Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How Is God Fair to Punish Those Who Are Blinded?

I started to write the title of this post, "Is God Unfair to Punish...", but I changed it. The question should not be, "Is God fair?". To me, it is a point of faith that God is righteous and therefore just and fair in all His decisions. There is no injustice or unfairness with God.

How do I know this? I believe God. I believe His word, the Bible, because I made a commitment before baptism, to God and to myself, to believe Him. I believe God when He says He cannot lie (Titus 1:1-2, Hebrews 6:17-18). And God says of Himself, in the Bible, that He is righteous, just, and fair.

So the question is not, is God fair. I already know, and anyone who has committed himself or herself to believe God should know, God is fair. The question is, how? Since God is fair and just, why will He punish mankind in the great tribulation and the Day of the Lord for their sins when He knows that the majority of mankind is blinded by Satan and cannot come to Christ unless God draws them (John 6:44, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, 2 Corinthians 3:14-15, Romans 11:25, Romans 11:7-8, John 12:37-40, Matthew 13:10-17, Revelation 12:9). How is this fair?

A Catholic or Protestant might work on Saturday, go to church on Sunday, observe Christmas and Easter, and pray to images and think he is pleasing God. He doesn't know. Satan has deceived him, and unless God calls him and opens his mind, he cannot know the truth. In a sense, he can't help being deceived. How is God fair to punish him in the tribulation for things he does wrong when he doesn't know better and CAN'T know he is doing anything wrong? Why should he be punished for not understanding what he is not allowed to understand?

The Day of Trumpets is coming up soon, and that day represents the resurrection of the saints and the return of Christ, but it also represents the Day of the Lord, a time when God punishes the world for its sins. The Day of Atonement is also coming soon, a day that represents the putting away of Satan, the one who deceives the world into sinning.

Satan deceives mankind in many ways. He tempts us and leads us to sin. Even in the Church, Satan tempts us and we have human nature. Satan is the great deceiver and tempter, and he even led one third of God's angels into sin (Revelation 12:3-4).

Who is responsible for our sins, Satan who temps us or we who sin?

It is a shared responsibility. Both Satan and we are responsible for our sins. Satan is responsible for tempting us and we are responsible for yielding to the temptation. You might say one-half of the guilt is on Satan and one-half is on us, as a rough illustration.

The two goats Israel sacrificed for the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament illustrates this (Leviticus 16:1-34). The goat that goes into the wilderness represents Satan, and the goat that is killed represents Christ. Our sins are on both goats. Satan bears his own guilt for causing us to sin, but Christ pays the penalty for our share of the guilt.

Christ gives a general principle regarding our level of guilt, and punishment, for our sins. "And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few" (Luke 12:47-48).

The more we know, the more we are able to do right, the greater our punishment if we do wrong. That seems fair.

But what is meant by "few stripes" and "many stripes"? I suppose most people would think of the great tribulation as "many stripes" because the suffering will be so great. I am not so sure that is the case.

I think the "few stripes", the lesser punishment, would be the suffering of this physical life including the tribulation, or corrective punishment during the white throne judgment period. What then would be the "many stripes", the greater punishment? The lake of fire. So if a person is not called and never is able to know the truth in this age, if he sins because he doesn't and can't know better, the worst that will happen to him is the suffering of the tribulation, or the Day of the Lord, and the first death, but he can't lose out on salvation as long as he is blinded.

But if a person is called or able to know the truth, but rejects it, refuses to repent, and deliberately and willfully chooses a life of sin, that person is in danger of the "many stripes", the lake of fire, which is so much worse than the tribulation that there is hardly any comparison. One who just goes through the tribulation will suffer and die but can still enjoy eternal life if he repents in the white throne judgment, but one who dies in the lake of fire loses that eternity permanently. There can be no worse fate for humans.

I don't say that this is the only application of the "few stripes" and "many stripes" passage. That passage illustrates a general principle of God's justice and God's thinking and can be applied to many situations, but this may be one application of that principle.

But this leaves the question, why punish deceived people at all?

I think there are two answers that work together.

Even a deceived person is guilty to a degree. Satan deceives, Satan tempts, but the person does the wrong. Satan leads us to sin, but we give in to it, even unconsciously, even if we are deceived, I think.

For example, a religious Catholic or Protestant celebrates Christmas and thinks he is serving God. Consciously, he tells himself he is doing right. But the heart of man is evil and deceitful and we can deceive our own selves (Jeremiah 17:9). We bury things in our own minds we don't want to face. But at some unconscious or sub-conscious level, the person knows he has not really spent time studying the Bible and believing what God says. He knows he is letting his church do his thinking for him, putting his church in greater control over his life than the Bible. But he buries that thought in the subconscious mind because he doesn't want to face it, and it is Satan who leads him to do it.

He might have come across the information that Christmas is pagan, but as soon as the thought enters his mind, he thinks, "what would my friends think if I stopped observing Christmas?" He can't stand that thought, so his mind searches for a rationalization, some excuse for keeping Christmas, a way he can escape facing the truth, and Satan supplies it - "my church has studied it more than I have and they must be right".

My point is, a deceived person is not totally free from guilt even when Satan deceives him. He is LESS guilty by comparison with someone who knows the truth, but he is not entirely guilt free.

Consider an atheist Nazi military officer in Hitler's army fighting, killing, and oppressing others. He is deceived by Satan into thinking there is no God. But he still knows he is hurting others, but does it anyway because he cares more about his own happiness than that of others. That brings guilt upon him, even though he is deceived.

A selfish man is guilty, even if Satan teaches him to be selfish - the man knows he is hurting other people and he doesn't care, thus he deserves to be hurt himself as he has hurt others.

But more importantly, God uses punishment to teach us lessons for our own good.

Suppose you have a child that wants to play with matches. To teach a lesson, to save the child from burning himself (and your whole house with you and your whole family in it), you may have to punish. But you are not thinking, the child deserves to be punished. You are thinking, I want to TEACH the child so that I can protect him (and others) from harm.

God uses suffering and punishment as a teaching tool.

God's purpose is to teach mankind the consequences of his acts. It is for this reason God allows Satan to deceive mankind for six thousand years so we get a bellyful of Satan's way, so we learn the lesson for eternity that Satan's way brings suffering.

But for that teaching process to work to full effect, God has to be a true witness. He has to let us reap what we sow, even when He knows that Satan is deceiving us into sin. He can't let us off the hook completely just because "we didn't know". If He did that, we wouldn't learn the lesson as deeply as He wants us to learn it.

If God removed ALL the consequences of our sins, He would be giving us a false witness to the effects of sin. Deceived or not, we commit acts that bring wrong consequences, and God wants us to learn the hard way what those consequences are.

The way the human mind works, we will not accept the truth unless it is strongly impressed on us with suffering. Mankind has to experience suffering to learn for eternity the consequences of sin. It is humbling, but it is part of the way God shapes our character.

God uses the process of sin-judgment-penalty as a teaching tool to develop character in the human race.

Paul wrote, "But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?" (Romans 3:5-6). Also, look at Romans chapters 9, 10, and 11. For example, "What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.' So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.' Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?' But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?' Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" (Romans 9:14-24). I don't claim to understand every aspect of Romans chapters 9, 10, and 11. But this does indicate God knows what He is doing, that He can work things out to teach us lessons and to work out His will, and that as our Creator He has the right to work things out as He chooses.

My understanding of this is that God's judgments, for those deceived, is for teaching, and for that teaching process to work, God has to judge the world for its sins even when it is deceived.

But lessons God teaches the world, through judgment and punishment, includes a warning, which is part of the lesson, a warning people will take to heart in the white throne judgment: if God punished so severely when you did NOT know the truth, how much greater will he punish you now after you know the truth if you refuse to repent. That warning is about the lake of fire.

God uses suffering as a tool, to test people and to teach them lessons. Even the innocent suffer (Christ suffered), and Christians go through trials of suffering not always in punishment for sin. How much more can God use the suffering of punishment to teach lessons to those who all their lives have lived selfishly even though Satan has deceived them into thinking the selfish way is best?

God is fair, and His coming punishment of the world for its sins, represented by Trumpets, is fair. After Satan is put away and is no longer able to deceive mankind, those who have survived to live into the millennium will remember the suffering of the last years of this age, and without Satan to deceive them, they will be able to learn the right lessons from it and know that God corrected them for their long-term good.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

The Day of Trumpets - the Second Coming of Christ, Chapter 2

The Day of Atonement - the Putting Away of Satan, Chapter 2


Anonymous said...

I don't think it's a matter of Him punishing the blind as much as it is a matter of, to use a phrase my father liked to use, letting us "bump our own head".

It is my personal belief that God is extremely unselfish on a level that we carnal minded have yet to acknowledge:

Under normal circumstances, He simply does not intervene to open our eyes without our demonstrated permission, even if it means allowing us to destroy ourselves.

So I think it is merely a consequence rathr than a punishment when we suffer for our sins.; after all, certainly God laid down the Laws for a reason.

When we break them, such and such happens, like when one sticks their hand into the fire this and that happens, not because of punishment but because of consequence .

Anonymous said...

Yet and still, as you have said, some are willingly ignorant, and we pay the consequences for this willingness.

Frankly, since the beginning, so also have we in the Church of God, which is why the physical trappings of our institution had to be destroyed because we have been willfully disobedient in a key factor of the Commission we have been Given.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:09 PM wrote:

"...Under normal circumstances, He simply does not intervene to open our eyes without our demonstrated permission, even if it means allowing us to destroy ourselves..."

I suggest "normal circumstances" ( you may not agree) is as follows for our eyes:

"Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." John 14:17

This world cannot receive God's Spirit at this time unless/until God initiates and allows that to happen. This world is blinded and subject to vanity, but not by their choice:

"For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope," Romans 8:20

It was MADE that way, and without that Spirit this world cannot know God:

"O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me." John 17:25

If this world knows God, then Jesus lied to us there, but Jesus did not lie to us.

For example, it wasn't Simon Peter's choice and open eyes, of and by self, that he could say that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living (nothing to do with an organization called by that name) God:

"And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Matthew 16:17

This world's inhabitants and its leaders are blind, but not by choice and they must go from ditch to ditch:

"Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." Matthew 15:13

So, to become unblended one must be given God's Spirit, or as Moses was told:

"Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day." Deuteronomy 29:4

If God does not give one the heart, eyes, ears to perceive, see and hear, respectively, then who will do it? We know we, of ourselves, cannot do it...with or without some demonstrated permission on our part.

Think about it! Did God ever look for any "demonstrated permission" from any of the following individuals?

Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Peter, Paul...

We should remember what God did through such individuals AFTER He opened their eyes to perceive:

"He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion." Psalm 111:4

Why should we remember those works?

It is because He did more than make an eye. I know an individual who has eyes, but cannot see. God must make an eye see not only physically, but spiritually.

"The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them." Proverbs 20:12

A day is coming when all eyes will be opened by God...and it will require a pouring out of His Spirit. Until then, He has done that only for a few for those who He purposed to have a need to know...and see!


Anonymous said...

Well spoken, but as Mr. Armstrong was so fond of saying (and I'm paraphrasing), it all goes back to the garden of Eden.

God let Adam and Eve go their own way, and they did so willingly, blindness and stupidity not withstanding. Eve was not satisfied in paradise, and believed the devil, calling God a liar; Adam was simply led by the lusting for the ultimate woman.

Choice was a central theme; this is what free moral agency is all about. Homosexuals choose to do what they do; murderers choose to do what they do; so also do liars, rapists, etc, etc...They may blindly do what they do, but each has chosen to harm another in a way that they themselves would not like to be harmed.

Adam chose the desire for his woman over obedience to his Maker; Eve chose the desire to have knowledge and power that would exceed that of her man's.

Both chose disobedience to the one who Created them, and this mindset has been plaguing both those ignorant of God and even those Chosen of God ever since.

This is why that remnant God speaks about will be persecuted by the beast, despite their being of the elect.

This willing ignorance man does voluntarily (e.g. note the willing ignorance a person displays when informed that in no place in the bible does God Command us to keep sunday) and the main consequence is that we have been cut off from our Maker, and have become subject to the whims of the Father of evil spirits and evil doings.

Anonymous said...

To try to summarize my point: the blindness was chosen by mankind in the garden of eden; certainly, by default we are blind, and therefore devoid of a proper defence against the constant temptations of the devil.

But in the garden we were given the opportunity to exceed it all by simply choosing to obey.

We, to this very day, resist obedience, and this is why the Church has come up short, showing only a little strength, as it is Written (e.g. God allowed the collapse of the old WWCG and all its physical trappings because we had built all those things at the cost of obeying John 13:34 and I Corinthians 9:12. Also note what God Warned about in I Kings 9:7).

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:42 PM, you wrote: "...But in the garden we were given the opportunity to exceed it all by simply choosing to obey...."

If it were that simple to do, then have you simply done that so that you have chosen to never sin again for the rest of your life and you are making that choice stick? Don't tell us on here, but unless you are Jesus Christ's twin brother/sister you have not done what you think can so simply be done. You know what it means if you say you are without sin; don't you?

Why is NOT simple to do? There are many reasons. Here are some:

"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Romans 8:7

Without God's Spirit, as were Adam and Eve, once Satan infested/infected the minds of both Adam and Eve in that Garden of Eden they had no power of choice to withstand Satan's spirit.

Satan's spirit driving human beings is more powerful than people can imagine, and certainly more than Satan would want anyone to know about. Some verses to back that comment, not my opinion, up are:

"And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." 2 Timothy 2:26

Satan exercised his will on Adam and Eve. Satan's power of his spirit is so great whether one is deceived or not. God showed us that in the Garden.

I don't agree that our "parents," Adam and Eve, were stupid, but they were powerless against Satan's power. God don't make people stupid!

You mention thinks like lusting, desire, etc. Where might Adam and Eve have picked up that kind of thinking from? The same place we get it from when we see it at work in our own personal lives. Let James tell you:

"Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?" James 4:5

Did God lie to us? Is that inspired scripture written in vain? That spirit in that scripture is different from the one that makes us different from animals, birds, fishes, etc. (and God, not humans, knows how to weigh the spirits! Humans typically blame/judge one another...).

Nevertheless, that spirit of Satan still is evil, but Adam and Eve initially, when created, did not have that spirit dwelling in them, because God made them with their human nature "very good:" God has His reasons for what He does and allows:

"And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day." Genesis 1:31

John...to be con't

Anonymous said...

God didn't gave Adam and Eve a simple choice and had they made the right one they would have received the holy spirit. But instead of submitting to God's influence they submitted to that of the devil's, hence we have the spirit of the devil.

Christ was subject to the same pulls of the flesh as we all, but He CHOSE to submit to the spirit of God's influence in man when he was among us, showing that it is possible to have that perfect will to submit if we choose.

We don't have that perfect will to submit to the Power of God in man but have chosen rather to submit to the power of the devil, which is why we sin, and which is why we receive the death penalty.

Christ brought with from Heaven the perfect will to submit to the power of God and did so as a man because He had done so even before the angels were created; that willingness to submit was a part of his character, and in doing so, The Father imposed His Will upon his flesh, both in the miracles and in the torturing to death.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, God did give Adam and Eve a simple choice...

Anonymous said...

I think that Genesis 6:3 offers some further clarity to the dynamics of what spirit mankind chooses to submit to.

A man can either choose to strive with the righteousness of God and hence be subject to all the fruits of sin, which include spiritual blindness and its consequences,

or a man can choose to strive with the spirit of self will, which is the devil's spirit, and use the same power that Christ, our example, did in order to bring forth the fruits of righteousness.

Anonymous said...

God commands us to be perfect, and gave us the means to do so. He wouldn't have so commanded if it weren't possible.

Jesus came among us as a man to show that it is possible to keep the command that we be perfect.

The only difference between the human being that was Christ Jesus and the human being which is us is that Christ had the holy spirit without measure.

The very reason the Father gave it to the man Christ without measure is because of Christ's willingness to submit to that spirit 100%.

We who are converted, despite our conversion, still demonstrate a willingness to submit to the devil's spirit, and an unwillingness to submit 100% to the spirit of God, which is why we sin,

and which is why God will not impose His holy spirit upon us without measure.

Those in the world who are not converted are even more committed to submit to the devil's spirit and one of fruits of that spirit is spiritual blindness.

Hence, because of that unwillingness the world pays the consequences for the choice it has made.

What may be termed as punishment can also be merely the consequences for the choices we make