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Come Let Us Reason Regarding Justice and Pain

Eugene Prewitt

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Warn the wicked; Warn the righteous; Be specific

Presenter

Eugene Prewitt

Director, The Institute of East Asia Training (IEAT)

Sponsor

Recorded

  • November 8, 2013
    11:00 AM

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Copyright ©2013 Eugene Prewitt.

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Let’s have a prayer, and then we’ll begin. Our Father in Heaven, I ask that You would be here as our Teacher, that You would show us what is right and what is true, and that You would use Your holy Bible to break the spell that is on the mind of some and teach us something about Yourself. I ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

 

Turn your Bibles to Revelation, chapter 14, Revelation, chapter 14, and today we’re going to be speaking about justice, something about the justice, the righteousness of God. When Joshua was leading the conquest of Canaan, after the victory at Jericho, there was that defeat at Ai, and then there was the victory at Ai. And so you had, under Moses, a victory over Egypt and then over two other kings on the way to Canaan, and then under Joshua a victory at both Ai and Jericho. And the result was that the people of Canaan were scared. They were frightened. They feared for their very existence, and they didn’t even know what to do or how to organize to oppose the movement of God’s people.

 

One of those groups, the one that was next slated for annihilation, the Gibeonites, decided that they could not oppose Israel successfully by war. So they instead decided to try stealth. Do you remember what they did? How they collected from their camp old sandals. They collected old, dry bread that was moldy. They collected old garments. They put dust on those garments and on that bread, and they laded these on animals, and then they made that short little journey to the camp of Israel and presented themselves as admirers of the people of Jehovah.

 

The Gibeonites said that, “We’ve come from a great distance. We’ve heard about the great things that Jehovah has done, and we want to say that we are with you; we are your servants. We’re asking that you would make with us an agreement to not molest us or not to hurt us in turn for our service.” And the leaders of Israel were sensibly doubtful. They didn’t just buy that line. Instead, they said, “Why should we trust you? Perchance you live near us.” And at that point the Gibeonites pulled out their evidence, and that was the bread and their provisions. And the elders ended up taking the bread and trying it, and sure enough, it was very dry. And some of it was honestly moldy.

 

And when they realized that the evidence was there, they decided that these people were telling the truth, and they made a covenant with them. You know, it was only three days later they found the truth. I think, for many people who get married, they have a similar experience, a similar experience where they are questioning if they should marry someone, but then after a short investigation, they conclude that it’s for the best, and the say, “I do.” And then a few days later they discover that they have been deceived in some way or another.

 

Well, Israel had made its promise. They had promised not to hurt the Gibeonites, and three days later when they came to the camp and discovered that these were their neighbors and that they had Canaan; part of Canaan was under the Gibeonites, the question was what should they do? Now, you should know, this agreement wasn’t made by all the people together. If the people had acted in concert, maybe there would have been a different story, but the agreement to treat the Gibeonites politely was made entirely by the leadership. And when the common people discovered what the leaders had done, the common people who were hoping to inhabit those Gibeonite towns, the common people were angry with their leaders. They were upset, and there was division now among God’s people because of the covenant made with Gibeon.

 

But Joshua stood up at that point and let it be known that Israel would be a nation as strong as steel, as true as the needle to the pole, that their word could be trusted, and they were not going to molest the Gibeonites. However, the Gibeonites would also have to keep their end of the bargain. They would become the servants of Israel. They would haul the water. They would haul the wood. So that arrangement was going forward. It didn’t satisfy everyone, but a short time later it looked like the problem was going to solve itself. You see, the Canaanites were furious that Gibeon had made a covenant with the invaders, and they decided that if they could not destroy the invaders, at least they could destroy Gibeon and prevent any other losses of this nature.

 

So several of the kings of the Amorites gathered together, and they began to march on Gibeon. Gibeon sent a delegation to Joshua and said, “Your servants are in trouble. Please come help us.” And I’m sure that there was at least a faction who breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Let the Amorites kill the Gibeonites. Let them annihilate each other while we watch, then we can be free from our promise, and the problem will be over.”

 

Listen, I want to say something about justice, about promises. When we make a promise, when we say what we’re going to do, we are obliged to keep our promise, even if it is against our best interest. The wise man said it this way, “The man who makes a promise against his interest and changes not,” that’s the kind of person that we should be. And Joshua conferred with the Lord, and they decided to defend Gibeon and they destroyed those other Amorite attackers.

 

Now, that story, you can read about it in the book of Joshua, that story, I left out maybe the key point, and that is that when they tasted the dry bread, when they examined the provisions, they neglected to ask God. You see, brothers and sisters, God does not err, and He is not deceived by pretensions. He knows what is right and what is true, and He keeps His promises. And when in this Bible we find the things that God has said, those things are reliable. When we find His promises, we can depend on those, and if we want to know what is right, it’s not sensible that we would trust any other source than the holy Bible as an ultimate, accurate, reliable source.

 

Let me stop speaking in metaphors and speak plainly. There are in the church today teachers and preachers that are speaking about the justice of God in a way that is subtle and wrong. They’re speaking about the justice of God in a way that makes light of justice in a way that confounds justice and mercy. And I just want to say as we begin our study, that if you want to know what’s right, go yourself, consult what God says, and see what He says.

 

You know that America has a food and drug administration, and more than that, we have an entire department of justice aimed at the prosecution of drug criminality, especially of drug organized crime. But in Mexico, the death of drug lords is very often at the hand of other drug lords. That is, even if we feel ourselves somewhat hindered in our ability to get the bad guy, yet the bad guys are getting each other. And frequently, men that we would love to put behind bars, are instead being killed in Mexico by their competitors. You could say that there is a parallel to that even in the Bible. And some people view that this is the way that God executes justice.

 

What I mean is, that instead of executing the sinner himself, instead of taking a hand and punishing wickedness with a judicial or a just system, that He lets the demons do it, that He withdraws Himself and lets the demons have their way. In other words, there is an idea or a rumor about God’s justice that works like this: Here is the room of sinners, and God withdraws, and the demons come in, and the demons cause the suffering and the pain.

 

But let me ask you, can the demons be trusted to act fairly? Can you expect the drug lords in Mexico to act in a way that is just in the execution of other criminals? The answer to both questions, of course, is no. And innocent people often suffer in Mexico, and if the devil is choosing who to punish, you can bet that he would punish those that resisted him more than those who cooperated with him.

 

I asked you a few minutes ago to turn to Revelation 14. I’m supposing you’re there. I want you to look at verse 7 because our first real Bible point in this lecture is that justice is a big part of the first angel’s message. I want to title this message “Come and Let Us Reason About Justice.” Revelation 14, verse 6, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.’” The first angel’s message is about justice. It’s saying that you live in a special time when you ought to be respectful of God because the hour of His judgment is come. You can read about that judgment in Daniel 7. You can read there about how the beast ends up being punished for its evil work.

 

The second point I want to make with you is that justice is a big part of the third angel’s message. We’re here in Revelation 14; look down at verse 9, “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.’”

 

As we come to reason about justice, let’s begin with these ideas that justice is a big part of the reason that we exist as Seventh-day Adventists. Justice, the announcement of the judgment, is part of the first angel’s message, and the announcement of justice in relation to the mark of the beast is a big part of the third angel’s message. In fact, both the beast and God end up making justice-oriented threats to the people of the world.

 

The beast says, “If you do not follow my way, that you will not be able to buy or sell, and eventually you will be killed.” God says, “If you will follow the way of the beast, you will, in the presence of holy angels and of the Lamb, be tormented with fire and brimstone.”

 

You’re in Revelation 14; you’ve read verses 4 and 9; I’d like you to look now all the way down to verse 19. This is what you might call the fifth angel, the one that is reaping the wicked harvest of the planet. “And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of 1600 furlongs.” Listen, as we talk about justice, I want us to realize that there is going to be a meting out of justice after the giving of the three angels’ messages. It’s going to be a bloody, messy work, and it’s described here as the wrath of God and compared to a winepress, but what does it mean? Or what does it represent.

 

Look at the next verse, chapter 15, verse 1, “And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God.” What is the winepress? The winepress represents the seven last plagues, and the result of that winepress, blood up to the horse’s bridles, is an illustration of the effect of those plagues.

 

Now turn to chapter 16, and let’s read something about those plagues. We’re reasoning today about the justice of God. Verse 3, “And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea. And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, ‘You are righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because You have judged this way. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.’”

 

Do you see what the angels of Heaven think about justice? Do they believe that it’s fair or unfair to give blood to drink to men who have killed innocent persons? They say it’s fair. Heavenly beings say it’s just. And it’s not just this angel. Let’s read on, verse 7, “And I heard another out of the altar say, ‘Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.’”

 

Now, “from under the altar,” earlier in the book of Revelation, there were people who were calling for justice. They were those who had been martyred, and their blood was calling out for something to be done. In metaphor, their blood cried out like that of Abel, and they said, “How long, O Lord, holy and true? Do You not judge and avenge our blood and those that dwell in the earth?” And the answer given to them was that they should wait a little while until their brethren should be killed as they were should be fulfilled.

 

Here in Revelation 16, the brethren had been killed, and has God followed through with justice? He follows through. And what kind of message comes from that altar? The message in verse 7, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”

 

As we reason today about truth, about justice, about what is fair, we should at least let the holy angels chime in. They have an opinion, and they say that it’s fair to cause pain and suffering to someone who has caused pain and suffering. They say it’s right to inflict painful penalties on those who have inflicted painful penalties on others. There are some today who say that’s not true, and I want to address a few questions that they bring up that are relevant to us. One question is, why can’t God just forgive? You know, if you hurt me, I should forgive you. Why can’t God just do that? Why must He punish the wrongdoer?

 

And another question is, in view of that, why am I able to just forgive? Why shouldn’t I punish the wrongdoer? Why can I just forgive? And another question related to this is, how or why can Jesus be my substitute? How can that be fair? How can that be just? And another one to ask, is God bloodthirsty? Is He hungering and thirsting to see the wicked suffer? Do we serve a bloodthirsty God?

 

And another question someone might ask is, in this judgment that Adventists teach about, why would God examine Jesus in place of me? I’ve heard one say that that makes no sense at all. He describes how a doctor certainly wouldn’t examine a healthy patient to diagnose a sick one. And so he challenges the investigative judgment on that basis. Why would Jesus be examined?

 

Another question we’re going to look at is, does God torture rebels? Is that what He does or how He works?

 

Before I go further and begin to answer these questions in quick order, I want to say that unless you have repented of your sins, unless you have humbled your heart before God and put away the evil of your ways, you are not ready to study the issue God’s justice. In other words, you could deceive yourself. A man who is having an affair is not a man whose mind can see clearly between right and wrong. And frequently it’s been found that those who are on the wrong side of theological issues, that after awhile their character reveals it’s because they were on the wrong side of sin. If you’re studying this issue, before you go further, repent of your sins.

 

But let’s go back to our questions because the justice of God has a lot to do with the truth about the cross and the payment that Jesus made for sin. Let’s go to the second question, why is it that I am able to just forgive? The answer is simple. It’s because you and I are only aiming at reconciliation. That is, when you hurt me, or I hurt you, we can forgive each other as a means of coming back into harmony with each other. Forgiveness is a means of reconciliation.

 

Forgiveness has its purpose in human relationships, and when I forgive you, it mostly does a reconciliatory process inside of me. When I forgive you, it allows me to give up my selfish defense of my own rights. Forgiveness sets me free from grudge and hatred and anger and bitterness. I forgive you as a means of blessing myself. No, I don’t mean that that’s why I forgive you, to bless myself, but I forgive you, and that is the benefit, a blessing to myself.

 

But God is aiming much higher than reconciliation. God is also aiming for justice, and God has never put justice into my hands. In other words, God doesn’t trust us to execute justice. Does He have ministers of wrath on Earth? Romans 13 says yes. Romans 13 says that the state is a minister of wrath, and God uses him to reward good behavior and to punish bad behavior. He doesn’t have the sword in vain. But God has placed limits on the rights of nations to punish evil.

 

In fact, if you go back to the nation of Israel and to their penal code, that is, the code that meted out penalties, that code had a number of death penalties. You could be stoned or otherwise killed if you committed adultery for example. But then there were penalties that were punished with stripes, that is, with punishing someone. And I think it would be a worthwhile development for us to go to one of those passages and look at it.

 

Turn in your Bibles to Deuteronomy, chapter 25. Deuteronomy, chapter 25, and looking at verse 3. We’ll start in verse 2, “And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number.” In other words, the judge decides how many times the man should be beaten. Some wicked men would deserve to be beaten three times or five, some ten times, but the judge determines. Look at verse 3, “Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then your brother should seem vile unto you.”

 

Did the Mosaic code allow for painful punishment? It did. Did it put a limit on that painful punishment? Could a judge say, “Beat him with a thousand rods”? No. Forty stripes was the limit, and the way the Jews understood that, they did not want to even risk a violation, so they made it 39, but you may remember that Paul was several times beaten “40 less 1.” And what is the reason given? Do you see it here? Why not to give too much punishment? It doesn’t say that the man can’t deserve more than this, but giving him torture would dehumanize him. It would remove on the part of the spectators, on the part of the executioner, it would remove a respect for human dignity, a respect for human life. That is, you could have a class of people that become bloodthirsty themselves because they see a cruel punishment, they clamor to see others squirm under that cruel punishment. There could be a dehumanizing of the victim if too much punishment is given.

 

Now, I want you to turn to Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53, if you understand what we just read, how stripes were used to give painful punishment, then you can understand Isaiah 53 even better. We’re going to look at verses 3 and 4 and 5, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted…He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and,” listen, “and with his stripes we are healed.” Jesus suffered painful punishment, and that painful punishment was in place of our painful punishment. It was a substitution in place of our painful punishment.

 

So we asked a question, why is it that I can just forgive? And the answer is, because I’m seeking for reconciliation. If I know that someone has something against me, I should go quickly to my brother and be reconciled to him, Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, lest at anytime he should deliver me to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and I suffer legal consequences. Agree with your adversary quickly.

 

What I’m aiming at is reconciliation, so I forgive my debtors. But when I ask God to forgive me, I’m also aiming for the same thing. I’m aiming for reconciliation, and when I say, “Father, forgive me as I forgive my debtors,” I’m asking for the ministry of reconciliation. God is reconciling the world unto Himself. But what about the man who is thrown into the lake of fire? Is that man seeking reconciliation with God? No, he is not. And what is going on there is not forgiveness; it is justice. Justice and forgiveness are not the same thing. And when I seek reconciliation with God, it’s possible because Jesus has already carried the penalty for my sin. Justice has already been satisfied.

 

I want to read you something. I’m reading to you from a book called Amazing Grace. I like how it words these ideas. “Christ on the Cross not only draws men to repentance toward God for the transgression of His Law, for whom God pardons He first makes penitent, but Christ has satisfied justice. He has proffered Himself as an atonement. His gushing blood, his broken body, satisfy the claims of the broken Law. And thus He bridges the gulf which sin has made. He suffered in the flesh, that with His bruised and broken body He might cover the defenseless sinner.”

 

Do you see it, brothers and sisters, that the cross has a moral influence, that it draws people in penitence toward God, but is that all it does? Does it only cleanse and draw us? No, it satisfies justice. When a boy slaps another boy in the face, he is worthy of punishment. But if he slaps 10 or 12 children in the face that are half his size, he is worthy of more punishment. But what if there was a fiend, an evil being that would seek to cause man to torture each other and would lead men to rape weak persons and would move others to molest children? What if there was a fiend that not only encouraged people to do those things, but hellishly worked to guide them into that path, planned and schemed a way to make them do the most evil things? What would that being deserve?

 

I want to read to you from another book. This is Early Writings, “Fire from God out of heaven is rained upon them,” that is, the wicked, “and the great men and mighty men, the noble, the poor and miserable, are all consumed together. I saw that some were quickly destroyed, while others suffered longer. They were punished according to the deeds done in the body. Some were many days consuming, and just as long as there was a portion of them unconsumed, all the sense of suffering remained. Said the angel, ‘The worm of life shall not die; their fire shall not be quenched as long as there is the least particle for it to prey upon,’” Early Writings, page 294.

 

So God is aiming for two things, one is reconciliation, but the other is justice. And that’s what we’re coming to reason about today is that issue of justice. And so, we come to this question next: How can Jesus be a substitute? How can that be fair?

 

First of all, we should say that justice is, to a certain extent, beyond us. That is, justice is related to the effects of sin. It’s the pain I cause that warrants suffering on my part. And unless we can read the heart of God and see eternity into the future, unless we have the knowledge that God has, we aren’t really in a position to say what is just. That’s why Jesus has been appointed as the Judge of all mankind, but Jesus differs from me, not only in terms of moral purity, he even differs from holy angels with which he shares moral purity. You see, an angel could not die in my place. And this is why. It’s the reason you can’t substitute for me, and I can’t substitute for you. It’s because I am created, and for that reason, I owe my Creator my existence. I didn’t make myself. I don’t own myself. I didn’t buy myself. I am a dependent being created for a purpose, and so I owe my life to my Creator. Praise God, my Creator loves me and cares for me and is kind and wise, but I owe my life to Him. The angel also owes his life to that Creator.

 

And so, when I do everything I should, God doesn’t owe me anything. I’m only fulfilling my duty, and even the wisest most holy angel can only do his duty, but Jesus was never created. Jesus is not a creation. And for that reason, Jesus doesn’t owe any obedience to Himself or to the Father. Jesus is not a debtor to do right.

 

So, when I do the right thing, I am not doing God any favors, and I am not earning any good wages. But when I sin, I am robbing God of the very life that He has given me. I am hurting the One who has given me everything.

 

What about Jesus, when He does the right thing? Do you know, when Jesus does the right thing, He’s earning wages? Jesus has merit, and when He lived a life of spotless purity, He was earning holiness. He was earning blessings. He was living holiness and earning blessings every step of the way. He was giving obedience that was not owed. He humbled Himself and became obedient even to the cross, but there was no debt on Him, so that Jesus deserves glory and honor and power and righteousness. Jesus, an infinite life, has something to give, and He has given us the life that He has. He took the death that was ours and gave the life that was His.

 

Now some people can’t see it. They can’t see how it’s fair. They can’t fathom how there’s any justice in that, and before you let yourself become an infidel over the smallness of your mind, think about something: You can’t imagine eternity ago. You can’t imagine it as a Christian. You can’t imagine God existing all by Himself for ever and ever and ever back. Your mind can’t fathom that. But neither can you imagine that as an atheist. You can’t picture the substance of the universe existing from eternity. Where did it come from? There’s no way to get started with this process. Our minds are too weak to understand eternity.

 

And if they are too weak to grapple with something that’s obviously real, that is, it’s as obvious as the day that somehow things have come into existence, if we can’t grapple with obvious reality, it should not surprise us if our minds are too weak to grapple with the idea of divinity and justice. But at the very least, mortal men should be humble enough to submit to what God says.

 

Turn with me in your Bibles to Hebrews, chapter 9. Hebrews, chapter 9, and we’re going to address now this question about the judgment. How can someone say that God examines Jesus in the judgment instead of me? I think now it’s time that I speak names. It’s Timothy Jennings that I’ve heard make this illustration, and he has talked about the idea, made light of the idea of a healthy patient being examined in place of a sick one. I just want to put that illustration to rest and say that right here on this earth, God examines us personally.

 

You ever hear that Scripture song, Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead in the way everlasting”? And what Paul said about communion, he said, “Examine yourself.” He said, “If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” And in the idea is a revelation. That is, there is a self-examination that happens now, or a judiciary examination that happens later. Either our case is examined now by ourselves and by our God, or in the judgment we are examined for our evil deeds.

 

Are you in Hebrews 9? Hebrews 9 and verse 27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Do you see there in verse 27 that the judgment doesn’t happen until after death? So, while God is trying to heal the sick patient, He examines the sick patient. And now, as you and I are sickly, God examines us. He has told us plainly in Isaiah that we are sick from the head to the toe; there is no part healthy. And He is applying a cure. He has a balm. He is a physician, and He can make us well. That is the purpose of the gospel, but that it not the purpose of the executive judgment.

 

The purpose of the executive judgment, which happens after death, is to punish those who have done wrong, for the wrong that they have done, and that is when the righteous are covered by the blood of Jesus. It says it this way in Revelation, “He who overcomes will be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

 

Brothers and sisters, before death the doctor examines us for healing. After death, the judge examines the wicked for punishment and the righteous for blessings. That is, we’re covered with a robe, a white robe, if we’re found to be overcomers, and then we’re treated not as we deserve but as Jesus deserves. But it goes further than that. Jesus covers our life with his life, and then he erases our evil deeds from the books of records. And Jennings makes light of that, that no matter that he does, Acts 3:19 affirms that sins are blotted out. And when our sins are blotted out, those records retain our good deeds. And of the kindness of His heart, God rewards us for the good deeds. Those are not rewards we’ve ever deserved, but they’re ones that He gives us.

 

Have we answered these questions? What about the issue of God torturing the rebels? You may remember in Matthew 18 that parable, that parable that ends in a surprising manner, the 10,000 talents are freely forgiven, but then the cruel servant rings the neck of someone that owes some pence, and then the unthinkable happens. Those 10,000 talents that were forgiven are again held to the account of the servant. In other words, he’s forgiven in the parable, and then he’s held accountable in the parable for the very same debt for which he had earlier been forgiven. And do you remember what it says there in Matthew 18:34, that he should be “delivered to the tormentors till he should pay all that was due him”? That is the executive judgment.

 

Is he tormented forever? No, but how long is he tormented? He’s tormented until he pays all that is due. Paul said that Jesu will come in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those that know not God, that they will be punished with everlasting destruction.

 

I’m about to close. I want to review with you the things that we’ve said and then tell you some history. What we’ve said is that we ought to come and reason about justice. There are things about justice that are beyond us, but there are things that are revealed, and what is revealed is that justice is important to God. Justice is important to holy angels. Justice is important to the Last Day people on planet Earth. They hear about it in the first angel’s message, and they hear about it in the third. In the seven last plagues, they experience it, and angels in Heaven say that it’s fair, and a voice from the altar says that it’s right and just that people suffer for the cruel things they have done.

 

Then don’t join your voice to those who say it’s not right. Join your voice to holy angels and to those in the altar and to God, the Judge of all the earth, and to righteous people who say, “Just and true are Your ways, O Lord. Your judgments are made manifest.” David even said that he loved the judgments of God.

 

Can Jesus be my substitute? Indeed, He can because He does not owe a debt. Is God bloodthirsty? No, indeed. God hates the work. He finds it a strange work, the work of destroying the wicked. But He has a sense of justice that He’s put inside of you, and even you know that fiends deserve to suffer for the suffering that they have caused. It is the law and justice that demand the payment. God is not a cruel One demanding that some payment be made, but the Father and the Son and holy angels all agree that justice rightfully should be served. It’s a matter of right, a matter of holiness, a matter of fairness. And we say, “God, Your ways are not fair,” but He responds to us in Ezekiel. He says, “Your ways are not fair.”

 

He never has said that vengeance is for us. He’s asked us rather that He calls a fire on the head of those that have done us wrong, but He does say vengeance belongs to Him, that He will repay.

 

What about this issue of history? The alpha of apostasy was a movement that said that God is life, and wherever you see life, that’s God, so God is in the leaves, God is in the flowers, God is in the air we breathe. That’s how far that Waggoner took the issue before he had gone as far as he would. It’s not true. The Creator is not the creation. God supports the creation, but He is not the creation. Ellen White said that that alpha of apostasy, and it took with it some of the brightest minds of Adventism, Jones and Waggoner and Kellogg and others, that it would give way to a startling omega. And today we see an idea growing, surprisingly growing, that makes a metaphor out of the most plainly revealed pictures of God’s justice. An apostasy that would make the devil the one who inflicts the seven last plagues or who would put a white glove on a picture of the lake of fire and say that God has no part in punishing the wicked with pain.

 

Teachers of that idea now include Herb Montgomery, Timothy Jennings, Clute has done it, Graham Maxwell has done it, Drs. Cole have done it. There are others who have picked up that movement, and I’m sure that there will be others who pick it up. But listen, don’t be taken in by a teaching that makes light of God’s justice at a very time when God is asking us to announce the truth about His justice to the world. We don’t want to be part of anything that is going to be undone in the lake of fire, and the last thing we’d want to do is to fight against the atonement that has been made for us, to count the blood of that cross as an unholy thing. Don’t you know that he will be worthy of sore punishment who has done this? Amen.

 

Our Father in Heaven, I ask that You would bless our reading of the Bible, that You would save us from what is wrong and from sin. And as we live in a time of terrible shaking, preserve us from being shaken. I ask for that gift, and I humble myself before You, asking that You would finish the work You’ve started in us. I ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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