For it is by grace you have been saved...

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Praising God for the Destruction of the Wicked?

So I'm driving down the road listening to Shai Linne, one of my favorite Christian rappers (go ahead and hate me for it, I don't care). And I come to one of my favorite songs simply titled: C.H.R.I.S.T. It's a simple song of praise for the glories of Christ. Shai says some basic truth, asking “right?” And the background singers/crowd yells “Yeah!” Here's a sample:

Christ created all things, right? (Yeah!)
Lord of Lords, King of Kings, right? (Yeah!)
He came through a virgin birth, right? (Yeah!)
God in the flesh walked the earth, right? (Yeah!)
Jesus lived a perfect life, right? (Yeah!)
He died as a sacrifice, right? (Yeah!)
He was raised on the third, right? (Yeah!)
And we know this from the Word, right? (Yeah!)

You get the idea. It goes on to hit the five “solas” even at one point. Great song. But as I'm listening to all this great truth, listening to all this praise for Christ, I'm suddenly taken aback by one section.

He ascended to His throne, right? (Yeah!)
He’s gonna come and take us home, right? (Yeah!)
He’s gonna judge all the earth, right? (Yeah!)
He’s gonna show what He’s worth, right? (Yeah!)
He’ll send the wicked to hell, right? (Yeah!)
But with His people He’ll dwell, right? (Yeah!)

I'm singing/yelling “Yeah!” right along with them, but then I stop. Wait a minute. What did he just say? He'll send the wicked to hell, right? And we say “Yeah!”? Is that the response I should have? Should I really praise God for the destruction of the wicked? Well, according to Scripture, yes.

Why? Because the destruction of the wicked is a display of the glory of God, the justice of God, the righteousness of God. Jonathan Edwards once gave a message on “Wicked Men Useful In Their Destruction Only.” After showing how God's justice and righteous are highlighted, he directly addresses the issue or our response. He says this:

The destruction of the unfruitful is of use, to give the saints a greater sense of their happiness, and of God's grace to them. The wicked will be destroyed and tormented in the view of the saints, and other inhabitants of heaven. This we are taught in Revelation xiv. 10. "The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture, into the cup of his indignation ; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb." And in Isaiah lxvi. 24. "And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me : For their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh."

When the saints in heaven shall look upon the damned in hell, it will serve to give them a greater sense of their own happiness, seeing how vastly different their case is from their own. The view of the doleful condition of the damned will make them the more prize their own blessedness. When they shall see how dreadful the anger of God is, it will make them the more prize his love. They will rejoice so much the more that they are not the objects of God's anger, but of his favor; that they are not the subjects of his dreadful wrath, but are treated as his children, are taken near to him, to dwell in the everlasting embraces of his love.

When they shall see the misery of the damned, it will give them a greater sense of the distinguishing grace and love of God to them, that God should from all eternity set his love on them, and make so great a difference between them and others who are of the same species with them, are no worse by nature than they, and have deserved no worse of God than they. When they shall look upon the misery of the damned, and consider how different their own state is from theirs, and that it is only free and sovereign grace that makes the difference, what a great sense will this give them of the wonderful grace of God to them! And how will it heighten their praises! With how much greater admiration and exultation of soul will they sing of the free and sovereign grace of God to them!

When they shall look upon the damned, and see their misery, how will heaven ring with the praises of God's justice towards the wicked, and his grace towards the saints! And with how much greater enlargement of heart will they praise Jesus Christ their Redeemer, that ever he was pleased to set his love upon them, his dying love! And that he should so distinguish them as to spill his blood, and make his soul an offering, to redeem them from that so great misery, and to bring them to such exceeding happiness!

Wow! I once heard Paul Washer talk about the vileness of our sin, and the blight that our sin is on creation, and how man compares with the rest of creation in that sense, and creations response, and thought it was a bit intense. He says this:

God said to the stars, each of which is large enough to consume a dozen of our suns, ‘You go there, and you will be called this, and you stay there until I tell you otherwise.’ And the stars obeyed. He said to the planets, ‘you go there, and will be this color, and will go in this path, and will reflect light in just this way, and you continue to do all that until I tell you otherwise.’ And they obeyed him.
And He said to the mountains, arise and come forth and they obeyed and rose up out of the ground. And He said to the valleys, ‘Cast yourself down’ and they obeyed Him. He said to the monsters of the deep dance in this way, and they danced in obedience.

And then he said to you (man) come follow me, and you said, ‘No!’” Washer concluded by saying, “Our sin is so horrible, so vile, such a blight on creation that when you take you first step into hell, all of creation will rejoice because God finally got rid of you!”

Again, wow! But hopefully you get the point. God is so holy, so righteous, so perfect in all that He does, that even His justice on display in the destruction of the wicked elicits praise from all of creation, including His saints. It's not joy over the pain and suffering of men. It's not a joy that delights in the punishment of the wicked for the sake of punishment. It's a joy based on the perfect judgment of a holy God. It's joy based on the reality that our God is a God who makes all things right. It's a joy that centers on Christ and the salvation He offers that rescues us from such destruction, while at the same time knowing that destruction is right and good and worthy of praise.

I still struggle with this, I'll be honest. I know that none of this means a delight when those who oppose us “get theirs.” It's not a petty, vindictive thing. In this life, I should see that coming destruction and be so passionate about seeing those around me avoid it that I faithfully and frequently share the gospel, hoping and praying that those around me are saved from such an end.

But at the same time, I know that such an end is right. I deserve it myself. Only the grace of God keeps me from it. And it is right to glorify God for bringing such an end to those who spent their lives in hatred of and rebellion against Him. I pray God will teach me the truth of this, help me get the right balance of it, and praise Him for His justice as well as His mercy.

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