Talk About Judgment
Dialog on Punishment
(Reprinted from the
Christian Voyager Compass, Jan 2006)
Although such a weighty concept as judgment could
well fill an entire library(!), the intent here
is not so much to be comprehensive as to provide
an engaging introduction to the whole idea in the
form of a dialog. All Scripture in this article
is quoted from the KJV.
The Bible is clear about the fact that God will
punish sin. He has the right and the duty to act
against sin in what is called, judgment.
For millennia this concept was by and large accepted,
but has in the last 150 years been repeatedly called
into question. A vengeful, punishing God is viewed
as a disgusting medieval notion that is best discarded.
Nowadays, there is an argument
out there that goes something like this: If God
is so good, why does He punish people for their
sin instead of just forgiving them? Sounds reasonable
enough to our modern ears, but hidden in this argument
are some critical assumptions that form the premise
therein. Lets take a look at that premise
and at each of the possible assumptions that lies
Premise: Punishment is bad
Of course, if punishment is
bad, then the Biblical God must be bad too, since
He punishes. But why would punishment be
bad? Lets see if we can find the modern assumptions
does not cause people to reform and reforming people
is the goal.
Really? Is that true? Well,
actually, no. Punishment has historically proven
to cause a number of people to reform their ways
to some degree. It has also proven to be a deterrent
to wrong doing.
(Though fear of torment is
not enough to cause a person to value God and His
ways, it may indeed awaken that person to the realization
that His own way leads to death. Thus it is an aide
in the process of ones turning from sin to
God. Ultimately, each person must come to the realization
of his own genuine guilt before God in order to
see how desperate is his need for Christ.)
But what about the second phrase:
reforming people is the goal. Is reforming
the goal of punishment, or a simply a helpful by-product?
In fact, reforming people is NOT the goal of punishment
but rather it is the goal of Truth. The goal of
punishment is something elseJustice.
Punishment only causes
more needless pain, but accomplishes no good.
True? Not at all. Punishment
causes more but NOT needless pain. And punishment
causes necessary good in that it meets pain with
pain and answers the otherwise unending effect of
Punishment involves pain and all pain is essentially
Not true. All pain is NOT evil.
Justice is pain returned upon the evildoer to turn
the evil ramifications of his wrong deed onto himself.
Pain inflicted upon the evildoer according to his
crime is necessary, thus good; pain inflicted upon
the innocent in order to oppress him is evil.
assumes people are bad, but people are not bad and
should not be punished for just being human.
People are NOT punished for
being human, but for sinning, that is, transgressing
Gods commands, something humanity was not
created to do. And people are bad in a general sense.
People everywhere have a problem with sin because
it is in their nature since the Fall as is evidenced
everywhere in the world.
are too strict; people should be allowed to do what
they think is best.
Interestingly, those who believe
that God should let people do as they please are
the same ones who blame Him for the unjust actions
of others! If He forbids people from doing their
evil desires He is deemed unfair; yet if He does
not stop people from doing wrong to others He is
also judged to be at fault. Either way, God gets
The truth of the matter is
that Gods standards are reality. To transgress
Gods commands is not just to make a preference
but to hurt ourselves, others and God Himself. Sin
attacks the Godly nature of reality.
In creating the world God reflected
His own Good Nature. When selfishness entered the
world because of higher creatures ability
to choose, that purity of creation was attacked
and even corrupted. So to attack Gods good
creation by transgressing His laws upon which that
good creation rests is to attack the very nature
and purposes of God Himself. God will act to protect
Forgiveness is better
than judgment; therefore, punishment can be eliminated.
Although forgiveness is good
and mercy rejoiceth over judgment, yet
these do not satisfy Justice. Gods creation
works on the principle of sowing and reaping. Good
actions produce good fruit; sinful actions produce
evil fruit. In fact, sinful actions bring forth
death! (James 1:15) This is why we cannot undo our
bad actions. They always produce their fruit.
When a person commits transgression,
he experiences something called guilt. What that
sensation reveals is that there has occurred a debt
of wrong which must ultimately be paid back (Justice).
In fact, the effect of sin is like a black hole
that continues to injure until it is stopped, a
spiritual debt that sabotages creation until it
is paid. Punishment is the payback for that debt
which stops the breach that the wrong had caused.
This is why forgiveness of the wrongdoer by the
victim, though helpful for the healing of the victim,
can NOT pay back the debt owed, nor does it stop
the continued spiritual sabotage of the good creation.
The wrongdoer must still pay back the debt. The
transgressing of Gods laws is like taking
a sword and ripping through His delicate reality
with it. There is damage that remains until the
fruit from such action comes back to rest on the
one who sowed it. This is why the Old Testament
civil Law taught an eye for an eye and a tooth
for a tooth type of payback regarding crime
(Exo 21:24-25; Lev 24:20).
We can see this clearly in
the account of wicked king Sauls massacre
of many of the Gibeonites (with whom the Israelites
had made a protective covenant). The spiritual breach
that this caused wreaked havoc upon Israels
harvests. There was an extended famine upon the
land of Israel until Davids reign, when it
was finally discovered that the judgment was come
on account of this unsatisfied debt of sin. The
terrible price was that seven descendents of Saul
were put to death as a public reckoning of Justice.
Only then was the land healed of its drought! (See
2 Sam 21:1-14)
Thus, while we know that the
Bible teaches that God is forgiving, we must also
see that He does not compromise justice! He can
forgive us and clear our dept NOT simply because
He is merciful, but only because His mercy has moved
Him to PAY our debts in His Son! (More on that in
But if God is really
God, cant He just make the effects of the
sin go away so that there would be no need to punish?
This one sounds pretty convincing.
Cant God do anything He wills to do? Yes,
He can. But remember what He wills to do is ALWAYS
in line with who He is. He will NEVER deny (go against)
Himself! (2 Tim 2:13; Heb 6:18a)
The creation is a reflection
of His character and in fact is held up by that
character (Ps 89:4 "Righteousness and justice
are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness
go before you." See also Ps 97:2 and Acts 17:28).
God cannot simply make sins effects go away
because He will never lie against Himself. To alter
His good creation would mean He would have to change
the reality of His own person upon whom that creation
rests. Children think the world is like their imagination;
they cant fathom the why of so many restraints
to their wishes. So it is with adults who reason
that God should take His very real creation and
make it into an imaginary playhouse so that they
may fulfill their fantasies.
But the world is not imaginary.
What is done by people while in the body cannot
be undone as with a computer undo command! Reality
is fragile, not fool proof. What is done in it cannot
ever be undoneever. Whatsoever a person does
in this life will stand for all time, whether good
or evil. And the damage from that evil does not
go away, but is now a part of reality until that
spiritual debt is satisfied. Time will NOT take
it away; only Christs sacrifice can take it
away, as we will see shortly.
But lest we think of judgment
like the Eastern concept of Karma (for in Eastern
religions the idea of reincarnation provides the
person with infinite opportunities to receive payback
for their evil deeds and work on reforming themselves
until they are made pure), we need to understand
that the goal of judgment is NOT to cleanse from
sin, but to repudiate its source. Thus, the goal
of judgment (i.e., punishment) is to condemn sin!
(Rom 3:25-26; Rom 8:3-4).
If punishment condemns
sin by simply inflicting the evildoer with the same
suffering he inflicted, then couldnt everyone
pay for his own sin?
We must here explain that from
Gods standpoint there is more to the debt
than what the Old Testament civil law requires.
If a man is a thief, the Law requires that he pay
back what he stole at up to four times the value
(Exo 22:1-4). He may indeed be forced to do this,
and so be absolved by the civil Law. Yet he is not
yet absolved by God Himself. Why not? Because he
has only paid the debt physically, not spiritually;
he still stands condemned as a lawbreaker morally.
(See Lev 6:4 where the repentant thief must also
offer blood sacrifices before Gods priest
in order to atone for his guilt.) For once a person
has chosen to rebel against God and His works, he
makes himself Gods enemy. You see, anyone
who breaks Gods laws has become a transgressor,
showing disdain for Gods person and earning
for himself Gods wrath. That is why paying
the debt physically without satisfying it spiritually
still results in a persons moral condemnation
by God Himself.
Such a one has shown himself
unworthy of Gods eternal life because he has
hated God and His ways. And Gods payback for
that persons flagrant attack against Him is
death: both bodily (so the person cant work
any more destruction!) and spiritually, where he
will remain forever in torment outside Gods
love. For the Bible continually shows us that our
life on earth is a test to see if we will value
God or if we will value rebellion against God. If
we value God, we will honor His truth, His character
and His works. But the one who steals, or murders
(or cheats, or lusts, or lies, etc.) has failed.
Jesus said, if a man
love me, he will keep my words...(John 14:23a).
He taught that it is by our actions towards and
responses to God and others that we will either
deem ourselves worthy to obtain that world,
and the resurrection from the dead... (Luk
20:35), or judge ourselves unworthy of everlasting
life... (Acts 13:46). (See also Rom 2:5-9
where God will render to every man according to
his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in
well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality,
eternal life: But unto them that are contentious
and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness,
indignation and wrath....)
requirements are unfair; no one can be that worthy!
If we are honest with ourselves,
we will admit that we are NOT worthy of God because
we have done wickedly towards God and our fellow
human beings. Though our sins may be secret to others,
they are not so to Him who sees all things. How
then can anyone be considered worthy of eternal
We see in Scripture that the
worthy are NOT those who have never sinned, since
Rom 3:23 states that all have sinned and come
short of the glory of God. Instead, the worthy are
those who turn from their sin to God in faith and
truth. Peter states that in every nation he
that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is
accepted with Him (Acts 10:35). It is not
our ability to perfectly perform on which such worthiness
rests, but rather on the inner motives of the choices
we make. Man looks at the outward appearance,
but God looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7). Thus,
the worthy are those who desire to love God and
reject sin and so their choices come to reflect
But we must ask, how can God
deem these worthy, if in fact they have transgressed
His laws? Well, remember that in Gods Old
Covenant economy, an innocent lamb paid sins
penalty so that a repentant sinner might live. For
God had given man the mercy of offering up the life
of the animal in place of his own life, that moral
justice might in some sense be accomplished (Lev
17:11). Yet this system was by nature imperfect
and temporary, for the blood of bulls and
goats could never fully pay the price of mans
moral guilt (Heb 9:12-14).
All of this is precisely why Jesus came to
earth. He Himself, the second person of the Godhead,
came as one without sin, the Lamb of God, who, as
a man, would willingly take upon Himself the awful
wrath against sin which we ourselves deserved. God
condemned sin by punishing Christ with the full
intensity it took to satisfy justice, both physically
and spiritually. It was not only physical pain He
suffered on the cross but the infinite hatred of
God against sin. When it was over Christ exclaimed,
It is finished! (John 19:30) since He
had satisfied to the full the debt toward God on
behalf of all mankind (1 John 2:2). And because
of this payment, now anyone who chooses to turn
from sin and come to Christ in faith can receive
both forgiveness and eternal life from the Father.
What a remarkably gracious provision for us without
which we would surely all be lost! Those who accept
Gods provision show themselves worthy of life
because they choose to turn from their sins and
believe God (John 1:12).
But those who reject Him demonstrate
that they are His enemies, desiring neither His
Truth nor His provision (Phil 3:18). Having spurned
Gods merciful offer of escape from their sin
into His loving favor, their future damnation is
tragically assured (Mark 16:16; John 3:18).
© 2006 by Diana Rosdail. All rights reserved.