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THEOLOGY > Sin > The Character of Sin > Incurs Judgment


Divine judgment is the penalty for sin. It is the penalty enacted and the pain inflicted because of the evil committed by man, both in state and act; judgment is the act of God against the sin of man. Scripture affirms the fact of judgment:

But it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another (Ps. 75:7);

He will judge the peoples with equity (Ps. 90:10);

For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Eccles. 12:14);

When the Son of Man comes in His glory and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne . . . and these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (Matt. 25:41-46);

Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (Jo. 3:36);

He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a Man who He has appointed; and this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:31);

Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord (Rom. 12:19);

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes the judgment (Heb. 9:27);

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:30);

They will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead (I Pet. 4:5);

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it . . . and I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne . . . and the dead were judged . . . and if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

Judgment has two dimensions: the character of God and the nature and actions of man. Revealed in these two elements of judgment are the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man.

Judgment Reveals the Character of God

In His judgment God manifest s His nature. By what He does, the fact that He judges, we know what or who He is, the holy and just God.

Judgment makes visible the holiness of God. It reveals His righteousness (see: God is Righteous), for it affirms His determination to give to the evil person what he deserves. “Clouds and thick darkness are all around Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Ps. 97:2). God is holy and sin cannot continue to exist and remain unpunished because the very essence of God’s throne, which is really a revelation of the character of God, is characterized by righteousness and justice. These words assert the rectitude of God; in the words of the psalmist this is the foundation of His throne, meaning that He can act in no other way.

Not only does judgment reveal truth about God, without judgment God would not be God. Punishment is the vindication of God, for by judging God reveals that He is true to Himself. He cannot remain God and not judge; He must judge. And the “must” is anchored in His essence. Judgment is not about reformation but about payment, retribution; it is about the vindication of God who has been rejected—it is about the justification of His justice.

God’s justice is a source of comfort to the believer who lives in a sinful world and must trust God ultimately to rectify all wrong. Believers have long struggled with the fact that the wicked seem to prosper in their wickedness while the one who believes in God suffers injustices and wrongs that are never addressed in this life. Without the knowledge that God in eternity will do what is right, the believer might be brought low in despair.

God judges all because he knows all; nothing is hidden from Him (see: God is Omniscient). God sees all people and all events and, therefore, knows all things: “You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of your presence (Ps. 90:8), and “the wrongs that I have done are not hidden from You” (Ps. 69:5). Even “the thoughts of man” are known by God (Ps. 94:11).

God’s judgment will be true judgment, because God is true and what He does is true: “He will judge the peoples with equity” (Ps. 96:10). He will judge the visible and the invisible, the external and the internal. Known to God are the public deeds and the private thoughts, desires, and intents of the heart.

Judgment Reveals the Sinfulness of Man

Punishment of some individuals may deter others from sin, but that is not the primary reason for judgment. Judgment is the exercise of God’s justice against those who have violated His Word, and in that exercise the sinfulness of man is exposed. The severity of the judgment reveals the magnitude of the sin. The purpose of judgment is not only to punish the evildoer but to reveal the evil in the evildoer.

Many individuals cannot accept the concept that man is evil; they had rather affirm that man is good, or at worse merely neutral, without a proclivity toward good or evil. If evil is even accepted as part of the predicament, then it is learned behavior; it is not an inherent state of evil with which man is born (see: Death, Depravity, and Darkened Image). Thus, man is not totally to blame for his wickedness; he is a victim. In this manner the attempt is made to exonerate man from any sense of moral evil. If this reasoning is true, then it becomes more acceptable to divorce judgment from any discussion related to man’s future.

But in response to such humanistic postulations stand the revealed words of Scripture that assert that man is evil, both in nature and conduct, and that because of this twofold evil man deserves and faces certain judgment (see: Sinful State and Sinful Acts). God’s judgment exposes and confirms the wickedness of man.

God’s judgment is both present and future. In this life man is judged for his sin (“I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation,” Ex. 20:5) and in the future man will face the final and eternal judgment for his sins (Rev. 20:11-15).

Examples abound in Scripture of present judgment:

drought (Jer. 14:1-6; Amos 4:7);

famine (Jer. 14:12-15; Amos 4:16);

plagues (Jer. 14:12; Joel 1:4);

military defeats (Jer. 5:15-17; Ezek. 5:12);

exile (Isa. 5:13; Jer. 25:8-11).

NOTE: Difference between judgment and chastisement, retribution and reformation. Chastisement is for the purpose of reforming, and flows from love; God chastises His people (Job. 5:17; Ps. 6:1; 94:12; 118:18; Prov. 3:11; Isa. 26:16; Heb. 12:5-8; Rev. 3:19); He punishes unbelievers (Ps. 5:5 7:11; Nah. 1:2; Rom. 1:18; 2:5-6; II Thess. 1:6; Heb. 10:26-27).

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