Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ultimate Justice

2 Thessalonians 1:9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

9 οἵτινες δίκην τίσουσιν ὄλεθρον αἰώνιον ἀπὸ προσώπου τοῦ κυρίου καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς δόξης τῆς ἰσχύος αὐτοῦ, 10  ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐνδοξασθῆναι ἐν τοῖς ἁγίοις αὐτοῦ καὶ θαυμασθῆναι ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς πιστεύσασιν, ὅτι ἐπιστεύθη τὸ μαρτύριον ἡμῶν ἐφ᾽ ὑμᾶς, ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ.

Here Paul is explaining what will happen to those who were persecuting the Thessalonians.  God would eventually repay them for their persecution and sin.  He would not necessarily do it immediately, but it was coming.  He contrasts their future with that of the saints.  When Christ returns He will be glorified in the saints while those who did not believe will be punished forever.

I have heard complaints about the nature of God because of the so-called problem of evil.  How can God allow such awful things to happen in the world?  Why doesn't he stop evil men from doing evil things?  I would submit three responses to this.

One is that you are talking about a world of absurdities.  Should God turn every bullet into butter?  He certainly could, but does it make any kind of sense for God to operate that way?  We don't know the eventual implications of such modifications to His created order.  He certainly could make these miraculous changes all over the place, but I would submit that would be an absurd world.

Two is that these folks will ultimately be punished in a way more horrifying than anything we can imagine.  It seems that we all have a sense of justice.  I have two small children and I see this in action every day.  It doesn't take a child long to determine what is "fair" relative to his or her world.  It takes a long view to see the justice that God will eventually dole out, but it satisfies my sense of justice knowing that evil will eventually be punished accordingly.

Third, this really speaks to how we perceive God.  If He truly is God and He is truly good, then we can trust what He allows to happen.  When we don't then we are telling God that we don't like the way He runs the world.  That's kind of arrogant, isn't it?

Now this intellectual response may seem a bit cold to someone who just lost a spouse to cancer or to someone who had a storm ravage their house.  I like to think that this is what I would fall back on though.  Nothing in my life belongs to me, including my life.  Christ bought my life with His.  I am not my own.  Therefore, nothing is mine and nothing is owed to me.  An airplane could crash into my house (we are right by the airport, so this is not that ridiculous an idea) and kill the three people sleeping upstairs.  That would be a terrible thing, but I don't think it would change my view of God.  He owes me nothing, but He has given me the greatest gift possible in my salvation.  Were that to happen I would know that there is a reason behind it, even if I could never hope to understand it while on earth.

I am not begging to be tested on this.  But what I do know is that how folks react to pain demonstrates their view of who God is.  Is God really God or are you going to be god and tell Him how to run His world because you don't like it?

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