Last week we talked about Ungodly Judgement In Prophecy. I made the point that God is not holding men’s sins against them. So does that preclude judgement? Since I’m not just selectively choosing certain passages of scripture and ignoring others, here are my thoughts on God’s just judgement. This is where my understanding is at right now. I’d love to hear your comments!
God’s Just Judgement
Sometimes when people reject a wrong teaching or worldview, the pendulum swings the other way and they adopt an equally erroneous belief. Some, rightly rejecting the worldview which says God is counting men’s sins against them, have gone on to argue that there is no judgement remaining.
Being a just judge is part of God’s nature. I sometimes think that people who oppose any doctrine of judgement must have never come face to face with much evil or oppression! The truth that God is a just judge is good news for the oppressed. Judgement is dividing between right and wrong. It’s not necessarily the same as vengeance or retribution.
I welcome God’s judgement in my life. I’m not talking about lightning from heaven! I’m talking about dividing between right and wrong—between what hurts me and what helps me. Judgement isn’t always negative. It can be favorable!
Many people say “The bible says don’t judge,” but that’s a very simplistic view of what the scriptures says. It tells us not to judge in the context of condemning people and holding their sins against them, (Matthew 7:1), but it also tells us to judge in the context of dividing between right and wrong. (1 Corinthians 6:2-5) This includes judging teaching and prophecy. (1 Corinthians 14:20) Jesus said that he judged no one in the sense of condemnation (John 12:47), but he also said that it was for judgement that he came into the world (John 9:39) in the sense of dividing between truth and lies, light and darkness.
Telling a friend that their actions are harmful or stating that a certain teaching is unbiblical is the type of judgement scripture encourages. Scripture discourages us from judging people in the sense of holding their sins against them.
But what do we do with stories in the New Testament like that of God striking Herod?
Counting Men’s Sins Against Them, Or Protecting Others?
When I talk about God’s attitude of “not counting men’s sins against them,” many readers might ask “What about Ananias and Saphira? What about an angel of the Lord striking Herod down? What about Paul’s pronouncement of temporary blindness on the sorcerer Bar-Jesus?”
I’ve heard people argue that that Peter was wrong to confront Ananias the way he did, and that it wasn’t really God who struck Herod. I think such arguments are weak. So how do we reconcile those stories with God “not counting men’s sins against them?”
In each of these cases, it seems that it was really about protecting others. I remember the story of a woman who shot and killed a madman wielding a gun. He was shooting at the crowd and trying to kill as many people as possible. After she killed him, she met his parents. She saw pictures of him as a little boy.
She grieved that she had to shoot him, but she hadn’t shot him because she was “holding his sins against him.” She had nothing against the man. She was just doing what she needed to do to protect as many people as possible.
That’s how I see these three instances of God’s judgement in the New Testament. It wasn’t that God was holding their sins against them. He was doing what was necessary to protect others. Ananias and Saphira’s sin might seem like a little thing at first, but they had thought about this before and agreed together to lie for the sake of pride. The spirit of deceit that they were walking in could have been a deadly influence on the church. It seems the results of them being struck dead were positive for the church.
I think we should note that Peter never told Ananias he would die. He only confronted his dishonesty, and Ananias died. It was only when Ananias’ wife also lied that Peter pronounced the same thing would happen to her. Peter didn’t even initiate the death of Ananias and Saphira. I that makes the arguments that Peter was “wrongly using his authority,” or spoke because he “didn’t have a revelation of grace” quite weak.
Did Peter not have Paul’s revelation of grace? Yes, we can see that Peter lacked grace in some other instances. Yet we should remember that in First Corinthians, Paul also told the church to hand a certain man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit would be saved.
The other two cases, Herod and Bar-Jesus, were both instances of people exercising satanic influence over entire regions. Bar-Jesus was trying to turn a government official away from the faith. The result of his temporary blindness was that the official turned to the Lord, and doors were opened to the gospel in that region. Note that Paul, who pronounced this sentence, had himself been struck with temporary blindness as he crusaded against the Christians. I don’t believe a case can be made that Paul “wasn’t acting in love.”
Herod was also fiercely opposing the gospel and killing Christians. He had the apostle James killed, and also tried to kill Peter. Then he accepted praise as a god, without giving glory to the true God. That was why he was struck down. His death probably saved the lives of many people whom he would have killed. It also sent a powerful message to the people who were blinded by Satan and worshiping Herod as a god. I don’t think God struck Herod down because he was “counting his sins against him.” Like the woman who shot the madman spraying bullets into the crowd, God struck Herod down to protect others. He was stopping a madman.
Do We See The Same Thing Today?
So do we see the same thing today? In Rescue Through Supernatural Transportation I shared the story of two Christians who were kidnapped by terrorists and sitting in a cave, about to be executed if they didn’t disclose the location of another Christian.
The mountain began to shake as they prayed for deliverance. Suddenly, a bright light shone in the cave and blinded the twenty men who were guarding them. An angel took their hands, their shackles fell off, and he whisked them to safety. And what happened to more than twenty terrorists who had been guarding them in the cave? The cave collapsed, and they died. Was God holding the sins of these terrorists against them? I don’t believe he was.
2 Peter 3:9 (NIV) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
God loves and wants to save even the worst of men. So why would he rescue the Christians but kill the terrorists in a supernatural earthquake? I think that again, it was about protecting others. These men were bent on destruction. Like Herod, they had already killed innocent people, and they were absolutely opposed to the advance of the gospel in that region. God stopped them.
Another outstanding story is the horrible death of the high priestess of “San La Muerte” (Saint Death) in Resistencia, Argentina. Worship of this demon was prevalent in Resistencia, and there was a monument to him in the central place of the city. People believed that “Saint Death” would give them a good death in exchange for their worship.
The church was praying to reach the city of Resistencia for Christ. They “served an eviction notice” to “St. Death” in the central plaza of the city. The priests of this demon responding with witchcraft against the church.
In the middle of it all, the high priestess of “St. Death” died a terrible death. Her mattress caught fire and she burned to death. The only things that burned were her, the bed, and the idol of San La Muerte in the next room!*
What do I make of this? God wanted her to be saved, but she refused to repent. Like Herod and Bar-Jesus the sorcerer, she was a key figure in opposing the spread of the gospel in a geographical region. Thousands of people were blinded and in bondage to the spirit of death because of her influence. It seems that God gave her over to what she worshiped. The true nature of “St. Death” was revealed, and this demon lost it’s influence in Resistencia. The result was that many people came to Christ.
Was this about God “holding her sins against her?” I don’t think so. It was about a stopping a person gone mad by finally handing her over to the demon that she worshiped, so that a city could be saved. It was about protecting and saving as many people as possible.
As I shared in last week’s post, Jesus has atoned for the sin of the world and God is not counting men’s sins against them. I don’t believe that earthquakes and natural disasters are God’s vengeance for the sins of nations. It hurts our ability to minister to others if we wrongly act as if God were counting their sins against them.
However, I do believe God sometimes acts to stop a very wicked person who is bent on causing destruction all around. Most of the time, this individual is opposing the spread of the gospel in a geographical region and either heavily involved in witchcraft, or killing and persecuting Christians. It grieves God’s heart that any should perish, but it’s better to shoot a madman than to let the madman massacre everyone around him.