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Bible verses about God's Justice
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Most people agree that for salvation a Christian needs more than just a theoretical knowledge of God. Over the course of our lives, we increase our knowledge of Him through life's varied experiences. We also come to greater understanding by studying God's Word. In both areas we can be snared by a major problem that traps many religious people in this world: emphasizing one of His attributes at the expense of others.

God is not one dimensional. Though we should study each of His attributes and think on them separately, we should not separate them from the complete personality that God is. Why? It distorts the model we are to imitate and grow into, and it can radically alter our expectations of what He will do. If He does not do what we expect, we are liable to become grieved because God "let us down."

For instance, the Bible emphasizes that God is merciful and full of grace. We should be thankful that He is! But we should not allow that to overshadow the fact that He is also just. If we do, His mercy can become a justification for failure to overcome besetting sins. Neither God's mercy nor justice can be separated from all that He is. Both are harmoniously applied to each situation and person He judges.

The same can be said of His compassion. Some see God as so compassionate that He disregards the causes of horrible problems and circumstances. If God acted in this manner, flaws with painful results would go uncorrected.

Still others construe God's sovereignty so that it greatly diminishes His goodness and portrays Him as rigid and inflexible. This person lives a guilt-ridden, fearful, and discouraged life, thinking that he will never please Him.

Probably the most familiar of God's attributes is found in John's statement in I John 4:8: "God is love." John states a fact, not a definition of God's essential nature. If he had declared that love is what God is, we would be forced to conclude that God is what love is. Literally, if God is love, then literally, love is God, and we are obliged to worship love as the only true God. This would mean God and love are identical. Fortunately, the Bible reveals God is a multidimensional personality. If we eliminate the idea of God's complex personality, denying outright all His attributes save one, the remaining attribute becomes God, a very subtle form of idolatry. This is not the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wholeness of God


 

Genesis 18:23-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Abraham knew his friend, God, pretty well: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" In a sense, he was throwing back to God the very understanding that he had of His holy, righteous character. He knew that in God's justice there could be no turning from what God is, and that His act toward Sodom and Gomorra would reflect what God is.

Well, there was probably never a more rhetorical question ever asked by a man on the earth. Even though Abraham knew a great deal about God, he may not have had a complete understanding of how far such an act like that is from God's character. There was never even a remote possibility that God would kill the innocent with the guilty in the city of Sodom.

God said, "Okay, I'll spare it for 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, 10. . . ." God could bargain like this because it is not in His mind to kill the innocent with the guilty. Why? Because for God to do that, He would have to cease being holy, and that is not possible. In essence, He would have to stop being God.

God is the supreme Judge of all the earth, and if He is unjust, there is no hope that justice will ever prevail. We know that human judges can be corrupted—they take bribes, they can be partial, they can be ignorant, and they can make mistakes. God, however, is never corrupt. No one can bribe Him. He refuses to show partiality. There is no respect of persons with Him. He never acts out of ignorance. He never makes mistakes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Examples of Divine Justice


 

Genesis 18:23-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's justice is according to His righteousness, His holy character. Psalm 119:172 defines righteousness, stating "All Your commandments are righteousness." Those commandments reflect in writing the character of God.

What God does is always consistent with who and what He is, and what He has written. His righteousness is absolute purity. He is utterly incapable of an unholy, unrighteous, unjust act. For God to act unfairly, He would simply have to cease being God. It is totally impossible for Him to commit an injustice.

When Abraham uses the word "righteous" in verse 23, he is not saying, "Would You destroy the sinless with the wicked?" He means people who, through their fear of God and being conscientious, have kept themselves free from the iniquity of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham's concern was that there were people in the city we might consider to be really good citizens. They were not sinless, but if there was a fear of God in them, maybe they were trying with all their might to obey God, but they were caught up simply in being in the environment which God had decided He was going to destroy.

God does not always act with justice; sometimes He acts with mercy. That is what He did with Lot and his family. God acted with justice against the city because it was so corrupt, so evil, so filled with sin that it even offended God's sense of what is right and wrong. It even offended God's patience, His longsuffering. And so in justice He wiped the city off the map, but in grace and mercy He spared Lot, his wife, and two children.

Mercy is not justice, but neither is it injustice, because injustice would violate righteousness, and God always acts according to His holy character, which is total righteousness. Therefore mercy, which manifests kindness and grace, does no violence to righteousness, and we may see non-justice in God—which is mercy—but we never see injustice in God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Genesis 18:23-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Is God fair in His dealings with man? Consider this: Has God warned man what He is going to earn in the way of a death penalty if he sinned? Consider this list. In Exodus 21, we are warned that striking or cursing parents will result in death. In Leviticus 19, He says that if you desecrate a sacrifice, you are going to die. In Leviticus 24, He said that if you murder somebody, you are going to die. In Exodus 21, He says that if you kidnap somebody, you are going to die. In Leviticus 20, He says if you sacrifice a child in the fire, you are going to die. In Leviticus 24, He says If you take My name in vain—if you curse Me, if your use blasphemous statements about Me—you are going to die.

In Exodus 35, He issues the death penalty for breaking the Sabbath. In Leviticus 20, He issues the death penalty for consulting mediums. In Leviticus 20, He says that if you are practicing homosexuality, you are going to die. In Leviticus 20, if you practice incest, you are going to die. In Exodus 22, if you practice bestiality, you are going to die. In Deuteronomy 22, He says that if you rape somebody, you are going to die. In Deuteronomy 13, if you give a false prophecy, you are going to die.

In Exodus 22, if you practice sorcery, you are going to die. In Exodus 22, if you sacrifice to a false god, you are going to die. In Leviticus, if you commit adultery, you are going to die. In Numbers 4, if you desecrate a holy thing, you are going to die. In Numbers 16, if you disagree with God's judgment, you are going to die. In Leviticus 21, if you are a priest's daughter and you play the harlot, you are going to die.

I have only given you a partial list. God has clearly made known the penalty to mankind. Is God acting fairly? The penalty for some of these offenses really sounds harsh to modern minds. Death for a false prophecy? Death for committing adultery? Death for bestiality or homosexuality? All of these penalties are given in the Old Testament. By contrast, there is no corresponding list of penalties in the New Testament, which misleads some who are close to being biblically illiterate into thinking that they prefer the God of the New Testament to the God of the Old Testament. But the God of the New Testament is exactly the same Being as the God of the Old Testament; He says, "I change not" (Malachi 3:6). "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).

Those of us who are living under the New Covenant need to begin to think seriously about the way we conduct our lives, and especially in reference to our own relationship with God. We cannot deny that the New Testament list of capital offenses would appear to be a dramatic reduction from the Old. What we fail to consider is that the Old Testament list above is a massive reduction from what appears at the beginning of the Book, as in Genesis 18. The list, mainly out of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, represents an astonishing measure of grace from how things began.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Leviticus 1:3-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God accepts the animal in place of the offerer. The offerer remains alive, and the animal represents him giving or sacrificing himself. In this respect, Christ becomes even more prominent, and we fade into the background, though not entirely.

Every man's acceptance before God depends upon perfect righteousness. An animal cannot sin, so in the imagery sinlessness is symbolically present. However, the sinlessness required for our acceptance goes well beyond this. Paul writes in Romans 3:10, 23: "There is none righteous, no not one; . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Jesus, though, born of a woman (Galatians 4:4), took on flesh and blood as the seed of Abraham (John 1:14; Hebrews 2:14) and lived a perfect life (I Peter 2:22). His sinless life was acceptable to God, and by God's grace, we are accepted because of Christ. Thus, the offering must be without blemish; it must match Christ's sinlessness.

This also helps to explain the word "atonement" in Leviticus 1:4. Normally, we think of it in the sense of a "covering for sin." However, since sin is not contemplated in this offering, this understanding is incorrect here. In this case, atonement indicates "making satisfaction." God is satisfied because a requirement is met, not that His offended justice is satisfied.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Two): The Burnt Offering


 

Leviticus 9:22-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

They fell on their faces out of fear, reverence, respect, awe, and wonder from the knowledge that God was in their midst. The last verse shows that God accepted Aaron and the priests because everything was done according to His will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Examples of Divine Justice


 

Leviticus 10:1-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What did these men do that was so awful? They were priests, sons of Aaron, the High Priest, nephews of Moses. If anybody had a close relationship with God and would receive a measure of leeway in judgment, it was these two. Nevertheless, there was none; with God, there is no respect of persons in judgment (see Romans 2:11). He reacted swiftly and violently, wiping them out on the spot. This incident involved no Temple prostitutes, no human sacrifices, just "strange fire." Surely, such a little thing would not matter! God's reaction allowed no time for a trial; there was just a summary execution, a terrifying supernatural judgment by God.

Verse 6 contains an interesting sidelight to this violent event. Undoubtedly, Aaron was shocked into an emotional reaction that may have ranged from pitiful wailing to a consuming anger toward God, but Moses cautioned him to control himself and give no outward demonstration of his emotional state! Why? Moses understood that they had sinned grievously and got what they deserved. Aaron was told that, despite the shocking nature of what had happened, he should express no disagreement with God's judgment.

Consider this in a larger context. Beginning in Exodus 40:1, the Tabernacle, its altar, and the laver were erected and the interior furniture arranged, then all was consecrated in a solemn ceremony. At that point (verse 34), God came to dwell in the Tabernacle.

Leviticus 1 follows the sequence of events, showing God giving the sacrificial rituals to be performed at the Tabernacle. In Leviticus 8, Aaron and the priesthood are officially consecrated. In Leviticus 9:1, the priesthood's ministry formally begins. In verse 24, a startling occurrence takes place during that first offering: ". . . and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar." This signaled God's acceptance, showing that all had been done according to His will.

However, there is more to this story, giving us understanding of the term "strange fire" that follows in chapter 10. Within the instructions regarding the sacrifices, Leviticus 6:12-13 gives the priests an interesting charge:

And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. A perpetual fire shall burn on the altar; it shall never go out.

The term strange means "what is alien to." Foreigners are called "strangers" in Scripture because they are aliens to Israel and to the covenant (Ephesians 2:12). In this case, the fire used by Nadab and Abihu was alien to what God had commanded regarding fire. Together with Exodus 30:7-9, their infraction becomes clear. The priests were to make the morning and evening incense offerings only with the special incense mixture God commanded, and they were to take the coals for these offerings only from the continually burning fire under the altar of burnt offerings, which He started in Leviticus 9:24.

Aaron was undoubtedly confused and displeased, not understanding what happened, but Moses gave him God's answer. In Leviticus 10:3, the Lord says, "By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified." Nadab and Abihu were among those chosen to come near Him in service. They revealed their disrespect for Him by treating His command regarding the fire as something common. They simply did not follow His instructions.

They added or subtracted to what God said and did, attempting to get by with what they carnally assumed was acceptable to Him. By this incident, holiness is defined. Among those who are consecrated to serve God, His instructions must be explicitly followed. Thus, this example appears especially pointed toward the ministry.

The instructions are not ambiguous. Each step and instrument in the process is designed to teach certain spiritual concepts. They had been completely instructed, so they blatantly twisted God's teaching. In response to Moses, Aaron remained silent, knowing the judgment was correct. This incident is of special importance to us because of the context and because of who we are. The context is the consecration of the priesthood in service to God, and we are, according to I Peter 2, a royal priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices. By this incident, God shows, perhaps more clearly than in any other place, what holiness is in relation to Him.

Holiness is not merely consecration or dedication to a god, but it is both moral and ethical as well. True holiness is what results from His consecration, but the consecration must be combined with our submission to His commands. In pagan religions, a person could be dedicated but not moral, as is clearly shown by the ritual prostitution practiced at their temples. The prostitute was indeed consecrated to her god, but she most certainly was not moral—nor were they who used her services.

Today, a person may claim that his god is the Creator God, but if he is not obedient to the Creator God's commandments, he is merely deluding himself. Sincerity is only part of the picture. We are to worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24). The closer one is associated with God's work, the more necessary it is to ensure that the relationship with God is not marred by spiritual blemishes. Otherwise, the person cannot function properly as a channel for God to work through. God will not be glorified before the people unless His servants submit to His commands.

A similar careless notion got Cain into trouble. If we add or omit with knowledge, it is presumption, and presumption springs from pride. It is as if we are telling God He does not know what He is doing. We have elevated ourselves to His level. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else than His will must be our attitude.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)


 

Leviticus 10:1-3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Surely these men did not deliberately intend to sin. However, notice how quickly God's sense of justice reacted, striking these men dead in their tracks and burning them to cinders. Obviously, they either did or failed to do something far more serious than ever entered their minds. Is not God's reaction a vivid warning, especially to those who come near Him? Are we not among those who come near Him?

Look at the evidence more closely and observe God's sense of justice. First, these men were the sons of Aaron, and Moses was their uncle. One would think that, if anybody among those two to three million Israelites had a close relationship with God, that family did. So one might think there may have been some leeway in God's judgment, but there was not! God reacted swiftly and violently.

Second, the charge against them was not because they consorted with prostitutes. No human sacrifices were planned or made. The charge was that they used "profane" (NKJV) or "strange" (KJV) fire.

But we need to look further. Just a few days before this startling event, Exodus 40 reveals the construction of the Tabernacle had been completed and its furniture arranged. Leviticus 1 begins listing the final procedures made for God to dwell in the Tabernacle. In Leviticus 8, the priesthood was consecrated, and in Leviticus 9, they made their first official offering using the Tabernacle and its furniture. Leviticus 9:22-24 says:

Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

This spectacular and serious event shows the offering's acceptance by God.

To this point, all was well, but we must consider a solemn command given by God to the Levites regarding their responsibilities in Leviticus 6:12-13:

And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. A perpetual fire shall burn on the altar; it shall never go out.

The altar fire was to be rekindled continually from its own coals, which remained from God's acceptance of the original offering. What was Nadab and Abihu's sin? They used coals from a fire not ignited by God. It was not from His hand and therefore was foreign fire.

If we read between the lines here, we can easily see that Aaron was shocked. He went right to the top of human leadership to get this straightened out, and Moses gave him God's answer: Do not mourn. Do not show any agreement with Nadab and Abihu. Do not show any disagreement with God's judgment.

Why? God's judgments are never wrong. Nadab and Abihu got what they deserved. God saw every aspect of their act as it unfolded. They had added or subtracted to what God commanded and died. They had tried to get by with what they carnally felt was acceptable.

The instruction is clear: Among those consecrated by God to serve Him and His family, His instructions must be explicitly followed. They totally disregarded what He had commanded in Leviticus 6:12-13. There is no ambiguity in the instructions. They had been completely and adequately informed. Each step and each instrument in the process had been designed to teach certain spiritual concepts. They had thought that common fire was good enough, but in their careless, presumptuous neglect, they had blatantly twisted God's Word.

This incident vividly illustrates that the wages of sin is death. Leviticus 10:3 says Aaron held his peace; he knew the judgment was correct. It was a shocking demonstration, but we can be certain that, because God is love and is supremely sovereign in His judgment, His every decision will be as correct as His judgment of Nadab and Abihu, since He Himself is the standard.

God is not a holy terror lying in wait for us to do something wrong, but He provides us examples such as this and several others of what He can do in response to sin. When He responds like this, He is fully justified. He wants us to consider His justice so that we will be better prepared to evaluate our calling properly and then live by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Judges 2:11-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Forms of the situation described here appear frequently in the history of Israel's relationship with God. Several hundred years after this, God inspired Isaiah to write, "Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation, and against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, to seize the spoil, to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets" (Isaiah 10:5-6). This can only mean that God inspires and empowers the Assyrian nation to punish the nations of Israel for their flagrant disobediences.

Such punishment precipitated Israel being scattered, taken into captivity into foreign lands, and losing their homeland, to which they have never returned. God remarks in II Kings 17:18, after providing a long list of Israel's sins, "Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone."

However, the tribe of Judah was hardly better than Israel, as II Kings 17:19 states: "Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made." The result was similar to Israel's, for in II Kings 24:2-4 God carried out His threats of punishment against Judah too:

And the Lord sent against [Jehoiakim] raiding bands of Chaldeans, bands of Syrians, bands of Moabites, and bands of the people of Ammon; He sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord which He had spoken by His servants the prophets. Surely at the commandment of the Lord this came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and because of the innocent blood that he had shed; for he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon.

Much negative, indeed inflammatory commentary, arose in America's newspapers and radio and television programs when some suggested that we are not as innocent as we like to think we are and that we must consider the attacks of September 11 to be a judgment from God and repent. The fact remains that, long before the attacks occurred, critics of American morality—Americans themselves—have been calling upon their fellow citizens to change their immoral ways. The attacks and a wave of sympathy for the grief of those directly impacted by them, as well as a sudden spurt of patriotism, changed the way people heard these messages. Before, they just tuned them out. After all, the messages were not for them but for others because they considered themselves to be okay. Afterward, however, the sense of being innocent victims of a sneaky and undeserved attack made the hearers feel that the messages were demeaning and insulting. But were they true?

In addition to the undisputed fact of God's sovereignty over Israel, ample additional evidence exists to show that He exercises equal dominion over the other nations of the world. He determines their rise and fall and the times of dominance of every nation. Clearly, God judges the inhabitants of His creation, and His judgments are not limited to Israel or to "biblical times." God lives and He always rules and judges—just as surely today as He did thousands of years ago. Since the One who judged during Old Testament times is the same One who judges today, we can be certain that He uses the same standards now that He did then. His laws, which define His standards of morality, have not changed one iota. Jesus emphatically asserts in the Sermon on the Mount that we should not think that He came to destroy the law or the prophets (Matthew 5:17). Indeed, Malachi 3:6 proclaims, "I am the Lord, I do not change," while Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus "is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

Is God to blame because He exercises His authority, punishing to maintain order and to continue the advancement of His purpose in His creation? Who sins and brings upon themselves the necessity of punishment? God does not sin, men do. If God does not punish for sin, then righteousness loses all meaning. Life will soon become a violent free-for-all (Ecclesiastes 8:11). The Bible makes it clear that human nature is violently evil, and when left unchecked as it was before the Flood, it will reproduce similar conditions (Genesis 6:5). Indeed, God forecasts that exactly those conditions will face those living just before Christ's return (Matthew 24:37). Every indication is that we live during that time now.

The Bible prophesies scores of horrific punishments: epidemics of incurable diseases; wars; fires burning fields, forests, and homes; earthquakes; famines; floods from raging seas; violent weather patterns; and infestations of insects and wild animals. All of these occur as punishments for sin as God exacts His vengeance on "those who destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:18). "Earth" here represents all aspects of His creation—including man—which He created for man.

God is most certainly not to blame if He reacts in accordance with what He has told man He will do. Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 establish that, if one does well, God will bless him. Conversely, God strongly warns that, if one does not do well, He will surely punish him. Though not to blame because His sins did not cause these tragedies, He is responsible for them because He at least allowed them to occur. He may even have inspired them to occur and oversaw events so that they would.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God to Blame?


 

Judges 9:22-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In these verses, God balances the scales of justice a bit by using a demon to requite Abimelech for killing the seventy sons of Gideon, thus implying that even evil spirits are forced to submit to God, too.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Five


 

1 Samuel 13:6-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

I Samuel 13:1-15 recounts the story of an act of presumption by another well-known figure, containing another valuable lesson for us. Saul arranged with the prophet Samuel to perform sacrifices in an appeal to God to intervene before Israel went into battle with the invading Philistines. Saul's sin was in presumptuously stepping in to perform Samuel's responsibilities when the prophet arrived later than the appointed time. Saul gave Samuel three justifications for his presumption: 1) The people were growing distressed and deserting him; 2) Samuel's late arrival; and 3) the growing threat of the Philistine army (verse 11).

On the surface, it appeared Saul and the Israelites were indeed in a difficult situation, yet Saul's reasons did not justify presuming to disobey what was commanded. He should have waited for Samuel to arrive and perform his responsibility. Saul, a Benjamite, could request a sacrifice be made and provide the animal for it, but he was not authorized by God to perform the sacrificial ceremony. Samuel was merely later than both he and Saul thought he would be.

Saul excused himself further by saying he "felt compelled." The King James Version records that Saul said, "I forced myself." This suggests that he was not ignorant of what he was doing but convinced himself it was more important to make the sacrifice than to obey God's instruction. He was immediately stripped of the opportunity of having his dynasty continue forever (verses 12-13), as God later promised David.

Many circumstances arise in a Christian's life when following God's commands runs counter to prevailing opinion and to our own fears about the threatening conditions we imagine are building around us if we obey God. Strong thoughts are then likely to mount, urging us to turn aside from what He says - "just this once" - to relieve the swelling pressures.

As our own children do not always understand what we tell them to do, we cannot always see why God tells us to do this or that. But can we trust God that His reasons are good? For instance, He tells us to set aside three tithes and to travel to far places to keep His feasts. He commands us to love our enemies and do good to them. He asks us to become like little children and to sacrifice ourselves in service when we would rather give orders. He tells us to submit ourselves to one another in love and to be subject to corrupt and unjust governments. Keeping these instructions is sometimes far easier said than done. Can we see God in the picture even in difficult circumstances and trust Him? In this case, Saul did not.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)


 

2 Samuel 12:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is the story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah the Hittite. Should God have struck David down as soon as he committed adultery? It could have started even earlier, when David looked at her while she was naked in the rooftop bathtub. Or was it after he planned with Joab to kill Uriah on the frontline? Or was it after the dirty deed was done, when Uriah was actually dead? God did not step in at any of those times. Do we realize how long He waited?

II Samuel 12:15 says that Nathan departed to his house, and the Lord struck the child that Uriah's wife bore. The whole period of gestation went by before Nathan came and said to David, "You've sinned." How far had David fallen from grace during this nine-month period since he had committed adultery? He had conspired to kill. He had actually not done the dirty deed himself, but it was attributed to him. Then he had taken Bathsheba as his wife.

Notice in II Samuel 11:27 that God had already imputed the evil to him; He had judged the matter. "But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord." This is a terrible translation. The margin has it more correctly: "But the thing that David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord." God calls a spade a spade, but He forbore to inflict the penalty for an important reason, which is found in Psalm 51. What did God's forebearance produce in David?

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight—that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. (Psalm 51:1-4)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You. (Psalm 51:10-13)

What did this episode produce in David? Repentance for sure, and tremendous growth in character. It produced Psalm 51 itself, which is a major piece of writing in all the history of the world. How many countless people has it taught repentance and the building of character? God had greater purposes here than merely punishing transgression. Remember, David did not get away with this, because when Nathan came to him, he said, "From this time on your house is going to have problems, buddy. You're not getting away with this sin. It's going to follow you for the rest of your days, and your childrens' and your grandchildrens'." If the throne of England is any witness to this, the punishment is still falling on David's house. There are problems in the family of David that frequently show up in sexual problems and war. They have terrible dynastic squabbles.

If God blasted everyone at the first sign of sin, we would never have the chance to build character. No one would ever make it into God's Kingdom. We would all be just oil spots on the road. We would never have the chance to repent and say, "God, I was wrong. Lead me in the right way. Please don't take your Holy Spirit from me. If you allow me to live, I'll teach sinners not to do as I have done."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

1 Chronicles 13:9-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

I Chronicles 13:1-3 introduces another episode containing a presumptuous act, immediately followed by a sobering display of divine justice. However, this time, one of the most respected names in Israelite history is directly involved. It is the story of Uzza's sudden death while moving the Ark of the Covenant, the most sacred and revered of Israelite objects. The Ark, representing the throne of God and containing the tablets of stone Moses received from God on Mount Sinai, normally resided in the Holy of Holies.

David desired to move the Ark to Jerusalem to continue to consolidate the kingdom under himself. As they were moving it on an oxcart, the oxen stumbled, and the Ark appeared to be toppling to the ground. Uzza, in what may have been pure reflex, put out his hand to steady the Ark, but upon touching it, he was immediately struck dead (verses 9-10)! At first, David was angry that God ruined his party (verses 8, 11) - as the whole atmosphere of the Ark's transfer was celebratory - but shortly after, he became extremely fearful (verse 12).

The Bible shows God to be longsuffering and slow to anger. Why did they not hear His voice from heaven saying, "Thank you, Uzza, for keeping the Ark from getting damaged and dirty"? Instead, He exploded in anger and slew Uzza on the spot! However, God had given strict instructions for transporting the Ark, found in Numbers 4:4, 15, 17-20:

This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of meeting, relating to the most holy things: . . . And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is set to go, then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them; but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die. These are the things in the tabernacle of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry. . . . Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: "Do not cut off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from among the Levites; but do this in regard to them, that they may live and not die when they approach the most holy things; Aaron and his sons shall go in and appoint each of them to his service and his task. But they shall not go in to watch while the holy things are being covered, lest they die."

The Bible nowhere indicates that Uzza was a Kohathite. If he was, what God did is even more understandable. Everyone in the whole procedure from David on down was guilty of disobeying God's instructions regarding the most holy things. David failed to consult with the High Priest - or any priest, for that matter - regarding how the Ark should be moved. Evidently, no priest protested that proper procedures were not being followed.

The Kohathites were not even supposed to look on the uncovered Ark. To God, when Uzza reached out and touched the Ark as it seemed about to topple off the cart, it was no act of heroism but the final act of desecration, arrogance, and presumption. The last thing presumed was that Uzza's hand was less defiling than the earth that he feared would contaminate the Ark.

God's instruction in Exodus 20:24-25 regards building Him an altar. An altar made for His worship had to be constructed of earth or unhewn stones. No altar defiled by man's sinful hand was suitable. Dirt cannot sin; it always follows the nature God established. God did not want the symbol of His throne contaminated by the evil that manifested itself in a whole string of rebellions against His specific instructions. There was nothing arbitrary, capricious, or whimsical in God's action.

Jesus teaches us to address God as "Father," a title suggesting familiarity, yet we are also to pray, "Hallowed be Your name." God shows in these two incidents that, if reverence is due to the symbols used in His worship, how much greater reverence must be given to the realities of the New Covenant?

Those involved in this incident were well-intentioned, but it illustrates for all generations that God still requires conformity with His directives concerning holy objects. Deviation from orthodoxy can be deadly.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)


 

Job 42:1-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is the conclusion, the climax, of his long and detailed story. Now Job can see God. From the context, properly seeing God involves getting the self out of the way! As long as self was in his line of sight, Job judged God by his own perspective. Remember, we see what we want to see, what we are educated to see. So Job saw his own wisdom, his own works, and they blocked his view of God in His greatness. The carnal mind is trained to do this.

It takes great determination, discipline in study and in prayer, and meditation to break oneself of that natural, carnal mode of thinking. Even when we succeed, we have to understand that our vision of God still has to be constantly replenished—"day by day," Paul says (II Corinthians 4:16)—and upgraded, refocused, exercised, as it were, in the truth.

Job's case is particularly interesting. Job thought he knew God well, but he was painfully unaware that there was still much that he did not know. During his sufferings, he threw a great many direct challenges at God in an effort either to justify himself or to understand why he was going through this trial. Yet, God never directly answered any of Job's challenges! Instead, beginning in chapter 38, He leads Job to see his own insignificance in light of God's greatness. Most people do not realize that in the entire book Job never repents of sin. Sin is not the issue! The issue is that, despite Job's extensive knowledge of God, he did not see Him as all-powerful! He did realize that God alone puts down evil and brings to pass all of His holy will.

We can tell the real issue in the book of Job by what God says in chapters 38-41. God makes two speeches. It is not Job's self-righteousness—certainly apparent—that God addresses, but his questioning of God's justice in the governance of His creation.

When Job opens his mouth to speak in Job 42:1-6, it is to tell God that he got the point: God's purpose is all that counts! In addition, since He is God, He can bring it to pass. God has the right, the will, and the loving nature to do anything He pleases to anybody at any time—and good will result.

Do we believe that? A caution, however: A man as spiritually mature as Job did not—until the end of the book.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Do You See God? (Part Two)


 

Psalm 10:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The psalm begins with a question. The psalmist has evidently been observing something in life, and he is quite bothered about it. Perhaps he has been praying and thinking about it for quite a long time. What has been bothering him is: Why do proud, evil people prosper? Why does not God take action? Why do they seem to receive the good things of life? The benefit we get from the psalmist's musings and meditations is instruction on the way the proud act.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 6)


 

Psalm 92:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The psalmist encourages us to thank God for His justice upon His and our enemies. Is it right that we should be thankful for God's judgment and punishment upon them? We certainly should not gloat over their fate (Proverbs 24:17-18). However, we would be wise to remember the just punishments of Nadab and Abihu, of Eli's sons, of Uzzah, and of Ananias and Sapphira. We must beware of thinking of God as harsh or rash in His judgments. God's enemies are our enemies too, and His punishment of them is for our good (and ultimately theirs).

Staff
Thanksgiving


 

Proverbs 26:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We can understand "curse" in several ways: as the invoking of evil or misfortune upon another, or as the evil or scourge itself. The proverb primarily deals with invoking a curse against another when no justification for doing so exists. Such a curse is akin to the aimless flitting of birds, suggesting that it will have no effect. It will not "hit" its intended target.

We can definitely consider the tragedies of September 11 as a curse. However, God undoubtedly approved of it, or it never would have happened. This curse hit, and it hit hard. Therefore, we must conclude that there was more than ample justification for it falling upon this nation. The death toll was approximately 3,000 people, a horrendous figure to be sure, but it pales when compared to just one other death-toll figure: Every day in the United States over 4,000 human lives are snuffed out of existence by abortion. In the 30 days following September 11, 120,000 lives ceased to exist. Of those 120,000 abortions, 95% of them—114,000—occurred solely for the mother's convenience!

Is it any wonder that God cries out in Ezekiel 7:23, "Make a chain, for the land is filled with crimes of blood, and the city is full of violence." George Mason, whose great influence can be seen in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, wrote that sin "brings the judgment of heaven upon a country. . . . By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence [God] punishes national sin by national calamities." George Washington declared in his First Inaugural Address, "We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained."

The apostle Paul states in Romans 9:14. "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!" As a people, we are guilty and fully deserve anything He in His loving wisdom decides to inflict upon us. Most assuredly, we are not innocent victims. Individually, few of us have sinned against any of the people, groups, or nations that may have done this, but as citizens, we are part of this nation, and our well-being rises and falls with it. We have eagerly accepted God's overflowing abundance of material blessings with which He showered this nation. So when He judges that we need to be brought down a peg—or many pegs—we would do well to consider deeply the many ways we may have offended the great God who created us and gives us every breath of air we breathe.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God to Blame?


 

Ecclesiastes 8:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Human nature is so tricky that it can deceive even one who is converted into taking the grace of God for granted. Human nature has the tendency to pull a person further and further into sin. If God does not execute His wrath and justice immediately against such a person, and instead gives him grace, He allows that person an opportunity to continue to live longer so that grace can work in his life and lead him to repentance. "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Ecclesiastes 8:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The righteous seem to receive all of the bad things, and the wicked seem to go through life unscathed, untouched. They have the big cars and the nice houses on the hill. They can take fancy vacations. Nothing bad ever seems to happen to them.

A main reason that I Peter 2:18-24 was written is to warn us that sometimes the innocent are caught in God's justice. They will have to suffer for something that they have not caused. The test for us is whether we will be able to accept God's justice, His judgment, and take it in the same spirit that Christ did. If anyone could ever cry out, "Unfair! Unfair!" Jesus Christ would have to be the One.

How about us? What trials have we gone through, in which we did not cause the trial but became caught in somebody else's sin? It is very easy in such cases to cry out to God, "Unfair! Unfair! God, why are You allowing this to happen to me?" The implication of our complaint is, "After all the good things that I've done for You, God, You treat me like this." We are, in effect, trying to vindicate ourselves. We become frustrated and accusative, never even stopping to think that, if we received truly fair treatment, we would get what happened to Nadab and Abihu and Ananias and Sapphira!

God wants to see if we have faith in His judgment, in Him as an absolutely perfect Judge. Do we trust Him, or do we only trust Him when the going is good?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Isaiah 28:16-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verse 17, the plumb line is defined as justice and righteousness. We have seen that already in our word "upright," a synonym of "vertical." What is upright is righteous, and God will judge according to that standard. He will set us up so that we can see—and He can see—how close we are adhering to godly judgment and right doing. He and we will see how much we are living by the standard.

He writes, ". . . the hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters will overflow the hiding place." The process of this judgment will sweep away 1) the deceptions that we have allowed ourselves to believe and 2) the hidden, secret sins that we have allowed to continue. We will not be able to hide from the lies and the sins that we have ignored for so long.

The plumb line is nothing to sneeze at. God is serious. When He holds the plumb line next to His people, He is deadly serious, "eternal life and death" serious—especially to those who are converted. We had better measure up.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 5)


 

Isaiah 40:27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

They are saying, "Oh! God does not see how good I am. God, You are not treating me fairly."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Isaiah 40:28  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Though God's normal activity involves far more mercy than justice, we have to operate with the understanding, the conviction, that God owes us nothing. He knows exactly what is happening. If He allows a tower to fall on our heads this afternoon, we cannot claim any injustice on God's part. He has already given us so much mercy that it is beyond our understanding.

All of us receive injustices from the hand of men, and we do not deal anywhere near as fairly with each other as we should. We want everything in our dealings with others to go favorably for us, for that is what we feel is fair. Israel is saying a similar thing here.

One thing is certain, however: None of us has ever received the slightest injustice from the hand of God. As we grow in understanding and humility, we begin to see that we have received an overwhelming abundance of grace.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

Isaiah 56:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word in the Hebrew for "justice" is very close to the word love in actual application. The English word means to be fair, and to be fair is to love everybody.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 4)


 

Isaiah 65:20-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Last Great Day foreshadows the Great White Throne Judgment period. The prevalent conditions of the Millennium - God's government, peace, prosperity, etc. - will continue into this time, just as the Last Great Day follows the Feast of Tabernacles. From Isaiah 65:20, some speculate that this judgment will last a hundred years, the life span of a healthy individual.

Martin G. Collins
Holy Days: Last Great Day


 

Jeremiah 30:8-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In all of God's dealings with Israel and Judah, and especially regarding the Second Exodus, we see His perfect application of justice and mercy. He is just, because He does not allow their sin to go unpunished. We could not trust God if He did not hold to His promises of blessing and cursing (Numbers 23:19; Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). If He allowed Israel and Judah to sin with impunity, His laws would have no authority, and His words would be of no consequence. However, for the sake of what is best for Jacob, God has to show him that He is serious about what He says. So His justice will be upheld as Israel and Judah are brought to the painful realization that they have forsaken Him and have been living the wrong way.

Yet, we can also see God's mercy in His dealings with His people. Today's Western culture—a product of the nations of Israel—is not so very different from Sodom and Gomorrah. The same sins are committed in the same brazen manner. Our regard for humanity is so low that in America alone during the last three decades, an estimated 40-50 million pre-born children have been killed for the sake of convenience. Further, God has been systematically removed from schools, from government, and from public life. Post-Christian Europe has transgressed even further. Even Jerusalem—the "Holy City"—has an annual "Gay Pride" parade, and is essentially secular.

Despite these atrocious sins, God will not utterly destroy Israel as He did to Sodom and Gomorrah. A number of latter-day prophecies of various peoples—the Edomites, for example—foretell that God will make a complete end of them (Jeremiah 46:28). However, He has chosen not to do this with Israel and Judah, though not because they are righteous in any way.

He will show them mercy because of the promises He made, not because they deserve it. Ezekiel 36 shows this clearly. God repeats several times that He is bringing Israel back for His name's sake, and not for Israel's sake:

"Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "I do not do this [restoring Israel and blessing the land; verses 6-15] for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD," says the Lord GOD, "when I am hallowed in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. . . . Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. Not for your sake do I do this," says the Lord GOD, "let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!" (Ezekiel 36:22-24, 31-32)

God would be unfaithful to His own promises if He annihilated Jacob's descendants—even though, by all accounts, it is exactly what they deserve.

David C. Grabbe
The Second Exodus (Part Two)


 

Lamentations 3:31-33  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses assure us there is loving purpose and compassionate consideration involved in God's affliction. This statement almost sounds like "this is going to hurt Me more than it does you." His discipline is always tempered by mercy. If He applied strict justice, He could lawfully kill us all off because that is what we deserve.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Pride, Humility, and the Day of Atonement


 

Daniel 9:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Daniel establishes that God was righteous in what He did. We get what we deserve.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Avoiding Superficiality


 

Amos 1:3-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Before Amos gives specific reasons for God's judgment on Israel, he explains His judgment on the surrounding nations in Amos 1:3—2:3. Some may question God's punishment of nations to whom He has not revealed Himself. But God's response is that every human being knows—to one degree or another—what is moral and immoral (Romans 2:14-15). Abimelech, a pagan king of the Philistines, knew that it was wrong to commit sexual immorality (Genesis 26:10). In like manner, God holds these surrounding nations guilty.

Man has learned to silence the voice of his conscience (Romans 1:18), which has led to his sinking into total depravity (verses 20-32). Though God does not hold man accountable for understanding every detail of Him and His way, God does judge him for suppressing the knowledge of Him that he does have.

God does not unfairly accuse anyone. When He judges the Gentile nations as guilty, He does it with good cause. David writes poetically in Psalm 19:1-4 that man has ample evidence in the creation to conclude that a great and awesome Creator God exists. In Lystra, Paul and Barnabas preached that God witnesses to the Gentiles through the many things He provides for them (Acts 14:12-17). Paul writes similarly in Romans 1:19: "What may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them." If he follows his conscience, man should bow down in reverence and awe to his Maker. Instead, mankind has worshipped things that God has made.

God's impartial judgment is important to this book. The nations around Israel in 760 BC had one negative common denominator: They had no revelation of God or His law, no priests or prophets from God. Yet Amos shows them as nations under judgment. Even without special revelation, they had a moral responsibility to God and to one another.

They were accountable to God to be good men, not depraved animals. He does not hold them responsible for their horrible and erroneous religious ideas, but He judges them for what they did or failed to do to other men. No human being can escape the obligation to be humanly moral as God intended, not even the Gentiles. Though God has never dealt directly with them, they know enough of His moral standards to be accountable to God.

If God requires this of men who have no revelation of Him, what does He require of us as Christians? The sobering fact is that we are held accountable for our relationship with both God and man. This underlines our need to listen to Amos.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 1:3-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's judgment of Syria focuses on her use of total war—take no prisoners and leave nothing productive. Amos says to them: "War or no war, you had no right to treat people like that!" It is barbarism, and even in war people must be treated honorably and well.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 1:3-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In one way or another, these Gentile nations took vengeance in retaliation for injustices that they believed other nations committed against them. God promises to judge their barbarity, but He does not say when. Many years may pass before He takes action because His overriding goal is repentance and a change in character.

He will execute proper judgment—true justice, and it is our responsibility to have faith in that. Fifty years passed before God avenged the depredating acts of Hazael, king of Syria, against Gilead (Amos 1:3; II Kings 10:32-33). God waited for the right time and place to act. But He did act with a punishment from which He will not turn back (II Kings 13:22-25). When He decides to act, He acts!

When He says that He knows our sitting down and rising up (Psalm 139:2), He is not speaking metaphorically. He is involved with His people. We must learn that sometimes God may not take action within our lifetime, but when He says, "I will repay" (Romans 12:19; Deuteronomy 32:35), He means it!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 2:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Law in Amos 2:4 refers to instruction, not legislation and its enforcement. From a verb that means "to throw," its root describes casting lots or throwing dice. When lots or dice were cast, God revealed His will in the way they landed (Proverbs 16:33; see Leviticus 16:8-10; Acts 1:26). At times lots were used in making judgments in criminal cases in which God's will needed to be ascertained (Joshua 7:13-25). Thus, by setting a legal precedent, the casting of lots served to give instruction in other cases in which the same basic principles of behavior were involved. God's will—His law—was taught to His people through the casting of lots.

This instruction process implies a teacher-student relationship. When the Israelites rejected God's instruction contained in His law, they rejected the Instructor as well. Their relationship with Him quickly deteriorated.

Commandment means "to engrave or cut into stone," suggesting its permanence and immutability in contrast to temporary and changeable lies. The law comes from an unchangeable, righteous, and pure God in contrast to fickle and iniquitous men.

Judah's despising of God's law and revelation of Himself was internal—from the heart (Psalm 78:37; 81:11-12; Jeremiah 5:23). The personal and social failures Amos records are evidence that the people had rejected the truth. So it is with us: God wants to change our hearts so He can change our actions and turn around our lives.

In every area of life, Israel perverted the truth of God to accommodate the ideas of men. In the final tally, they loved lies rather than the revelation of God (II Thessalonians 2:11-12). Thus Amos says that God's people despised His law. They made the mistake of devaluing their calling and considered it common. Believing they were God's elect, they thought they were irrevocably saved. With this attitude it was only a matter of time before spiritual and moral complacency set in. As the church of God, we cannot allow ourselves to slip into this attitude because we, too, would fall into immorality.

If that occurs, God must pass judgment because His justice is the same for everybody (Colossians 3:25; I Peter 1:17). God's laws govern the people on the outside as well as the people on the inside. No matter what makes Israel or the church distinctly different, His judgment is always righteous. When God could not change Israel's immorality through His prophets, He had to punish them. So will He punish an apostate church.

It is easy to see why this book is written to the end-time church. The people of America and the British Commonwealth are already in the moral and spiritual condition of the people of Israel and Judah in the time of Amos. Members of God's church come out of such a world. Just as Israel's privileged position became a curse, so will it be for the Christian who ultimately rejects his calling (Hebrews 6:4).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 3:3-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"A lion has roared" (Amos 3:8) concludes the section that began with "The Lord roars from Zion" (Amos 1:2). The Lord, "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5), has roared against Israel to take heed. When a lion roars, anyone within hearing distance should change the direction of his path, especially if the lion is very close!

Amos 3:3-6 contains seven consecutive questions. After the first one (verse 3), the remaining three pairs of questions consist of a sequence of "before" and "after" illustrations:

  • When a lion roars (verse 4), he is warning others of his presence—there is still time to escape. When a young lion cries out of his den, however, he is content because he has killed and eaten. It is too late to escape.
  • Birds cannot fall into a snare when there is no trap (verse 5), but the trap always springs when one walks into it.
  • The trumpet warns of danger coming (verse 6), but it cannot sound if the watchman is already dead and the city has been taken.

The Lord has done what He warned He would do. While the threat is being made, one can still escape, but once judgment begins, it is too late.

When a lion sees his prey, he will try to kill it. When the divine Lion roars, the people need to shake off their complacency because His roar means He is about to spring into action! He means what He says about living His way of life, and He follows through when we depart from it.

Some people, like birds, unwittingly stumble into trouble. Oblivious to everything around them, they fall into traps, like being swindled by con men or crafty deceivers. God's people are often just like birds, unsuspectingly going to their destruction, unmindful of the dangers around them. In other words, God is warning: "Don't be a birdbrain!" We must think about the direction that we are heading. In His mercy, God always warns His people of coming calamity, either through His prophets (Amos 3:7) or through escalating disasters that lead to His ultimate judgment.

Unlike the other six questions, Amos 3:3 stands alone without a second question following it: "Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?" It pictures a couple who have arranged to meet and do something together; they have a date. In the language of the Bible, this agreement is a covenant. God considered His covenant with Israel to be a marriage (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:8, 14). Could the silent second question be: "Can a marriage be restored if the bill of divorce has already been issued?"

God chose to withdraw Himself from Israel because He realized He had nothing in common with her. They could not walk together any longer. But in Amos' day, the divorce was not yet final; reconciliation between God and His people was still possible.

But there came a point in Israel's history that it was too late. The die had been cast. Repentance was no longer possible. The trumpet blew, the trap sprang, the lion pounced.

Through Amos, God is warning our nations today that similar, devastating calamities lie just ahead, and escape from them is still possible. As yet, the lion has not pounced—it is not too late.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 4:6-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God's people were very busy making money, accumulating things, and practicing their religion. But God was also very busy—sending famines, droughts, blights, locusts, epidemics, warfare, and possibly earthquakes in judgment for their unrighteousness (Amos 4:6-11). He hoped that they would heed these "minor" warnings before He sent the rod of His anger against them (Isaiah 10:5).

Rain fell on one part of the country and not on another. When it rained, it rained too much, causing floods. In other places just enough rain fell to deceive the people into feeling a sense of hope—that it was not so bad after all.

We see this in the United States. Natural disasters—insurance companies call them "acts of God"—are growing more frequent and more intense, killing many and causing billions of dollars in damage. Floods ravaged the Midwest in 1993, while drought killed crops in other areas. After a year or so of good rainfall, California fell back into drought conditions—only to suffer from floods a year later! Fires rage over thousands of acres after periods of drought, destroying forests and homes. Sudden earthquakes, storms, tornadoes, and extreme temperatures destroy homes, businesses, and lives.

It never seems to get quite bad enough to send the nation into a real tailspin, but it is just enough that, like the Egyptian Pharaoh of the Exodus (Exodus 7:13-14), we continue to harden our hearts. We fail to repent. If the unrepentant attitude continues, the "natural" disasters will intensify, bankrupting the nation economically. Since money seems to be the nation's foremost god, the true God will hit where it hurts most.

The vast majority of Americans have become so far removed from God that they lack the eyes to see and the ears to hear the warnings He sends. Educated in a system that fundamentally denies God, they lack understanding. They interpret God's warnings as natural events—just nature running her course. An earthquake or flood or drought is viewed as "nature doing her thing."

Rather than heed the warning and repent, Americans turn to their other false gods—science and technology—to bail them out. "Design better levies to protect us from floods," they cry. "Seed the clouds to produce more rain." "Engineer stronger buildings to withstand more powerful earthquakes." "Science will someday give us the ability to predict—even stop—earthquakes." Americans have eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear (Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 13:14-15).

In these disasters, God is saying something quite different—something vitally important. He is warning the people that they have a responsibility, and if they fail to live under their covenant with Him, He has the power to correct them so that they will repent. So, in fairness and mercy, God lays a simple choice before them: "Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" (Amos 4:12). Their choice is either to face their sins and repent, or face the wrath of a just God.

To bring about His purpose, God is active in His creation, especially among His people, whether physical or spiritual Israel. "If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?" (Amos 3:6). Is God involved in our lives? Do things happen by chance to the people of God? This world would have you believe that God really is not aware, that He does not care or even exist! But He says, "I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things" (Isaiah 45:7).

Is God involved? "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:29-30). Do we see God working in our lives? Events do not happen accidentally to God's people, of whom God is very aware. He is very concerned and thus very involved.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Amos 7:7-9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In construction, the plumb line tests whether what was erected is perpendicular to the square, that is, if it is straight up and down, if it is upright. It provides a standard against which one can measure what he has built. Metaphorically, when God draws near with the plumb line, He is looking for those people who are living and abiding in His grace and His law. The Israelites' moral standards had degenerated, so their religious profession was not verified by the right kind of works. They were not upright; they failed the test.

Amos has no opportunity to intercede at this point. God will no longer relent. "I will not pass by them anymore" means that God would not overlook their sins any longer. And, if He will not pass by them, He must pass through them. The plumb line shows that He will pass through "with the sword" in judgment; His patience and forgiveness have finally ended. He could no longer defer the punishment for their sins—the time had come to destroy them.

God passes through by destroying "the high places of Isaac," the altars and idols of the false religions responsible for the moral, spiritual, and ethical decline of the people. They worshipped Baal and a host of other foreign deities (Judges 10:6). They set up sacred pillars and idols throughout the land (I Kings 14:23; II Kings 17:10-13). Some of them even burned their sons in the fire to Molech (Ezekiel 16:20-21). Through their spiritual harlotry, they abused grace—the free, unmerited pardon of God—and rejected His law.

"The sanctuaries of Israel," the religious shrines of Bethel, Dan, Gilgal, and Beersheba, would also be among the first to fall. They were the fountainheads of the attitudes of the nation. In them the people were taught to seek the material prosperity that characterized the nation, and in part they sought this physical abundance through cultic fornication and fertility rituals done in the name of the eternal God. The religions taught the people how to sin and do it religiously.

Next, "the house of Jeroboam" would fall through war. Amos refers to Jeroboam I, after whom Jeroboam II was named, and worse, after whom he followed in his sins. God selected Jeroboam I to become king of the northern ten tribes of Israel after Solomon (I Kings 11:29-31), however He made the continuance of Jeroboam's dynasty contingent upon his obedience (verse 38).

But Jeroboam did not trust God. He thought that the religious festivals and sacrifices would entice Israel to return to David's line in Judah (I Kings 12:25-27). To counter that possibility, he set up counterfeit shrines in Bethel and Dan and changed the Feast of Tabernacles from the seventh month to the eighth (I Kings 12:27-33). Jeroboam turned away from the law of God, causing the people to sin.

Historians examine economics, social conditions, and military strength to determine what causes the rise or fall of nations, but God shows that His purpose and the morality of the people are the true causes. Thus, God makes sure that the two major motivators of Israel's spiritual decline, the religious and political leadership, would feel His wrath first (Isaiah 9:13-16).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Habakkuk 1:5-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the first chapter, the prophet Habakkuk was upset with God because He had made prophecies regarding where Judah's punishment would come from—from the Chaldeans. Habakkuk was irritated by this because he considered the Chaldeans to be worse than the Judeans. His questions run: "God, why are you doing this? Why don't you at least punish us by a righteous nation instead of sending upon us a nation far worse than we are?"

That was the way Habakkuk looked at it. God did not look at it that way because He would not have sent the Chaldeans if He did not think it was the right thing for Him to do. Maybe they were worse in an overall sense, but who was more responsible for what they were—the Chaldeans or the Jews? Had the Chaldeans had God's way revealed to them as the Judeans had? Of course not. Maybe the Judeans were not as bad on paper, maybe statistically, but they were more responsible. To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).

God would punish them with a hasty nation, He says, a nation violent and rapacious in the way it did things. Habakkuk did not like that one bit, so he appealed to God, and his appeal was hotly delivered.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part 2)


 

Matthew 5:38-40  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What kind of justice does God dispense? Is it based on a so-called cruel Old Testament law? The "Christian" churches of this world say that Jesus came to do away with that law. Preposterous! Without law as a foundation, there can be no justice. Jesus explicitly says, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill" (Matthew 5:17).

Some think that Jesus condemns the Old Testament system of justice in Matthew 5:38-40. However, He is correcting, not nullifying, an abuse of the eye-for-an-eye principle, which the Romans called Lex Talionis. The Jews of His day were advocating it for settling personal disputes. In effect, each person was taking justice into his own hands, and Jesus says that was not His intent when He gave it to their forefathers.

Considered by many to be barbaric and primitive, the eye-for-an-eye principle is, on the contrary, the basis for God's system of judgment, of civil law, for ruling a nation (Exodus 21:22-25; Leviticus 24:19-20). It has its foundation in equal justice as provided by equal payment for damage done. God established this principle so that a judge could be merciful in evaluating the circumstances of the crime and render a fair and just decision in cases of sin against other men.

This does not mean that if A bloodies B's nose, then B has to punch A in the nose in return. Lex Talionis requires commensurate payment for damage done, punishment fitting the crime. It is the basis for evenhanded justice, demanding fair compensation for damages. As implemented in God's law, Lex Talionis was enforced with a system of fines—with the money paid to the injured party, not to the state (e.g. Exodus 21:22, 28-32).

Though it was to be the basic law, a judge had the power to give mercy. For instance, if he determined that B really goaded A into punching his nose, he was free to show mercy along with the payment required. In His judgment of us, God does the same. When we deserve death because of sin, God shows us mercy by allowing Christ's blood to cover our transgressions. He has decided to forgo the strict application of the eye-for-an-eye principle and extend mercy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)


 

Matthew 10:27-28  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is not unreasonable that we should fear God. Jesus Christ Himself says that we are to fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. Why? He is the only One who can revoke the judgment of Gehenna fire. The wages of sin is death in Gehenna fire. If we want to escape this punishment, we can see that it is closely connected to whether or not we actually fear God.

Why? What does the fear of God have to do with escaping a judgment that would otherwise take us into the Lake of Fire?

This series of verses in Matthew 10 contains some encouragement, indicating that, if one really fears God, then there is no need to be fearful of others. Proverbs 29:25 plainly tells us, "The fear of man is a snare." This is an attitude in which we do not want to be entrapped. It is obvious, in the context of Matthew 10:27, that He is talking about fear in the sense of "dread." We are not to fear men because the worst that they can do does not even begin to match the worst that God can do! The basis for this is what God is: omnipotent and omniscient, and in Him are the issues of life and death!

The Christian life is our calling; this is our only chance for salvation. We have been personally chosen by God. The elect are an insignificant number, and we are even more insignificant personally. Yet, He has given us this calling. The world population is somewhere in the vicinity of six billion people, and out of this huge number are a miniscule few who are truly converted and have been given the Spirit of God. This is not something that we want to pass up! The fear of God is crucial to our salvation!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fear of God


 

Luke 19:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The nobleman's uncompromising character and their fear of his judgment set his citizens against him. Since his servants knew the nobleman was demanding, they should have wisely made the best use of the money he had entrusted to them. But since they knew his character ahead of time and the strict compliance he required, they had no right to complain when they were condemned (verse 22-27).

In the end, Jesus' rebellious "citizens" cast off all restraint (John 19:14-16), resulting in Him paying the penalty for sin. Christ is patient in spite of the resistance He receives, and when He returns to earth to establish His Kingdom, He will deal with all rebels decisively. We know that God is just and fair and will call us into account for our actions. We should be prepared to meet Him with proof of our increase.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Minas


 

John 7:37  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

As the God of the Old Testament (John 1:1-3, 14), Jesus personally instituted the Last Great Day to symbolize the Great White Throne Judgment. As Judge of mankind, Christ is great in all His attributes; He is the perfect Judge of all (John 5:22, 24-30). We can also see the greatness of this period in the huge number of people who will be mercifully and lovingly judged and granted eternal life.

Martin G. Collins
Holy Days: Last Great Day


 

John 12:48  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God will judge us by the things written in the "books," that is, His Word. The Bible contains God's laws, the standard of righteousness by which everyone is judged.

Staff
Basic Doctrines: Eternal Judgment


 

Romans 2:1-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verse 1, Paul says that anybody participating even in some of the more easily mastered practices of human nature is putting himself on dangerous spiritual quicksand. Today, in the wake of the breakup of the Worldwide Church of God, a common judgment is to call Herbert Armstrong into account yet say at the end, "But I loved him." Those who do this have overlooked how vulnerable and subject to God's judgment this makes them.

Verse 2 carries Paul's warning a step further by reminding us that God judges according to truth. Those who judge and act as Paul describes in verse 1 have precious little truth. However, this major element gives God the right to judge. He alone knows all the facts and can arrange them all in the light of perfect righteousness.

He reveals in verse 3 the weak position of those judging: They are guilty of committing the same sins, or ones just as bad, as those they are judging! Paul is saying that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones! In fact, their judgment of others may be one of those sins! In verse 4, he counsels them to lay aside their pride and concentrate on making the best use of God's patience by repenting of their sins.

In verse 5, the apostle plays on the word "riches" in the previous verse. Physical wealth is something one normally sets aside and treasures, but those who persist in evil works are "treasuring up" judgment for themselves! Verses 6 through 11 are a classic argument for the doing of good works after justification from the mind and pen of the very man most often accused of saying no works are necessary.

Within the context of the entire book, Paul is saying here that, while a person is justified by grace through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, establishing a relationship with God that because of sin never before existed, good works should result from justification. Good works are the concrete, open, and public expression of the reality of our relationship with God. They are its witness.

Just as surely as day follows night, if our faith truly is in God, the works that follow will be according to God's will. Living by God's will should be the natural consequence of faith in God. Though we are justified by faith, II Corinthians 5:10 spells out that we are judged according to our works. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." Is it not logical, then, for a person, knowing he will be judged according to his works, to want at least some clearly stated absolutes to show him what is expected of him rather than a fuzzy and vague statement about loving one another? Would not such a person want to know more specifically what constitutes love?

In Romans 2:7, Paul is not saying using one's faith will be easy, but that those who have that faith will use it to work. "Patient continuance" presupposes a measure of hardship, and "seek" implies pursuing something not yet attained. Together, they indicate a persistent quest of God's righteousness. In verse 10, the apostle uses the phrase "to everyone who works what is good." He does not define what "good" is at this point, but whatever it is, work is necessary to accomplish it. In verses 11-12, he reiterates that we will be judged, introducing a word that many seem to find so repulsive: law!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Four): Obligation


 

Romans 2:12-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We cannot be justified before God except through faith in the sacrifice of God's Son, Jesus Christ, and then God gives us grace. This does not excuse us from keeping the law because He says those who keep the law will be justified; therefore, keeping the law cannot justify. It cannot save a person, but those who keep the law will be justified and saved—not because they are keeping the law in order to be saved but because they are faithful in showing God that they are preparing their lives for His Kingdom, where everybody will live the same godly life, according to the same rules. That is what God's law outlines—His way of life.

This section, up to verse 16, shows that both those with a formal ignorance of God's law (say, the Gentiles) and those with knowledge of the law (in this case, the Jews, or in our context now, Christians) will be judged by the law. Why? Because the law defines sin! Sin brings God's judgment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 16)


 

Romans 3:21-26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God can forbear with us because Jesus Christ came to this earth and died for all of us. If we repent and ask God forgiveness, then Christ's blood covers all of our sins. Justice has been done. The sin has been paid for by the blood of Christ. God can thus forbear with us and allow us to "get away" with our sins for a while, because if we repent, then Jesus Christ's blood covers our sins, and justice is done. A person died for those sins—our Creator, Jesus Christ.

But if we do not repent, what happens? We die, and the penalty is paid. So this is a kind of legal maneuver by God. His forbearance is allowed under His legal system because Jesus Christ's blood pays the penalty for our sins. He can be merciful and lenient for a while, and whether we repent, or whether we do not repent, justice is ultimately served because a death occurs—either Jesus' or ours. This is the legal basis for why He can be forbearing. He has already taken care of it, one way or the other.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

Romans 5:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One can justifiably say that this expression of God's faithfulness is the pivot upon which turns His whole purpose for humanity. God calls and then through His goodness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). I John 1:9 then adds, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Since Christ has come and died that we might be pardoned and cleansed, God's faithfulness is part of His grace. He would not be faithful to His promises, His past acts in Christ's works, or His calling that has sounded in our ears unless, when we obeyed the call and confessed, He allowed us to enter into the full possession of His pardoning grace. In other words, our forgiveness and cleansing, the receiving of favor from Him, is a product of His faithfulness.

God's faithfulness in these areas has far-reaching, practical ramifications for us. That God is faithful means that His character is unchangingly consistent. The unalterable structure of the universe consists of both justice and forgiveness. God never acts in contradiction of Himself, and in all experiences we may depend on Him to be unalterably just and forgiving toward us. Because He is faithful, He can be the central and most important object of our faith. Could we trust a god if we were never sure what he would do?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

Romans 6:23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Not a single person would be alive if God responded to sin as carnal man wants to respond to sins that directly affect him. Consider that, in the scenario of killing in self-defense, the one killing is judging that his life is more important than the life he is willing to snuff out. One sinner accounts his life to be of more worth than the life of another sinner. Would God make the same determination?

David C. Grabbe
Does Scripture Allow for Killing in Self-Defense?


 

Romans 9:14-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Sometimes these concepts are tough mental nuts for us to crack and swallow because we emotionally recoil at thinking of God as doing the things Paul mentions. Nevertheless, the Bible's record is true. Clearly, the sovereign God, in working out His plan, purposely makes people for destruction, while at the same time giving abundant grace in His calling to others who are just as worthy of destruction as those destroyed! Were Pharaoh and the Egyptians any worse sinners than the Israelites? Hardly, but in God's purpose they died while the Israelites received grace.

As Paul says, there is no unrighteousness in God. He is free to exercise His powers as He wills. His actions are always done in love, and in the end, they will produce righteousness, love, and honor for Him. The Egyptians will be saved. When God gives them grace in the Great White Throne Judgment, they will come to know Him and glorify Him as their God too.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part Two)


 

Romans 9:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul says, "How can we even think such a thing?"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

Romans 11:19-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul directs this passage toward Gentiles as part of an admonition he wanted them to consider regarding their calling into the church. We, too, must seriously consider God's goodness and severity. God is not only what we commonly think of as love. His character is perfectly balanced by a sense of justice for all concerned and for His purpose too. To be just is to be fair, evenhanded, and impartial. God will always be fair because even His justice is executed in love and is an act of love.

God is not only supreme in power and authority, but He is also supreme in judgment. His mind pierces through all of the justifications we make to excuse our bad attitudes and conduct as measured against His righteous standard. So, if we desire to live by faith, we must seriously consider His sense of justice because what we may think is a small matter, an event of no great magnitude, may trigger God to react with terrible swiftness and severe consequences that leave us wondering why. Scripture records a number of these sudden, violent reactions.

We must begin by understanding that we do not see the entire picture as God does. The reality of God's justice helps us to perceive three important factors to living by faith: 1) The wages of sin is indeed death (Romans 6:23); 2) we are headed toward death and do not know its time; and 3) God means exactly what He says.

Jesus declares an important principle in Luke 12:48: "But he who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more." We need to think about the seriousness of our calling, knowing that human nature contains a strong strain of self-deception. This verse should remind us that because we have been given so much, our judgment will be sterner.

God states in Romans 1:18-20 that mankind is without excuse regarding His existence, but it is easily seen in the immoral conduct committed throughout the world that people are paying little or no attention to their responsibilities to God. As people go about their daily activities, they ignore Him; a relationship with Him is not perceived as a vital, everyday necessity to life.

Some may talk of Him on occasion and even pray, but they are not seriously committed to true devotion to Him. They are neither learning more of His truth nor further broadening and deepening obedience to Him. Besides those folks, some are openly and aggressively antagonistic toward Him and His laws.

However, in the face of these attitudes, we cannot allow ourselves to disregard the fact that God is very serious about His intentions to fulfill His purposes for His creation and most especially in the lives of His children. His purpose has been revealed to us, and we are more responsible than others.

Though by our reckoning of time God's justice often seems long delayed, the prophecies will be fulfilled and His Kingdom established under Jesus Christ. God commands that we must live by faith, so we cannot let down. We must push on in faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Romans 11:22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Is God fair in the way He allocates His goodness and His severity? Indeed, human nature, unable to grasp God's purposes, challenges the morality—if you will, the "political correctness"—of God's actions!

Our civilization's pundits—whether abolitionist, humanist, rightist, elitist, feminist, moralist, or whatever—would summon God before the bench to answer their questions. Their indictment of God would fill volumes. Dangerous business, that, for Paul carefully warns us that we dare not "find fault" with God (Romans 9:19). To accuse Him of being unfair or capricious in His dealings with mankind is to forget that He is not bound by the sensitivities of our times, not fettered by the Western world's humanistic self-absorption with human rights, equality, democracy.

God will not limit His field of options—in effect placing Himself in a straitjacket—to avoid offending a humanity that lacks His Spirit and is therefore wholly incapable of sharing His perspective. He is reproducing Himself! He will not constrain His activities in bringing that sublime purpose about by the "isms" of these times, or for that matter, of any historical milieu.

Charles Whitaker
Servant of God, Act II: God's Gift of Faith


 

Romans 14:10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The very fact that we are sinning human beings under judgment disqualifies us from judging. Our manner of life in the past has so perverted our judgment that we are incapable of judging with the fairness of God. Our judgment is too subjective to be fair, too influenced by our own experiences to consider all the nuances of another's life to judge without prejudice. Not until after we have lived a life of overcoming and are rid of this body and mind of flesh will we be in a position to judge the lives of others.

Since we are obviously empowered to judge between right and wrong and commanded to choose the right even when evaluating the conduct of others, the judging that God forbids is the passing of judgment against another. In other words, God forbids the handing down of a sentence. It is one thing to call a spade a spade and decide that such an act is evil, but to condemn the person as evil, implying incorrigibility, is stepping into the minefield.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Judging Our Brothers


 

1 Corinthians 6:1-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul is saying, "If you go to man's law in charging your brother, you have already lost! It does not matter how the judge decides it; as far as God is concerned, you have lost the case!"

Paul's instructions are clear. In a case involving brothers, a Christian had better be prepared to "lose," as an act of faith, out of respect for Christ, the Head of this church. By faith, we know that He will judge the situation. Does He have enough wisdom to do that—and power to carry out His judgments? Do we have enough faith to allow Him to do it?

Is there a legal basis for this? Absolutely—He owns us! We are His slaves! He purchased every single one of us with His blood! He has legal right to judge between brothers. We are to submit to the authority of Christ by faith and allow Him to judge if no judgment can be reached within the church. If a judgment is reached within the church, but the church has judged wrongly, then the brothers must be willing to accept it with the knowledge that they can, by faith, appeal to a higher court, and that Christ will vindicate the righteous. It may not happen right away, but if we pray for that in faith, then we can patiently wait for it. He will do it!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)


 

Ephesians 2:11-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What a depressing status! If these verses stood alone, these "aliens" and "strangers" would indeed live their lives in vain. Without a future opportunity for salvation, they would truly be lost forever.

Are millions lost because they never heard the name of Christ? What about infants who died? What about the billions enslaved under the dreadful yoke of atheistic communism? They did not choose to be born in a godless society. Are the doors forever shut on those born in a nation dominated by Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, or Islam? Most calling themselves Christian think so.

Could we call God merciful if He consigned people to hopelessness merely because of an accident of birth? Would He be fair to condemn those who never heard? God can do anything He wants. It is, after all, His creation. In verse 13, though, there is a slight crack in the door of hope: "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." Everyone has stood in the Gentile's position of being far off from salvation. We have all had to be brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ. Could the only difference between us and them be a matter of timing?

Imagine the multiple billions who have lived through childhood unloved, uneducated, and unhealthy in body and spirit. They may have endured miserable marriages, reared and lost children to disease, war, and natural disaster. Others may have spent seemingly pointless lives growing old, neglected, and disrespected as fodder for the next disaster.

The heaven and hell doctrines of this world's Christianity may make for interesting reading, but they render the judgments and resurrections of God as superfluous. They diminish the creative power of the great, merciful God in these areas as finished and past, not as ongoing and future.

In contrast, the Last Great Day has a very special meaning to those who understand. It answers perplexing questions about the great masses of humanity who are living or have died without knowledge of God's way or a true understanding of Jesus Christ, the only "name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). In my multiple decades as a minister, I have yet to talk with anyone from another church who knows the fate of these "lost" people.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Final Harvest


 

2 Thessalonians 1:7-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice that II Thessalonians 1:8 says that God will take vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. This idea has a strong tie to the book of Revelation, as the gospel of Jesus Christ is the "good news" that He brought. His good news is not primarily about Himself, but rather it is the message that He brought from His Father about the Kingdom of God being established on earth (Malachi 3:1; Matthew 4:23; 9:35; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:43; 8:1; 16:16-17). After the gospel is preached in all the world as a witness to all nations (Matthew 24:14), God will be justified in punishing all of those who reject it. The end of this present world will come when God takes vengeance on those who have heard the gospel message—which, at that point, will be everyone alive on earth—but who refuse to repent and submit to God's rule on earth.

The tie to the book of Revelation is that the unveiling of Jesus Christ, when He removes man from governing the earth and takes that responsibility to Himself, is the fulfillment of the gospel message that He brought. When Christ is revealed, the Kingdom of God will be at hand. Revelation fills in the explosive details of how the governments of this world will come under the rulership of God.

Even though the word gospel means "good news," people typically do not think of the book of Revelation as being encouraging or uplifting. For most professing Christians, the gospel that Jesus preached is not good news. They prefer a gospel that is limited to the forgiveness of their sins. When they hear that God's Kingdom includes repentance and obedience to His laws, they cannot tolerate it (Romans 8:7). For those who will not obey the gospel, the book of Revelation is not good news at all, because it foretells their judgment for idolatry and disobedience.

For true Christians, though, this book is wonderful news! It may not be "good" news in the sense of being pleasant, enjoyable, or attractive. Instead, its news contains a zealous, righteous goodness—an active pursuit of what is good for mankind, a deliberate and forceful bringing to pass of those things that will make life good for everyone. The entire creation will rejoice when the present principalities, powers, and broken governments of men are replaced with a King who will powerfully impose all that is good upon a sin-sick world.

David C. Grabbe
What Is the Book of Revelation?


 

1 Peter 1:13-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle Peter provides the practical implications of this wonderful hope. Hope can go to work for us and do wonders. God's calling and purpose are certainly wonderful, but He does not intend that they set us off on a daydream. Peter is declaring a call to arms: "Pull yourself together!" "Roll up your sleeves!" "Give hard thought and wrestle with the practical implications of salvation."

Remember that the church is the community where God's truth is taken seriously, and His mind is being formed in its members. To paraphrase and expand, Peter is saying, "Look, brothers, we should not be superficial about this. Keep cool. Do not be impetuous. Avoid excesses. Live a plain life. Work hard, but set your hope in God's grace, not in your own willpower.

"Remember always that your obedience is to a gracious Person, not to a coldly calculating judge or to society. Holiness is not sanctimoniousness. It is being separated for a special purpose by special instructions and discipline. We have been called to perform a unique purpose. We have been called to glorify God by our lives as a witness to all who observe, and at the same time being prepared for His Kingdom. God wants us to have a passionate love for goodness, so in your mind give Him a unique place.

"Do not fear the enemy, as we would Christ. Use your hope to think about Him, His power, justice, wisdom, goodness, truth, omnipotence, and omniscience. Remember always that He has wisdom without error, power without limit, love without hatred. Our hope is in One who is great in every respect. Quit thinking of God in fleshly terms. He is not a limited man nor even a superman. He is GOD! He is with us, and so who can permanently harm us? Concentrate on being completely devoted to Him, and if we do this, we have every reason to hope. God is not a man that He should lie. His promises are sure."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Trumpets Is a Day of Hope


 

1 Peter 2:24-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The most brutal example of divine justice is found in the New Testament, not the Old. We see the most violent expression of God's wrath and justice in the crucifixion of His own Son. If anybody had room to complain that He was not being treated fairly, it was Jesus Christ, who was not guilty of even one sin! He was the only innocent person who ever lived, yet He suffered a horrible, cruel death. If we were to become upset or offended at something that seems to be unjust, this would be it.

The crucifixion, similar to the Flood, the casting out of the Amorites, and so forth, is simultaneously the most just and the most gracious act in history. It would have been absolutely diabolical of God to punish Jesus if His Son had not first voluntarily taken on Himself the sins of all the world. Even though He was innocent to that point, once He took upon Himself that concentrated load of sin, He became the most repugnant thing that ever existed on earth before God. He became an obscene and accursed thing, and God executed His wrath. He acted in total impartiality. God could not overlook sin, even when it touched His Son.

Jesus Christ did this for us. Christ took the justice that was to fall on us, and He paid for it with His priceless life. It is the "for us" aspect that displays the majesty of the grace of God.

We cringe at God's justice because it is so unusual, since most of the time He is so gracious. Human nature deceives us into taking it for granted, but we need to keep it in mind because it just as integral to His character.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Justice and Grace


 

2 Peter 3:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God does not want anyone to perish but desires all to come to repentance. However, to those who refuse His mercy and trample the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ as if it were vile (Hebrews 10:26-31), He is a God of justice and righteous judgment. These, who leave Him with no alternative but to put them to death for eternity, will know what He earnestly desired them to achieve.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Third Resurrection


 

Revelation 6:10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Theirs is not a bloodthirsty cry for vengeance, as some have seen it, since this does not accord with Christian character (Romans 12:19-21), but a call for justice or judgment—a major theme of the seals—as well as a question about the proximity of Christ's return. It is well known that at His second coming, He will both reward His saints and judge His enemies (see Matthew 24:30-31; Revelation 11:15-18; Joel 3:9-17; Zechariah 14:1-5).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Seal (Part Two)


 

Revelation 11:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Measuring is "judging against a standard." When we measure a thing, we take something with a fixed proportion - like a length or a weight that is known or standardized - and we compare it to whatever we are trying to quantify or measure. We see how it measures up: how long it is, how wide it is, how tall it is, how heavy it is, etc. We can also see if it fits a pattern or a template that is necessary for the item to do its part. In our case, one can see if he is fit for the Kingdom of God.

"For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God" (I Peter 4:17). We are being measured, judged, against a standard. "The house of God" is another way of saying "the temple of God," the phrase used here. Judgment begins at the house of God, and the Two Witnesses are given the responsibility of measuring the Temple of God. The two verses are saying basically the same thing. Note, the Two Witnesses are not actually doing the judging - Christ is, for that is His job. The Two Witnesses' responsibility is to explain the basis for the measurements. In other words, it is their job to show what the standard is, to let people know what they should be measuring up to.

Their job is similar to Amos' vision of the plumb line (Amos 7:7). The plumb line can be said to be slightly different because it is used to measure verticality - to see whether something is standing up straight, or to use a more "religious" term, to see if it is "upright." A plumb line is a weight suspended on a string. When it stops swaying like a pendulum, the string is perfectly vertical. When a workman puts it next to something like a wall or post that needs to be vertical, he can tell whether his wall or post is out of plumb or not.

That idea is present here in Revelation 11:1. How close do we meet the standard? How upright are we? How fit are we for the Kingdom of God? Finding the answers to these questions is part of the Two Witnesses' job. Remember that the work of the church is essentially done by this time. This preaching of the standard is a work that the ministry of the church has been given to do in every time, but maybe not to this extent. In any event, the Two Witnesses, at this time of the end, are the only ones able to do this job in a major way.

It is possible that this part of their ministry begins, however, before the Seven Thunders cease. In fact, it is a pretty good bet that they will already be involved in ministry before the Tribulation begins. Then God will say, "Okay, now it's time for you to do your real job." They will then begin their prophesied ministry, which will be quite intense.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 2)


 

Revelation 11:15-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This last - seventh - trumpet announces the coming of Christ, the establishment of God's Kingdom, the judgment upon the nations, and the rewarding of the saints. They occur simultaneously!

The last trumpet sounds when Christ returns, not 3½ years before! If we compare verses 11-13 (the resurrection of the Two Witnesses) with verse 19, the "great earthquake" ties the resurrection of the saints with the beginning of the Kingdom (see also Revelation 16:18). In addition, an angel tells John in Revelation 10:7 that when "the seventh angel . . . is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished." There will be no more mystery about man becoming God when the saints are resurrected or changed to eternal spirit beings!

Matthew 24:30-31 also verifies this scenario, showing that the trumpet sounds to send the angels to gather the elect from all over the earth to meet Him upon His return. To clinch the argument, verse 29 very plainly says, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days. . ."! Isaiah 27:12-13, Joel 2:1-11 and Zechariah 14:3-5, 9 also confirm these events.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Caught Up in the Rapture


 

Revelation 16:5-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is no injustice with God. His justice is never divorced from His righteousness. He never condemns the innocent; He never clears the guilty without repentance; He never punishes with undue severity; He always rewards righteousness. His justice is perfect justice.

He does not require absolutely perfect obedience, or nobody would make it. The blood of Jesus Christ is available to cover us (Revelation 1:5). However, He does not always act with justice because He sometimes acts with mercy. Mercy is not justice, but neither is it injustice, as injustice violates righteousness. Mercy manifests kindness and grace; it does no violence to righteousness.

Those who live by faith must seriously consider God's justice. It constantly reminds us that the wages of sin is death, that sin is disloyalty to God, and that God means what He says. It reminds us of the tremendously precious value of Christ's sacrifice. When we enter into the covenant with God, we are pledging our lives to serve Him in gladness and faithfulness so that He might create us in His image.

God's grace helps to prod us to live continuously by faith. We must know and appreciate His grace without abusing it. His justice is a reality, and so is sin's penalty, but His mercifully given grace overrides both.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


 

Revelation 20:11-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Great White Throne Judgment will occur during a hundred-year period (Isaiah 65:17-25). At this time, those of the second resurrection will be judged by the same standard as everyone else - the Word of God.

Staff
Basic Doctrines: Eternal Judgment


 

Revelation 20:11-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle John saw people rising from the dead and experiencing the same kind of judgment we do now. For the first time, they are called of God, granted repentance, given His Holy Spirit, and gain access to Him. They, too, must then overcome and grow into the image of God that they might be prepared to live and reign in God's Kingdom. Like us, God judges them against the things written in His Word. He also opens the Book of Life so new names can be entered. All these things do not happen instantly but over a period of time deemed sufficient by God to prepare them for His Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Final Harvest


 

Revelation 20:11-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The resurrection of the righteous takes place at Christ's return (I Thessalonians 4:13-18), but that of the uncalled - the second resurrection - will occur in the Great White Throne Judgment after the Millennium. God is merciful, loving, and kind, not willing that any should perish. He desires all to come to the knowledge of the truth and to true repentance at the proper time. He has determined that most will receive this opportunity when He has set up His Kingdom on the earth, an environment most conducive to salvation.

These people will be raised up to physical existence. The "books" that are opened at this time are the books of the Bible in which are revealed true knowledge and understanding. The "Book of Life" will also be opened so their names can be written in it when they repent of their sins, accept Christ as personal Savior, and receive the Holy Spirit. During this time, they will be judged according to their works. Thus, we see most of humanity standing before God to be judged. God in His wisdom has determined that this is the best way to bring the most sons to glory and eternal life in His Kingdom.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Second Resurrection


 

 




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