There are a lot of people, many of them followers of Jesus, who live in constant fear that God is out to get them. There is this idea in the Christian community that God is waiting around with his quiver of spiritual lightning bolts just waiting to fling them down at people to inflict them with all kinds of suffering because of their misdeeds.
For example Sam asked very good question in response to my post a while back where I explained that God does not cause tornadoes.
Here is his question.
I’m curious about this statement. “and don’t get me started on the folks who claim that disasters are God’s judgement on us.” God passed judgement on his people throughout the Bible. Did that stop after Christ?
When looking at judgements in the Bible it helps to consider who is being judged and what their relationship with God is.
For example, were they in a covenant with God? If not, the God had no legal obligation to bless them. (That was Satan’s big beef in the case of Job. Job had no right to God’s protection. It was like God was blessing Job “illegally” if you will.)
When people are in covenant with God they are treated accordingly. For example Abraham’s covenant was simply that God would bless him. It was independent of Abraham’s behavior. So even though Abraham did some pretty messed up things he was still blessed.
In Moses’ time Israel entered into a different covenant with God. That one said if you behave correctly (ie. follow the Law) you will be blessed. If you don’t you will be cursed. So when Israel, or individual Jews, strayed from keeping the law they brought judgement on themselves per their covenant with God.
Jesus came along and fulfilled the Law on our behalf.
“He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.”— 1 John 2:2
That means we have a better covenant. Today all sins have been paid for and are covered. Well, all but one.
The only way people can bring judgement on themselves now is to reject what Jesus has done for them. If they refuse to enter into that covenant they will be judged accordingly.
But here’s the thing. That judgement isn’t going to happen until the final judgement day.
Results of Sin vs. Judgement
What we see today are natural consequences of sin on the earth, not the judgement of God. For example if I had stayed on the path of the drunkard which I was on before I became a follower of Jesus there are some natural consequences of that. Excessive consumption of alcohol, drunkenness, leads to health problems, relationship problems, and financial problems.
Each of these consequences results from behavior. They are not the judgement of God on our lives.
It all starts with agreeing with and believing any of a myriad of lies of the enemy. The euphoria and numbing of being drunk feels good at the beginning. But Satan is the master of the bait-and-switch. His mission is to steal, kill and destroy you and I.
When we get sucked into believing his lies we end up someplace we never intended to go. And often our lives collapse around us as we add sin upon sin. Our poor decisions compound problems for ourselves and everyone around us.
But that destruction is our own making, not the judgement of God.
The obvious question is what about natural disasters? Aren’t those the judgement of God on communities for their sin?
In fact, natural disasters are related to sin. Did you know that sin is so destructive that it actually has a tangible negative impact on nature around us? It’s true.
Paul talked about it in the book of Romans as he lays out the case for the good news of Jesus’s sacrifice on our behalf. The bit he says about creation is enlightening.
For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.— Romans 8:19-22
Mankind’s sin subjects the planet to the bondage of corruption. Some of the tangible effects of that corruption are earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunami’s, draught, etc. These are natural effects of sin on our world. But they are not the judgment of God because of people’s sin.
Discounting Sacrifice of Jesus
Here’s what is happening when people claim God is judging people today because of their sinful behavior: they are trivializing what Jesus did on the cross.
Either God poured out all of his wrath on Jesus or he didn’t. When Jesus said, “It is finished.” he was either telling the truth or he was lying.
If God is judging sin today by sending disaster on people then that means what Jesus did wasn’t enough. In that case Jesus blew it by not taking care of the entire sin problem once and for all.
And if that’s the case we better throw out huge chunks of the New Testament. We can start with Hebrews 10:12-18:
But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.
And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says, “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.”— Hebrews 10:12-18
Either Jesus paid it all, or he didn’t. If he didn’t then we might as well pack it all in. In that case the whole Gospel falls apart and there is no good news. Were that true we’d all be doomed.
One big question comes up about the book of Revelation. What about that?
I’ll say flat out that I’m not an end times scholar. So there’s a ton in Revelation that I don’t have any insight on. (Yep. I don’t have much revelation on Revelation.)
That said, here’s what I do understand. There is judgement coming for all mankind. Basically it’s two-fold.
First there will be a general judgement of all mankind. There will only be one item considered there that matters – whether a person accepted or rejected Jesus’ payment for their sin.
Those who have accepted Jesus’ payment and have chosen to be with God will be judged based on Jesus’ performance. As a result they will be found “not guilty” of sin and get to spend all of eternity with him.
Those who have rejected Jesus’ payment for their sins get to be judged on their own performance. Since everyone has blown it at some point, those who have chosen to reject God will get what they choose and be sentenced to spend all of eternity separated from God.
The second judgement is just for believers. They will be evaluated on what they did with the Gospel. It’s not a judgement of punishment, but rather a judgement of rewards. Rewards will be passed out based on folks’ obedience to Christ.
But they get to skip the punishment part because they accepted Jesus’ payment for the punishment they deserved.
Absence of Blessing ≠ Judgement
I don’t think it’s possible to cover this entire subject in one article. But there is one thing I want to mention here.
When I became a follower of Jesus, God completely delivered me from my alcoholism. It’s a long story. But I have had no desire whatsoever to drink for more than 20 years now. It’s never been an effort for during that time.
That’s the blessing of God working in my life. I know it is because before I became a believer I tried everything in my own power to quit drinking for a couple years and nothing I did worked, including in-patient rehab.
Now some people might be thinking that, as my life was falling apart due to of my drunkenness, I was being punished by the judgement of God. But that’s not true.
God’s blessing was available to me the whole time. I just didn’t receive it. Mostly that was due to my own ignorance and incorrect understandings of God, his character and his ways.
But regardless of the reasons for it, the bottom line is I can only enjoy the benefits of a blessing when I chose to receive it. Until I receive the blessings, they are inoperable in my life.
Many people mistake that absence of God’s blessing as being under his judgement. They aren’t the same thing. Sin is not the issue between us and God even though to our natural minds it can seem like it is.
God’s not judging us because Jesus satisfied his judgement. Jesus paid the price for both those who believe and those who never will (1 John 2:2). We simply have to accept that he paid the price on our behalf to receive the benefits of that payment. But the price has already been paid regardless. Since sin is already completely paid for, there is no longer any room for the judgment of God on people today.
That’s a mind bending truth which drives religious people nuts.