Every time there is a tragedy in the news, it seems that someone feels the need to pronounce the judgment of God on the people who are already suffering.
Several times in the gospels Jesus warns against drawing a line from suffering to judgment. Jesus warned His disciples about coming to this very same conclusion in Luke 13, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?”
Can we blame God?
I John 4:10 says, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (ESV) The word propitiation “properly signifies the removal of wrath by the offering of a gift.”1 So if all God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus, how much is now left for us? (Hint: try the word ‘none’ on for size).
Yes, there is a “day of judgment” coming for people (notice how it is a day, not days or a season). However, today we have been given our mission which can be found nicely summed up in II Corinthians 5; that Christ “gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (NIV) We are living in an age of grace in which God is reconciling the world to Himself. The message we have been given is not one of judgment against people but of reconciliation with God.
God clearly told us what His judgments look like. In II Peter 2, God tells us that His judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah would be “an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly”.
You can find the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18 & 19. When God told Abraham that he was going to destroy the cities, Abraham asked, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” After some negotiation, God agreed that if He could find 10 righteous people in the cities, He would not destroy them. However, God could only find one righteous man, Lot. So did God sweep away the righteous with the wicked? No, He sent two angels to rescue Lot before He sent judgment.
Also, II Peter 2 also says that God’s judgment is seen when He judged the earth with a flood. God “brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness”.
When God sends His judgment, He does not “sweep away the righteous with the unrighteous”. God’s judgment is the execution of His divine justice, that satisfies the wrath of God. However, I Thessalonians 5:9 says, “God has not destined us for wrath”. Believers may very well suffer during this life, but they will not suffer as the result of God’s judgment.
So, is God judging today?
And John 16 tells us exactly who is being judged during this age. “And when he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:… concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (ESV) It is Satan and his demons that are now being judged. Before Jesus came, they had a kingdom and authority over the nations of the earth. Jesus triumphed over them in the cross (Colossians 2:15). Jesus said that all authority in heaven and on earth was His. If Jesus has all authority, is there any left for Satan?
So now the enemy is being judged through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as Satan watches powerless to stop God’s people dismantling his old kingdom piece by piece, person by person until “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
image ‘Fire! Fire!’ by Dave Hog at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/davehogg/74341943
1. The New Bible Dictionary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.), 1962.