It can be difficult to read Biblical passages about God’s judgment, especially Old Testament wars, plagues, or prophesies of coming punishment. If we feel uncomfortable reconciling God’s amazing grace with His certain judgment, Dr. Eric Bargerhuff provides this key perspective.
“It’s worth remembering: God is holy and we are not. God, in His sovereignty, has a right to execute judgment any time he chooses, based on the fact that we are wicked, evil people. And don’t we feel like we live in a wicked evil world now? We can feel in our souls that there is a sense of evil in this world, and that God is going to judge this evil. In fact he already has judged this evil.”
Thankfully, the Lord by His Grace has rescued believers from our sin, and has put His Spirit in us to transform us more and more into the image of Christ. This means we can rejoice, even in God’s judgment, as it reveals His holiness.
“Ultimately, we Christians are not afraid of His final judgment, because Christ paid for our sins on the cross already. Nonetheless, there is still a judgement for the world that is coming and God has the right to judge the world, any time, in any way He so chooses.”
As we read scripture in light of God’s perfect holiness, we can see God’s grace displayed even more frequently in the Old Testament compared to the New Testament:
“We often look at the Old Testament to say ‘wow, God is so mean.’ He’s not! He’s actually full of grace. He is still the same God (throughout the Bible) and He still has the right to execute judgement.”
“Think of how He offered the Ark: in a world of continuous evil, He poured out His judgment via a flood, but He still saved some. In 2nd Kings, the Lord exacts judgement on some pagan teenagers that were threatening God’s prophet, Elisha. We ought not be surprised when God decides to decisively deal with wickedness in order to protect His own.”
“That’s what God does: He will protect his people from spiritual harm, using His great might. God’s justice is also His protection. Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world. This world might kill our bodies but they cannot touch our souls; He has us in the palm of His hands.”
Are such dramatic instances of God’s judgment unfair to those being punished? Eric reminds us that fairness demands we get what we deserve–and none of us deserves God’s grace:
“If we wanted what’s fair, we would all be on our way to eternity separated from God; that would be fair of Him to do because He is perfectly holy. We are certainly not. Let’s not lose sight that God is a holy God. The repetition–holy, holy, holy–in Isaiah 6 is just a reminder of how holy, awesome, and ‘high and lifted up’ this God really is. How very different He is from us. Sometimes we try to make God in our image. Instead, let’s realize we have been made in His image.”
This great God displays His love toward us, when we were trapped in our own wickedness, by providing a way to for our redemption. Christ took the holy judgment we deserved, and rose again to make us free.
“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:3-5
How God's judgment reveals His love