Thursday, June 19, 2008
God's Judgment - New Testament Examples
When we last spoke of God's judgment, we asked the question of whether God judged individuals and nations directly in the New Testament era. I'd like to take a look at a few instances and then comment briefly.
First, we have the example of Ananias and Sapphira . . .
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things (Acts 5:1-11).
In this example, Ananias and Sapphira were both struck dead. The purpose of this act of judgment was twofold - to discipline the erring couple severely, and to teach the early church a lesson. Remember the reasons for signs and wonders in the days of the Apostles and the early church -- to glorify God and confirm the Word, as well as to confirm that the Apostles spoke for the Lord.
Next, we have a warning from the Apostle Paul about improper handling of the Lord's Supper . . .
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).
This example is interesting to me. It is obvious from the context that the people mentioned were judged and disciplined because of their irreverent manner of taking communion. Was this something that only happened in the early church? Does it happen today? Good question. It ought to be asked. I know that there are plenty who do not take the Lord's Supper seriously, including letting toddlers partake because they begin whining and throwing a temper tantrum.
What about divine judgment in the form of natural disasters? In Old Testament times, when God sent calamity on a nation -- whether in the form of flood, disease or war -- there was generally a prophet of God around to warn the people of impending judgment. And it was generally for a specific reason given by the prophet. Do we see that today? Do we know of a direct case where a modern day prophet of God warned a city, state or nation that judgment was around the corner for their sin, and it happened as prophesied? Remember, the biblical test of a true prophet is 100 percent accuracy. You aren't allowed to "revise and extend" your prophecies.
We do see plenty of calamity in the Apostle John's book of Revelation. These calamities are around the end-times, and are largely directed toward the worshippers and followers of the Antichrist.
I generally believe that the world is under a period of grace, where people -- and the nations in which they live -- are being given a lot of room to repent. Or rope to hang themselves. That doesn't mean that God won't intervene in a nation, or in the lives of individuals. Someone's life of sin might well lead to their destruction. The actions of a nation might well lead to the destruction of that nation, or at least serious calamity. But before we call such events a direct judgment of God, we'd best be very, very careful. I can speculate. I can even make a very good educated guess. But I don't know for certain.
Unless there is direct revelation of the Holy Spirit, let's not put words into His mouth. As my prior commenters pointed out, so much can be the consequence related to God's general judgment and curse of a fallen world. Death happens. Disease happens. Weather happens. God is sovereign and allows things for a purpose. Did He allow the Midwest floods because of America's sin? Is He allowing the rash of tornadoes because of America's sin? It's possible. But remember, there are plenty of believers who suffer along with those who aren't believers.
Remember, in the Old Testament book of Daniel, there were four young men named Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who got hauled off to Babylon. Israel was faithless, but these four were faithful. Yet they got hauled off to Babylon too. Again, in that case, Israel's calamity was prophesied. I can't say that the recent disasters in America were prophesied.
It's a tough issue, and one which we should approach with great care.