The Kind and Merciful Judgment of God

Biblical teaching on the judgment is critically important. Many churches insult God by portraying him as merciless, a cruel deity who would torture a human for eternity for one sin because he is “holy” and “just.” (What sort of holiness and justice tortures people for one sin?)

This error arises from the evangelical tendency to interpret the Bible only from their incorrect understanding of “salvation by faith alone.” Thus, evangelicals use verses on faith to create doctrines on baptism, judgment, and other subjects without taking into account the passages that address those subjects. Thus, they have a misunderstanding of judgment that insults God, making him the most unholy and unjust of all deities. Being merciless is neither just nor holy.

The Bible’s actual passages on judgment show us a God of true justice, who punishes only the wicked and sets things right. We don’t have to take our own revenge because he will take vengeance on those who deserve it (Romans 12:19-21). He is merciful, and he only punishes the guilty (Ex. 34:6-7; Gal 6:7-9). He takes no delight in the death of the wicked, but promises that if the wicked will repent and live righteously (“but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God”–Micah 6:8), then he will reward life. (Ezek. 18:20-30; 33:10-20). He gives eternal life to those who help the needy and sends to hell only those who turn their hearts and faces away from the hungry, naked, sick, and imprisoned (Matt. 25:31-46).

People who teach the awful, cruel judgment of the evangelical god wind up teaching that Jesus died to change God. God wanted to be merciful, they say, but his justice prevents him from being merciful unless he kills someone. (How awful is this portrayal of God?). Thus, they say, Jesus died so that God would not kill all of us. That may be a wonderful portrayal of Jesus, but it is a terrible portrayal of his Father.

Because of this terrible teaching, the wonderfully kind promise that those who do good will receive eternal life (Romans 2:6-7) cannot be believed. To them such a judgment is not kind because no one can possibly do good. They claim the rest of Romans explains that Jesus’ death delivered us from God’s cruel judgment rather than from our own slavery to sin.

Rightly understood, Romans explains that under the Law, the sin in our flesh causes us to violate the Law; therefore Jesus died to free us from “sin in the flesh” by putting “sin in the flesh” to death (Romans 7:1 – 8:4). We are freed from sin (Rom. 6:7), we receive the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9), and then sowing to the Spirit leads to not growing weary in doing good and the reward of eternal life (Gal. 6:7-9). Galatians 6:7 says we are not supposed to be deceived about this.

If we are going to teach the judgment, it is obvious that we ought to use verses on the judgment to teach about it. We should read Ezekiel 18 and 33 and get God’s understanding of the judgment into us. We should pay attention to God’s kind words about Job, David, Daniel, and Noah (e.g., Ezek. 14:14,20; 1 Sam. 13:14). Once we do, verses like John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (NASB), will be delightful to us. They will motivate us to both the godly fear AND the unspeakable joy of which Peter speaks (1 Pet. 1:8,17).

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
This entry was posted in Dealing with Scripture Honestly, Evangelicals, Gospel, Modern Doctrines, Rebuilding the Foundations and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Kind and Merciful Judgment of God

  1. Thanks, Paul. Yes, I like that last line.

  2. Hi Paul, This is interesting. If God wants us to do the right thing and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then we should use our moral compass aided by the Ten Commandments. But in a situation, such as, Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, would Abraham have been right to disobey God, seeing that “Though shall not murder/kill” is a commandment. Also, how do we know what determines who suffers an eternity in hell, and who just loses their life? This is a huge distinction and not very clear in the Bible. As usual, I always find your blogs to be a most stimulating read. Have a very happy and healthy holiday this year, by the way.

    • Paul Pavao says:

      This comment is, of course, quite a bit wider than my post covers. I do want to comment that “where is the line” between the righteous and the unrighteous is a common question directed to me when I talk about the judgment. It seems unthinkable to evangelicals that there might be a line. My answer, though, is that I have no idea where the line is. The apostle John claims that the difference between the righteous and unrighteous is “obvious” or “manifest” (1 Jn. 3:6-10). I don’t believe we have to worry about a line. I believe we need to get up every day, seek God, and give our best effort at doing his will. Those who do so will find that their hearts are assured because they are loving in deed and not just in word (1 Jn. 3:18-22).

      As for the extreme exception of Abraham being asked to kill Isaac, it appears to me that Abraham got person visits from God (the Son of God, pre-incarnate, appearing in human form as an angel would). He got extremely clear words from God, and Isaac was a unique situation, typifying as he did the sacrifice of God’s own Son. I am going to conclude that if God tells you to kill someone, you need to get help from a Christian counselor or a psychiatrist!

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