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Evil, Suffering, and God's Judgments
General James Green, Jan. 2, 2012
“Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or He can, but does not want to; or He cannot and does not want to. If He wants to, but cannot, He is impotent. If He can, and does not want to, He is wicked. But if God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how comes evil in the world?” — Epicurus, philosopher
“The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, and has been in every generation. Its distribution and degree appear to be entirely random and therefore unfair. Sensitive spirits ask if it can possibly be reconciled with God’s justice and love.” — John Stott, theologian
THE WORLD IS VERY AWARE of evil and human suffering, but few can grasp, even fewer accept, that God allows it, even promotes it, in order to get men back to God. Men, in this generation, want their own way no matter what. But our loving Creator did not create the human race for “their” pleasure, but for “His” pleasure. Of course this has been forgotten, but not by the LORD.
When one speaks or writes about God's judgment against sin and sinners it invokes a visceral response…people react hatefully against both the message and the messenger. Had the messengers of God, thru the years, kept steadfast in warning the world about their sinful ways and the consequences to face, the world would not get so emotionally offended by it.
Since we live in a selfish and “feeling based” world, men tend to evaluate whether it’s appropriate to speak out on such a terrifying subject as punishment. They get their feelings hurt. Sorry about that, but the truth is like a sword that cuts and a fire that burns. After all, God's punishment is His love. The basis of men’s evaluation should be whether His correction is morally just or morally right, not whether men like it or not.
The Prophet Ezekiel states in 33:11, “Say to them; ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take NO pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live…’”
As one reads the Judgment Words that the Lord has spoken to us and we are faithful to record and publish, these Words are both warnings and execution. Since God is both righteous and just He legitimately has reason to be angered by the sins of men. It would be an outrage, even a curse, to live in a world or a society where there was no law and order. You think it would be wise to live there but all societies would crumble without checks and balances, law and order, punishments dealt out to the offenders.
The Bible tells us that God is loving and patient—long suffering with His creatures—but be it known unto you, sinning men will not, forever, get by on Him. There is a pay day some day and men will get their just reward.
The Bible is full of the judgments of God. Read it for yourselves. In His great mercies and long sufferings, the LORD would warn, not only His people, Israel, but also the pagan nations, years, even centuries in advance before He executed His severe judgments.
We live in a generation in which God is unleashing His judgment against the sinful sons of men. Years and years now the world has (seemingly) gotten away with, as the old saying goes, murder! But justice delayed is not necessarily justice denied. He will settle the accounts with all the evil done upon His earth—suffering and death will be high lighted. This is His season to bring accountability. His wrath and fury will be great, you and I can count on it. Don’t be surprised at the way men react to His judgments. As far as the sinning Church goes, you’ll get your just reward too.
Sadly, the Church has been playing “nasty” with the world, playing the “whore”, so don’t expect God to overlook this, my dear sinning professors of faith. The Church thinks she will be spared His wrath, but read your Bibles, if you dare. See if the Lord winks at sin. Your sins cause and have caused our loving Lord pain, and pain you will suffer.
“The greatest purpose of suffering in history has been that it leads to repentance. Only after suffering, only after disaster, did Old Testament Israel, do (pagan) nations, do individual people turn back (or to) God.” Lee Strobel, author of “The Case for Christ”. You’re right Lee, God's punishments ARE to get men to REPENT! Suffering is God's way to get men on their knees. After all, He takes NO pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek 33:11).
The LORD God is not only the God of mercy, but of justice, unless there is mercy in His willingness to forget the past wickedness of the repentant sinner, although this is presented as a matter of fairness rather than mercy. True, He is willing to forgive the repentant sinner, but this is balanced by the WARNING that if a good man sins, no merit shall accrue to him because of his previous goodness; he shall die in his sins.
Ezekiel 33:10 and 11 is that the prophetic function is primarily the call to repentance rather than the announcement of God's judgments. Friends, today His judgments are here, the warnings have already been given, men have not listened. Expect to see things get worse!
Ezekiel 18:23 tells us, “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? Saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his (evil) ways, and live?” (Please read all this great chapter.)
God is not “hateful” as some claim Him to be. Charles Templeton, once a great Christian evangelist turned on God, denounced his Christianity, and declared before he died (not long ago), “A loving God could not possibly be the author of the horrors we have been describing (to an interviewer)—horrors that continue every day, have continued since time began, and will continue as long as life exists. It is an inconceivable tale of suffering and death, and because the tale is FACT—is, in TRUTH, the history of the world—it is obvious that there cannot be a LOVING God”. (He states this in his book, “Farewell to God”, pp 201, 202).
Does this, “CANNOT”, mean that because of the presence of suffering and death God is absent? It is men and women (and devils!) that bring such things, God only reacts to it. God is morally good, just, and holy, He created men and women for good, not evil. Men are unclean, unjust, unholy and too often, unloving. For God to delight in the sinner’s death is foreign to Him—but His holiness demands action against sin and sinners.
First and foremost, God desires men to live UPRIGHT and LIVE. Don’t lose sight of this dear reader. Since His “loving” nature takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked sinner, He cannot have made a decree to abandon the wicked to the evil of his nature, and then damn him for what he could not avoid (some teach the false idea that God decreed some to heaven and others to hell.)
For as the LORD GOD can do nothing with which He is NOT PLEASED, so He can decree nothing with which He is not pleased. He is NOT pleased with the death of the sinner. The New Testament echoes the same theme, 1 Peter 3:9 tells us, “The Lord…is longsuffering to us-ward, NOT WILLING that ANY SHOULD PERISH, but that ALL should come to REPENTANCE.” There you have it—God's love!!
You see, the Lord Jesus wants everyone to hear and believe the gospel (that Christ died for our sins, to forgive our sins, to wash away our sins, and to give us eternal life). He does not wish anyone to perish eternally, as 1 Timothy 2:4 states, “Who will have ALL men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the Truth.” This does not mean that all sinful men will repent and be saved, many will remain lost forever.
“The Bible tells us to be like God, and then on page after page it describes God as a mass murderer”—Robert A. Wilson (Quoted in: Carry Poale and Judson Poling, “Tough Questions”, Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1998, pg. 12).
Charles Templeton stated his opinion that, “The God of the O.T. is utterly unlike the God believed in by most practicing Christians. His justice is, by modern standards, outrageous…He is biased, querulous, vindictive, and jealous of His prerogatives” (Charles Templeton, “Farewell to God”, page 71).
Others in our modern day echo the same opinion. Some gather up a long impressive list of atrocities to shove in our faces in order to PROVE that the LORD is FOND, even excited, of exterminating large and small numbers of people.
Is God cruel, vindictive, and unjust? Certainly this issue is disturbing in a “human” sense, but not to the Creator of mankind Himself. Many exclaim that there is an ancillary matter that demands to be explored!
God is brutal? Have we forgot what the Roman Catholic Church did in the crusades? (sanctioned by several Popes), what the Roman Catholic Church did during the Inquisition? That kind of horror, terror, death and destruction…that kind of bloodshed and suffering is REPUGNANT and ABHORRENT! All in the name of Christianity. I said in Christianity’s name. There is a vast difference between “culture” Christianity and “authentic” Christianity. Even Jesus made a distinction between those of His flock and those who “thought” they were of His flock. Please read Matt. 7:21-23.
God doesn’t do so bad, say, compared to Militant Crusaders, Militant Islam, Militant Communism, Militant democracy etc…all in our “modern” times. Literally hundreds of millions have perished in the 1900’s alone, and men say God is evil?
Whatever the Sovereign LORD has done and is doing and shall do will be done justly! God desires for ALL men to be saved—PERIOD—though all will not be saved because men choose rather to live in sin. That’s why God must do something about this nasty sin issue—it cannot go on unchecked. God desires for ALL men to be blessed, not cursed, but it is men who have brought the WRATH OF GOD upon the human race, by giving in to demonic temptation. ALL THIS SORROW, DESTRUCTION AND DEATH IS THE DIRECT RESULT OF DISOBEDIENCE, not because God takes pleasure in hurting and killing man.
If one reads and seriously ponders the Words of the Spirit, one will see that God is just in His dealings with the whole human race.
Also, let us not forget the divine principle of sowing and reaping (Gal. 6:7).
Please be informed that it was God's Son (sent by the Holy Father) who “willingly” went to the cruel cross for the redemption (buying) of the lost sons and daughters of God. 1 Tim. 2:6 tells us that, “Who (Jesus) gave Himself a ransom for ALL, to be testified in due time.” ALL, my dear readers, ALL. How can men say that God and Jesus are evil?
Matthew 20:28 also tells us that Jesus came to GIVE HIS LIFE a ransom for many! Many, in the sense that not ALL will accept their freedom from evil.
Ransom conveys the meaning of a price paid to obtain the freedom of others. In the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ, His painful and cruel death is the price paid for the release of the human race from sin’s dominion, i.e., “captivity”(and from Satan and demonic powers).
God's wrathful judgments are punishment, but they are not a punishing. What do I mean? I mean God, by His own deity, must punish men because of their breaking of His moral laws (remember, He made the rules, not man!). But He doesn’t punish men just for the “fun” of it. This is what hell is all about too, punishment, but not a punishing for pleasure, as some would have us to believe.
God's judgment is remedial, that is to provide a remedy. It is better to suffer pain here and now, if it brings one to the cross, then to face hell in the hereafter.
One of the modern Churches presuppositions is that God's love will not permit Him from doing evil. God does not “do evil”, He is morally righteous, it is men who do evil. His judgments are part of His love—they are love. Isa. 45:7 tells us that God says, “…form the light and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil, I the LORD do all these things.” “You see, General Jim, it does say that the LORD creates evil!” Hold on please—the correct Hebrew word for “evil” is “ra”, translated sorrow, wretchedness, adversity, afflictions and calamities, but NEVER translated “sin”. He created “evil” only in the sense that He made the above list to be sure fruits of sin.
Some who read the Bible assume the unexplained is unexplainable. They stumble over the judgment side of the LORD. They let their “humanness” get in the way of “Spirit”. Just because men cannot (or too often, do not want to) understand the Word of God, they go about making it say what they want it to say. Too bad! The Word of God is SURE and will stand every test man puts it through.
God will do what He will do, with or without our approval. This is His time to visit the sons of men with His judgments—nothing will stop Him. Don’t you think it is better to be on His good side than on His angry side? I do.
[Study material has been adapted from its original sources.]