Does God Still Judge Sin Today?
Overcoming remnant, and those growing towards it,
I rarely use the terms heresy and false teaching. It is not that false teaching does not exist, because it certainly does. The terms are simply too serious, and the heresy bar in Scripture is set quite high on purpose, to just be tossing around. More often than not, much of the teaching we hear tends to be below the heresy bar, i.e., the teaching is out of balance and exaggerated, or not fully thought-through, or well-researched hermeneutically but with inaccurate or non-sequitur conclusions. I know what a travail it can be to research and understand and properly communicate the written Word of God. Therefore, I try to love mercy and patience for teachers still developing in their teaching inheritance, even if their teaching is less mature, less balanced, less efficient, less illuminated. We need to reserve the terms heresy and false teaching for those teachings that truly deserve it.
Below I begin by explaining a false teaching that fully deserves the branding.
I love you.
A semi-popular false teaching in some enclaves of western Christianity is this: "God does not judge or actively punish sin anymore after the cross". God's total wrath against sin, this teaching says, was emptied on Jesus at the cross, leaving God with a positive, favorable, judgment-free disposition. If anything negative happens it is Satan, they say. If anything positive happens it is God, they say. Several scriptures are quoted to prop up this opinion, but very little hermeneutical effort is given to understand context, and most importantly, very little hermeneutical effort is given to harmonize the scriptures they quote with other scriptures that flagrantly contradict their conclusion.
Why is this teaching so subversive spiritually and practically?
One, it aggressively contradicts many post-cross scriptures that assure us God will ordain or permit disciplinary consequences for inveterate sin and idolatry--in our personal life, in the church, and amazingly, even in the institutions and societies of this world. In this article we will autopsy those scriptures. To claim God does not penalize inveterate sin anymore is to silently claim those post-cross scriptures are not God-inspired, not authoritative, not binding. That is the ultimate heresy within the heresy.
Two, to claim God does not judge inveterate sin anymore is to give Christians a damning sense of false security. It wraps them in a bubble wrap of false agape love, lulling them with lies and illusions that they do not really need to change. Then, when the punitive kairos comes, they are shocked, horrified, offended, wrongly attribute it to Satan or "a spirit", and miss the transformational response God is requiring in that judicial visitation. The misunderstood and ignored judgment then queues another judicial visitation, and another, and another, and another, each increasing in severity until. I will show you this in God's Word below.
Before we go on, do you need to repent for believing this or teaching this? If so, repent profoundly and rededicate yourself to God's truth. If you are a leader, you need to send to out a letter (or video) of repentance, retraction, and explaining the correct teaching. As you read the following article, you will see how so very wrong and so very subversive the carnally-fun idea of a castrated God is.
Scriptures, God Still Judges Post-Cross
The following scriptures are all post-cross, well into the New Covenant. I will rapid-fire most of them with only brief explanation or clarification where needed.
In Acts 5:1-11, God struck Ananias and Sapphira in the middle of church--and they dropped dead. Peter said they "tested the Spirit of the Lord" (v9). Peter's words were the agency of judgment. This judicial event is identical to Ezekiel's words causing Pelatiah to drop dead (Eze 11:13).
In Acts 12:21-23, an angel of the Lord struck King Herod dead in the middle of a public speech, "because he did not give God the glory" (v23). He was eaten by worms, Luke adds.
In Acts 13:6-12, God struck Elymas, a false prophet and opponent to Sergius Paulus' salvation, with temporary blindness. Paul's words were the agency of judgment. Verse 11 says (ESV): "And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time." Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him...
Three distinct judgments from God, after the cross, in the New Covenant era. Two believers, two unbelievers. Even if someone proposes Ananias and Sapphira were not born-again, that ultimately does not matter. As we move through the New Covenant letters, Paul, Peter, John, and the author of Hebrews are direct and clear that God still judges inveterate sin and idolatry, within the church and outside of it.
Romans 1:18 obliterates, with the most graphic language, the carnally-fun idea that God castrated His own judicial and punitive attributes after the cross. It says (NIV), The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness. The key phrase, "the wrath of God is being revealed", is in the Greek present tense (present-passive-indicative). That means the wrath is still being revealed, in the present tense, after the cross, ongoingly.
Those that believe God does not respond punitively anymore often quote Romans 2:4 (NASB): ...not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? They say, "See? Now God uses kindness and goodness to lead people to repentance, not Law or judgment or negative consequences."
What grieves my heart is they never mention the context, verses 1-11, in which this ever-misunderstood verse is buried. Read the full context of Romans 2:1-11. Paul is discussing God's judgment in the here and now, and, His final judgment at the End. Regarding His judgment in the here and now, see verses 2 and 9 (ESV): We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things...There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek.
Verse 4, buried deep in this context, says God's kindness is His first and ideal way of leading someone to repentance. He does not want to use disciplinary judicial acts to get our attention, open our eyes, break our hearts, provoke repentance, and strong-arm us to get help. However, if He cannot bend or break our bullish freewill through kindness and goodness, the wider context tells us "the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things" (v2) and "there will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek" (v9).
In 11:20-22, Paul reiterates the same kindness-judgment dual working of God discussed in 2:1-11 (ESV, underline mine): ...They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
How can a professing Christian ignore these words? See how aggressive and shameless the aforementioned false teaching is? Verse 22 is the perfect summary statement of the entire subject: God is both kind and severe. He is severe to those who fall away into inveterate unbelief, lukewarmness, and idolatry, but kind to those who continue in His kindness through first-thing intimacy with Him, quick obedience, and a life of humble personal transformation.
Speaking distinctly on relationships and behaviors within the church, Paul writes in 1Corinthians 3:17 (ESV): If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. See the dishonesty, the aggressive subversion of God's Word, to say He does not act punitively anymore? Paul said God will destroy whoever harms the ekklesia in a significant way.
Later in the same letter, Paul gives a sermonette on how the Old Testament judgments on Israel are examples and instructions to us today, the New Covenant church. In 10:6,11 he said (ESV, underline mine), Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did...Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction...
What "examples" is Paul referring to? A God-sent plague that killed over 20,000 Israelites in a single day (10:8; from Numbers 25). A God-sent plague of snakes (10:9; from Numbers 21). A God-sent destroying angel (10:10; could refer to multiple incidents). These are supposed to burn our hearts with a healthy fear of the Lord to proactively address our pet idols and stale lukewarmness. Paul is writing here to born-again Christians, not far-left Democrats or radical Muslims.
Just when we think Paul is done trying to get our attention, he says in verses 21,22 (ESV, underline mine), You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
Again when we think Paul is done trying to get our attention on this truth, he continues in 11:29-32 (ESV, underline mine): For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
Concerning sexual sin, 1Thessalonians 4:3,6 say (NIV, underline mine), It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality...The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. Paul says the Lord will punish "all those"--believers and unbelievers--who insist on violating Biblical sexual templates. He apparently warned the Thessalonian church of this very thing more than once.
Hebrews 12:5-13 is the most extensive explanation of the Father's disciplinary judgment in the church. Several diverse words and phrases are used to describe this correctional activity. Verse 5 calls it the "chastening of the Lord" and "being reproved by Him". Verse 6 says "He scourges every son" (Young's Literal Translation). Do you know what a scourge is? Verse 8 says if you are not chastened, "then bastards are ye, and not sons" (YLT). In all, the word "chasten" (sometimes translated "discipline") is used a whopping eight times in Hebrews 12:5-13.
The next time a seeker-sensitive marshmellow fluff teacher tries to smoke your eyes with the illusion of a castrated Father, ask him/her to explain this passage. Ask him/her why the Father would "scourge every son" (verse 6). Watch the Holy Spirit instantly manifest conviction and a guilty awkwardness as they try to squirm around the meaning.
1Peter 4:17 (NASB): For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
This is Peter giving us a panoptic view of God's judgment activity. He says judgment "begins with us first" (the church), then from there expands outward on "those who do not obey the gospel of God" (unsaved individuals, institutions, societies). While we are trying to unleash hellfire and prison time on personal enemies, denominational enemies, and political enemies, we are not even realizing the east wind of God scorching our own lives, relationships, churches, and political camps.
1John 5:16,17 mention the famous notorious phrase "sin unto death". Here it is in the YLT (underline mine): If any one may see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and He shall give to him life to those sinning not unto death; there is sin to death, not concerning it do I speak that he may beseech; all unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not unto death.
The "sin unto death" is the one that moves God to finally take that person's life. It is not any one type of sin. It is the sin that finally makes God say, "Okay, that's enough, I'm taking your life, you've had enough opportunities." The scripture that best summarizes the sin to death is Proverbs 29:1 (NIV): Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy. The Word is filled with examples of the sin to death, from both the people of God and those outside it: Ananias and Sapphira, King Herod, some of the Corinthians believers (1Co 11:30-32), and as we will see in the next subsection, those in a sex cult within a church.
The first-century church in Thyatira had, ummm, a sex cult in it (Rev 2:20,21). It was led by a Jezebel Part II. How did the resurrected Jesus respond? Did He say, "Be at peace beloved swingers and whoremongers, no need to repent or change, my grace automatically covers you and all your STDs. My Father is not judging sin anymore, so be at peace in my agape love as you search for happiness and the abundant life in Jeze's sex cult."
Oh no. Jesus said something that should scare the hell out of us. He, Jesus, your Savior, your sweet naked Baby on a Hallmark card, said, "...I will throw her onto a sickbed..." (v22 ESV), i.e., make her so sick she cannot get out of bed. Gees. Surely you see the irony of that: sexbed to sickbed. He also said, "...those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation..." (v22), unless they repent first. Do not get all offended now at your sweet baby Jesus, because then He said, "and I will strike her children dead..." (V23). Strike her children dead? Read the passage yourself.
You can believe God does not judge sin anymore post-cross, or you can believe the Bible, but you cannot do both. If you say you believe both, you are lying about one.
God's people will fully understand judgment in the last days.
God said, through Jeremiah, that His last-days people would fully understand His judgment activity. Jeremiah 23:20 says (NASB, underline mine): The anger of the LORD will not turn back until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart; in the last days you will clearly understand it. Young's Literal Translation is even clearer: The anger of Jehovah doth not turn back till His doing, and till His establishing, the thoughts of His heart, in the latter end of the days ye attend to it with understanding.
Wholly cow what an exceptional word! Let's take the two underlined phrases one at a time. Jeremiah first said the anger of the Lord will not turn back until...? Until the cross? Until the greasy grace movement? Until the sloppy agape movement? The second phrase answers when: in the latter end of the days you will understand it clearly. The NKJV says "you will understand it perfectly". We know, therefore, from the second phrase that the anger of the Lord (His judgment activity) will not turn back, will still be active, all the way to the very end of days.
God Lets Satan Move First, Then Countermoves
Just before God moves in a major way, He often lets Satan go first (I cannot delve into this divine strategy here). This is why we often experience demonic insanity swirling around us right before a major blessing or reward. Regarding our subject, God let Satan start a movement of greasy grace and sloppy agape right before He began to fulfill Jeremiah 23:20, an important last-days prophecy about God's people understanding His judgment activity clearly, fully, perfectly. Are you a part of Satan's greasy grace and sloppy agape movement, or a part of God's fulfillment of Jeremiah 23:20?
God is constantly doing judicial activity all over the earth.
We tend to think of God's judgment as these out-of-the-ordinary, high spectacle catastrophes that rarely happen or that only happen to the worst of the worst of humanity. While some of God's punitive activities fit those descriptions, the Word presents a more ubiquitous, pervasive, ongoing judgment at lesser levels than most people ever realize. Romans 1:18 says it this way (NIV): The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness. The spirit and language of this verse is that God's punitive activity is everywhere, pervasive, continuous, often in less cinematic forms that are easy to dismiss with alternative explanations. An equivalent word to Romans 1:18 is Psalm 105:7 (YLT): He [is] Jehovah our God, in all the earth [are] His judgments.
God's judgment activity happens at appointed times.
God's judgment activity happens at appointed times. It is not immediate 99% of the time, thanks to His commitment to a grace period of kindness and goodness (Rev 2:21, Ro 2:4). The 1% exception is when His omniscient wisdom counsels Him to judge instantly or quickly (Cain, Korah's rebellion, Uzziah, Ananias and Sapphira, Herod, Elymas, etc.).
The Punitive Kairos in the Old Testament
In the Word, God's punitive kairos is called "the time of judgment" or "hour of judgment" or something equivalent. Ecclesiastes 8:5,6 say (NKJV, underline mine), ...a wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment, because for every matter there is a time and judgment... Not only does Solomon say there is a time of judgment for every matter, he also says a wise man or woman can discern it and recognize it. Why is this scripture never taught? You know why.
Asaph, depressed about the seeming happiness and prosperity of the wicked, almost backslid to join them (Ps 73:1-3). What he did not know, initially, was that the "time of judgment" simply had not come for them. Psalm 73 is the full story, but verses 16-20 describe his revelatory awakening to the time of judgment. When He dug into the presence of God, "then I perceived their end", he said (v17 NASB). He perceived "they are destroyed in a moment" (v19), and that moment is when God "wakes up" to judge (v20)--the time of judgment.
Isaiah 26:9 says it like this (ESV, underline mine): ...when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. In other words, when God's punitive kairos comes, there is an anointed opportunity to learn righteousness.
The Punitive Kairos in the New Testament
Revelation 14:7 words the punitive kairos like this (ESV, underline mine): And he said with a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come..."
The New Testament principle that equates with the time of judgment is the law of sowing and reaping. A farmer does not immediately reap a harvest the day after sowing seed. There is a lag of time, then, at the appointed season, the harvest comes in. Paul used this as a metaphor to describe both the kairos of judgment and the kairos of reward in Galatians 6:7,8 (NASB): Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.
Now connect Galatians 6:7,8 to 1Corinthians 3:7, where Paul again used the farming metaphor, but added that only God can give the increase/harvest. There is a reward harvest and a punitive harvest, and God, as the only one that can give increase/harvest, administers both the rewards and punishments at harvest time.
The Judgment Gradient
God is not a tyrant with sadistic impulses. As we discussed in the Romans 2:1-11 subsection, His first and ideal way of getting our attention on character and life issues is kindness and goodness (Ro 2:4). He gave Jezebel, the prophetess-dominatrix of a sex cult in Thyatira, space and time to repent, and He gives us that same grace period (Rev 2:21). If His merciful methods of transformation are resisted repeatedly, He begins judgment activity. He initiates what I call a judgment gradient.
The Judgment Gradient Revealed
God begins judgment activity at low levels to provoke cooperation with the least amount of pain and fallout. He increases the discipline severity if the target person or group continues to resist. This escalating discipline, or judgment gradient, is first revealed in the Law of Moses in Leviticus 26. Watch how God lays out, in remarkably specific terms, the escalatory nature of His judgment on those who keep resisting.
Leviticus 26:18 (ESV): And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins.
Verse 21: Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins.
Verses 23,24: And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.
Verses 27,28: But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.
The Judgment Gradient in the New Testament
It is tempting to dismiss this procedure as only for Old Covenant Israel. However, common sense suggests God is revealing a timeless judicial protocol in Leviticus 26. While the specific forms of discipline are different for each person, family, group, church, society, or Israel, the essential concept of escalating discipline is timeless. In 1Corinthians 11:30, Paul described a judgment gradient God was using on those desecrating the Lord's Supper (ESV, underline mine): That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. The judgment gradient: weak --> sick --> dead.
In the last days of this age, God will use a judgment gradient of seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls (Rev 6-16), each escalating in severity as the earth-dwellers refuse to repent (9:20,21, 16:9,11).
The Judgment Gradient & Me, You, Us
You who have grown in God to an above-average level know full well He "turned up the heat" and increased consequences when we kept resisting His changes, or kept vacillating with a double mind, or kept loafing in religious lukewarmness. And yet, in His heart, He does not want to start a judgment progression for anyone. Lamentations 3:33 says (NKJV), For He does not afflict willingly... Ezekiel 18:23 and 33:11 say He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they repent and live. This is the merciful motive behind New Testament commands like "humble yourself" (Jas 4:6,10) and "judge yourself" (1Co 11:31). It should never get to the judgment zone!
And yet sometimes it does. Do not fail to recognize God's low-level judgment or escalating judgment in your life or surroundings. The beginning of the judgment gradient is easy to brush off and explain away, especially if you have been brainwashed by the convenient heresy of a castrated Father who does not discipline His children anymore.
An Extreme to Avoid
Once a Christian joins the fulfillment of Jeremiah 23:20, and begins to fully understand the judgment mechanisms of God, the temptation is to swing to an unhealthy extreme and start seeing divine judgment everywhere (the same way out-of-balance Pentecostals and Charismatics see demons everywhere in everything, the same way God-does-not-judge-anymore people see only Satan in everything negative, etc.). As I explained above, God judges at set times 99% of the time. In between times of judgment there is plenty of room for real demonic attacks, humans choices playing out organically, or simply life on an imperfect planet with imperfect dynamics and imperfect happenings.
Sometimes painful or negative developments are not God's judgment activity, but genuine demonic attacks. Paul calls this "the day of evil" in Ephesians 6:13.
Keep in mind, however, sometimes God uses demonic attacks, or allows those attacks to be partially or totally successful, as an act of judgment. As Martin Luther said, "The devil is God's devil." See scriptures like 1Samuel 14:16-23 and 2Corinthians 12:7. Your intimacy with God has to be deep enough to perceive from Him whether a demonic attack is standalone or a proxy of His judgment.
Humans Choices Playing Out Organically
In Luke 13:1-3, Jesus gives an example of human choices playing out organically and negatively. He is commenting on Pilate mixing the blood of Galileans with his pagan sacrifices. Jesus asks, "...Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you..." (v3 ESV). Jesus was saying those murdered Galileans were not any worse sinners than anyone else, that this was not a direct judgment of God, that this was simply Pilate's freewill behavior playing out organically. Jesus then elevates His comments to a higher plane and says (v3), "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." He was saying, "It does not matter how they or you die, if you do not repent you will all perish spiritually and eternally."
Life on an Imperfect Planet with Imperfect Dynamics & Imperfect Happenings
In Luke 13:4,5, Jesus is commenting on the tower of Siloam falling on eighteen people and killing them. Again He asks the same question, "...those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you..." Jesus was saying those eighteen who tragically died were not any worse sinners than anyone else, that this was not a direct judgment of God, that this was simply life on an imperfect planet with imperfect dynamics and imperfect happenings. Jesus then elevates His comments to the eternal and says (v3), "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." He was saying, again, "It does not matter how they or you die, if you do not repent you will all perish spiritually and eternally."
When you start to fully understand the judgment mechanisms of God, avoid swinging to an unhealthy extreme that overlooks genuine demonic attacks, human freewill playing out organically, and life on an imperfect planet with imperfect dynamics and imperfect happenings.
God's first and ideal method to lead us to submissive transformation is His kindness and goodness, Romans 2:4 says. This kindness and goodness most often comes through His voice, teaching, and counsel. If we resist, He will discipline us and keep doing so until. Psalm 32:8,9 puts it all together perfectly (NKJV): I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you. We can either come through His voice, teaching, and counsel, or we can come because He is using a bit and bridle on us.
Paul reiterates this same either-or in Romans 11:20-22 (ESV): ...They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
These two passages summarize our entire subject.