Temporal Judgement on Recalcitrant Nations
FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 14, number 4, January 22, 2015
“Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city and will become a fallen ruin” -Isaiah 17:1.
Wars, earthquakes, floods, epidemics, and other so-called natural disasters-are these merely coincidences, solely the work of sinful men, bizarre weather patterns, or shifting tectonic plates? These catastrophes are regularly occurring all over the world. Why? The Scriptures are replete with references to eternal judgment coming upon recalcitrant people. Stephen, in addressing the Sanhedrin, rehearses the history of Israel and their rejection of Messiah. He finally says to them, “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?” (Acts 7:51-52). Jesus said that the unrepentant will go into hell, into endless torment, where the worm does not die, and the fire is never quenched (Mark 9:43). Paul said that the unrepentant and stubborn are storing up wrath for themselves in the day of the wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God who will render to every man according to his deeds (Romans 2:5-6). He told the Thessalonian believers that since some had hindered him from preaching the gospel to the Gentiles so that they may be saved, they were filling up the measure of their sins, that the wrath of God had come upon them to the utmost (1 Thessalonians 1:16). The writer to the Hebrews makes clear that it is appointed for men once to die, then comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).
To be sure-all unrepentant sinners will suffer eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (2 Thessalonians 1:9). But what about recalcitrant nations? Does God judge them? Consider the Biblical data in this regard. Yahweh repeatedly tells Israel and Judah that they must repent of their sins, turn from their idols or they will suffer horrific judgment (Isaiah 1:4-5, Jeremiah 1:9-10, Ezekiel 2:4-10, Daniel 9:12, Hosea 2:1-7). God’s judgment, however, is not merely upon His covenant people. He raises up nations and He brings them down (Joel 3:2). Babylon was to be judged (Jeremiah 25:12). So was Nineveh (Jonah 3:4). So was Moab, Ethiopia, Egypt, Tyre, Assyria, and Damascus (Isaiah 14-20). The cities surrounding Damascus would also be left in ruins. Their glory would fade, their bodies would be lean due to starvation, harvest yields would be minimal, their cities would be forsaken, and the land a desolation (Isaiah 17:1-9). They would plant, fence in their crops, but the harvest would be a heap, a day of sickliness and incurable pain (Isaiah 17:11).
And why this judgment? “For you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not remembered the rock of your refuge,” (Isaiah 17:10). To His own people, just prior to their entering the Promise Land, Yahweh told them, “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today, otherwise when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them . . . then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. . . it shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the Lord your God,” (Deuteronomy 8:11-20).
God eternally judges unrepentant sinners with hell. He cannot, however, judge nations eternally. There is nothing in Scripture that suggests any nation-whether Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, or Rome, for example-suffers eternal judgment in hell. God does, however, clearly judge unrepentant nations temporally. He brings famine, war, pestilence, floods (Jeremiah 14:12, Luke 21:20, Jeremiah 27:13, Genesis 7). Even the righteous within any nation often suffer with the rest of the people. Jesus said that He causes the sun to rise on the evil and good, and He sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). Nothing has changed with God. He is the same God eternally, the One who was, and is, and is to come (Revelation 1:8).
Like Judah of old, we have sinned, we have been wicked (Daniel 9:15). In Engel v. Vitale (1962) which outlawed voluntary school prayer, the Supreme Court wrote, “If portions of the New Testament were read without explanation, they could be and . . . had been psychologically harmful to the student.” In Stone v. Graham the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for students at school voluntarily to see a copy of the Ten Commandments. Forty-two years ago today, the infamous Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in our country. And of course Congress and many of our Presidents have continued to put forth laws that are contrary to Scripture and thus detrimental to the people of our nation. Same sex unions is only the latest example of the perversion of people calling evil good, and good evil.
George Mason, on the floor of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 said, “As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, so they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punishes national sins by national calamities.” Some seventy-four years later our national sin of chattel slavery was punished by the deaths of more than six hundred thousand men on the battlefields of Bull Run, Antietam, Cold Harbor, and Gettysburg. We are still suffering the effects of that national sin.
Through Roe v. Wade our country has murdered over 55 million unborn infants in the abortuaries of our nation. This is a national sin in which God will surely exact our blood through an inevitable chain of causes and effects. What is the solution? Like Israel or Nineveh of old, we must repent, but the message of judgment, condemnation, repentance, and faith must be proclaimed. Who preaches this message? Where are the prophets? There are thousands of preachers in the United States who, if stirred to action, could have a profound impact on national repentance, leading to national deliverance, and perhaps to national revival. The people in the pews, at least in evangelical churches, are outwardly sympathetic to this message. The people who really need to hear it are those who do not attend evangelical churches. So how can they hear the message? We must take it to the streets, where these people are-on their way to work, to class, to sporting events. Street preachers are the modern day prophets who serve as the conscience of our nation. We need more of them, daily warning people of impending judgment, calling them to the only Savior of sinners, the Lord Jesus Christ. If you are a preacher, will you then stand in the gap and preach the Law of God, followed by the good news of the gospel? This is the need of our day. Nothing else will work. Nothing less is needed.