Grace vs. the Judgement of God
Many ‘streams’ of Christianity flow with the concept that God is in the business of bringing judgment upon the people of the earth. These ‘streams’ tend to be our prayer warriors, our faithful fasting brothers and sisters who carry the burden to pray for our nation and planet. I honor them for their faithfulness and the incredible prophetic insight they often offer to the Church.
However, I often find myself in disagreement with some of the conclusions they draw about the nature and character of God. I believe that we can be drawn into viewing God as One looking upon the earth to seek out and judge sin ‘wherever He finds it’ when we lose sight of (or have never understood) the complete work of Grace. We can tend towards wrong conclusions regarding ‘the wrath of God’ and His hatred of sin if we do not fully grasp the finished work of the cross.
I have written much about the finished work of the cross in my article entitled “The Power of God” so I won’t go into detail here. But I will attempt to appeal to you to consider a different perspective about ‘the wrath of God’. I believe that we are now living in ‘the season of God’s favor,’ the “acceptable year of the Lord.” (Lk.4:19) The “good news of great joy” came to “all the people,” not only to Christians but to all the people on the earth. (Lk.2:10) And “peace on earth” was proclaimed to all men “on whom His favor rest”. (Lk.2:14)
I do not mean to imply in any way that all mankind found salvation at the moment of Christ’s birth. Rather, I believe these scriptures point to a positional change in the Heavens. God was declaring that through His Son’s life, death, burial and resurrection He was resolving the ‘enmity’ issue between God and mankind. The peace that was declared by angels was not some foolish hope that mankind would end war, it was a declaration of peace between God and man. With the coming of The Christ ‘all the world’ had access to God if they would but “repent and believe the Gospel.” (Mk.1:15)
When Jesus died and rose from the dead He accomplished what the Father sent Him to do. He made relationship with God possible for anyone who believes! His love for humanity was costly, expressed by His sacrifice. He is ‘not willing that any should perish.’ (2 Peter 3:9) “’As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.’” (Ez.33:11.) This is the heart of God.
When we view God as One looking for sin and ready to judge it with wrath, we can allow our prayers to drift towards agreement with an Old Testament concept. This can seem right to us if we do not realize that a change occurred at the cross. God resolved a problem that separated men from God: the problem of sin. He took all the sins of the world upon Himself so that all men could freely come to the Father by faith. God is not on a sin hunt. God is looking to find a way to reach all His children with the message of His love through the Gospel. Our job is to spread good news not bad news.
God wants to give eternal life to all His creation. It is not in His heart to damn them.
I view all of scripture from a new paradigm these days. I see God’s love everywhere I read in His Word. I see His hand outstretched to save. I interpret some Old Testament passages differently. I will give you one example.
In Genesis chapter 18, Abraham appeals to the Angel of the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if there can be found even ten righteous men. I see God more than willing to go along with this plan. I do not think Abraham was more merciful than God. I think if Abraham got down to ‘one’ God would have agreed to spare the cities. God’s mercy always has been more powerful than His judgment.
Why is it that on ‘this side of the cross’ some in the Church still view God as willing to pronounce judgment? I believe it is not even a correct Old Testament perspective. To be sure, most Christians, even the most extreme in the ‘holiness’ camp, do not believe God likes to fry cities and peoples. But it could be that some Christians have the tendency to be like Lot’s wife. Let me explain that.
When I view the Biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah, I see a God who does not want to bring the destruction He must bring. (Wickedness required judgment in the O.T after the Law, prior to the cross, prior to His judgment for all the sin of man upon Jesus.) God did not want Lot or his family to look back upon this judgment. (Gen.19:17) Why? I believe it was painful enough for God to do this, He did not want Lot and his family to see this awful thing. The Bible tells us that Lot was vexed in his righteous soul over the depravity of the city he lived in. There is no reason to doubt that his wife was not equally vexed. Is it not possible to conclude that her ‘looking back’ involved some kind of desire to ‘see’ those wicked people judged?
I have always heard this story interpreted with the understanding that ‘rebellion’ was in the heart of Lot’s wife. Lot’s wife enjoyed the depravity of the city and wanted to go back. But the story gives no indication that this was the condition of her heart. Could it be possible that she wanted to ‘watch’ God’s judgment, to see some sort of revenge inflicted upon those that caused her and her family so much grief? Is this not possibly the condition of some of our hearts?
I wonder sometimes why it seems that some Christians are so quick to pronounce judgment. Could it be that it is not so much a zeal for ‘holiness’ as it is a zeal for vindication? We love to be on the winning side. We love to have our team in the Super Bowl. We have it in our nature to see others lose so that we can feel that we were right. “I told you so” is not far from the lips of too many a Christian.
Is the spirit behind some of our intercession a spirit that is not in the heart of God? No one would admit to a desire to see fire fall down from heaven and consume the perceived ‘enemies’ of God. But I wonder if there is not a bit of ‘Lot’s wife’ in some of the ‘intercession’ going on in the Church today.
There is so much wickedness and evil in the world today we, as Christians, are not wrong in being vexed in mind and soul. But we would do well to remember our own wickedness and the mercy God showed to us. At the point of our greatest depravity He demonstrated mercy and forgiveness when we turned to Him in repentance.
In the ninth chapter of Luke’s gospel, Jesus rebuked His disciples for asking if Jesus wanted them to “call fire down from heaven and consume” the people who refused to receive Jesus. (vs.54) Jesus said to them, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of, for the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (vs.55)
I think some of us need to reconsider our own posture towards the lost souls on this planet. We need to change our prayers to declarations of God’s mercy not His judgment. To be sure there is a ‘day of the Lord’ coming. The timing of that day was a question the apostle Peter had to address in his second letter.
“By the same word the heavens and the earth that now exist have been stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and the destruction of ungodly men. But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing on your account, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day will come…” (2Pet.3:7-10)
Our God is so loving that His heart is to bring upon the earth blessing and not judgment. His desire is to see all men saved. He provided a Gospel that is good news to all mankind. It is the ’good news’ of ‘the year of God’s favor’. All mankind is living in that season now. Be radical, spread the ‘good news’ of the Gospel, declare His love and not His wrath upon all flesh. In doing so you yourself might find the peace you are seeking. Your own heart will be transformed by the revelation of His finished work. You might just find yourself not judging your own heart so harshly.