The Judgement of God
- God will judge the world
- God's judgement is always fair. He does judge according to prejudice. Nor according to favouritism. Nor according to whim. But fairly.
- God knows the heart of each person and society
- This gives him 'privileged' information.
- But I believe that, in his final judgement, he will not rely on his privileged information
- Rather, he will judge according to evidence publicly available: what people have said and done.
- So that all will agree with his judgement
- Not through fear of his authority but because of truth
- The heart of people is not immediately visible. But it deeply affects all we do, say, think, believe. And so, over a time, the heart of people becomes visible. Though not entirely unambiguously. So the behaviour of people will be used not as proof but as evidence.
- I read or heard recently someone say "I don't think God will throw people in hell just for sleeping around." I agree. Both the making of that statement and the 'sleeping around' are the visible manifestation of what is in a person's heart.
- First, by saying that, she (it was a she) might be manifesting a closedness of mind, a refusal to consider other possibilities and that there might be some truth or insight in those whose views she detests.
- Second, the person who 'sleeps around' - whether she herself, someone she knows or some hypothetical peson - might be manifesting a deep selfishness that seeks their own pleasure, fulfilment with little long-term regard for others. I believe I am not wrong in saying that the majority of people who 'sleep around' do not overly concern themselves with the plight of those less fortunate than themselves. There are, of course, exceptions to this; I am talking about tendency. Such a person might also be doing so out of spite.
- It is things like stubbornness, selfishness and spite that God judges in the heart.
- "God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble"
- "This was the sin of .. Sodom [the city God destroyed]: she was affluent, arrogant and unconcerned for the poor and [as a result] did despicable things. So I destroyed them." Ezekiel 16:49
- It may be that a person's pathological or abusive behaviour does not arise mainly from a proud, selfish heart but from some other cause. God knows this, and will judge accordingly.
- This all means that God does not (usually) zap wrongdoers. Rather, he waits to let the person's heart become manifest in their behaviour, writings or whatever, and this takes time. This is why we find such things as the following in Scripture:
- "God is patient ..."
- "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own .. 400 years ... for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure" [Gen. 15:13-16. See Why does God tolerate sin?
Q: What about God's judgement during this life? Punishment?
Does not God punish and discipline us during this life, either acting in judgement on cities like Sodom, or 'disciplining' his 'sons'? Yes, but these are different from the final judgement. Most 'judgement', 'punishment' or 'discipline' in this life seem to be for a purpose of either leading us to repentance or warning others or ensuring we do what God wants.
- Judgement leading us to repent. Example: OT Israel suffered defeat when they sinned. This 'punishment' was a call to return to God.
- Judgement as warning or cleansing. Example: The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
- Judgement to ensure we do what God wants. Example: the tower of Babel erected in pride and arrogance, in direct disobedience to humankind to spread out over the world to bless it. Think: why did God mix up their language? Why did he not merely throw a lighting bolt to destroy the tower, or send a plague to kill the people? Answer: to ensure humankind spread out.
Q: Why does God tolerate sin?
We assume that a, if not the, primary thing God wants carried out today is to prevent evil. We quote to ourselves, "Christ appeared to destroy the works of the evil one." So why does God allow evil to continue? Why, for example, did he let the sin of the Amorites ripen for another whole four centuries if he loved those who suffered under that regime?
The only answer I can come up with is this. It is true that, over the cosmic timescale, God wants to destroy evil. But in the here and now, God often wants to make evil apparent, to make it reveal its true nature as evil. So that there can be no doubt when he acts that he had done so justly. But surely that leads to more suffering, for which he is then ultimately repsonsible? Yes, but has he not already taken full responsibility for it in dying for us?
1. We may notice this person's sensitivity over sexual matters, and put is aside. The Church must share some blame, because we have given the false impression for decades if not centuries that sexual matters are the main thing God is concerned with. But this is not our point here.)
Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2004.