I have had several prolonged debates with people over the years concerning whether or not God judges the nations. I mean with “Fire and Brimstone” type of judgement with a “Pompeii” kind of destruction. I am talking of judgement that is predicted beforehand, and then seen and understood by all that “God’s prophets said exactly how this would happen before it even started to come to pass,” type of judgement. What do you think? A Judgement of doom does not necessarily require a Hiroshima or Nagasaki kind of end to life, but it does necessarily mean the end of a culture, society and or nation.
Does God deal with any nation like he dealt with Sodom and Gomorrah in the Genesis story? Is it with good a good understanding that we can even discuss sensibly and a biblical rationale, “The potentiality of God wiping entire nations off the face of the map in these days?” Is it ever correct to walk round with an A-board declaring, “The End is Nigh?” It sounds ridiculously farfetched to the atheist as well as to some modernistic Christians. It also seems like over the top melodrama to Reformed Cessationists who tremble at the thought of anything of any “divine interventionist” message. There was one famous quote by an evangelist of a previous generation, I think it was William Branham in the nineteen fifties or sixties, who said “If God doesn’t soon judge Hollywood, He will have to raise up Sodom and Gomorrah and apologise to them.” Wow! Where do we go with statements like that? I am honestly not sure whether or not Branham was in the Spirit when he made statements like that, but it makes a condemnatory theological point concerning Hollywood and its reputation that sounds expressive and emphatic to the point that many preachers have used it since it was first declared as a bench mark response to how some Christians see modern western culture. I do not condone the statement in anyway whatsoever, and that is not because I think it is biblically unsound, or because I think it sounds fanatical, but that it does not in any way catch the modern thinking man, except as a target for ridicule.
We must not, however, go too far in our negation of the “Doomed! Doomed! We are all doomed!” brigade. It was absolutely the correct message for Noah’s day, it was the message that was absolutely true in Jonah’s time. He was a perfect “hand in glove” fit for Nineveh. A single line that stated “In Forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown.” It was proven to be a word from God and it was received by the Assyrians as such. Jeremiah hit the nail on the head also with his tearful, heartfelt agonising “The End is Nigh” message. The truth was that the end was not just nigh, it came and went and left the Jews scattered around the globe and Jerusalem a huge stack of ruins in the wilderness. Ends do not get more final than 587 BC around Jerusalem. There are, therefore, from my perspective as a Bible believer, clearly, times when, “Repent! For the end is Nigh!” is a divinely inspired message.
The point to make as well, is to quote Jesus Christ who said, “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the coming of the son of man” (Matthew 24:37. Luke 17:26) Ouch! That means that “Repent for the end is nigh!” has actually been an intensely relevant message ever since the day of Pentecost when New Testament preaching started! Chew on that one.
To take the discussion just a little further: It may be a divinely inspired statement, but we need to look a little closer at the big picture concerning wicked nations and/or wicked national leaders. The judgement of groups of people, nations or ethnic tribal crowds is a difficult subject to get one’s head around. William Branham, by the way, was proven to be a prophet of some remarkable accuracy. The final story of Hollywood is not yet finished of course, leaving the present generation still in the process of assessing the strength of his words concerning Hollywood.
Where should we stand on such an important concept? If it is a rational, biblical message, we are fools if we play the issue down. And if indeed the people of the nations of the world are to be judged as national groups, as well as human individuals it is an incredibly important matter for us to have an understanding on. I know I am to be judged as an individual. Keith Lannon will clearly stand before the judgement seat of Christ as an individual in the resurrection. But will I also be judged in the context of being a member of and a partaker with the nation state of England? Is that part of Christ’s brief when He makes assessments and a final judgement about me at the end?
I have heard several perspectives in my life time, perspectives that have fed my grey matter and sent me to the bible for answers.
In one extreme there are those that believe that because Christ carried the sins of the world on the cross, and no sin on the planet was left outside the net of his atoning blood, for that reason, say the adherents to this particular viewpoint, no national sin is to be brought to God’s judgement throne in the future on the grounds that it has already been dealt with. Added to this, because none of the New Testament writers seem to have any particular perspective on judgement of the nations per se, it is assumed that it is “old hat.” I have encountered may Christians that maintain that, because we are “in a time of grace,” God simply no longer acts in the world as judge of unbelievers. Neither people groups, or governments or complete nations are judged. They hold that this is not the day of God’s judgement and this will only happen at the end of the age when Christ returns. They quote “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them one from another” (Mat 25.32). To this approach I answer that the atoning blood of Christ truly would remove the sins of the whole world if the whole world repented, whether they repented as six billion individuals, or whether they repented in unison as respective citizens of respective nations. The blood has the power and value to deal with the sins of every person that has ever lived and every nation that has ever existed, but without repentance the impact of redemption will not be felt or experienced by anybody anywhere. No repentance, no salvation – and that truth works for individuals and/or any group in God’s collectives, whether it be families, clans, tribes, races or nations. So I discount this theory that claims that because of Calvary there will be no judgement of the nations. Final judgement of us all, of all nations, and of the whole of creation is a future fact of existence. I think many of us may joke, jest and be jolly about the reality of death, judgement, heaven and hell and end up – to put it very mildly – somewhat foolish, disappointed and lost.
There are also those who claim that the idea of nations coming under the guillotine of God’s judgement is nothing but an Old Testament concept that is irrelevant to New Testament times. They make this claim because the Old Testament is full of the idea of God’s judgement against godless nations, while the New Testament does not even mention the idea. “God is Love,” is the cry of many, and with the accompanying inability of many to see God’s judgement working in harmony with God’s love there is a residual huge swathe of Christians that say that judgement of any kind is not in the divine agenda. I feel sorry for such short sightedness. Pathetically pseudo academic exegesis of the bible has made shipwreck of the faith of many.
So, how do we come to biblical conclusions on the subject? What were the reasons given in the Old Testament that warranted the destruction of the likes of Assyria, Babylon, Edom, Moab and the like, and then of course, generations earlier the infamous destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? (And just to make sure that I am not missing anybody out, we have to include Israel in the list of those that have seen dissolution and national dissipation. The fact that Israel have been resurrected as a nation state leads us to another subject that we shall highlight another time)
God’s ultimate judgement is a final thing. God is the judge of all. He needs to be seen as the Almighty, All-knowing, All-powerful Judge. He judges like no other because He is similar to no other. He is God. His decisions are perfect. His actions are flawless. It is nothing but a sick joke when people play around with their eternal destinies simply because the divine eternal mind of God does not fit in with human beings and their temporary, temporal, parochial mind sets concerning the way things should be. God judges. His ultimate judgement on any issue is simply final and not to be trifled with. It is always wiser to listen to what God says. Reader, we get into heaven on His terms not ours. Turning Him down simply because the teaching of the Bible does not fit in for your friends, neighbours and dearly beloved family members cannot change the realities of the cosmos.
Of itself, sickness in this world is almost never His judgement. I simply do not believe God makes people ill or sick in order to teach people some great truth. I believe that on biblical grounds. Why do I take such a stand? Because He has promised to heal, he declares Himself to be “Yahweh The Healer” (Exodus 15:26), and Christ Himself healed all that came to Him. I cannot see how God could inflict sickness for any developmental or tuitional reason. I reject the thought totally. However, I do believe He occasionally strikes people down in final Judgement, and that may be via the gateway of sickness. In the book of Acts it was not the devil that struck Herod down, but God Himself. The book actually says so (Acts 12:23). That was the divinely actioned final judgement on Herod. His speech to the people and his inner response to the people declaring, “It is the voice of a God,” crossed a line in the eyes and response of the Almighty, and the king dropped on the spot.
Judgement – meaning final judgement, is when God hands over the impenitent nation, nations or groups of nations, over to a hardening of their conglomerate mind, heart and attitude while still in this life and then He acts by bringing judgement upon that group. Final judgement comes upon individuals also, of course. Pharaoh in the book of Exodus was judged in that way, as was King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. The Bible tells us, as well as extra biblical history, that God punishes nations in historical accounts, both gentile nations as well as historical Israel. It’s a hard pill to swallow and a huge philosophy to circumnavigate if one wishes to get hold of the truth concerning God’s judgement upon various nations and ultimately upon each individual soul. It is much easier to say that God has stopped dealing with Israel or the nations of the world in this manner. Easier yes, but totally untrue. The fact is that the vast majority of the Old Testament consists of divine intervention in judgement upon many nations – including Israel. We need to take the Old Testament template and hold it up to the kingdoms and states of the world as we read the relevant scriptures.
The overriding perspective of scripture concerning this issue has several key points of revelation to it.
- God is clearly stated to be the Almighty Sovereign over all nations – none excepted – and that He rules and guides them all for His own His purposes.
- His purposes past, present and future include the nation of Israel. In fact Israel is at the heart of the divine world programme.
- God tolerates sin in as much as the perpetrators of sin are allowed to continue in particular pathways in relation to all nations. As the rest of the unbelieving world sees things, many conclude that He seems to wink at it. However, He never winks at sin but adds up the account of the depth and volume of evil in a nation’s spiritual gut, right up to the point that God judges to be a sort of critical mass. At that point judgement becomes a necessity. When this divinely marked and noted saturation point is arrived at, He then directly acts and brings calamity and even national annihilation upon some. With some it may be a temporary removal from the scene of time waiting for a resurrection experience to take place. Israel, for instance, has been resurrected. Egypt shall be raised again into a gloriously righteous nation greater than it was in biblical days (we shall explain this in later pages) as well as others.
- The Bible lists the kinds of iniquity God has in mind when He mentions “the wickedness of the nations.”
- An essential truth that needs to be the wallpaper of all our thoughts on this subject and the oxygen of all our emotions in dissecting this issue is the fact that it is the love of God that is the solid foundation of all His actions whether we agree with them or not. He knows more than us, He sees more than us, He loves more than us, and for human beings to argue against His activities is as ridiculous as anything that can be conceived us. 18 ounces of us is brain. He owns the cosmos and is infinite in all knowledge and understanding, and many are damned and lost because they think they are cleverer than Him, and that He is wrong.
More to come in Isaiah 13.