The Merciful Judgments of God
Issue No. 232
The law is summarized in Deut. 6:5,
5 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
If we were to write a Constitution for a Christian Nation, this would be the summary at the top of it. It would serve as the overall statement of intent, by which we might know the spirit of the law.
To this, we might add the second part, as Jesus did, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39).
The Ten Commandments are next. These are the headings for each article of the Constitution, under which all the statutes are listed. The statutes form the paragraphs under these headings.
For instance, under Article VI: You Shall Not Murder, would come Statutes that define murder. One paragraph would deal with pre-meditated murder, another with accidental killing, another with self-defense, another with warfare, another with abortion and miscarriage, another with suicide, and still another with health and food laws (by which men often kill themselves by what they eat).
Each of these are individual Statutes designed to bring clarity to show what God considers murder.
The next question is what to do about a violation of the law. These are the Judgments of the law. Judgments tell us, for instance, that a thief must repay double (Ex. 22:4), or fourfold, if the stolen item cannot be returned intact. (Ex. 22:1). in the case of stealing the tools of a man’s trade (“an ox,” which was the tractor of the day), he must repay his victim five times the value of what he stole.
Thirty years ago, I wrote up such a Constitution for a Christian Nation, but in all the moves since then, that writing has been lost. I hope to rewrite it some day, this time with greater understanding. Perhaps an attorney out there would like to take this on as a project. I would be most happy to assist in any way that I can. It would have to be done, of course, with a New Testament understanding and with the mind of Christ.
But this present bulletin must focus upon the Divine Justice as revealed in the Judgments of the Law.
Changes in the Law
There is no New Testament statement that puts away God’s law. There are changes in the law—that is, in the forms of the law—but these changes were prophesied in the law itself. That is, the law (as interpreted by the prophets) testifies to the temporary nature of some of its features.
The Book of Hebrews is the main New Testament book that shows how certain laws have been changed to meet the new requirements of the Pentecostal Age. First, there was a change of priesthood from Levi to Melchizedek. Hebrews 7:12 says of this,
12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.
Take note that it does NOT read, “there takes place a putting away of the law also.” The law was changed, not put away or set aside. The priests were the executors of God’s will, but the Levitical priests violated their trust. So God replaced them with a different order of priesthood, which had actually predated that of Levi.
This new priesthood was not based upon genealogy, as was the priesthood of Levi, and for this reason both David and Jesus, being of the tribe of Judah, were eligible in that Order of priesthood.
The book of Hebrews goes on to tell us that the old temple was replaced by a better temple, the old sacrifices were replaced by a better Sacrifice, and the Old Covenant was replaced by a better Covenant. Yet nowhere does it say that the moral laws were replaced by a better system of morality. Theft is still theft; murder is still murder; adultery is still adultery; lying is still lying. These were sins under the Mosaic law, and they are still sins today.
For this reason, John tells us in 1 John 3:4, “sin is lawlessness” (anomia). Paul tells us in Rom. 3:31,
31 Do we then nullify the law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the law.
Paul says later in Rom. 6:14 and 15,
14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!
These verses are often misunderstood by those who do not know John’s definition of sin. Using John’s definition, the verse reads,
14 For lawlessness shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we be lawless because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!
When the law judged a thief, saying that he had to pay a certain amount of restitution, that thief was said to be “under the law” until his debt was paid. Once paid, however, he was “under grace,” because the law no longer was interested in his case. He was no longer under the law’s judgment, not because the law was put away, but because it had been satisfied by the full payment.
At the cross, Jesus paid our penalty for all sin. In doing so, He upheld the law and gave it respect. We are now under grace, because the law’s judgment was satisfied. Does that fact now give us the right to sin? Paul says NO. Shall we sin that grace may abound? Of course not. Sin is still lawlessness, as we read a few verses later in verse 19,
19 . . . For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness [anomia] , resulting in further lawlessness [anomia], so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin [hamartia, “to miss the mark”], you were free in regard to righteousness.
Do you see how Paul himself uses the term “sin” and “lawlessness” (anomia) interchangeably? His definition of sin was the same as that of John and Jesus (Matt. 7:23).
The law could save no one, not because the law was faulty, but because man was incapable of attaining to its righteous standard. The law manifested the righteousness of God, but mortal man was incapable of attaining to such a high standard of morality by the force of his own will. For this reason, God provided another way—a way that would actually work. Jesus came to do what we could not do—that is, to fulfill every yod and ornament of the law (Matt. 5:18)—not only by doing its moral precepts, but also by fulfilling that which it prophesied.
We, then, attain righteousness by faith in Him, for the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us as if we had done what Christ did. Not only did He pay the penalty for our sin that was demanded by the judgments of the law, but He also attributed to us His righteous acts and His character. This was possible only because we became part of His body. In identifying with His death, we also identify with His resurrection life (Rom. 6:5).
God’s Judgments Still Operating
Because believers have identified with Christ in His death, we find Paul saying, “I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31). Paul says in Gal. 5:24,
24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Yes, and not just once, but “daily.” There would be no need to do this daily, if the flesh would remain dead. The problem is that the flesh shows remarkable resilience to crucifixion, in spite of our “reckoning” it dead. Hence, we cannot afford to ignore it, hoping it will go away if we simply refuse to recognize the problem.
Paul obviously dealt with it daily, and that means he did not ignore it and claim it did not exist.
Dying daily means that we continually judge the flesh and the old man (Adamic nature). Since the crucifixion of Christ was the judgment of the law against sin, we can say that each time we crucify the flesh, we are applying the judgment of the law to the old man.
That is how the judgment of the law yet applies to us as Christians. It is relevant and operable every time we “die daily,” that is, any time the flesh desires to fulfill its lawless way. Only insofar as the flesh remains dead is the law irrelevant in our lives.
As we are led by the Spirit and as we mature in Christ, more and more areas of fleshly activity are crucified and stay dead. Things that used to be temptations are no longer issues. In those areas, we have put on the mind of Christ. In those areas, the law is now written on our hearts.
Yet we must understand that during this time of spiritual growth, we are considered to be as righteous as Jesus Christ Himself as if we were Him. We do not have to be afraid of recognizing the imperfections of the flesh, because we know that we are already forgiven beforehand. That is a provision not found in other religions (or even in certain denominations that fail to recognize this truth).
All other religions demand perfection before salvation is bestowed upon them. And then, when reality sets in and they realize that by these standards no man can be saved, they invented re-incarnation in order to give men multiple opportunities to achieve perfection. They hope that, given enough time, they can achieve perfection by spiritual evolution. But yet they remain in bondage throughout their entire life time trying to achieve the unachievable.
God Has a Better Idea
To be justified by faith in Christ means to believe in that which Christ did for us on the cross and also in His resurrection from the dead. In a practical sense, such faith means that when one stands before the judgment seat of Christ and is charged with the sins of a life time, his defense is not based upon his good deeds outweighing his bad deeds. His defense is not based upon a denial of those sins. His defense is not based upon what he did or learned or anything else achieved by the force of his own will. His defense is that Jesus Christ already paid the full penalty for every sin he ever committed.
He is justified by being in agreement with the work that Jesus did on the cross. There are those who bypass the need for agreement, saying that Jesus died for the sin of the world, whether they agree with it or not. That is a half-truth. They are correct in that Jesus’ death on the cross established the FACT of salvation for the world. But they are incorrect in that God intends to judge men until such time as they come into agreement with Him.
The judgments of the law, then, continue to be a very relevant part of the plan of salvation for the world. For this reason, there is a Great White Throne Judgment in Rev. 20:11-15. For this same reason, Jesus spoke of “the day of judgment” many times (example: Matt. 10:15; 11:22, 24; 12:36; Mark 6:11).
For this same reason, Paul spoke of the judgments of God upon unbelievers in Rom. 2:3 and 6,
3 And do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment upon those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? . . . 5 But because of your stubborn and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to every man according to his deeds.
There is certainly a day of accountability, though some deny this by misconstruing Rom. 8:1, “there is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” To say that this means God will not hold anyone accountable in the day of judgment is to deny what Paul said earlier in Rom. 3:19,
19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God.
This tells us that “all the world” is “under the Law.” Why? Because until they are justified by faith, they have a defense that will not work in the divine court. Without appropriating the cross as their defense, they are still “under the law,” that is, they are still accountable to the law for their sin. The law must be satisfied, for it will not go away until it has received all that it is due.
There are literally hundreds of Scripture passages dealing with the judgments of God, showing that He fully intends to hold sinners accountable for their actions, unless they claim the blood of Jesus as having paid the penalty.
For this reason, it would be a violation of Scripture to say that Jesus died for all men, and that therefore He will not hold any man accountable. God will do what He will do, regardless of our misguided theology.
The truth is that there is a judgment for sinners which will hold men accountable for their actions. Yet this does not mean that sinners who die without Christ have no more hope of salvation. It does not mean that their judgment will last forever.
The entire law is based upon correction and restoration. And where the law is weak because of the more serious nature of the crime, the law demands a death penalty in order to await a higher and more powerful court that can actually deal with the problem.
The Lake of Fire
Revelation 20 pictures the final judgment as “the lake of fire.” While men have carnalized this and have turned it into an eternal torture pit, the Bible uses “fire” to represent the divine law and the character of God.
When God came down upon Mount Sinai, He presented Himself to the people in the form of a consuming FIRE (Deut. 4:24). He also gave the people His “fiery law” (Deut. 33:2), for His law was an expression of His fiery character. But no law demanded that anyone be burned alive in a fire for any sin. The worst that could happen to a sinner was to be cremated after being stoned to death, as we see in the case of Achan (Joshua 7:25).
The most painful judgment was 40 stripes (Deut. 25:3), but even this judgment was strictly limited, and in later years it was customary to limit it to 39 stripes. Jesus refers to this law in Luke 12:47-49, telling us that it applies to God’s “servants” (i.e., believers). Those who knew God’s will but deliberately refused to do it will receive more stripes than the one who did not know God’s will.
Then in verse 49, Jesus likened this type of judgment to a “fire.” Certainly, it was not literally a fire, but a flogging. So it is plain that the fire represents the judgment of God, whether it is a beating or restitution payment.
At the Great White Throne Judgment, God will judge mankind by His own law. Regardless of how man’s laws may torture criminals, God will judge according to His own mind, will, and character. And there is no judgment of the divine law that demands literal fire as a tool of torture.
The Cross is a “Fire”
In fact, if a literal fire were the judgment of God for any sin, Jesus would have had to undergo a literal fire to pay for that sin. But we find Jesus paying the full penalty for the sin of the world by crucifixion, not by fire.
The sacrifices for sin in the Old Testament were made by fire to God, and Jesus was the fulfillment of all those animal sacrifices. When the high priest pronounced judgment upon Jesus, and when the priests offered Him to God as a sacrifice, they did not burn Him alive, but instead crucified Him. Nonetheless, His crucifixion was the fulfillment of the fire that consumed the sacrifice.
The Redemptive Judgment
The law says that if a man cannot pay restitution for his crime, he must either be sold as a bondservant (slave) to pay the debt, or (in some cases) he must be put to death. In the earthly court system, not all cases could be handled properly, for kidnappers could not repay two children, nor could a murderer pay two lives for that which he stole. In those cases, the death penalty served as a way of giving the case to the higher court that was capable of doing justice.
So the “lake of fire” is called “the second death.” It is the death penalty, in accordance with the law, but it was a different kind of death. The first death is physical, the second is the kind that we as Christians experience when we “die daily” and are “crucified with Christ.” It is not a torture pit, but is rather a way of life by which the old man is crucified, and we learn righteousness by the leading of the Spirit. Only the flesh thinks it is torturous.
In that judgment the believers will be given Life after a brief judgment, as Paul says in 1 Cor. 3:15, where they will be “saved yet so as through fire.” The overcomers, of course, will have already received Life in that first resurrection a thousand years earlier (Rev. 20:4-6).
But at the Great White Throne judgment, the unbelievers will be sentenced “according to their deeds” (Rev. 20:12, 13). Since no one will be able to pay the restitution owed for their sins, they will be “sold” as the law demands (Ex. 22:3).
Sold to whom? Christ the Judge will sell them to the overcomers, who are the inheritors of the earth and called to rule and reign with Him. As perfected members of the body of Christ, who have been crucified and raised with Him, they are called to reign with Him (Rev. 20:6). Reign over whom? There is more than one application, of course, but in that day of judgment, it refers to reigning over those unbelievers being judged by means of the “fiery law.”
Even as Jesus Himself is the overall ruler, it is clear that His body will rule in His throne as well. What will be their job description? They will rule by the mind of Christ over those who did not qualify to rule. Jesus said in Luke 12:44,
44 Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
In that day, the ones judged by the “lake of fire” will be sold to the overcomers as bondservants, so that they can be taught the ways of God, as Isaiah 26:9 says,
9 For when the earth experiences Thy judgments, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
At the Great White Throne, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10, 11). In other words, everyone in that day will become a believer. But because they did not learn righteousness in their life time, having refused to be led by the Spirit, they will be required to do so in that final Age.
Hence, they will be placed under the authority of the overcomers, who will then be charged with responsibility to teach them righteousness and to bring them as children to spiritual maturity.
At first, some may not be fully in agreement with the judgments of the law, but the law will enforce obedience. But as they grow spiritually, they will come to understand and agree with the ways of God until the day they come fully into the liberty of the sons of God at the great Creation Jubilee, when all return to their original inheritance that was lost in Adam.