The Problem of EVIL and The Judgments of GOD
A stranger coming into Christendom would certainly deduce from the literature of the day that there are two great powers struggling for supremacy, one good, and one evil, and that the evil was not only uppermost at present, but would eternally prevail over the good. Only a feeble fraction would be saved from the clutches of the evil one.
A believer, however, may see by faith that, at present, the evil in the world is in accord with the Scriptures, and an essential ingredient in God’s plan, and also the only way to the highest blessing for ourselves and for the human race, as well as all creation. May we prayerfully grasp the necessity of evil as a background for the display of God’s grandest glories and our perpetual praise of Him. Only then will we be prepared to endure with thankful hearts all the trials and tragedies in the present which He sends to us.
All of mankind must learn to realize what God is to them by an actual experience of what it means to be without Him. Then they will be able to give Him the unforced outflow of their hearts. Then they will appreciate it when His judgments permanently right all wrongs and eliminate all evil, through the suffering Sacrifice He has provided.
The following treatise deals not only with the problem of evil, but also with so-called “responsibility” of man for his evil acts. The confusion of thought on this subject is due largely to lack of discrimination between our relations to God and our relationship to creatures like ourselves. By reasoning or inference, the human element is carried over to the divine, because most men have no proper idea of the dignity due to the Deity.
The object of human justice is quite different from God’s judgments. Men must protect society by removing objectionable members from it, either for a time, by imprisonment, or finally, by death. Divine judgment has an entirely different aim. It is to reveal God’s righteousness, as a basis for His love, by placing a proper penalty on all injustice. A real difficulty here is our human view of the meaning of divine judgment. We are apt to look at it as punishment only, a penalty incurred by wrongdoing. But God’s judgments are corrective; they set matters right. He deals with sinners during a short judgment period in order to prepare them perfectly for final endless association with their fellowmen and with Himself. The object of His judging is not to requite the sinner evil for evil, and make him suffer endlessly for his badness, but rather to correct him and remove all hindrances to enjoying His company. In many cases this may involve severe suffering, but, when compared with the benefits that spring from it, we are reminded of the light afflictions of the apostle Paul, which were very heavy, yet lost their weight when compared with the eonian glory to which they were the prelude. Indeed, Paul’s glory was limited to the eons, while the reconciliation of God’s enemies at the consummation will be endless.
Almost all of us are shortsighted. We see the judgments, but fail to recognize that they are only part of God’s way with mankind, that they are definitely not the end. We confuse the going with the goal. Judgment is God’s strange work. He uses it as a preparation toward a glorious consummation. No matter how an unbeliever is dealt with, whether he dies as a result of sin, or by the direct intervention of God, whether he be cast into outer darkness or into Gehenna, this is not the end. God does not reach His goal in any of His disciplinary measures. These only prepare His creatures for it. Hence let us not confuse the process with the end.
Even though God will hold no one “responsible” for his evil and wicked acts, all will give account of themselves at the two great crises of the eons. For the unbelievers, it will take place at the great white throne, after the present earth has been swept away. There they will be judged according to their acts. Believers are warned in Romans 14:12, “Each one of us shall be giving account concerning himself to God,” for all of us shall be presented at the dais, commonly called “judgment seat.” This will happen between the evil and the good eons, for the saints in Israel in preparation for the millennium on earth, for the members of the body of Christ prior to their service in the celestial realms. In brief, giving account follows man’s present existence in humiliation and distress, and precedes his future life in glory and bliss.
Very little is said in the Scriptures about God’s goal until Paul completes the orbit of God’s Word with his later revelations. Hints there have always been by which hearts in tune with God have been filled with high hopes. But it is not until the meridian sun of God’s grace has come from behind the clouds of sin and law, to reveal the deepest recesses of God’s immanent love to the most undeserving of the human race, it is not until the truth for the present was made known that God tore aside the veil of the future completely, and gave us a clear and unclouded view of His ultimate goal. Once we revel in this, all previous revelation on this theme will be like the curtain of the tabernacle which seems to hide, rather than reveal the full blaze of the Shekinah glory.
The articles of this treatise on the problems of evil, judgment, and accountability, were written during a period of twenty-five years and were originally published in our bimonthly magazine Unsearchable Riches.
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