Curse and catastrophe
The four great judgments of God on all of sinful humanity
Published: 8 September 2010 (GMT+10)
The bottom line of the creation/evolution debate is that if evolutionists can show that atheistic evolution is true, they will have eliminated the last great Day of Judgment. However, there have already been three occasions when the whole of sinful mankind has been judged by God. The fact that these three events have occurred testifies to the certainty of the fourth and final judgment in the future.
1. The Fall
The first universal judgment was at the event known as the Fall, described in Genesis 3. The reason was the deliberate disobedience of Adam and Eve to the specific instruction of God that they were not to eat from the tree in the Garden of Eden called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the effects for them included knowledge of sin, experience of guilt, loss of holiness, fear of God, forfeiture of fellowship with God, and feelings of embarrassment towards each other. And, above and beyond these consequential effects, there was the specific pronouncement of judgment by God, sometimes called ‘the curse’.
This contained both spiritual and physical dimensions, not only for Adam and Eve, but also for their descendants, that is, for all mankind. Spiritually, they were from then on cut off from God, so that on that day they died spiritually. Physically, their human bodies began to die and would eventually ‘return to dust’, Eve was told that child-bearing would be a matter of ‘sorrow’ and that her husband would rule over her, the ground was cursed so that Adam’s work from then on would be hard labour, and they were cast out of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:16–24).
Note that God’s mercy is seen in the midst of this judgment, in two aspects:
- There was the promise of Genesis 3:15, that the seed of the woman (Jesus Christ) would ‘bruise the head’ of the serpent (i.e. cause the ultimate downfall of Satan).
- The penalty of physical death was itself a mercy! Without physical death mankind would have been condemned to live for ever in the sorrowful results of rebellion against God. However, because of the death of Christ on the Cross for our sins, and the resurrection, those who repent of their sins and have faith towards God, after death will be united with God in Heaven and attain that state of holiness and fellowship with God, which our ancestors, Adam and Eve, lost for us in the Garden of Eden.
2. The Flood
The second universal judgment was at the catastrophe of the Flood, described in Genesis 6–9. The reasons for this judgment were that ‘the wickedness of man was great’, ‘every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually’, ‘all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth’, and ‘the earth was filled with violence’ (Genesis 6:5–13). In this judgment, all of sinful mankind (apart from one family) died, as did all the air-breathing land animals except for those on the Ark (Genesis 7:21-23).
God’s mercy is seen in that Noah, described as a just man and perfect in his generations, and righteous (Genesis 6:9 and 7:1), was saved, together with his wife and family (a total of eight persons) by means of the Ark, which also carried the animals nominated by God to replenish the earth.
The third universal judgment was the confusion of languages at Babel, described in Genesis 11. After the Flood, God commanded Noah’s sons to ‘replenish [Hebrew: “fill”] the earth’, that is, to spread out, to form many nations, and to inhabit all the lands (Genesis 9:1). When the population had increased to the point where there were enough family units to have begun to do this, instead they built for themselves a city and within it a tower (Genesis 11:1-4).
Three reasons are given in the Bible for this building program.
- It was to be a ‘tower unto heaven’ (the words ‘may reach’ or ‘to reach’ are not in the original Hebrew), and so it appears that one use to which it was put involved the worship of heaven (possibly of angels, leading to demonic involvement; or of stars, leading to astrology and occult practices).
- It was to make a name for themselves, and to glorify human achievement, thereby showing their pride and self-sufficiency.
- It expressed a human attempt to preserve a unity which had been lost through sin, and which was contrary to God’s earlier command to Noah’s sons to replenish or fill the earth (‘lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth’—Genesis 11:4).
God’s judgment on this act of rebellion—the confounding of their language—showed both His mercy and His wisdom. God’s mercy is seen in the fact that He did not make the penalty equal to the offence. God’s wisdom is seen in the fact that the miracle of confusing their language effectively put a halt to their threefold aims:
- Without intercommunication, they could no longer continue their building program.
- The tower, which was meant to be a symbol of the great name they sought for themselves, became instead a term of reproach—Babel, meaning ‘confusion’.
- They were forced to do the very thing they had previously refused to do—scatter over the earth.
4. The Great White Throne
The fourth universal judgment (the event mentioned earlier as being the bottom line of the creation/evolution debate) is what the Bible calls the Great White Throne Judgment. Our knowledge of this comes from Revelation 20:11–15, which reads: ‘And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.’
This judgment is described as being in the form of a law court, with a presiding judge, and evidence is subpoena’d in the form of ‘those things which are written in the books’. It is relevant to ask by what authority this tribunal is held, who the judge will be, and what his qualifications are to make him judge of all mankind. Consider:
- The fact that God created mankind in His own image gives Him the right to set His rules for holy living and to call all men to appear before Him to answer for the things they have done and the way they have lived.
- The three former judgments on the whole of sinful mankind form a precedent for the holding of the final judgment. Scoffers ignore this at their own peril.
- God, if He chooses, is free to appoint whomsoever He will to be the judge, and He tells us in the Bible that He has appointed the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘He has given all judgment to the Son’ (John 5:22), ‘because He is the Son of man’ (John 5:27). Concerning this fact, ‘He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead’ (Acts 17:31). Jesus is thus uniquely qualified for this task. As God He has the insight and authority (Matthew 28:18) to judge all men, and as man He understands and sympathizes with man. In His person justice and mercy meet, and as judge of all mankind He will do what is right (Genesis 18:25)1
In each of the three other world judgments there was some aspect of mercy. So will there be any here?
Concerning this judgment there is both bad news and good news. The bad news is that, at the Great White Throne Judgment, the time for mercy is past for ever. History has reached the time of the consummation (or completion) of all things. The good news is that the mercy necessary for us to avoid being condemned at this tribunal is available now, but it must be appropriated in this life to be effective in the next.
The Gospel (or ‘good news’) is that when Jesus died upon the Cross He bore the divine wrath against sinners to the full. His sufferings were vicarious—for others because He died in mankind’s place and for the sin of the world. His sufferings were expiatory—He exhausted the penalty for sin. And His sufferings were atoning—He dealt with all that separated God from man and man from God, making possible reconciliation and the restoration of lost fellowship.
Why then are not all men saved?
Because Christ is God incarnate; our substitute is God Himself. If the Judge pays the penalty Himself, He is free to do so on His own conditions. The terms that God has laid down for the forgiveness of the sinner are repentance and faith towards God. We must meet these terms before we can benefit from Christ’s atoning death for us, but when we do, ‘being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1).
If all this is true, why then do so few people show any concern?
The Bible tells us that ‘the god of this world [Satan] hath blinded the eyes of them which believe not’ (2 Corinthians 4:4). A major way in which he is doing this today is through the increasingly widespread teaching of the theory of evolution as ‘fact’, which teaching leads men to deny the existence of God the Creator, Saviour, and Judge.
It also specifically denies all three previous judgments:
Denial of a historical Fall judgment.
Evolutionists (including theistic) must insist that the ‘bad things’ in this world (death, bloodshed, suffering) were part of the formation process. Hence, in their opinion, the world we now see is normal, not fallen.
Denial of a world-wide Flood judgment.
Theistic evolutionists are united with atheistic ones in saying there never was such an event as a world-wide flood. If there was, the fossil-bearing rocks could no longer be seen as evidence of evolutionary eons, but rather of God’s judgment.
Denial of the Babel judgment.
All evolutionary schemes of anthropology deny that this event ever occurred.
The teaching of creation and subsequent events in Genesis involves affirmation, not only that God the Creator, Saviour, and Judge does exist, but also that His power in judgment is real—that He has already executed judgment on all mankind three times in the past and He will do so once again in the future. The converse is also true, that is, the fact of these judgments points inexorably back to the truth of creation, not evolution. It is therefore not surprising that the many churches which accept some form of theistic evolution usually have little desire to proclaim the biblical theme of the judgment of God and thereby send a clear and positive warning signal to an unbelieving world.
The remedy is obvious.
- Adapted from Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1979, pp. 384–85.