8: Terminal Judgments of God - Warnings & Refusals
Judgments of Last Resort)
Refusal to Listen
A Study in Hardness
this chapter we are going to examine this idea of a "terminal
judgment", or what I have come to see is a "judgment
of the last resort", i.e. God only takes life if there
is no other action that will remedy or correct a situation, or protect
the earth (including humanity) from destruction.
we have seen in the examples in the previous chapter are times where
individuals are allowed to go into deeper trouble until they come
to their senses but, of course, that will not always happen. We need
to now consider those other times.
classic illustration of this we see if we look at Pharaoh who opposed
Moses (Exodus 5-12). What is incredible about the plagues, (disciplinary
leading to direct judgment) apart from the fact of them, is that they
gradually intensified and gradually became worse and
worse thus making the recipients of them gradually aware that
this is the hand of God and it was going to get heavier and heavier
until they repented. The key thing about them is that they allowed
the recipients of them to learn and repent, at any point prior to
the last one.
appeared to do so and then backtracked and ended up dying – but it
was his choice after ten warnings! Thus this form of disciplinary
judgment allows the individual to face what is happening and come
to repentance in a gradually worsening situation. If he fails to learn
it results in a terminal judgment.
we examine Scripture, we can see two sorts of judgment that end in
- that which comes as gradual discipline
but which, if ignored or rejected, results in death, as we have
just noted above in the case of Moses and Pharaoh,
- that which comes as a bolt out of
the blue resulting in death.
it is probable that the critics of God will assume that the second
of these two is the way God usually works, but in reality that is
completely untrue and very far from the truth.
judgments ending in death come with a period of possible reflection
beforehand that enable those facing the judgment to think on what
is happening and determine how they will respond. Whereas you might
think that this would enable anyone and everyone to avoid judgments
from God, the truth is far from this. Such is the reality of this
thing the Bible calls Sin, which is a characteristic of each and every
one of us, this propensity to self-centred godlessness.
we look at the terminal judgments of God we will see that His warnings
specific – He warns
implied – the circumstances shout
out what is happening.
bigger the event, the greater the warning. The two biggest judgments
seen in the Old Testament, in respect of Israel, are i) The Exodus
and ii) The Exile. We will look at them both again in the next chapter
but for now we simply consider them in respect of the warnings given.
The Exodus (Ex 5-12)
the judgments here (and there are ten
of them altogether) are preceded by very specific warnings from God,
through Moses, to Pharaoh.
There is no way that Pharaoh could have
said he wasn't warned.
Not only that, as we have already indicated
above, they came gradually and with increased intensity.
The cause of his eventual destruction
is clearly down to Pharaoh's hard heart.
The Exile (2 Chron 36)
When we refer to ‘The Exile' we refer
to that disaster that came upon Judea and Jerusalem that ended up
with the vast majority of the population being taken to Babylon, and
Jerusalem burnt to the ground.
This disaster should have taken no one
by surprise because
Invasions had taken place as an almost
regular occurrence in the decades before the final destruction in
God's word had been coming, giving
constant warning to Israel, through both Jeremiah and Ezekiel for
decades beforehand. The warnings were most specific.
The whole affair is summed up by the
scribe who put 2 Chronicles together:
Chron 36:15,16 The
LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers
again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his
dwelling place. But they mocked God's messengers, despised
his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD
was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.
Again the folly of the exile was the
constant refusal by king after king, and their followers and people,
to heed these warnings.
those two situations above, the warnings were very specific but terminal
judgments also come when the recipients should have known, and should
have realised what was going on. The warnings are implied within the
The Invasion of Canaan
Probably the best illustration of this
is seen in the run up to the invasion of Canaan by Israel.
had moved from the desert in the south, up the eastern side of the
Dead Sea, ready to enter the land by crossing the River Jordon opposite
Now when we come to look at this invasion
we will see that God's intent was for the Canaanites to be driven
out of the land, not destroyed, as most people think.
were going to come as a terminal or final judgment on this land but
ONLY IF the inhabitants remained in it and refused to go.
So how were the Canaanites warned of
this impending judgment?
It is obvious in Scripture that the
word spread about what was happening and so at one point Moses was
able to say:
have already heard
O LORD, are with these people and
O LORD, have been seen face to face,
cloud stays over them, and
go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire
i.e. the word had spread across the
whole region that this nation (probably of over a million people)
were coming, with some very supernatural accompaniments.
Moreover the story of how they had left
Egypt miraculously forty years ago, and how they have now defeated
two pagan kingdoms to the east of the Dead Sea has also spread widely.
Rahab was able to say to the spies,
know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great
fear of you has fallen on us , so that all who live in this country
are melting in fear because of you. We have heard
LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out
of Egypt , and
did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan,
whom you completely destroyed.
we heard of it ,
our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for
the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.”
Now in that instance it may have been
simply the news coming that made them feel like that or it may be
that the Lord spoke doubt and fear into their minds.
However we may look at it, it is an
The testimony of God's People
the records indicate this so clearly in respect of the invasion of
Canaan, the truth is that again and again the knowledge of what was
happening in and through Israel was spread throughout the surrounding
people. Incident after incident suggest that people knew what was
coming – but ignored it!
the greatest judgment outside the life of Israel is that of the Flood.
Consider the details:
The world was described as corrupt
in God's sight and was full of violence, (Gen 6:11) and
they clearly knew of their past history
and of God's part in it (because it was passed on down through the
generations by word of mouth) but they chose to ignore God,
yet Noah was described as a
righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked
with God (Gen 6:9) and
the people all around him would know
what he was like and he would have acted as a constant reminder that
there was a God and it was possible to have a relationship with Him,
AND that there was an alternative way to live.
He was given a task by God to build
an ark, a very big boat which was to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide
and 45 feet high and
that is a big boat and was clearly visible
and would have taken months if not years to build. Almost certainly
through this time Noah would have shared with his questioning neighbours
what he was doing and why – they would have known! The word would
have spread far and wide.
It gets worse: animals start turning
up. This will be the biggest gossip subject for years! One way or
another, the people knew something big was going on and no doubt Noah
explained – yet no one repented and said, “God please save me,”
or "Can I come on your boat with you?"
Refusal to Listen
We should not be surprised that even
though God warns people again and again they refuse to heed Him. Such
is the power of Sin that blinds people to the truth.
At the time of the flood, they had plenty
of time to repent.
In the face of the impending ten plagues,
Pharaoh had every opportunity to repent.
In the face of the ongoing words of
the prophets before the Exile, there was plenty of time to repent.
nowhere is there such a catalogue of judgments as in the book of Revelation
and yet after terrible things have happened we read –
rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did
not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop
worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood--idols
that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their
murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.”
proved the truth of what is here, that amazing things can be done
by God and yet people wilfully refuse to acknowledge them for what
they are. Listen to his words:
you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go
down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had
been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I
tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment
than for you."
and Gomorrah had been examples
of unrepentant cities that had been destroyed in God's terminal judgments.
- Yet the people of Capernaum (and no
doubt many other places in Galilee, if not Judea, had seen such miracles
that they ought to have turned to God. If such miracles had been done,
says Jesus, in those two cities, they would have repented (implied)
and not been destroyed.
we said, such is the blindness that comes with Sin.
A Study in Hardness
my previous book I looked in some detail at the case of Pharaoh and
his hard heartedness. I fear that some reading these pages will not
accept the generalisation that we have made about unbelief and might
think that Pharaoh's hardness was exceptional. For that reason (and
because they are rarely read passages of the Old Testament) I want
us to take in, in more detail, something of what we have already referred
to, the folly of Israel in failing to heed the warnings that came
through the prophets about the impending disaster that would bring
about the Exile. We start with Jeremiah:
have behaved more wickedly than your fathers. See how each of you
is following the stubbornness of his evil heart instead of obeying
me. So I will throw you out of this land into a land …… However, the
days are coming," declares the LORD, "when men will no longer
say, `As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out
of Egypt,' but they will say, `As surely as the LORD lives, who brought
the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the
countries where he had banished them.' For I will restore them to
the land I gave their forefathers.
This is both a message of warning AND
a message of hope.
The warning is, “I will throw you out
of the land”
The hope is “I will restore them to
Jeremiah warned and warned again
Similar warnings had been coming in
a steady stream through Jeremiah, for example,
up your belongings to leave the land, you who live under siege. For
this is what the LORD says: "At this time I will hurl out those
who live in this land; I will bring distress on them so that they
may be captured.”
leave – siege – hurl out – distress – captured – little left to the
will forsake my house, abandon my inheritance; I will give the one
I love into the hands of her enemies.”
forsake – abandon – enemies.
the LORD said to me, "Do not pray for the well-being of this
people. Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though
they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept
them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague.”
destroy – sword – famine – plague
the LORD said to me: "Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand
before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away
from my presence! Let them go! And if they ask you, `Where shall we
go?' tell them, `This is what the LORD says: "`Those destined
for death, to death; those for the sword, to the sword; those for
starvation, to starvation; those for captivity, to captivity.”
destined to death – sword – starvation - captivity
again and again the same depressing message comes, but they refuse
to heed it.
also how the words came through Ezekiel :
is what the Sovereign LORD says: Disaster! An unheard-of disaster
is coming. The end has come! The end has come! It has roused itself
against you. It has come! Doom has come upon you--you who dwell in
the land. The time has come, the day is near; there is panic, not
joy, upon the mountains. I am about to pour out my wrath on you and
spend my anger against you; I will judge you according to your conduct
and repay you for all your detestable practices. I will not look on
you with pity or spare you; I will repay you in accordance with your
conduct and the detestable practices among you. Then you will know
that it is I the LORD who strikes the blow.
it seems this word is designed to be even more fearsome as a warning
fell facedown, crying out, "Ah, Sovereign LORD! Are you going
to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your
wrath on Jerusalem?" He answered me, "The sin of the house
of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great; the land is full of bloodshed
and the city is full of injustice. They say, `The LORD has forsaken
the land; the LORD does not see.' So I will not look on them with
pity or spare them, but I will bring down on their own heads what
they have done."
their sin is spelled out
this to them: `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: As surely as
I live, those who are left in the ruins will fall by the sword,
those out in the country I will give to the wild animals to
be devoured, and those in strongholds and caves will die of a plague.
I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will
come to an end, and the mountains of Israel will become desolate so
that no one will cross them. Then they will know that I am the LORD,
when I have made the land a desolate waste because of all
the detestable things they have done.”
similarly words of destruction, a clear warning
nevertheless there were words of hope - Ezek 34:11-16, 25-31 – and
even more -
I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the
countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean
water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your
impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and
put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone
and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and
move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You
will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people,
and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness.
I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring
famine upon you. I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops
of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the
nations because of famine. Then you will remember your evil ways and
wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable
thus there are prophecies of hope as well as warning
being brought back to the land, with a new heart and a new spirit
and a new relationship on which the Lord decrees His blessing.
might have expected the words of warning to have scared the listeners
into changing their ways or, failing that, the words of future encouragements
might have melted them in favour of the Lord – but neither of these
things happened – they simply pressed on with their ungodly and unrighteous
lives and disregarded the prophets. Such is the folly of sin.
when considering these judgments in the chapters ahead, to keep this
big picture in mind. There is nothing of a capricious God here, but
one who comes with warning after warning after warning, who seeks
to turn the people away from the awful ways they were going.
have focused on verses giving straight warnings of disaster rather
than those which picked up on the sins of the people, but one of them
summarized it as the land… full of
bloodshed and the city… full of injustice, but there is
much, much more that could be said in summing up the case against
these people, but we will leave it to the chapter that covers that
our children disregarded our warnings to the extent this people disregarded
God, we would take disciplinary action against them much earlier.
Perhaps the apostle Peter's words are applicable here: “The
Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.
He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish ,
but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9)
testimony of the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, perhaps more than
any other books of the Old Testament shout to us, ‘This God is patient
and merciful, not desiring that any should die but all should repent
and live.” The number of times He warned His people is a testimony
to His grace, a grace that exceeds anything else we know.'
there is a lot to take in here in this chapter, let's just recap what
we have seen:
Disciplinary judgments seek to change people's behaviour. Terminal
judgment brings death when God knows that nothing more will change
this people and turn them away from the awful lives they are living
and the effects they are having on those around them.
judgments come with (many) warnings from God and those warnings may
be explicit or implied (seen in the circumstances).
Terminal judgments may come after a series of disciplinary judgments
when people have failed to respond to the discipline. They may also
come apparently ‘out of the blue' but there
have always been implied
warnings to be seen.
judgments only come about when the hardness of heart in sinful people
refuses to respond positively to the warnings or disciplinary judgments
that always precede the terminal judgment.
We therefore conclude that terminal judgments NEVER come in isolation
and are always the ONLY options open to the Lord who looks on the
earth with eyes and a heart that wants the best for it.
it is probable that these items above really do challenge the beliefs
of many who have never before taken the time or made the effort to
consider these things. Because of that we invite you to go back over
this chapter in particular to see the truth and reality of the things
we have been saying here. These things will be confirmed again and
again as we look in more detail in the second half of this book at
the individual judgments. Before we move on to see those, we will
consider these things just once more from a slightly different angle
in the following chapter.
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