The Theodicy (2)
“We are often rightly told that God will not remember our sins and has removed them from us to an infinite distance (as far as the east is from the west) and buried them in the deepest sea. So how can those same sins be brought out into the open on the judgment day, with every believer being rewarded according to his works? Are our sins not to be brought up again as they are all atoned for and simply our works judged? Because surely the quality of the works will expose the sin inherent in them?”
The questioner who wrote the above question is especially concerned with the problem of the public revelation of our sins on the judgment day. Why should they be made known before all when they were paid for by Christ’s atonement? The question is rather narrow and really not all that important in itself. It takes on significance only in the broader context of the judgment of the nations in the judgment day.
I am not even altogether sure what the questioner means by “simply our works judged.” To what works does he refer? The good works done by God’s grace? Those works are God’s works in and through us.
I took the liberty, therefore, of broadening the question into a discussion of the most fundamental aspect of the judgment of God in and through Christ of all men who ever lived: the theodicy, God’s justification of Himself in His reward of the righteous and His eternal punishment of the wicked. This theodicy is the one great reason for the judgment day.
How does God justify Himself in all that He does? How does He, as the sovereign Lord, justify the eternal punishment of the wicked? How does He justify His salvation of some of the human race who are equally sinners with those who go to hell?
This question of the justification of God in all His works is the stumbling block to countless theologians who cannot stomach the truth of God’s sovereignty. Their objections are legion. They say, for example, that an absolutely sovereign God takes away the sovereignty of man, limited as it might be; that God cannot sovereignly choose His people in what seems to them an arbitrary fashion; that somehow man makes himself worthy of salvation by choosing Christ, letting Him into his heart and accepting Him as his Lord; that God is too gracious and merciful to send anyone to hell everlastingly; that hell, therefore, cannot be a reality; that God loves everyone, wants everyone to be saved and will punish only those who have had a chance to be saved but rejected it; that it is unspeakably cruel to send those who never had a chance to accept Christ to be saved. The litany from puny theologians goes on and on and on.
Thus proud man, thinking himself wiser and more merciful than God, makes his own answers and convinces himself that they are better answers than God Himself gives! But Scripture is concerned with the glory of God, not the moans of men.
God justifies Himself in all His works, also in election and reprobation. He does so in such a way that no one, ever again, questions God’s sovereignty. The wicked will all say, “We deserve what we get.” The righteous say, “Blessed be God for His grace to us!”
The first and most fundamental point that has to be made is the point that I underscored in the previous issue of the News. I quoted Romans 9 and I referred to God’s answer to Job in his suffering. God is God, and all the nations of the earth are less than dust on a balance or a drop of a bucket. One who is created by God, upheld by His providence and sustained day by day by His power has no right to question God’s ways. Can a spider demand a man to justify the man’s destruction of his web? Can an ant demand of a man a reason why the man broke up his ant hill? “O man, who art thou that repliest against God?” (Rom. 9:20). That is the first answer. When the glory of an infinite holy God is revealed in the judgment day, all men and devils will cower in fear and consternation.
God will manifest Himself as the holy God who hates sin and must hate sin to maintain His own infinite holiness. Any attack on God’s justice or anger or hatred of the wicked is an attack on His holiness. Those who speak of a loving God who cannot punish any wicked creature smear His holiness and detract from God’s own blessed glory. When Isaiah, at the time of his installation as a prophet, saw the glory of God that made the seraphim hide their faces with their wings, all he could say was, “Woe is me!” (Isa. 6:5). As the bright sunlight reveals the flaws and dirty spots on a garment, so God’s holiness so shines upon man that all his wretchedness, weakness, sin, guilt and hideous rebellion are clearly seen in all their evil.
In the judgment, God will make every sinner and demon admit that he alone is to blame for what sin he committed. After a lifetime of denial, he will confess that he wanted to sin, he hated God and His law, he deliberately mocked God, and he sneered at His just and righteous commands. In admitting his sin, each will confess that God is God, righteous and true. There is no more room for the wicked to blame God or for excusing sin. Unbelieving thieves, adulterers, abortionists, homosexuals, brutes, murderers, philanthropists, as well as the Antichrist and Satan, etc., will all finally “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:11).
This is the real point. Every man will be asked this one important question: “What did you do with Christ?” This is the issue. Did you honour Him as the Son of God? Did you believe in Him so that you sought all your salvation alone from Him? Never mind the ten million pounds you gave for a hospital. Never mind your unflagging concern for clean air and water. Never mind that you were a preacher. What did you do with Christ? This is the question that rings from the great white throne.
Did you take up your cross, deny yourself and follow Him? Were you willing to give up everything you have in faithfulness to Him? Did you flee to the cross to confess your sins and seek pardon in His bleeding body? What did you do with Christ?
Woe to them who denied Him, who chaffed under His providence, who sheared His sheep and scattered them instead of feeding them, who crucified Him again by their mockery of His work as the Son of God.
God will be justified in all He did on the last day. This is the theodicy. We still have to deal with God’s people but that will be next time, DV.
Prof. Herman Hanko