Don’t Say the J Word

Image: Dez Pain

Judgement Has Come

As we face this COVID-19 global pandemic, I am struck by the reluctance of pastors, preachers and teachers in the Body of Christ to speak straight and categorically say that THE CORONAVIRUS IS A JUDGEMENT OF GOD. In fact, some Christian leaders are simply appeasing people as though judgement is the last thing on God’s mind. BUT, IS IT?

Just as people need to know the truth about the virus from their governments, how much more don’t they need to know what God is saying through sending this virus? The Bible doesn’t leave us guessing about these things. This is a judgement of God!  ‘Then I looked and saw a pale horse. Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed close behind. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill by sword, by famine, by plague, and by the beasts of the earth’ (Rev. 6:8).

The God of Mercy Is Angered

The revelation that God gives of Himself in the Bible is that He is not firstly a God of wrath and judgement, but of mercy. In Exodus God reveals this to Moses when He says, ‘“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness’ (Ex. 34:6 ESV). However, after opportunity for repentance and mercy has been extended and exhausted, His judgement finally comes. The same revelation of God goes on to say that He ‘will by no means clear the guilty’ (see Ex. 34:7).

That is where people find themselves when pandemics like this are happening. We’re in the midst of God’s judgement.

Am I Being Judged?

If I get the virus, am I being judged? That all depends on the other J word, JESUS, and how you relate to Him. He has been given authority to judge humankind. In Revelation we read, ‘“Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed to open the scroll and its seven seals (which are judgements of God)’” (Rev. 5:5).

Ever since His ascension, Jesus has been given the task of pouring out God’s judgements. The seals that are opened are judgements, which lead to the judgements of the trumpets and the bowls. These vary in timing, type, scope and severity and the coronavirus is one of them. As far as I can tell, this virus is on the level of ‘seal’ judgement. Far worse will come on mankind who reject God.

That said, we need to realise that just as we can use the same thing for different purposes, God is using the coronavirus for different purposes in the lives of people too. Therefore, people will experience this pandemic in totally different ways, depending on God’s purpose for it in their lives.

The World Is Guilty

Essentially, THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD HAVE REJECTED GOD. ‘For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’ (Rom. 3:23 KJV). What’s more, many have rejected God’s attempts to reconcile them to Himself, even at His own expense. Of them, the Bible says, ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for GOD’S WRATH REMAINS ON THEM’ (John 3:36 KJV).

Far worse than the coronavirus awaits those who have rejected God. The Bible says, ‘If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. HOW MUCH MORE SEVERELY DO YOU THINK SOMEONE DESERVES TO BE PUNISHED WHO HAS TRAMPLED THE SON OF GOD UNDERFOOT’ (Heb. 10:26‑29a).

But, what of those who have not heard about Jesus? Of them the Bible says, ‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse’ (Rom. 1:20 NIV).

The world is guilty and deserves God’s judgement, yet God extends the offer of life through His Son to all who believe. ‘For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Rom. 6:23 KJV).

Faithful Christians

But what of God’s people who are living faithfully, but who also get sick with COVID-19? Is God judging them? No, the virus is not a judgement on them. Instead, God will carry them through it with His grace and peace, whether to live or die. And, though He may deliver many from contracting this disease, nevertheless, by carrying us through it, God makes us a witness to His goodness to us in the face of such difficulty. As we pray, we are helped with His peace that passes all understanding, which helps us to overcome the natural response of fear and panic. In so doing, we witness to His comforting presence within us that is available to all who have repented and turned to God.

Remember these verses, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Php. 4:4‑7). And, ‘Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing’ (Jam. 1:2-4 ESV).

There need be no fear of God’s wrathful judgement or death for true Christians, because we have already passed from spiritual death to life when we were born-again. Jesus clearly said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life’ (John 5:24 NKJV).  And, because physical death has lost its sting. ‘“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor. 15:55-56 NIV).

In the face of whatever may come, like Paul, each one who is in Christ can boldly say, ‘I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death’ (Php. 1:20 NIV).

Lukewarm Christians

What of God’s people who are living for this world and its pleasures? This pandemic is a test of faith and a lukewarm Christian may find this time to be a form of judgment on his attitude toward God. As such, it can serve to quickly bring him to repentance and to a more zealous walk with God.

Christians Living in Sin

What of God’s people who are living in sin? Those who are God’s and yet are caught up in sin, may experience the virus as a form of disciplining by the Lord. This might take the form of sickness and even death, however, this won’t be the wrath of God that leads to eternal separation. Instead, it is a sober reminder to the Church of the Father’s attitude toward sin.

To the church in Thyatira Jesus said, ‘Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works’ (Rev. 2:22 ESV).

Repent and Pray

‘I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases GOD OUR SAVIOR, WHO WANTS ALL PEOPLE TO BE SAVED AND TO COME TO A KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people…’ (1 Tim. 2:1‑6a NIV).

God as Judge

We are satisfied and even happy when criminals are judged fairly by court judges. In the same way, we should appreciate God’s judgements. For, above all else, He is a God of love, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and grace.

Psalm 94: 8-15 (NIV)

8Take notice, you senseless ones among the people;

you fools, when will you become wise?

9Does he who fashioned the ear not hear?

Does he who formed the eye not see?

10Does he who disciplines nations not punish?

Does he who teaches mankind lack knowledge?

11The Lord knows all human plans;

he knows that they are futile.

12Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord,

the one you teach from your law;

13you grant them relief from days of trouble,

till a pit is dug for the wicked.

14For the Lord will not reject his people;

he will never forsake his inheritance.

15Judgment will again be founded on righteousness,

and all the upright in heart will follow it.

If judgement is the main message, which it is, then let’s not make it something else. Instead, whether Christian or not, let’s respond to it in humility and repentance. For, if we, as Christians, don’t know what it is, how can we warn the world?

Rob Morley

2 thoughts on “Don’t Say the J Word

  1. I’m not entirely sure that we can tell exactly when God is sending judgments unless he has told a prophet or made it obvious. I don’t think his judgments come as a surprise to most, but the terrible acts of the devil certainly do.

    Jesus Himself spoke of a couple of incidents in Luke 13, that the religious people believed were judgments of God. Luke 13 New King James Version (NKJV)
    13 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had [a]mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

    So while some things are sent directly by god, it is an unusual thing for him to do. The bible says: 2 Peter 3:7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

    And Hebrews 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment…

    They state the normal way things are going to happen, but sometimes God does intervene when to not intervene would see the world destroyed or lose the knowledge of God, etc, as in the flood.

    I don’t know if this is a judgment, but pestilences have been predicted for the last days, and God’s revelations of the future do not mean he chose for these things to happen, but he foresaw the inevitable consequences of the constant flouting of his instructions. Added to that, when Jesus answered the disciples’ question in Matthew 24, in verse 8 he said of the troubling times, “8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Birth pains get stronger and more frequent as they progress, and we see the things he predicted, like earthquakes, famines – and pestilences – becoming worse and worse and more frequent.

    The angels holding the four winds – presumably of strife and disaster – are mentioned here: Revelation 7:1After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. Daniel 12: 1: …And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation,
    Even to that time.

    So disastrous times – really bad ones – are on the way, with angels holding the worst back until God’s children are “sealed” – which is probably a study in itself. That indicates it will be unleashed after that time. God’s people go through all of this with the rest of the inhabitants.

    I am more inclined to think this virus is just a part of the “birth pains”, along with the more frequent earthquakes and other disasters predicted in advance, so we would know at what stage of history we live. God can use it as a great opportunity to have his people spend quality time with him and therefore come closer to him, even if it is not his intentional will – that is if he did not directly do this. It can equally be a consequence of ignoring his instructions re the kind of foods we eat, or his instructions re hygeine that he gave to the Israelites. When the disciples asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven on a village that rejected him, Jesus told them they didn’t know the spirit that motivated them, and he told them not to do so. And any time God instigated a judgment, if you look closely, it was generally for violence. Even the flood was because violence was everywhere.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts.

    1. Hi Dez,
      Thank you for your thoughts. I would like to respond to them with some Scriptures to consider and some thoughts of my own. I believe that though we all see through a glass dimly, together we can see much better. (By the way, any capitalisation below is for emphasis and not emotion).
      I would say that God has prophesied. John wrote Revelation as a ‘prophecy’ (see Rev. 1:3) to encourage the church in light of things that were ‘soon’ going to begin to ‘take place’ (see Rev 1:1). In the same way that Daniel warned of events well in advance and Jesus warned the early church of the severe judgement that was coming on Jerusalem, which happened in AD 70, God gave John the Revelation of Jesus Christ to encourage His church in light of the many challenges that they would have face in this world. This included being witnesses to His judgements, which He clearly depicts as taking place under the authority of the Lamb (see Rev 5:1-6:1f). Note that amidst these judgements is the preaching of the gospel. ‘Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people’ (Rev 14:6).
      As I see it, we are not to be surprised by the judgements of God or the acts of the Devil, because we are sufficiently warned about both.
      As for Luke 13:1-5, Jesus doesn’t deny judgement, but warns of judgment. ‘There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but UNLESS YOU REPENT YOU WILL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; BUT UNLESS YOU REPENT YOU WILL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH.”’
      Also, direct judgement from God is not unusual. The Bible is full of the judgements of God upon His people and upon other nations. Just think of the people in the time of Noah, or Pharaoh and Egypt in the time of Moses, or the nations that He had His people decimate because of how their sins had heaped up. And, consider God’s own people to whom He said in the Law that He would bring famine, war and plagues upon them and lead them into captivity if they broke covenant through disobedience, which He did. And, what of the Philistines, Assyria, Babylon and the other nations around Israel? The prophets prophesied extensively about God’s plans to judge them, which He did.
      Yes, the bible says in 2 Peter 3:7, ‘But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men’ and in Hebrews 9:27, ‘And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment…’ These verses speak of the final judgement. But that does not negate the other judgements that are clearly spoken about too. In fact, Hebrews 9:27 was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, which was clearly a judgement that happened ahead of the final judgement.
      In Matt. 24:4-8, the “beginning of birth pains” are “wars…famines and earthquakes.” Being called “the beginning of birth pains,” they are to be understood as milder judgements. These lead to the final pain, which is “the end” (see vs 6). In fact, after He says, “See that no one leads you astray” (Matt. 24:6), Jesus intentionally distinguishes between the “beginning of birth pains” and “the end” by saying, “but the end is not yet.”
      I agree that ‘Birth pains get stronger and more frequent as they progress, and we see the things he predicted, like earthquakes, famines – and pestilences – becoming worse and worse and more frequent.’ This is in line with the increased severity that we see from the seals to the trumpets and then to the bowls in Revelation.
      God did not choose for us to sin, but He did choose to save us and judge us. And, as I’ve said, judgement is not only in one final judgement, but throughout history. The only difference now is that Jesus, Who is just like His Father, has been given this role. In fact, in Revelation we see Jesus judging, not only the people of the world, but the seven churches too. Similarly, Peter writes to the saints saying, ‘For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?’ (1 Pet. 4:17). This was then already. Yes, God ‘foresaw the inevitable consequences of the constant flouting of his instructions,’ which included having to judge people.
      As for Revelation 7:1, ‘After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree,’ note that there is a protection placed on the saints who go through the challenging period. “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads” (Rev. 7:3).
      As for Daniel 12: 1, ‘And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.’ I believe that this had to do with Jewish War of 66-70 AD and Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem. More than a million Jews were killed. It was gruesome, with in-fighting, starvation, cannibalism, slaughter and destruction. The nature of it was so horrendous that Jesus said of it, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21).
      Daniel 12:1-2 goes on to say, ‘But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.’ This speaks of the saints who were delivered from the destruction of Jerusalem and then goes on to speak of the very end.
      The term ‘great tribulation’ is used in Matthew 24:21 where Jesus says, “For then shall be great tribulation.” The context is found in the preceding verses. He says, “…let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath” (Matt. 24:16-20).
      Clearly, “on the housetop” describes an ancient home and custom, not a modern scene that one would expect in a Futurist tribulation. Also, to “flee to the mountains” is hardly a strategy that will help anyone in the future. Furthermore, being in a “field” and wearing a “cloak” is a common description for 1st century Judea, not modern Israel. And, why would “winter” be a problem in the modern world?
      From the description, it is clear that this prophecy was to be fulfilled in that era and not in some end-time Futurist one. Jesus is describing the looming scenario and associated possibilities around the destruction of the temple. He corroborates this when He further forewarns His disciples saying, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt. 24:34).
      Even to that time.
      I would say that wars like WWI and WWII and the pandemics that have already happened are ‘disastrous times – really bad ones’ and that others ‘ – are on the way’ too. As for ‘angels holding the worst back until God’s children are “sealed,”’ as I see it, the words “After this” in Rev. 7:1 refers to the next in a series of visons that John sees, not a sequence of time in reality. This particular vision is inserted to explain God’s protection of the saints in the midst of His judgements. Even the seals and trumpets, etc. are not consecutive in reality, but what we are seeing is a series of visons that are topical, each emphasising a different feature of the time between Christs first and Second Coming.
      I too, ‘am more inclined to think this virus is just a part of the “birth pains”, along with the more frequent earthquakes and other disasters predicted in advance, so we would know at what stage of history we live.’ That said, I think the frequency and severity has been increasing with the mega fires, locust plague, earthquakes and coronavirus.
      Speaking of the coronavirus, I agree that ‘God can use it as a great opportunity to have his people spend quality time with him and therefore come closer to him.’ Nevertheless, it is a result of Jesus opening the seals. And, I would say that the ‘consequence of ignoring his instructions re the kind of foods we eat, or his instructions re hygeine that he gave to the Israelites’ are forms of judgement.
      Yes, ‘When the disciples asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven on a village that rejected him, Jesus told them they didn’t know the spirit that motivated them.’ I am not doing that. I am commenting in the light of what Jesus predicted in Matt. 24 concerning the birth pains and what John said in Revelation. It is no different to what I would have done, in the light of what Daniel and Jesus had predicted, if AD 70 had just happened.
      I don’t think that judgement generally comes for violence. It is just that violence is a common sin among the strong who we have seen judged for their misuse of their strength. There are many reasons for judgement, which are all form of disobedience. ‘For THE WRATH OF GOD IS REVEALED FROM HEAVEN AGAINST ALL UNGODLINESS AND UNRIGHTEOUSNESS OF MEN, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. THEREFORE GOD GAVE THEM UP IN THE LUSTS OF THEIR HEARTS TO IMPURITY, TO THE DISHONORING OF THEIR BODIES AMONG THEMSELVES, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason GOD GAVE THEM UP TO DISHONORABLE PASSIONS. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and RECEIVING IN THEMSELVES THE DUE PENALTY FOR THEIR ERROR. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, GOD GAVE THEM UP TO A DEBASED MIND TO DO WHAT OUGHT NOT TO BE DONE. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them’ (Rom. 1:18 32). In this passage, we see that God is at work judging people who have rejected Him, even before the final judgement.
      Certainly the final judgement will not come as a result of violence either, ‘For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood THEY WERE EATING AND DRINKING, MARRYING AND GIVING IN MARRIAGE, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and THEY WERE UNAWARE until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.’

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