Sunday, January 17, 2016

Another Question Many are Afraid to Ask

Why does God send people to judgement?

       Does God send people to judgement? – yes. Or is it that people send themselves to judgement? – yes. Is the judgement now or after death? – both.
I would like to spend a moment on this important and debated subject.

      In the Bible, in Exodus 34:7, we read of God revealing His character. Among other things He says – “Who will by no means clear the guilty”.
I have heard preachers pass over this statement, favouring only the statements that God is slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. These indeed are precious details of God’s character but to ignore His justice is rather distressing. His mercy becomes very shallow, if we do not understand His justice in dealing with guilt.

      We could draw a parallel to a judge in a courtroom today. What value would a judge have who persists in letting an offender off each time a crime is committed? Whether it be the law of the land or the law of natural justice, we expect the judge to uphold the law and its penalties, yet have the ability to pardon if true remorse or restitution is evident. Likewise, what kind of god would he be who either delighted in cruel punishment, or alternatively did not implement law or justice?

       I remember listening to an adviser for children’s ministry – he presented God as a big, warm teddy bear, always approachable and unoffendable. We do need to present the wonder of  the God who is love, but it leaves big unanswered  questions when we fail to present God as the one who will deal with those who deliberately practice violence and robbery, disobedience and sin.
What we need is a concept of God that is both sensible, and in keeping with God as He has revealed Himself.

 As to the first, humanity has for thousands of years created gods of their own imagination eg fertility gods, prosperity gods, unknowable gods, gods of wood and stone. This is happening even today and even some Christians are deceived by new concepts of God.

 Secondly – what can we say of God revealing Himself? The world of nature around us does express something of the intelligence and power of the creator, but a deeper revelation is needed.  Among the religions of the world, very little brings verifiable revelation eg Buddhism has sought to eliminate god. Communism has denied god. Hinduism has sought to represent god in statues  of millions of gods .  Mohammed has tried to redefine god drawing from several other religions. Animism has sought to find god in the physical and spiritual world around us, having infinite variations  usually linked to sinister spiritual powers. ( I may well expand this survey later).

         Does history show a god ,  revealed consistently over time, by various presenters, in differing circumstances with supporting evidence?  -  Yes –the God revealed in the Bible. He is revealed as creator  ( we can see his workmanship), he is revealed as relational ( history records him connecting with many people), he is legislating ( through Moses and the prophets), he is a speaking God ( assessing conditions and peoples, giving his verdict through prophets and judges).

In the person of Jesus, God steps into time, into the world he made and insists that the God revealed through the writings of Moses and the prophets is the true living God , and is also His Father. Thus we have a very reliable revelation of God in the Bible. Many have tried to eliminate the bible, burning it, criticising it, contradicting it, condemning it, prophesying that  it would become irrelevant etc., but it remains the most relevant, accurate disclosure of God.

       Now I must return to the question of judgement, and as you have read, my reference point is the Bible. The history of the Bible is abundant with occasions of God judging wickedness. The flood was a judgement by God of the unbridled imaginations of the human heart (imaginations like is running riot today). The law delivered through Moses revealed the holy and righteous character of God, but also showed up the rebellion of the people it was given to. ( please note, it also contained means to the appeasement of the judgements it contained).  The ongoing history records many prophets over many centuries, warning the people (of all nations) of sin and its consequences. Many of the judgements foretold by the prophets are recorded in secular  history as now  fulfilled.

     So as the revelation of God in the bible continues, we come to the arrival of one whom Moses foretold, the Messiah  - “ it is to Him you shall listen” (Deuteronomy 18.18). Jesus , announced by the angel, attested to by God’s voice from heaven, verified as Son of God by mighty miracles, His voice, His teaching becomes the ultimate revelation of God. Did he speak of God sending people to judgement? I ask you to read again the four records of His life and teaching, noting the many times He states that judgement is real. He begins His mission with “Repent and believe the Gospel” . Repent means the need to change, something is wrong.  After some time He said “except you repent you shall all likewise perish”. 

Refusal to hear the call of God to turn from sin, He said, has consequences. What consequences ? Well, He more than any other spoke of the judgment of the last day. It was He who expounded the detail of hell and Gehenna as the place of everlasting torment. He told the prophetic story of the sheep and the goats being divided with eternal blessing for one and eternal destruction for the other.

      In a very special way, the teaching of the Lord Jesus was a verification of the character of God as righteous and holy ( along with His salvation and love). The wonder of it all, read carefully together, is that God is revealed as righteous and just, but also righteous and just in justifying the repentant sinner!

Two and a half thousand years ago , Isaiah the prophet put it like this:
“there is no other God besides me, a righteous God and a Saviour”

Two thousand years ago Paul summarized it this way:
“That He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

       In conclusion – does God sent people to judgement? – Yes – history verifies that, but more importantly, the Lord Jesus said it does and will happen.
Is God just in doing so? – Yes –on two counts – we have disobeyed God’s laws, and more importantly, many reject the means of salvation that is in Jesus Christ the Lord.

       Interestingly, God has now placed the decision of our destiny in our hands:
Jesus said:
  Truely, truely I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but  has passed from death to life.”  (John 5.24)

God remains true, holy, gracious and loving.
We have the opportunity to listen to His message and respond either in belief or rebellion.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him”  John 3:36

So much more could be written, so much of the Bible is about this subject. I encourage you to search the scriptures to become wise as to judgement and salvation.

John McKee

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