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Does God Condemn People?
By Gary F. Zeolla
Part One of this two-part article looked in detail at the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and glanced over the rest of the Old Testament, which showed many examples of the LORD condemning, judging, and punishing people for their sins. But does God still do so in New Testament times, and thus today? This second part will answer this question by looking at the words and actions of Jesus, who is God in the flesh, and a couple of other examples of God's reaction towards sin.
Verses will be quoted from the Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament: Devotional Version (ALTD). Copyright © 1999-2012 by Gary F. Zeolla (www.Zeolla.org).
The Gospel of Matthew
Jesus starts His ministry by declaring, "Be repenting, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near!" (4:17). So right off the bat, Jesus proclaims that people need to repent. Repentance is "to feel regret about a sin or past actions and change your ways or habits" (Encarta Dictionary). So declarations for repentance include the idea that people's behaviors are wrong and need to be changed. Thus Jesus is making a "judgment" about the actions of the people He is preaching to, that they need to be changed.
In Matthew 5, Jesus preaches:
21"You heard that it was said to the ancients: "You will not murder," but whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. 22But I say to you*, every[one] being enraged at his brother without cause will be in danger of the judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Empty-headed fool!' will be in danger of the High Council, and whoever says, ‘You worthless fool!' will be in danger of the hell of the fire.
So Jesus repeats the Ten Commandment's proclamation against murder (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17), but He raises it up a notch, and says that "being enraged" with your brother is the same as murdering him. You are thus in danger of "judgment" and of "the hell of the fire" (or, the fiery hell).
27"You heard that it was said: ‘You will not commit adultery.' 28But I say to you*, every[one] looking on a woman in order to lust after her already committed adultery [with] her in his heart. 29But if your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and cast [it] from you, for it is better for you that one of your body parts perish and not your whole body be cast into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and cast [it] from you, for it is better for you that one of your body parts perish and not your whole body be cast into hell.
Jesus once again refers to the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18), and once again raises it up a notch. Just looking at a woman lustfully is equivalent to adultery. This can lead to "your whole body be[ing] cast into hell." So Jesus preaches punishment for sin by way of warning about hell.
In Matthew 6, Jesus warns us, "14For if you* forgive the people their transgressions, your* Father, the [One] in the heavens, will also forgive you,* 15but if you* do not forgive the people their transgressions, neither will your* Father forgive your* transgressions."
So Jesus assumes people transgress against one another and against God the Father. And he says we need to forgive others for us to be forgiven. Thus Jesus preaches there is such a thing as sin that needs to be forgiven.
Matthew 7 begins with the passage that the anti-judging crowd loves to quote, at least the first couple of words. But let us look at the entire context.
"Stop judging, so that you* shall not be judged, 2for with what judgment you* judge, you* will be judged, and with what measure you* measure, it will be measured to you.* 3But why do you look at the speck, the [one] in the eye of your brother, but you do not notice the log, the [one] in your own eye? 4Or, how will you say to your brother, ‘Allow [me], I shall take the speck from your eye,' and look!, the log [is] in your own eye? 5Hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of the eye of your brother.
Jesus is not teaching we are not to "judge" per se. Instead, he is preaching against hypocrisy, judging others for a behavior that we ourselves are engaging in. But in doing so, He teaches that we can have "specks" and "logs" in our eyes, meaning sins in our lives. The implication is that we need to repent of our sins first before telling others to repent of theirs.
Later in Matthew 7, Jesus preaches:
13"Enter in through the narrow gate, because wide [is] the gate and spacious [is] the way which leads to the destruction, and many are the ones entering in through it. 14How narrow [is] the gate and having been constricted [is] the way which leads to the life, and few are the ones finding it!
21"Not every one saying to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,' will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of My Father, the [One] in [the] heavens. 22Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, we prophesied in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and did many miraculous works in Your name, did we not?' 23And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you*; be departing from Me, the ones practicing lawlessness!'
So Jesus proclaims that the way most people are going is the wrong direction; that most are heading for "destruction" and are "practicing lawlessness." Thus Jesus throws a wide blanket and judges and condemns the majority of people for their behaviors.
In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out his apostles to "be proclaiming, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near!'" He ends his commission by telling them:
"14And whoever shall not receive you*, nor hear *your words, as you* go out from that house or city, shake off the dust from your* feet. 15Positively, I say to you*, it will be more tolerable for [the] land of Sodom and Gomorrah in [the] day of judgment than for that city."
So Jesus refers back to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah that was discussed in Part One of this article. And He warns that anyone rejecting His message as preached through His disciples will be in worse danger of judgment than those of Sodom and Gomorrah. And note that Jesus just assumes that there is a "day of judgment" coming.
Jesus repeats a similar sentiment in Matthew 11:
20Then He began to be denouncing the cities in which were done the most of His miraculous works, because they did not repent. 21"How horrible it will be to you, Chorazin! How horrible it will be to you, Bethsaida! For if the miraculous works had happened in Tyre and Sidon, the ones having happened in you*, they [would have] repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22Nevertheless, I say to you*, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in [the] day of judgment than for you.* 23And you, Capernaum, the one having been exalted to heaven, you will be brought down to the realm of the dead, for if the miraculous works had happened in Sodom, the ones having happened in you, it [would have] remained to this day. 24Nevertheless, I say to you*, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in [the] day of judgment than for you."
In Matthew 12, Jesus has some harsh words for those He is preaching to:
34Brood of vipers! How are you* able to be speaking good things, being evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35The good person out of the good treasure [within him] brings forth good [things], and the evil person out of the evil treasure [within him] brings forth evil [things]. 36But I say to you*, every idle word which the people shall speak, they will render an account concerning it in [the] day of judgment. 37For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
So Jesus declares people to be "evil" and says they will be "condemned" by their words.
In Matthew 13, Jesus preaches an "allegory of the darnel of the field." He concludes His explanation of it by saying:
40Therefore, just as the darnel is gathered up and will be burned with fire, so will it be at the conclusion of this age. 41The Son of Humanity will send out His angels, and they will gather up out of His kingdom all the stumbling blocks and the ones practicing lawlessness. 42And they will throw them into the furnace of fire. In that place [there] will be weeping and gnashing of teeth! 43Then will the righteous [ones] shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one having ears to be hearing, let him be hearing.
So Jesus once again preaches about hell, referring to it as "the furnace of fire." He says there, there "will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." He repeats this same idea later the same chapter:
"49In this manner it will be at the conclusion of the age. The angels will go out and will separate the evil [people] out of [the] midst of the righteous [people] 50and will throw them into the furnace of fire. In that place [there] will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!"
In chapter 15, Jesus debates with the Pharisees about some of their legalistic rituals. But in condemning such legalism, he declares:
"19For from the heart come out evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual sins, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies: 20these are the [things] defiling the person, but to eat with [ritually] unwashed hands does not defile the person."
So Jesus declares that people are "defiled" by sinful actions.
In Matthew 23, Jesus uses some of his strongest language against the Pharisees. It's not possible to repeat the whole chapter here, but in it, Jesus repeatedly says to them "But how horrible it will be to you*, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" And after each such proclamation He condemns them for a particular behavior or practice of theirs.
But Jesus doesn't reserve such strong language for the Pharisees. He declares to all the people:
37"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one killing the prophets and stoning the ones having been sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her own chickens under the wings, and you* did not want to! 38Look! Your* house is left to you* desolate."
In Matthew 25, Jesus describes how He will be judging people at the end of this age. To the righteous, He says they will "inherit the kingdom having been prepared for you*" (v. 34). But to the unrighteous, He declares:
41"Then He will also say to the [ones] on His left side, ‘Be going away from Me, the ones having been cursed, into the eternal fire, the one having been prepared for the Devil and his angels! 42For I was hungry, and you* did not give to Me [something] to eat; I was thirsty, and you* did not give Me [something] to drink. 43I was a stranger, and you* did not take me in; naked, and you* did not clothe Me; sick and in prison, and you* did not look after Me.'
44"Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungering or thirsting or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and we did not take care of You?' 45Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Positively, I say to you*, to the degree that you* did not do [it] to one of these, the least, you* did not do [it] to Me.' 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life!"
So Jesus repeatedly preaches about hell and eternal punishment.
In Matthew 26, Jesus declares about Judas, "24Indeed, the Son of Humanity is going away just as it has been written concerning Him. But how horrible it will be to that man through whom the Son of Humanity is betrayed! [It would have been] good for him if that man had not been born!"
The Gospel of Mark
The Gospel of Mark begins with Jesus preaching the same message as the Gospel of Matthew begins with, "The time has been fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near! Be repenting and be believing in the Gospel!" (1:14). He then adds, "I did not come to call righteous [people], but sinful [people] to repentance." So repentance is central to Jesus' message. And note, repentance is, "a change of mind and desire leading to change of behavior" (ALTD footnote).
Much of the rest of Mark is a repetition of what is seen in Matthew. But the following from Mark is instructive:
42"And whoever causes one of the little [ones], the ones believing in Me, to stumble, it is better for him if rather a millstone is hung around his neck, and he has been cast into the sea.
43"And if your hand is causing you to stumble, cut it off! It is better for you to enter into life crippled, than having your two hands, to go away into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44where their worm does not come to the end [of their lives], and the fire is not extinguished.
45"And if your foot is causing you to stumble, cut it off! It is better for you to enter into the life lame, than having your two feet to be cast into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 46where their worm does not come to the end [of their lives], and the fire is not extinguished.
47"And if your eye is causing you to stumble, cast it out! It is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God one-eyed, than having two eyes, to be cast into the hell of the fire, 48where their worm does not come to the end [of their lives], and the fire is not extinguished.
Note that "to stumble" is a figurative way of saying "to sin" as the ALTD footnote indicates. But the important point here is it seems that Jesus cannot but preach about hell. And just the mention of hell conflicts with any idea of God being so loving that He would never condemn people. To cast people into hell is to condemn them.
The Gospel of Luke
The Gospel of Luke again repeats much of the same material as is found in Mathew and Mark. But the following passage from chapter 13 is new:
1Now some [people] were showing up at that very time reporting to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices. 2And answering, Jesus said to them, "Do you* think that these Galileans were more sinful than all the [other] Galileans, because they have suffered such [things]? 3Not at all, I say to you*, but if you* are not repenting, you* will all likewise perish! 4Or those, the eighteen, on whom the lookout tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you* think that these were debtors more than all the [other] people dwelling in Jerusalem? 5Not at all, I say to you*, but if you* are not repenting, you* will all likewise perish!"
As the ALTD footnote indicates, "debtors more" in verse 4 means "worse sinners." But the point is, Jesus is preaching to the people in general, and He declares that they all need to repent or they will "perish." He thus declares that all people are sinners in need of repentance.
At the end of Luke, Jesus tells his disciples, "Thus it has been written, and thus it was necessary [for] the Christ to suffer and to rise from [the] dead the third day, 47and [for] repentance and forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (24:46-47). So once again, Jesus declares that all people everywhere need to repent. It is this message of "repentance and forgiveness of sins" that the apostles proclaim throughout the Book of Acts.
The Gospel of John
The Gospel of John has a couple of interactions of Jesus with women that are pertinent to this discussion. The first is in John 4, where Jesus is talking with the woman at the well. The discussion includes the following exchange:
16Jesus says to her, "Be going, call your husband and come to this place." 17The woman answered and said, "I do not have a husband." Jesus says to her, "Correctly you said, ‘I do not have a husband.' 18For five husbands you had, and [the one] whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly."
Why did Jesus bring up the woman's husband when He knew that she did not have one? So that He could confront her with her sin. He knew her sinful past and present, and He made sure she knew that He knew. She was obviously convicted by His mentioning her sexual history as she immediately changes the subject. Jesus lets her do so, but the conviction was obviously there.
The next interaction is the famous story of the women caught in adultery, recorded in John 8.
3But the scribes and the Pharisees bring to Him a woman having been caught in adultery. And having set her in the middle [of them], 4they say to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act—committing adultery! 5Now in the Law, Moses commanded us that such be stoned. Therefore, You, what do You say?" 6But this they said, testing Him, so that they should be having [something] to accuse Him. But Jesus, having stooped down, began writing into the ground with His finger, not taking notice.
7But when they continued asking Him, having straightened Himself back up, He said to them, "The sinless [man] of you*, let him first cast the stone at her." 8And again having stooped down, He was writing into the ground. 9But they having heard, and by the conscience being convicted, began going out one by one, having begun from the older [men]. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman being in the midst.
10Now Jesus having straightened Himself back up and having seen no one but the woman, said to her, "Where are those accusers of yours? Did no one condemn you?" 11And she said, "No one, Lord." So Jesus said, "Neither do I judge you. Be going, and no longer be sinning."
As was mentioned in Part One, the Law prescribed the death penalty for sexual sins. For adultery, these commands are found in Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22-24. But as said in Part One, those punishments are no longer applicable to today, and this passage is one reason why they are not. Jesus keeps the woman from being executed. And the "God does not condemn or judge anyone" crowd will point to this passage as "proof" of their position.
It is true that Jesus keeps the ones who are condemning her from stoning her, and he says that He does not "judge" her. But note the final words, "Be going, and no longer be sinning." Jesus still makes it clear to her that her behavior was sin and needs to be stopped. So in no sense was Jesus condoning or overlooking her sinful behavior.
Before leaving the Gospels, it would be good to look at probably the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, so that every[one] believing in Him shall not perish, but shall be having eternal life!"
It is true that this passage teaches about God's love for "the world." And this does need to be preached. But how does God love the world? By sending His Son to die for people's sins. And note, if you do not trust in Jesus and His death on the cross for your sins, then you will "perish."
This idea is reinforced by a verse at the end of the chapter, "36The one believing in the Son has eternal life, but the one refusing to believe the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Note that God's wrath is already on people. It needs to be removed by believing in the Son.
The Book of Acts
The Books of Acts mainly contains a record of the preaching and actions of the apostles, especially Peter and Paul. And what they preached is what Jesus commanded them to, repentance for the forgiveness of sins by trusting in Jesus for their salvation. But since this two-part article is about the words and actions of God, these sermons will not be covered. But two incidents will be looked at.
The first is recorded in chapter 5:
1But a certain man, Ananias by name, with Sapphira his wife, sold a piece of property, 2and kept back [part] of the proceeds for himself, his wife also having become aware of [it], and having brought a certain part, he placed [it] at the feet of the apostles. 3But Peter said, "Ananias, why did Satan fill your heart [for] you to lie to the Holy Spirit and [for] you to keep back [part] of the price of the proceeds of the piece of property for yourself? 4While it [was] remaining [unsold], was it not remaining yours, and having been sold, was it not in your authority? Why [is it] that you put this thing in your heart? You did not lie to people but to God!"
5Then Ananias hearing these words, having fallen down, expired! And great fear came to be on all the ones hearing these [things]. 6Then having risen, the young men wrapped him up, and having carried [him] out, they buried [him].
7Now it happened, [after] an interval of about three hours, that his wife came in, not knowing the [event] having taken place. 8Then Peter answered her, "Tell me whether [for] so much you yourself sold the piece of property?" Then she said, "Yes, [for] so much." 9Then Peter said to her, "Why [is it] that it was agreed by you to test the Spirit of [the] Lord? Look! The feet of the ones having buried your husband [are] at the door, and they will carry you out!"
10Then immediately she fell down at his feet and expired! And the young men having come in, found her dead, and having carried [her] out, they buried [her] beside her husband. 11And great fear came to be on all the Assembly and on all the ones having heard these [things].
Like happened several times in the Torah, here two people, a husband and wife, are struck dead by God for sin. And what was their sin? Lying. That's all, just a small lie. But God takes truth seriously. So still in the New Testament we see God's condemnation of sin by the punishment of those who commit it.
The second incident is found in Acts 12:
21So on an appointed day, Herod having put a royal robe on himself and having sat down on the judgment seat, began making a speech to them. 22Then the mob began shouting, "[The] voice of a god and not of a man!" 23So immediately an angel of [the] Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And having been eaten by worms, he expired!
Here again, someone is stuck dead for their sin. But this time, it wasn't just anyone but a king. And his sin was "he did not give glory to God."
The last book of the Bible, The Revelation, is filled with descriptions of God's wrath against a sinful world. But to quote all of the passages from it would require yet a third part to this article. But what has been written so far should suffice to make my point.
God condemns and judges people. The LORD does so in the Old Testament, and Jesus does so in the New Testament. And in both Testaments, we read of God striking people down dead for sinning against Him.That is scary stuff. But that is where the love of God comes in. After a person is convinced that they are in fact sinners before God, deserving of His judgment against their sin, and they repent of their sins, then it is time for them to hear of the love of God. And that love was shown in God sending His Son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross for their sins. But the order is important. You cannot preach the love of God without first preaching His condemnation of sin. Without a conviction of sin, a person just isn't ready to hear about the love of God.
Does God Condemn People? - Part Two Copyright © 2012 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).
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The above article was posted on this Web site October 27, 2012.
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