1: Setting the Framework for our Considerations
The Big Question
A Wider View of Judgment
Starting from a Biblical Viewpoint
The Framework of the Fall
If we could design God
I state from this opening paragraph of this book what I am intending
to do. I am suggesting we do something that is quite unusual:
we see what the Bible says is the
character of God and
then what things LOGICALLY
flow from that.
example, if the Bible says God is love, what LOGICALLY flows from
that? What MUST flow from that IF that description is accurate. Before
we move on, I am going to state four propositions as foundations for
We will see what the Bible states about the character of God
We will consider the LOGICAL things that MUST flow from them if
they are true
We will examine the judgments in the light of both those things
We will see if the end conclusion MAKES SENSE like nothing else does.
realise than many may have question marks about the Bible and obviously
the Bible must come under the spotlight and so we will do that in
1.4 below. However, I do want you to realise that every chapter will
be filled with what the Bible says because it is that which we will
be examining in detail.
is a book for serious seekers of the truth, those willing to read
and to think seriously. If you are less than that, please stop now;
you will be bored.
is for people for whom these questions about God are important and
deserve answering. If you aren;t open to answers, please stop now,
you'll be frustrated.
is not 'Sunday afternoon reading', not becasue it is scary (quite
the contrary!) but because there a lot to read and think about.
you struggle with the very idea of the existence of God, this book
is not for you. If you are open to think through the issues found
in this book, then it may help you come to belief, but be warned,
all the way through it accepts the Bible's assertions about both the
existence of God and the nature or character of God as its starting
place, and then works logically from that to check that assertion.
is essentially a book for those who accept the general statement that
God exists as revealed in the Bible, but who have not ever really
thought through the issues to do with both His love and the judgments
He appears to bring. Let's explain some more.
our fears about God
have found over the years, there is an area that Christians seem to
avoid and non-Christian sceptics seem to delight in. It is that difficult
area of the Bible where a loving God appears to command bad things
or do bad things. I speak of the area of theology that would come
under the heading, “The Judgment of God”. Now I speak not about the
End Judgment which is what Christians veer towards (and which we will
consider in the end chapters), but the many instances in the Bible
of acts of judgment, especially as we see them in the Old Testament
(although we will examine the entire Bible).
does it mean that God is love?
seems to me that if the apostle John could claim “God
is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16) and God Himself could reveal to
Moses that He was a “compassionate
and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,
maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion
and sin,” (Ex 34:6,7) then we need to look again at the
Old Testament and see what went on through God's eyes of love, and
that is what I started to do in my previous book, “God's Love in the
Old Testament”, and now continue here in greater depth.
the thought of judgment
since then, as I have been doing various Bible studies, it felt there
was more to be said about the anger of God and the judgment of God
in seeking to understand His love. That is what this present book
is all about. I will by necessity repeat a number of things said in
that previous book but hopefully build on them into this new context.
must confess, from my own experience in the past, talk of God's judgment
has never thrilled me and if preachers spoke about judgment it has
almost invariably been in harsh, censorious terms. Indeed I find that
so many of us have such preconceived but inaccurate ideas of what
things like ‘holiness' mean, that without realising it, deep down
we hold that idea that God is “a hard man” (as per Jesus' parable
– Mt 25:24).
recently I came across a book review that complained that “There
is a recurrent emphasis on God's compassion and friendship and a noticeable
silence over his holiness and sovereignty. The more troubling Jesus
who challenges followers to take up their cross, talks about hell
as well as heaven and turns tables over, is airbrushed out.”
it may be that that is an accurate assessment of the book in question
but even in the way it is said, I suggest, it conveys the impression
that there are nasty things in the shadows of Christianity and talk
of the cross and hell (which we will consider in the end chapters)
are bad news things. I would suggest otherwise and it is all about
our starting place – is God a God of love or is He a “hard man”? That's
the sort of thing we hope to eyeball in this book. Yes, it will affect
even how we eventually view “taking up your cross” and the existence
have found researching and writing this book the most intellectually
and spiritually satisfying exercise of my life, and I hope by the
end of it, you also will have found it both intellectually stimulating
and spiritually satisfying.
The Big Question
let's backtrack a little to expand on what we have already said and
review the big question that is often in people's minds, which is
how can a loving God also be an angry
God or a God of wrath, whose anger provokes Him to become a destroyer?
That is what will be at the heart of our deliberations.
we look at the Bible's claims that God is perfect, God is love, God
is good and God is all-wise, for thinking people these claims can
appear to be contradicted by the things we think we see Him
doing in the Old Testament at least. Hence Part 1 of this book faces
each of those claims to His character and builds, if you like, the
problem even more. Let's face that apparent bad news and then see
if that is just what it is.
simple outline form, the answer to that problem is:
God is wonderful by every definition
of that word,
His plans, or designs, call it what
you will, are utterly good for us.
He has gone to incredible lengths
to reveal Himself to us so that we may trust Him and enter into
a loving relationship with Him.
Those lengths include countering false
impressions conveyed through the faulty lives of those who historically
were supposed to have a relationship with Him.
Those false impressions involve a
lot of acts of God that appear (at first sight only) questionable.
will lead us on to consider those ‘questionable' things. Now there
is, obviously, far more to it than that and some of the other issues
that may spring to mind will come to the fore as we consider these
A Wider View of Judgment
when people speak about the God of judgment they have in mind big
bad things that appear to originate with Him. In the chapters that
follow I am going to ask us to think more fully about this and see
God's ‘judgments' as times
- in respect of people:
when something bad happens on the earth in terms of the activities
of people (i.e. their sinful acts), and
- in respect of God:
where God assesses them dispassionately, weighs up the rights and
wrongs of those acts and what should follow them for the best,
- again in respect of God:
what He does then, in fact, do about it, i.e. the judgment.
will suggest in the next chapter that whatever
conclusion He reaches is always the best one possible,
and we'll see why that is. In other words we will not only observe
WHAT happens but WHY
to clarify this even further from the outset, in the later chapters
of this book we will go on to observe EVERY judgment we can find in
the Bible and to do that we will seek to
- take note of the wrong things people
were doing, and
- try to see why they were wrong and
then go on to
- try to assess why God chose to act
in the way He did in response,
we do that we will look at what the Bible tells us about God's character
to observe those things through the filter of that knowledge.
Starting from a Biblical Viewpoint
for anyone who has not read anything I have written before, and to
satisfy the comment I made in 1.1 above, I need to insert this next
section. I am aware that there are many views about Scripture and
even today (2016,17) debate rages about the meaning of the inspiration
of Scripture and the infallibility of Scripture. I will simply say
that, as I have read and studied it on a daily basis for over forty
years, (and I write from this viewpoint) my conclusion is that we
can trust what we have in print before us today found in the Bible.
Where there are questionable words or even questionable part verses,
they will be highlighted in notes in your Bible, usually at the bottom
of the page. Those questionable words etc. are in fact minimal and
in no way affect the overall message.
I believe God inspired the whole Bible? Yes, the inspired apostle
Paul believed that (see 2 Tim 3:16) but ‘inspired' may sometimes mean
inspired to write something rather than inspire every word as truth.
in the book of Job, Job's three friends don't always speak accurately,
the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon writes in a jaded manner from
the back end of his life and presents a picture as “under the sun”,
meaning from an earthly or human perspective,
the psalms, David often writes from a warlike perspective because
he was in a battle for survival,
the New Testament the writers believed Jesus was about to return
any minute. Living two thousand years later we realise he didn't
and hasn't. They
were inspired by God to record their perspective which is one that
still remains – He will be coming sometime “soon”. (All these things
need thinking about).
unless the context indicates otherwise, we would do well to accept
at face value what we read.
way we respond to it
most challenging thing about the Bible, and it says it, is that the
way we respond to it reveals the state of our hearts:
A critical, judgmental and closed heart will never be satisfied,
heart that is open to search, seek out knowledge and understanding,
and assess and weigh the evidence honestly and without bias, will
be satisfied by what it reads and finds in the Bible.
there does have to be a rider added to that last comment and it is
Bible often simply states facts and often does not give explanations,
it does give explanations they are found in the bigger picture.
person who is happy to just snatch a few verses here or there is never
going to find resolution. I will, to the best of my ability, lay out
as clearly as I can what is there in the Book - the 'big picture'
- but even then you will not be satisfied if your heart is set on
being self-centred and godless, the two primary characteristics of
that thing the Bible calls Sin.
consistency and uniformity of the Book
believe in honesty and integrity and therefore I believe that if we
are willing to read, study, examine in depth and ponder on what we
find in the Bible, we will be completely satisfied with what we find
there are probably over forty authors of the books or letters that
make up the Bible, there is a remarkable consistency and harmony in
the whole. I hope I may provide you with sufficient information and
explanation that you will go away, not only satisfied, but marvelling
at the wonder of God while anguishing over the plight of mankind.
Anything less than this and I will have failed.
witnesses in the Book
in chapter two I will make a comment early on about using the witnesses
and their testimonies in the Bible and so we need a word about the
testimonies of the writers first of all.
early books of the Bible were obviously written retrospectively –
after the events. That was more so in respect of the book of Genesis
because it was, we believe, written by Moses many years later, partly
on the basis of word of mouth testimony passed down through the generations
and partly through the revelation received directly in his times in
God's presence. Thereafter records were kept and what we now have
as the Old Testament came to be formulated in many scrolls.
what we learn about God is almost entirely from
the encounters people or nations had with Him and
when it comes to making descriptive comments about Him, they are made
in the light of how He had dealt with them and
in response to His inspiring them to speak and/or write.
this latter instance, prophets for instance, declared ‘words' they
believed God was inspiring them to speak and thus they were seen as
the sceptic might challenge the validity or truth of such testimonies,
what we can say is that there is a unique uniformity throughout the
Old Testament with its many writers recounting many, many incidents
so that theologians have been able to say that from this uniformity,
it is possible to provide a uniform non-contradictory picture of the
nature of God. I simply ask you to bear that in mind in the coming
the approach you will find in this book, as I stated in 1.1 above,
is to take what we find in the Book I have been referring to, the
initially to assume that what it says is correct and
IF it is correct what logically follows from that
then, are those conclusions reasonable?
But our starting point is the Bible as a whole (not snatching odd
verses here and there), applying our intellects and rational thinking
to what we find there, keeping emotions (prejudices etc.) right out
of it, so far as is possible.
is how we will work and so, as I said above, following chapters will
be full of scriptural quotes because those are what we will be examining.
Indeed it may be the reader's temptation to skip Bible verses but
the truths declared by the Scriptures - whether historical facts or
doctrinal principles - are vital to the theses of this book and without
them there is no argument.
The Framework of the Fall
Need for a Big Picture View
understand how God works, and why He works in the way He does, and
why people act in the way they do, we need to work on the ‘big picture'
portrayed in the Bible. Post-moderns do not like ‘big pictures' but
that is their shortcoming. This big picture is vital to recognise
and it helps us understand everything that goes on in the Bible.
briefest of summaries
I put it previously in “God's Love in the Old Testament”, in essence
it is very simple:
God made the world perfect,
We human beings rejected Him so that
the way we live is less than perfect and makes the world ‘go wrong',
God now works to draw us back to Himself
and back to a way that restores us, in a measure at least, to what
we were designed to be.
some more detail
I may then give a shortened explanation of what I gave there:
God made the world
perfect and He designed human beings so that they ‘worked' best when
they lived in relationship with Him. (Possibly a most simple reason
for this, is that He could tell us then how we work best and how each
situation in life can best be worked out.)
To all those who
received these truths and turned back to God, God granted forgiveness,
cleansing, adoption, and the presence of His own Holy Spirit to indwell
each one, to help them live a new life.
Big Picture Summary again
is the framework or ‘big picture' that flows utterly consistently
throughout the whole Bible. If
we could summarise it as briefly as possible it would be:
the world perfectly with loving relationship possible between Himself
God worked, and
still works, to achieve that relationship with whoever will receive
at this stage, it is probable that you have many questions that arise
in your thinking, most of which start with, “If what you have just
said is true, then how could……?” This is what this book is all about,
because all such questions indicate gaps in our knowledge and understanding,
and I will seek, if it is possible, to fill those gaps with the truth
that you will find acceptable. That is the plan at least!
this point though, even if you may not understand it and, from your
present viewpoint, even disagree with it, I would ask you to reread
this whole section about the Framework, so that at least you have
it in the back of your mind when we move through the coming chapters.
am aware the above ‘big picture' is incredibly condensed and heavy
with information but it is the shortest I could make it. It is what
makes up the Christian Gospel.
If we could design God
the start of this book, an interesting little exercise is to ponder
on, is what we would like God to be, if we started without any knowledge
whatsoever of Him – except that He existed.
of us need to face the truth that actually the concept of God is abhorrent
to us, not because it is scientifically unlikely, but because if there
is ‘someone' much greater than us, they might have something to say
about the way we conduct ourselves and we don't like being told what
to do. We would therefore much rather hold a godless stance than risk
being faced with our imperfections, and His demands, as we see it,
start with no knowledge, what sort of being would you expect or like
this ‘God' to be? The Romans and Greeks had gods but they had very
human traits and were clearly just expressions of human thought, and
so we observe this in them. A quick glimpse on the Internet provides
one suggestion in respect of the Greek God, Zeus: “ Cannibalistic,
murderer, ate his wife to stop her from producing another son, control
freak, vile and nasty to those who opposed him, relationships with
various women, used his charms and powers to benefit his evil desires,
very untrustworthy.” Elsewhere, jealousy, lying
and cheating are all seen as common negative traits of the Greek gods.
thing about these ‘gods' is that they seem remarkably human, made
in our image and, quite honestly they lack so much of what we might
like the real God to have. They are not only thoroughly unpleasant
so often, they just lack any goodness and it is their lack that provokes
them to do the things they did.
if we are to have a God of our own choosing, one with whom we have
to interact, what sort of ‘person' (because ‘He' will have personality)
would we like? I suggest we would like the following characteristics:
caring, compassionate, considerate, gentle, understanding, empathizing
benevolent, kind, gracious, forgiving, merciful, unchanging, faithful.
nothing (in the light of our comments above of the Greek or Roman
the interesting thing: these are exactly the descriptions of God throughout
the Bible. This should be an interesting exercise, laying aside our
prejudices and facing both the claims about God and the experiences
of God as found in the Bible.
also realise that the crusading atheists maintain that this exercise
above is wishful thinking, but one might ask, why is it that most
of us would come up with the same conclusions? Is it that survival
of the fittest crates such thinking or is it, perhaps, because that
is just exactly how we have been made to conform to the reality that
this preparatory chapter I have
- explained how
this book came to be,
the ‘big question' how
can a loving God also be an angry God or a God of wrath, whose anger
provokes Him to become a destroyer? and
posed a skeleton answer,
- clarified what
is meant by my biblical viewpoint in writing, and
- outlined the
‘big picture' of human history and the work of God within it.
us to put aside our prejudices and be ready to face up to the claims
about God and experiences of Him as found in the Bible.
some of these things in this chapter we will repeat in subsequent
chapters or perhaps expand upon. This whole subject is so often
weighed down with dubious presuppositions – ideas and prejudices
– that hinder clear thinking and so some of these things will
need repeating to ensure they are taken in and understood, therefore
we will not apologise for repetition. It always aids learning.
things I would ask you to hold in the back of your mind as we
move on to consider the primary issues pertaining to this subject
starting with the question, what sort of God are we talking
about? That is what we will begin to focus on in the next chapter.
1: The Framework for Understanding will consider the following
2-4 cover the character of God: His perfection, love, goodness
5-9 cover various aspects of judgments generally.
10 seeks to focus the primary key issues behind all judgments
2 goes on to examine the judgments of the Old Testament
3 examines the