commission.

It's our job to preach the gospel to everyone. Yes, even to those of another religion. They are lost and they need a Savior. God loves them all. His love is unconditional, but His forgiveness and salvation are not. They require faith in the Risen Savior. Love drives us to seek and save those who are lost. Love does not pretend that divine judgment is not a reality; it makes us want to get this gospel to everyone as soon as we can.

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