AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
1. What is Divine judgment?
God’s judgment of us is an evaluation. In eternity, God will judge how well we served Him on earth. Right now, God is continuously judging how your soul is responding to Him. Just as you evaluate whether a fruit is ripe or not before you decide what to do with it, how God decides to interact with you depends on His current evaluation or assessment or judgment of your soul attitude towards Him.
When we talk about God casting judgment on people, we are talking about Him announcing the current results of His evaluation of them. If God’s judgment of us is positive, He rewards us. If God’s judgment of us is negative, He disciplines us. Often when we start making choices that God dislikes, He will convict us to make changes (see Conviction Q&A).
2. Are God’s judgments permanent?
Not necessarily. On earth, God is continuously evaluating your soul attitude towards Him and finding it to be either pleasing or displeasing. At any time He might announce His current judgment of you, but this is not the same as saying that His judgment is permanent.
In the Bible, we find many examples of God publicizing His judgment of various people. In Job, Yahweh announces to the angels that Job is very pleasing in His sight. When Solomon is first born and later when Solomon asks Yahweh for wisdom, Yahweh publicizes His positive assessment of Solomon. But Yahweh’s pleasure with Solomon does not last. After Solomon chooses a life of rebellion and spends years worshiping other gods, Yahweh becomes very angry with Solomon and decides to tear the kingdom away from him (see 1 Kings 11:9-11).
As our soul attitude changes, God’s judgment of us changes. But if we rebel against God for too long, His judgment of us becomes a fixed thing. For example, when the priest Eli and his two sons kept embracing a rebellious soul attitude and refused to repent, Yahweh finally announced that they were eternally condemned by Him (see Three Priests who Went to Hell).
If we die without ever submitting to our Makers, Their negative judgment of us becomes permanent. The souls who are in Hell right now got there as a result of willfully defying the Holy Spirit until His patience with them ran out. There is nothing these souls can do to ever change God’s negative view of them. His verdict is final and they have no hope of mercy or forgiveness.
Now whenever we find cases of God speaking hatefully towards a particular group and promising mass destruction, we often interpret this as a sign that He has eternally condemned them. In Jeremiah 15, a furious Yahweh says that He will destroy the city of Jerusalem without pity. In Hosea 13, He says He will destroy the northern kingdom of Israel without compassion. In both of these cases Yahweh’s language is hateful as if His patience is totally gone. In both cases, He followed through on His threats. But then there was the time when Yahweh announced that He would destroy the wicked city of Nineveh in forty days. Once again, Yahweh made the situation sound hopeless. He didn’t offer anyone the chance to repent. He didn’t say He was merely considering destroying Nineveh, but rather that the decision had already been made. Yet when the king of Nineveh panicked and urged his citizens to repent of their sins and plead for mercy, Yahweh relented. He proved His own prophecy to be false by not doing what He said He would do. So what should we conclude from this? If God announces He is fed up with you and that He’s going to destroy you because of your rebellion, is there still hope of changing His mind?
Happily, God has given us one way that we can know for certain if there is still hope for us to get back into a right relationship with Him. In the Bible, both Yahweh and Jesus teach that They will never reject any soul who sincerely repents of sin and submits to Their Authority. They also teach that no one can repent without Their help.
Suppose a man comes along and offers you a dollar bill. He says, “I want you to have this dollar. If you take it, you can keep it.” This is how repentance works. Repentance is never your idea. Repentance is always your soul responding to God’s offer. God comes along and says, “I want you to get into a good place with Me. If you repent and submit to Me, I will accept you.” The reason God never rejects a soul who sincerely wants to get into a right place with Him is because He is the One who first extended the invitation. No one can approach God until He invites them. You didn’t even know there was a God until He introduced Himself to you. We don’t want things that we don’t even know exist.
So what happened with the Ninevites? Well, first Yahweh publicly announced that He would destroy them all because He was fed up with their rebellion. But while He made this announcement out loud through the prophet Jonah, He was also saying privately to the souls in Nineveh, “I still want you to be in a right relationship with Me. Repent and I will accept you.” It was this internal prompting that the king of Nineveh was responding to when he ordered all of his people to repent of their sins. And because it was Yahweh’s idea for the Ninevites to repent, when they did, He accepted them and postponed His destruction of their city. Much later on, a different crop of Ninevites returned to rebellion and they refused to repent. The prophet Nahum addresses this second group, and he gives a long graphic description of how terrible the destruction of Nineveh will be.
“I am against you,” declares Yahweh Almighty. “I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame. I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle. All who see you will flee from you and say, ‘Nineveh is in ruins—who will mourn for her?’ Where can I find anyone to comfort you?” (Nah. 3:5-7)
Unlike the Ninevites of Jonah’s time, the folks Nahum spoke against did not repent and Yahweh destroyed them just as He said He would.
Once God eternally condemns us on earth, He stops calling us to repent. In these cases, there is no invitation for us to respond to, so we don’t even experience a desire to repent. It’s like having your friend throw a party and telling you nothing about it. You can’t decide whether you want to go or not because you don’t even know what is happening. You can’t long to go and feel left out because you are totally oblivious. In the same way, souls on earth who have been eternally condemned by God do not realize what a terrible situation they are in. They do not feel bad about their sins, they don’t care about God’s feelings, they don’t long to get in a right relationship with Him, and they aren’t afraid of going to Hell. They’re totally unaware that God has cut them off. Even if someone told them that they were eternally damned, they simply wouldn’t be upset by it.
We find many examples of people in this state in the Bible. Saul, Samson, and Eli are three excellent examples of how utterly oblivious humans can become to their dire spiritual condition. In the case of the priest Eli, Yahweh tells him to his face that he has been eternally damned. Eli basically shrugs and says, “Whatever.”
In the case of Saul, we find a king who God has utterly rejected and who the Holy Spirit has abandoned. Yahweh forbids His prophet Samuel from ever speaking to Saul, and Yahweh refuses to answer Saul whenever the king seeks God’s guidance. But what kind of guidance does Saul seek? He isn’t trying to get back into a right relationship with God, he just wants to see into the future and know ahead of time what his chances are for winning a particular battle. When God refuses to answer, Saul gets very upset—not because he longs for God, but because he wants future guarantees (see Lessons Learned when King Saul Consults a Dead Man).
In the case of Samson, a man who has lived his life entrenched in spiritual rebellion finds himself utterly degraded by his enemies. Samson recognizes that God is no longer doing miracles through him, but he never mourns the absence of God Himself. In his final moments of life, Samson cries out a prayer that has nothing to do with repentance and everything to do with revenge. Samson wants to stick it to his enemies one last time and he even prays to be killed with them so that he can go out knowing that he had the last word in his lifelong feud with the Philistines. What a waste (see Samson: Carnal to the End).
So then, contrary to what is often thought today, it is impossible to long to get into a right relationship with God after He has permanently condemned you. As long as you can find any desire within yourself to get back into a right relationship with God, there is still hope, regardless of how furious God is with you. God’s wrath is very real, but so is His mercy, and His attitude towards you can drastically change in the blink of an eye. So don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s too late for you to be accepted by God. If you want to be accepted by Him, then clearly He is still inviting you to come.
3. What factors does God consider in forming a judgment of us?
God judges you by your soul’s response to Him, but there are many factors that go into this. For example, we don’t all receive the same amount of illumination from the Holy Spirit. We are each introduced to God at a different time in life and we are each taught in a different order. God doesn’t just ask, “Did you obey Me or not?” He asks, “How well did you obey Me considering the resources I gave you to work with?”
In the Bible, we find both Yahweh and Jesus addressing the concept of Divine judgment and eternal consequences for our spiritual choices on earth. Between the two of Them, Jesus spends the most time on the topic of all things not being equal when it comes to spiritual resources. In His parable of the talents, His parable of workers in a vineyard, and through His comparison of various cities that were condemned by God, Jesus teaches that our Gods judge us very graciously. They do not view all defiance the same. Defiant souls who receive extra understanding about who our Gods are will be judged more harshly than souls who did not receive as much understanding. In the same way, the obedience of souls who were given extra resources in life will be assessed within the context of those resources. For example, if you grow up with a loving father, it’s much easier for you to believe in God’s love for you than it is for the soul who grew up with an abusive, hostile father. If you were given buckets of confidence, it’s much easier for you to publicly stand up for God than it is for the person who is intensely shy. God can command two souls to preach a sermon and for one it would be an exciting thrill while the other would find the idea utterly terrifying. When both souls obey God, He doesn’t count their obedience as being of the same caliber. He recognizes that the second soul brought Him a far greater gift than the first and because of this, the second soul will receive a greater reward. Now this isn’t to say that simply being gifted robs you of your chance to greatly please God. On the contrary–the more gifted we are, the more God will require of us. One man is brimming with talent and knows he could easily become rich and famous. When God calls such a man to shelve his talents and do some menial sounding work instead, that man will really feel the weight of what he is missing out on. It is a much greater sacrifice for this man to do some mundane work for God than it is for another man with no talent or ambition driving him to want to do great things.
On this earth, God gives each one of us a plethora of opportunities to greatly please Him. In His parable of the talents, Jesus described three servants being given different amounts of money by their master which they were to invest. When the master evaluated them, he didn’t just compare raw numbers and reward the man who had the most. The man who had the most only had the most because he started off with the most. Instead, the master evaluated each man’s success in the light of that man’s original resources. Because the master took resources into account, two men who produced different results each received an equally great reward. This is how God judges us.
Let’s compare our life on earth to trying to climb up to the top of a very tall mountain. When we try to imagine God judging us in eternity, some of us picture Him glaring down at us with crossed arms and demanding, “Did you make it all the way to the top or were you a miserable failure?” But this is not how God judges us. Instead, He has a whole list of questions that He goes through. He asks, “How far did you make it? Where did you start from? How heavy was the load you were carrying? How physically fit were you to begin with? What kinds of supplies did you have? What kind of weather did you have to deal with? What obstacles did you encounter along the way? Were you alone or with other climbers? If you were with other climbers, were they cheering you on or trying to discourage you?” God is a very gracious Judge. He understands every nuance of the human experience and He takes everything into account. He says that if we sincerely want to be pleasing in His sight, we have nothing to worry about.
4. What is the unpardonable sin?
There is only one reason we end up in Hell, and that is because we willfully refused to submit to our Creators as the Supreme Rulers that They are and align with certain truths about Them. Since the Holy Spirit is the One who educates us about who our Creators are, refusing to submit to His Authority results in that infamous unpardonable sin. When Jesus spoke of an unpardonable sin in the Bible, He was speaking to Pharisees—Jewish pastors and theologians who were willfully defying Yahweh on a soul level and adamantly rejecting the illumination of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit tells you, “Jesus is God,” and you respond by saying, “No, He isn’t,” whose Authority are you defying? The Holy Spirit’s. You can’t tell the Holy Spirit He’s full of baloney and then claim to have submitted to His Authority. Jesus says that if you reject the Authority of the Holy Spirit, you’ll end up in Hell. Well, yes, of course you will, because if you refuse to the listen to the Holy Spirit, you’ll never get around to submitting to any of your Creators.
Now in real life, the term unpardonable sin scares the life out of all the wrong people. It’s the souls who already care about pleasing God who spend the most time fretting over committing an unforgivable sin. Of course those who sincerely care about pleasing God are not in danger of committing the unpardonable sin, because if you care so much about pleasing God, you’re not going to tell the Holy Spirit to stuff it. Instead, you’re going to earnestly listen to the what the Holy Spirit tells you and you’re going to obey His convictions.
Now if the Holy Spirit were eager to throw us into Hell, we’d all be there right now. But as it is, our Gods are very gracious and They usually give us many chances to get over our rebellious snits and submit to Their Authority. So just because you defy the Holy Spirit once, it doesn’t mean He instantly curses you and declares you to be eternally damned. But then again, the Holy Spirit makes no promises about how many chances He will give you to come to Him. Stalling around with the Holy Spirit is a very stupid thing to do. It’s like playing a game of Russian roulette—you load one bullet into the cylinder of a revolver, spin the cylinder, then hold the gun up to your head and pull the trigger, hoping that you won’t blow your brains out. Whenever we talk about the way God usually behaves, we must also remember that He can break out of that pattern anytime. Just because the Holy Spirit usually gives souls multiple chances to come to Him, it doesn’t mean that He’ll give you multiple chances. He might decide to give you only one chance. Once He decides your chances are up, you’re done for, so it is utterly stupid to try and test God’s patience by refusing to submit to His Authority.
5. Aren’t there certain sins that will land us in Hell?
There are two reasons we end up concluding that certain behaviors will land us in Hell. First, we don’t have a proper understanding of who we are. Second, we don’t understand how God judges us.
To clear up these issues, you need to understand that you are a spiritual being, or soul, who is temporarily residing in a physical earthsuit. When’s the last time you mistook a car for a human driver? Do you ever look at a pilot and think he is a plane? No, yet you make these kinds of mistakes with yourself all the time. You constantly think of your soul and your earthsuit as being a single entity. This is as ridiculous as saying a man and a car are a single entity. Your soul is not your earthsuit, and your earthsuit is not an inanimate machine with no ability to think for itself. Not only does your earthsuit think for itself, but it also has very strong opinions about what it wants.
Suppose you want to travel east, but your car wants to travel west. When you turn on the engine and try to steer the car in the direction you want to go in, the steering wheel ignores you and it turns in the opposite direction. The steering wheel is more powerful than you are, and no matter how hard you pull on it, it succeeds in turning in a direction that is against your will. Your soul often finds itself in this same predicament on earth. Your soul might want to honor God, but your earthsuit doesn’t care at all about God. Your earthsuit only cares about feeling good right now, and it has no moral center. When your earthsuit sees a pornographic picture, it thoroughly enjoys the feelings of arousal that that picture causes and it wants to keep on looking. If your soul sincerely cares about pleasing God and if your soul knows that God says looking at porn is wrong, then your soul will be upset by what your earthsuit is doing. Your soul will try to get your earthsuit to stop wallowing in perversity, but whether or not your soul succeeds in overriding your earthsuit has to do with how much help God gives you.
Let’s put you back in that car that has a mind of its own. As you pull hard on the steering wheel to try and turn it to the right, the wheel forces itself to the left and you find yourself defeated like a man who loses an arm wrestling match. But now let’s bring God into the picture. God is like a really strong man who is sitting in the car with you. When He sees that your steering wheel is fighting you, God could easily lean over and force the wheel to turn in the direction you want it to turn in because God is infinitely stronger than the car. When God does decide to help you out, the car is forced to go in the direction you want. Today many Christian teachers will tell you that God always helps you out, therefore if you ever sin, it’s because you refused to accept God’s help because you are a defiant rebel. Well, no, this is total rubbish. The truth is that God often chooses not to help you override the will of your earthsuit.
Suppose demons start filling your brain with a bunch of lewd fantasies. Your earthsuit loves it because your earthsuit loves perversity, but your soul groans in repulsion and tells your earthsuit to reject the images and instead focus on things that will honor God. Your earthsuit refuses to cooperate with your soul’s desires and it keeps on embracing the trash in your head. Where is God in all of this? He sees the struggle you’re having, but He refuses to give you the help you need to force your earthsuit to align with your soul’s righteous agenda. In this situation, does God condemn you for what your earthsuit is doing? No, God doesn’t ever confuse the real you with the vehicle you’re stuck in. Your soul is the real you, and your soul is what God judges you by. When your soul is cheering on your earthsuit as your suit wallows in sin, then God will convict you for being rebellious. But when He sees that your soul longs to do right, God is pleased with your obedience.
So what goes wrong in the Church? Well, first you’re taught to view your earthsuit as the real you and totally discount the reality of your soul. Many teachers use the term “soul” to merely refer to your emotions, not to the separate entity that is the real you. Second, you’re taught that God judges you by what your earthsuit thinks and does, instead of by how your soul is responding to Him. Once we accept these two gross distortions of truth, we end up with a long list of “unpardonable sins”. Suddenly murder, suicide, abortion, molesting, and doing drugs are all unpardonable sins. We humans are misers of mercy and we all start off with a list of behaviors that we personally consider to be inexcusable and unforgivable. We then arrogantly decide that God must think like we do, and we then start teaching from the pulpit that certain earthsuit behaviors will result in eternal damnation. Are you an addict? You’re going to Hell. Are you a pervert? You’re going to Hell. It doesn’t matter if your soul desperately longs to please God—all that matters is that we can all see you’re doing something that we don’t like, therefore we have declared you to be unforgivable. Well, no, this isn’t how God works. With God, the focus is on soul attitude, not on how well you’re managing your earthsuit.
A proper understanding of soul-earthsuit mechanics not only frees us up from fears that we will be condemned for things we can’t control, but it also proves that we have no room for boasting when we do manage to act righteous. Two men can sincerely want to be drug free, yet one manages to totally kick his habit of smoking while the other keeps falling back into it. The only difference here is a matter of empowerment. The first man is receiving more help from God when it comes to keeping his earthsuit reined in. God isn’t giving the first man more help because He likes that man better. The first man has no grounds on which to boast about his extra measure of self-control. Were God to suddenly withhold His help from the first man, that man would immediately succumb to the cravings of his flesh. We can do nothing good apart from God. We can only choose in our souls to want to do good, but our ability to make our earthsuits carry out the desires of our souls depends entirely on how much help we are receiving from God.
It’s important to realize that God’s judgment of you is a separate issue from the process of spiritual maturity. You might be very pleased with the progress a young child is making on learning his letters. But the fact that you’re pleased with the child today doesn’t mean you don’t want him to progress. Learning the alphabet is just the first step in learning how to read. When you spend hours helping the child learn his letters, you have a master plan in mind–the lesson you are teaching him today is just one step forward in the whole journey. In the same way, God can be pleased with how your soul is responding to Him today, but that doesn’t mean He is going to stop maturing you. When we are listening to Him, God is always pushing us down the road of spiritual maturity. It is because God wants an addict to grow closer to Him that He blocks the man from being able to resist temptation. There are many critical spiritual lessons to be learned from wrestling with addictions. There are valuable lessons to be learned from struggling with all kinds of sins. If we are to grow closer to God, it is vital that we experience our souls both winning and losing battles against our flesh. Both experiences are packed with important spiritual insights.
We can’t try to assess God’s pleasure with us based on how much empowerment He is giving us in a particular moment. When we find ourselves being defeated by temptation, we need to remember that God judges us by our soul’s response to Him, and then we need to identify what our current soul attitude is. This isn’t hard to do. In a given moment, we know whether we really care about pleasing God or not. We know whether we are internally groaning over sin or celebrating it. It isn’t complicated to figure out what our soul attitude towards God is once we stop confusing our soul with our earthsuit. And once we have identified what our soul attitude is, we know whether we are in a good place with God or not. If we are, then we need to stand on that, and stop hyper focusing on what our earthsuits are doing. Our earthsuits do not define us.
Does God love us all the same?