© 2018, Charles A. Clough
Our Relationship with God in 2018: Estranged or Intimate?
A Study of the Character of God as He has Revealed Himself
vs. the Substitute Idols of our Neo-Pagan Culture
God Alone is RIGHTEOUS: God Alone is Perfectly JUST
2018 North Stonington Bible Church Labor Day Conference
Charles Clough Lesson #03
September 2, 2018
[Note: The slide numbers referenced throughout refer to the
number in the lower right corner of the slides]
If you’ll take out that hymnbook again and turn to that hymn that we just sang, I want to show you something about some of these classic hymns. One of the nice things about a hymnbook like this is that down in the lower left underneath the music you’ll see where the hymn started. Often it’s nice when you see these classic hymns to go back and look at the dates and look at who did this. You’ll notice Samuel Wesley was involved in the music in this hymn and that Samuel Stone, who was a contemporary of Wesley, was the one who wrote the words to this hymn.
The reason why I think this is a nice exercise is because when we sing some of these historic hymns we’re singing something that people close to 200 years ago were singing and it kind of unifies us in the sense that it places us with that historic community. So, these classic hymns unite us with other generations of believers.
Alright you have your handout and one of the things in the handout now that we’re going through the different attributes of God, you’ll see that I’m going over the same outline for every one of the attributes. Basically, it’s a four-part outline where I start with Point #1: the idea of special revelation, and I point that out because you can’t tell anything about God if God hasn’t spoken.
So, God has to be the One who reveals Himself; the self-revealing God of history, That’s one of the axioms of our whole presentation. It flies in the face of the satanic notion given in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve, which is: “Has God really said?” Satan has always attacked the idea that God self-reveals; that His words are authoritative. It doesn’t matter what century you study, it doesn’t matter whether it was BC or AD; the point still is it is the same attack over and over and over and I’ve shown you different quotes to prove this out.
The second point is that besides starting with special revelation, we start with the fact that we are human beings made in God’s image and at the deepest levels of our heart we yearn for a relationship with Him and we intuitively recognize that. Even when we’re unbelievers, in the depths of our heart we know very well He exists. We use His name in vain when we get frustrated. We don’t curse in Buddha’s name, we curse in God’s name.
So, it’s an awareness that He’s there and we pretend that He isn’t—that’s the flesh and the sin nature that does that. I always try from point #1: special revelation.
Point #2 is what is the analog in our structure, as creatures made in God’s image, that answers to that sovereign attribute of God? Each one of His attributes has an analog with us because we’re made in His image. We are finite; we don’t have the infinite dimension to it but we have something that is an analogous to it. The reason why that’s important to think about is because that’s how we know Him, that’s how we have a relationship with Him. We couldn’t have a relationship with Him if we were utterly unlike Him.
Then the third thing I try to cover in each one of these attributes is the unbelieving substitutes for the attributes of God. If we cut ourselves off, as unbelief historically has done, we have to come up with some sort of substitute, some idol, because we need that structure. We’re made in God’s image after all, and we yearn in the depths of our hearts for those things. So, if we don’t fill that need with what He is, the kind of God He is, we’re going to substitute another thing. That’s why from the very start in the Garden of Eden we have the fig leaves, we sew fig leaves on.
As I said earlier, those of you who saw that movie God’s Not Dead—Part 1, and you remember the dialogue that went on between the student at the university and the professor, the atheist professor. I drew your attention to that scene at the end of that film where the student is alone with the professor in an empty lecture hall and the student turns to the faculty member and he says, “Why do you hate God so much?”
The whole drama swings on that conversation because the professor all this time has talked about evolution, the cosmic deep-time of the universe, and all this other stuff, quoting the contemporary scientists for that belief, and then all of a sudden the fig leaves are dropped and he says, “I’ll tell you why I hate God. My mother died of cancer and I prayed to Him and she died anyway.” Oh, okay, that’s the real reason for his unbelief. It isn’t the cosmology of modern unbelief. Cosmology of unbelief is simply a fig leaf that covers his anger toward God Himself.
Then the fourth thing in these outlines for the attributes of God is the blessing that these attributes accrue to us when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and we’re walking in fellowship with Him. What do these attributes contribute to strengthen our faith in a time when we face a culture that’s in denial?
Last night we went through God is sovereign and I want to take you to a passage that we didn’t get to last night. At the end of last night, we had three things that sovereignty gives us. We went to the Nebuchadnezzar passage in Daniel to show that when we understand God is sovereign, it causes us to be humble. You can’t be arrogant and believe in the sovereignty of God because He’s the one that’s in charge. So, there’s no place for arrogance.
Humility is one of the cardinal virtues. The stories out of the Old Testament with the kings, and we cite David as a good example; David was a revolutionary change in ancient near-Eastern political posturing. Until David came along, the standard operating procedure in pagan politics was: you assassinate the person that’s opposing you, and the reason they reverted to murder and assassination is because that gave them political security.
That’s the whole story of 1 and 2 Samuel. All the events that we read about in those books are the Holy Spirit trying to teach us how David revolutionized politics in his day. The reason being is that he refused, even though he had the opportunity to assassinate Saul, even though at one point he had military power to take over the throne, he did not do that. He insisted, even to his fellow soldiers, “No, we’re not going to do it that way. I will become king when the Lord Who anointed me works it out and I’m going to leave it in His hands.” That was a revolutionary thought and that’s one of the powerful ground motifs of the Old Testament kingly narratives.
I want to take you to another passage in the Old Testament and this is 1 Kings 22. I take you here because 1 Kings 22 is a very unique passage of Scripture because it gives us glimpses into the unseen realm of history. We don’t know much about the invisible world. We do know that Satan as well as the unfallen angels, and God’s angels, are at war around us; that they have affected history.
Daniel and his dream. Remember, the angel is sent from God Himself and it takes the angel three weeks to penetrate the geographical realm of what we now call Iran. What is going on? Why does it take a powerful angel sent by God to fight his way three weeks to get to the location where Daniel is? Well obviously, it’s telling us something. There are principalities and powers that block—they’re active at blocking God’s work, otherwise we wouldn’t have that passage.
But in this passage, 1 Kings 22, remember last night we said the first thing about sovereignty is it keeps us humble. The second thing we talked about last night was the conversation between God and Moses on Mount Sinai. I tried to make the point there that when we think of God’s sovereignty don’t think of a computer program and that we’re all robots programmed to go with this God. That’s a very naïve view of control.
God doesn’t control history that way. God controls history through creatures made in His image with dialogue and interaction. That’s the purpose of that Exodus passage, so you could see the dialogue that God spoke to Moses and maneuvered the conversation so that it incentivized Moses to do what God wanted him to do.
Now watch what happens in 1 Kings 22:19. This is a historic moment in the Northern Kingdom with apostate Ahab in charge. He has turned the civil government into a religious counterfeit. He has continued the Northern Kingdom from the very beginning. The sin of Jeroboam was that Jeroboam, although he was called by God to rule the Northern Kingdom, he would not trust the Lord with his political future. He decided: “God isn’t enough. I’ve got to secure my political posture and I’m going to do it by creating another worship center.”
Actually, he created two sites other than Jerusalem, because he did not want people in his kingdom to go south to Jerusalem three times a year. Because he was afraid that if: “I let these people go, their allegiance is going to switch from the Northern Kingdom to the Southern Kingdom.” This is political maneuvering here. What he did is he set up counterfeit locations.
Well then he had a problem: who’s going to be the bureaucracy that runs the counterfeit locations? It’s the Levites in the Southern Kingdom. So he creates a whole government bureaucracy of fake priests [in the Northern Kingdom] to staff these worship centers and this is called the “sin of Jeroboam”. If you look in your concordance you see the term “sin of Jeroboam” repeatedly throughout this whole bunch of literature. No king in the Northern Kingdom ever reversed the sin of Jeroboam. They kept this phony bureaucracy going for centuries.
But now Ahab, who married the daughter of the leading Baalist priest from what is now Lebanon and she comes in and she basically turns the counterfeit kingdom into a Baal cult. So, what was bad before the sin of Jeroboam, now becomes doubly bad because it’s dedicated to the arch-enemy of Jehovah—Baal.
Ahab is going to go up the battle and he asks help from this prophet Micaiah. In verse 19 Micaiah says: “Hear therefore, the Word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right and on his left.” That’s remarkable; this is a meeting of every angel in the universe and for some reason the Holy Spirit opened Micaiah’s eyes so he could glimpse a universal convention, something out of the Empire Strikes Back or something here, these are all the angelic powers in the universe assembled before God.
Now watch what goes on here in this meeting; this is a rare glimpse behind the curtains of history. “The Lord said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead? One said on this manner; and another said on that manner.’ ” Now you see what’s remarkable about that verse? This is the Lord, He is going to sovereignly determine that Ahab is defeated. But He doesn’t turn on some software to make it happen. What He’s doing is He’s going through an intermediary of millions and millions of angelic powers.
This is remarkable that He does this, and we get a glimpse at how He maneuvers history. So, the angels are given a challenge. The Lord says, “Who’s going to do this? I need it done, who’s going to volunteer?” So, notice the last part of verse 20: one said in one manner; and one said the other manner; they’re having an angelic discussion, they’re having a conference: who’s going to do it, how are they going to do it, and so on. Isn’t this remarkable? It’s not a computer program that’s working here. This is a meeting of creatures with volition.
“So there came forth a spirit and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘With what?’ And he said, ‘I will go forth,’ ” and notice that the pronoun; it’s not plural, it’s a singular pronoun. “He said, ‘I will go forth and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of one prophet or many prophets.’ ” Many prophets—there are hundreds of these guys. “ ‘I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophetic advisors.’ And the Lord said, ‘Go, persuade them and prevail and go and do it.’ ”
Now here apparently a lying spirit is one of the fallen angels, but he’s volunteering to do the Lord’s work in history to cause this historical event and the interesting thing here is that he is one spirit, but somehow he creates a mob mentality. These principalities and powers; it’s a sobering thing to think about, but it doesn’t take but one to cause a riot in many different people. He spread a delusion, plurality, throughout a group at least numbering 300–400 people. That’s how these ideas can spread in history.
Don’t be naïve. And that’s why it behooves us as believers to go back to Genesis 3 and think through what were the basic lies that Satan promoted? One was: there’s no special revelation from God, there’s no absolute authority. That was first. And the second one was: we can exercise dominion by ourselves and create our own standards of right and wrong. So, where you sniff that idea you know the source now and you know the powers and principalities that are pushing that.
We’re going to cover two attributes now in this study. The first one we’re going to deal with is God’s righteousness. The second one we’re going to deal with is God’s justice. Now those really are combined in Scripture, often under God’s holiness. What we want to do is, we’ve seen this slide over and over again, but what I want to do is I want to speak and use a particular term, and then I will illustrate this term with events from the Bible.
I’m going to use the term “sacred space.” What is a sacred space? It sounds at first that a sacred space violates the idea that God is omnipresent, but there are sacred spaces, and in biblical theology, we won’t have time this morning to go into biblical theology, its study, when you study at seminary graduate level and you deal with exegesis and the languages, you do not, if you are following the proper methodology, you don’t skip from exegesis to systematic theology). There is an intermediate step called biblical theology.
You go from exegesis to biblical theology then to systematic theology. Why do I say all that? Here is why: when you interpret a passage of Scripture, you’re interpreting a letter or a book written by a particular person who has particular vocabulary. You all know this intuitively because when you read the Gospel of John, the fourth Gospel, that’s a different vocabulary than Matthew, isn’t it? The reason is that Matthew was a bureaucrat working in the government and his style of writing is to document things.
John is a meditator. He thinks, and when you study Greek you love John because it’s very simple Greek, but then you get into the Greek and you realize, holy cow this is deep stuff in this fourth Gospel. So, you don’t go jumping into John and jumping into Matthew, pick a little here and pick a little there and come up with a theology. You’ve got to understand that these are two different people, writing under the authorship of the Holy Spirit, but they’re using their vocabulary differently.
Paul, for example, when he says you are “in Christ” he’s talking about positional truth. But when John uses “in Christ” he’s talking about abiding truth—phase 2 truth. So if you confuse those two, you’ve got a messy systematic theology. So, biblical theology is in-between. I make that point because one of the biblical theology textbooks was written by a man from Dallas Seminary and we use his textbook. He has done a whole study on the concept of “sacred space.” Let’s go through six examples of sacred spaces.
In the Garden of Eden, what did God do after Adam and Eve fell, geographically? What did He do to the location, remember? He kicked them out of the Garden. And then how did He prevent them from coming back into the Garden? An angel, who was invested by the way, with the authority to capitally punish. The angel had a sword, he wasn’t playing with the sword. It wasn’t like some Fourth of July thing. The sword was there to kill people, so they could not reenter that space. Now did that mean they were separated from God’s omnipresence? No, it meant, however, that that Garden of Eden was a sacred space that God reserved at one time to meet face-to-face with people, and so that was a dedicated location.
Now let’s think of another one: Abraham goes to Bethel and he calls this place where he has his first altar the name “Beth-el”. Well “Beth” is the Hebrew word for house and “El” is the Hebrew word for God, Elohim. So that was the house of God, and it was a sacred space. It was marked in Jewish history as the location where God spoke and called out Abraham, the first Jew.
But then there’s a more dramatic illustration of a sacred space and that one is Mount Sinai. Let’s watch the text here. Visualize yourself standing with Moses on Mount Sinai. The Angel the Lord appeared to Moses and called to him from the midst of the burning bush. Then Moses approaches and the Angel says this, “Do not draw near to this place. Take your sandals off your feet for the place where you stand is holy ground.”
Now why did the Angel require Moses to take his sandals off? It was a gesture to show Moses that this was a special place where there would be special revelation and a special relationship progressing. Here we have people who are watching up there at Mount Sinai and here’s their reaction, “All the people witnessed the thundering, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, and then they said to Moses, ‘You speak with us and we will hear but let not God speak with us lest we die.’ ”
That’s the cry for an intercessor and the sobering thing about this sort of text is we often read in some of our modern hymnbooks about “I want to see Jesus.” Well, I understand what they’re trying to say, we want to see Jesus. But the problem is that when God appears with His glory, the people aren’t relaxed and it’s not a comfortable experience.
When you see theophanies you see people, godly men like Daniel that are sick for a week afterwards. It affects them physiologically, just the very presence of the glory of God. These people were freaked out by what they saw and their reaction was, “you go speak, I don’t want to confront God like this.”
Then we have the other one: Moses finished the work, and here’s another example of a different sacred space. After they built the tabernacle according to God’s design, then the glory of God descends in the tabernacle. “Moses finished the work, then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” Then look at the next sentence: “Moses was not able to enter.” You see the power of the glory of God when it’s in full blossom here and that’s why there are these special locations where God manifests Himself like this in this dramatic way.
We also have another verse that shows you this same idea, and this is in Revelation. This is Jesus, but it’s Jesus letting forth His full deity. While Jesus was on earth during His ministry—think of Jesus and His humanity as a lampshade over a bulb of light. His humanity shielded the disciples from the full glory and power of His deity. And here, however, His humanity let it through sort of like the lampshade became transparent so that they could see it. John was physiologically dropped to his feet by this kind of thing: “The Son of Man, His head and hair were white like wool, His eyes a flame of fire, feet like fine brass, His voice as the sound of many waters.”
By the way, John was on the island of Patmos at the time. You have the surf beating. You know how if you listen to the ocean and the surf, if you think about it when you’ve been around the ocean, the sound starts off [in the distance] and then it comes towards you. The idea is that the sound isn’t coming from one location, it’s coming from all over, and that’s the pounding surf.
That’s what he’s talking about. “Out of His mouth was a sharp two-edged sword.” I didn’t bring that in to show you, I’ll try to remember next time to show you what a makhaira actually looks like. I have a full-size example of a makhaira. “A sharp two-edged sword, His countenance like the sun shining in its strength.” You remember on the Mount of Transfiguration, they said His face looked like the sun? I mean can you imagine? You can’t go out here and look at the sun without burning your retina. Well, this is what the glory of God looks like when it’s let loose. “His countenance like the sun shining in its strength, when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.” There again is a sort of a sacred space in the presence of Jesus when He lets the whole thing loose.
Now that’s point 1; that’s the special revelation of what God’s righteous standard looks like. The second thing is, now we go to what’s analogous in our experience. The only thing we have that comes close to God’s righteousness is the sense of conscience. Our consciences can be suppressed, but I don’t think our conscience can be totally erased. I think that because if we were able to totally erase our conscience, we could no longer be held accountable.
One of the ethical problems fallen man has is: where do we get an absolute standard? In 1945 at Nuremberg there was a problem. Justice [Robert H.] Jackson of the United States Supreme Court was the prosecuting attorney that the Allies decided to be the prosecutor. So, here’s the situation in 1945, and it’s a classic dilemma when you give up the special revelational authority of what you’re left with afterward.
At Nuremberg they were trying the Nazi bureaucracy, and the Nazi bureaucracy’s defense was, “You can’t prosecute us. We followed German law; we obeyed German law. So by the standard of German law we are innocent.” Well now how are you going to argue that one? You can’t bring American law in because American law did not apply to the Germans. So, here’s Justice Jackson trying to figure out how to run this trial. And so in his famous argument, it’s a famous point, Judge Jackson said, “We have to use a higher law above the provincial and the transient.”
Now pay attention to his words: We have to try the Nazi war crime people by a higher law. We can’t use American law. We can’t use German law. We have to have a higher law that he says is “above the provincial,” that means the location. It’s not one country and it is “not transient,” meaning it doesn’t change. So where do you suppose at Nuremberg they got a higher law? They basically used international public opinion poll: what you think about this? And the reason why that kind of thing works is because you have millions of people on the earth that have a conscience.
But the point is that when you diminish transcendent right and wrong, you’ve got some serious problems. You can’t convict if you don’t have a standard to convict by. This was graphically brought to me when in our Framework course at [Chafer] Seminary I had a couple of lawyers in one of my courses and we were discussing these covenants, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, and so on. I was making the point that the Hebrew word “covenant” is really another word for “contract”, and so I knew there was a term for this and thankfully the lawyers helped me with it.
I knew there was a term where you have to qualify to be an assignee to a contract. I mean a 13-year-old kid can’t sign a mortgage agreement, so what’s the term for that? The attorneys said the term for that is “legal capacity”; you have to have legal capacity to be party to a contract. If you think about it, we need legal capacity to be parties to any contract that God has made and the legal capacity comes because of our imputed righteousness. That’s why the first contract that’s specified in detail is the one with Abraham. What happens when that contract goes into effect? God says, “Abraham, I credit you with righteousness, for your faith,” and that’s the passage from which Paul derived imputed righteousness.
Point 3: with this attribute of righteousness, what’s the pagan substitute? Well there really are only two classes of substitutes; one is what I call “opinion poll ethics.” You go out and take a survey and that’s what you’re left with. The answer to that from the Christian point of view is in Romans 3 when Paul says, “Let God be true and every man a liar.” God’s vote out-votes everybody else’s in an opinion poll.
The second category is a tyrannical imposition of politically correct opinion, and this is what we’re seeing in our society, where we basically have legal bureaucrats deciding what is right and wrong for our schools, corporations, and so on. We see also a rather sinister development in Facebook, Google, and YouTube, with the executives censoring the content. Now they try to be responsible, I’m not attributing these guys as evil men, but they’re confused guys; most of them grew up in the 60s and so they have no exposure whatsoever to the Christian view, so they don’t think in terms of a standard other than what they can impose on Facebook and Google and all the rest of it. So that’s the fight now, watch it develop. Watch what happens.
Now here’s the concluding blessing of believing that God is absolutely righteous. It is comforting to our inner heart, and I was recently reading a book by Ravi Zacharias in which he and his wife had this beloved dog and the dog became very close to them. He quoted Isaiah 1:3: “The ox knows its owner, the donkey his master’s crib, and the Lord said, ‘But my people don’t know Me.’ ” Very incisively, Ravi took that verse and he said, “Isn’t it interesting that animals like a dog have a loyalty to their owners that goes above their loyalty to other dogs.”
You have one kind—dog—and he has this affinity higher to a creature made utterly different than him. He doesn’t share his DNA and yet there’s this bond that develops between the dog and his owner. So Ravi said, “Isn’t it interesting. This is almost like us, down here, finite creatures, and yet we have a loyalty to God Who is Superior, Who is a Spirit, infinite in size above us. It’s as though we have a loyalty beyond our own kind, just like the dog has a loyalty. He develops this relationship with his owner.” I thought that was kind of an interesting point about how our hearts yearn for a righteous relationship.
Then we have this truth: Jesus in His human nature perfectly executed righteousness. People often think of this when they say, “Well, Jesus was perfect. Of course, He was. He was God.” There’s a doctrine built out of Philippians 2 called the doctrine of kenosis after a Greek word, and here’s what it means and why it’s important: when you see the claim that Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the Law “as a man,” He perfectly fulfilled it because the Lord in His humanity relied on the Holy Spirit empowering His humanity just as we have to. We have a fallen nature. Granted, He did not. But He had human nature, and as humans He had to be sanctified. Now isn’t this striking? It shows you by the way that sanctification doesn’t just do with evil, it’s also with good.
Here’s what the passage says: “Though He was a son, yet He learned …” Learned—a verb. “… He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” That shows you that Jesus learned things in His humanity. He grew up. He is one of us. And so we look at Jesus in another light here, that He was a genuine human being. He knows suffering. “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, to make the captain of their salvation perfect [or mature], through sufferings.”
That is the doctrine of kenosis and that is why we have a sympathetic High Priest. When you’re tired, when you’re frustrated, when you have suffering in your life, you’re not coming to Jesus as though He’s somebody that’s off in Heaven somewhere who’s never experienced these things. Jesus Christ knows what it means to be tired. He knows what it means to be hungry. He knows what it means to be betrayed by friends. He knows all of the kinds of sufferings that people face. And that’s what makes Him a dynamic Priest and Intercessor for us.
Finally, the third blessing of God’s righteousness and knowing it, is it compels us to self-examination. That God is light; if we say we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness we lie and don’t practice the truth. Then every communion service pastors read 1 Corinthians 11 and why do we read it? So that a man examine himself and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. The self-examination is incentivized with our consciousness that we are approaching a righteous God and we have to keep that in mind as we do this.
The second attribute we’re going to deal with this morning is: God is perfectly just. When we deal with this we’re dealing with a profound concept that I’ve illustrated with a slide that’s at the end of your handout and that’s this slide, and again I’ve shown this over the years here, but this summarizes the whole good and evil issue. There’s a choice here just like the other one: Creator/creature distinction. Up here at the Christian biblical point of view you have the Creator Who is good from eternity to eternity; never been evil.
Then we have the creation which is created good and is good up until this point: the Fall. From the Fall onward we have good and evil mixed together. But the good news is that God is going to judge. Now people freak out when we talk about Heaven and Hell. But come on, think about this. How do you get rid of evil? You’ve got to deal with it or we’re left with the pagan [viewpoint]. This is the yin-yang symbol used in the Orient for eastern religion—good and evil, from eternity to eternity.
That’s why in Asia they believe in nirvana, in dying; destroying your personality. Why? They want to escape. They don’t want reincarnation forever and ever. Who wants to come back to a fallen world over and over and over and over again? Only the hippies of the 60s thought that was cute, but that’s because they didn’t understand the implications here.
The point is that outside of the Scriptures if you do not have a final judgment you do not have a solution to good and evil. It’s precisely what nobody wants to talk about that is the solution to the good-evil problem and we have those verses in the Scripture. We have two kinds of judgments. This summarizes just the concept of God judging.
We have two kinds of judgments in the Scriptures in special revelation. One kind is graceful and that is what we call “vicarious judgments.” What’s a vicarious judgment? A vicarious judgment is when God judges something else for you and for me.
The animals that were killed by the thousands in the Old Testament system—a slaughterhouse. People sometimes refer to the Old Testament as slaughterhouse religion. Imagine the blood and the mess from hundreds, if not thousands, of animals having their throat slit and bleeding to death. Why was this? Surely it wasn’t comfortable to the priest, after all, they do have a heart? But somehow they realize, “We’ve got to appease God.”
Even the natives out in the boonies have the kind of sacrifices because it is intuitive that I don’t want to suffer, I want to transfer my offense, my sin, over to something else and let something else take it. But that’s substitutionary atonement and that’s a revelation of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
So that’s why Jesus Christ was judged. [It was] horrible, apparently it was so awful that God sent darkness for three hours so nobody could see what was going on. So God turned the Cross into a receptor device for all of Hell and the subsequent geophysical phenomena attending the Cross, the great earthquake. You had experienced Roman army officers who had seen many, many executions, but the guy who was apparently the ranking officer sits there and he sees this and he says, “This is the Son of God, I’ve never seen an execution like this before.”
A friend of mine, Steve Austin, who has done a lot of geology work in Israel, says that he’s found evidence that the earthquake that accompanied the crucifixion extended all way out to the Dead Sea. He said he can see in the strata out in the Dead Sea evidence of this massive earthquake. And he also came out with the fact that it was probably this earthquake that split the Temple robe from top to bottom, not from the bottom up but from the top down, because it destroyed the lintel. Things accompanied this. It wasn’t just a simple human execution. That’s vicarious judgments.
Now you also have judgments where grace ends and that’s something we need to think about. Grace is temporary. God’s love is eternal, but grace is not eternal. Grace began to be manifested after sin first appeared. Grace is love exercised in a sinful environment, that’s why it’s called grace.
In these cases what are some examples? The Flood. God said I’m giving this generation 120 years to live and that’s it. I’m tired of this and I’m going to end this civilization; over and out, no more grace. So, the Flood is a sobering illustration of a global judgment. Talk about an environmental problem! They had an environmental problem alright. So, we have the Flood.
Then the Exodus judgment on Egypt. We have Passover. What do you think about the Egyptians that lost all their firstborn? What about Pharaoh? He lost his son. That was a graceless judgment in the sense that “I’ve had it with Egypt and I’m going to judge them.” Grace ran out.
It’s very sobering to think about these sorts of things—that grace is going to run out for the globe in the Tribulation. When the Tribulation sets up there will be limited areas of grace, of course, the people repent, but the idea basically is that grace does not go on forever. Today is the day of salvation.
That’s a revelation of justice. What’s our analogy? In our own hearts what corresponds to God’s justice? Well, I think it’s obvious: we get mad at evil don’t we? Don’t we get angry at stuff we see? Why do we get angry? What is it about this?
A little child gets angry doesn’t he when his brother takes his toy? Do you teach your little boy or little girl, “Now let’s be angry; here’s how you be angry.” I’ve never met a kid that had to be taught how to be angry. It comes intuitively. There’s a sense that if a right standard is violated it’s got to be fixed and I’m angry until it is fixed. Well that’s a finite way that we have as human beings to do that, but the problem is, in our perversity what happens?
We have guidance in the Scriptures. What does Paul say? “Do not avenge yourselves. Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Ultimately no matter what the injustice is, we can reduce it. And I’ll show you the rest of the verse here, but the point is that ultimately we can’t do anything about erasing evil from history. We can get angry about it, but it is God that has to solve that problem ultimately. “Do not avenge yourselves. Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” and notice, that’s Romans 12.
But isn’t it striking that within a verse or two of Romans 12 we have Romans 13 that introduces the function of civil government as the tool of limited justice. I say limited because no government knows human hearts. Human civil government is installed as a semi-preservative of society to keep civilization existing for long enough for grace to take hold in human hearts. That’s the function of government. The function of government is not redemption.
See that’s where the whole liberal approach to government is wrong. Civil government is Divine Institution #4 that God installed in Genesis 9. They’re trying to change the mission of civil government into something that is supposed to be the church. They’re trying to turn it into an agency of grace. The civil government isn’t structured to do that. The civil government is there—the police officer, the court system, and so on—they’re there to curtail evil. It’s a preservative institution, it is not a redemptive institution. There’s a fundamental difference.
You can’t expect the government to transform society. The government can only do limited things. It can’t rebuild families that are broken. It can’t do therapy, psychotherapy a lot, in many cases, so it’s limited.
So, after that notice: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. He, …” the governing authority, “… doesn’t bear the sword in vain for he is God’s minister.” Now that is a stunning statement and you’ll only find that in the Christian faith in the New Testament. Look at that word: for he is God’s “minister.” Now how is some corrupted political official God’s minister? Because in spite of all the corruption, they’re part of an institution; if you want to see what’s going to happen, take the police out the cities and watch what happens.
See when we talk about that the police do this and the police do that and they shoot people and so on, well yeah, they’re armed. Do they make mistakes? Of course, they do. But if you ride along with a police officer at night in the inner city watch the snap decisions they have to make within a split second or they get killed. Take away that restraint and you’ll see what happens and you’ll see the function of civil government. It’s got to be there. He is God’s minister to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
Now, let’s think about the pagan replacements for this. What we have today is thinking of the government as a redemptive institution. We have personal vengeance. We also have the idea, and this has historically existed for centuries, the yearning for a just society. That’s not wrong. That’s something endemic to us as human beings. We all long for Eden—to get back to Eden.
The problem is we had a fall, so now what do you do? How do you get back to Eden past the effects of the Fall?
So, we have humanly engineered attempts to do this. One is Marxist socialism. Karl Marx (1818–1883) started a movement that eventually, within two of his lifetimes, murdered 30 million people. That is an engineered scheme of Marxist socialism. It has destroyed half of Eastern Europe. It ravaged the Russian economy, because Marxist socialism has this fixation that the Fall, if you read Marxist theology, Marxist political philosophy, Karl Marx said that the Fall is basically related to private property, so we’ve got to get rid of private property. He said when we had hunter-gatherers and everybody shared common ground, everything was fine.
Then we have the farmers that started. Well, the farmer has got to have private property to guard his crop, so he said there is the beginning of the problem: we have people with capital, meaning investment, so now we’re against capitalism. So, it’s a whole movement there but it always fails.
Then we have the fascists. A good example is Nazi Germany. Here we have a crony capitalism getting together with racism involved. So fascism failed. We see that with World War II.
We have Islam trying to impose sharia law everywhere they go, not thinking of the fact that where they have imposed sharia law it’s been an economic disaster and they don’t like the poverty that that results from this stuff; they don’t like the cruelty that happens; so we’re going to go to the United States and we’ll get rid of this. Well, no you’re not. You’re coming to the United States, you refuse to assimilate like all other immigrants historically have, and so then you create your own little sharia groups in France, in London, and elsewhere, and what’s happening? You’re just reproducing the same mess that you fled from.
When you come to another country you assimilate to the country. If you don’t like the country, don’t go there. But every country has the right to demand people to assimilate to whatever the culture is. That’s the result of Babel.
Anyway, we have that kind of movement, and the most modern movement we have is the radical environmental movement that is looking for a utopia. I worked with climate change, and that sort of thing so I won’t go into the details, but we have powerful voices, as one member of the United Nations International Committee on Climate Change said, “This isn’t about climate change, this is about redistributing the world’s wealth,” and I was so glad that he said that because that lets the cat out of the bag and tells you exactly what the motive here is.
We have all these competing idolatrous attempts to bring about what every human heart wants which is a just society. We want to get back to Eden, but the problem is we need God’s help and it’s only Jesus Christ that is going to, by His return, bring about a just society.
Conclusion: the blessings of believing in God’s justice. We know from that slide that I showed before that there’s got to be godly judgment that’s perfectly just to get rid of evil if we are ever to have an existence like that in Eden. We’re not going to get there without judgment.
We have this verse. I understand you’ve been working here on the Book of Revelation. Look what it says, this is a discriminatory, eternally discriminatory verse. I’m sorry but this is eternal discrimination on the basis of character, not on the basis of race, not on the basis of how high up you are, whether you’re overweight or underweight or some other absurdity. This is a result of moral character. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city, but outside are dogs and sorcerers, sexually immoral, and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.”
That’s how things end up, how else are things going to end up? Think about it; it’s got to end up that way if you’re going to deal with the evil problem. So divinely administered judgment is our hope.
Second thing: knowing God’s righteousness that when we strip aside the restraints, we can’t even look at Him. Remember the vision of Jesus in Revelation, His face shown as the sun? I don’t know about you but I’m not going to look at His face. So, knowing this as the projection of God’s righteousness and that justice demands that anything that doesn’t conform to it be rejected, guess what that does?
It incentivizes me, in my prayer life, in my talking with God, in my studying, to rely on the imputed righteousness of Christ. I have to rely on His imputed righteousness, and so do you, because nothing else satisfies His righteousness. If we don’t satisfy His righteousness, we’re going to be judged. It’s very simple.
Secondly, it incentivizes reliance upon the assets that He’s given to us; the indwelling Holy Spirit. We can’t produce fruit pleasing to Him if we don’t first walk with the Lord. If we don’t first examine our hearts, confess our sins, and understand we’re dealing with a righteous God that is perfectly righteous, and when we do that, then we have a relationship with Him.
God’s righteousness and justice, we covered today. Those are two important attributes that are usually grouped together as part of God’s holiness. It’s fundamental to our relationship because it defines the moral character of Him with whom we have to do.
“Father, we thank You that You have not left us in ignorance; that You have not left us in a silent world, but You have spoken to us and moreover, You’ve had Your Words inscripturated and You’ve preserved those against all the attacks. We pray for each one today here who has believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; that we would be salt and light in our own little areas, our own locations, our own social situations. For we ask this is our Savior’s Name, Amen.”