The Brighter Side of Being Judgmental

Author Greg Koukl Published on 03/22/2013

Greg uses the different fates of men and fallen angels to emphasize God’s Sovereignty.

I want to follow up on a call from yesterday that started out being productive, but we got off on another track about the Urantia Book, which is alright. The question was—why didn’t God save angels since angels fell first? Why didn’t Jesus die for angels and then angels could be forgiven? When we started talking about the issue of guilt we got side-tracked on what the Urantia Book teaches about spiritual perfection and growth. I wanted to make another point so I’ll make it now.

To some degree this is speculative about the issue of angels because we’re not given information about this. But I mentioned yesterday that there is a whole host of angelic realm watching a drama unfold on earth with regards to men, such that man’s plight and what happens with the issue of salvation and redemption is not an end in itself, though it may be valuable in itself. Instead, it points to a greater end, a different issue. Broadly speaking, the end of salvation is not for men, but the end of salvation is for God’s glory. He’s the center of this whole affair. Man is an important player in the drama, but the goal of salvation isn’t simply to bring people to salvation. Man is not the central focus. The Father and His glory is the central focus.

With that as an understanding (and they seem like fairly reasonable fixed points in this discussion) one could ask the question, what is it that God is demonstrating about His character to the rest of the angelic realm? The issue that has been suggested is that God is concerned with demonstrating to the angelic realm—especially to those who have fallen and undergone His judgment, those being locked up and waiting judgment for a future day, those allowed to roam on this earth, the Devil himself, until a future judgment that has already been proclaimed—that such a judgment that He has proclaimed is just, fair and righteous. One of the foundational issues is an understanding of the nature of justice.

Justice has two different aspects. There is retributive justice and there is distributive justice. Retributive justice simply says that when somebody does something wrong you should get just retribution for it and people ought not be punished for things they don’t do. Punishment is for crimes and nothing that is not a crime gets punished.

The other kind of justice, distributive justice, relates to the issue of fairness. Goods ought to be distributed in a fair fashion. People get treated equally. But the important thing about distributive justice is that it only applies when there is an obligation to distribute at all. If the government has an obligation to distribute driver’s licenses to everyone who qualifies, then it must distribute them fairly to all who qualify. It can’t show favoritism. But if the government doesn’t have an obligation to give driver’s licenses, then it can give whatever it wants at any time.

To give you an example, if somebody owed me a thousand dollars and I forgave their debt, released them from the debt, it doesn’t then obligate me to release all other debts that are owed me because I have no obligation to treat people equally in this case. This is an act of my grace. In the same fashion, the issue of justice applies to God. God is not obliged by some kind of distributive justice to give everyone an opportunity for a pardon. He does not owe a pardon. The only thing owed to lawbreakers is judgment, retributive justice.

As a result, when the angels fell He was under no obligation whatsoever to forgive them, to find some means of rescue. He chose to do so with regards to man for another reason, I think. But He had no such obligation. I think probably one of the charges against God was that it wasn’t fair or just of Him to judge the angels under these circumstances. So another order of personal being was allowed to rebel against Him. Then God in the process extends mercy to man based on His good intention, not on any demand that He has to provide forgiveness. So He is not obliged to save angels and He chose not to. The same thing applies to man, but in this case He chose to do so. He has chosen to give His grace to whom He will. He doesn’t owe it to everyone.

Now, this isn’t a complete answer to the problem of the heathen. But before you can answer the problem of the heathen, you must answer the question of God’s responsibility to forgive. My answer is that God has no responsibility to forgive. He owes forgiveness to no one in the same way that the state owes pardon or clemency to no one who commits a crime against it. It is entirely appropriate and just if God wants to destroy every human being that ever broke His law. If He chooses to rescue some, that’s His business and He’s not under obligation to give everyone the same shot. He’s not even under obligation to forgive everybody. Listen, if He just chose to reveal His plan of salvation to Robert and me alone, He would be completely in His rights just the same way that I would be in my rights if I chose out of a thousand people who owed me money to forgive two people their debt. It’s my business because the money is owed to me.

Now, I’m not suggesting that God has in fact done this. But I’m trying to set the record straight on the issue of justice. It is entirely up to God whether He’s going to forgive man or not. It is entirely up to God to decide who it is that He will forgive. Guilty men deserve no pardon.

That puts every man with his mouth closed at the foot of the cross necessarily relying on the mercy of Jesus Christ. That changes the whole nature of the heathen debate. I think that it is true that God has provided a message for everyone. I think the problem isn’t in the message, but in the man. Men don’t want the message regardless of what form it happens to come in. They flee from God, they don’t run toward God. I don’t accept this spiritual notion of Rousseau’s noble savage, that there’s this noble savage in the darkest of Africa or the jungles of Thailand that is just waiting to find out about God, but he’s surrounded by all of these false religions. He really wants to know the truth but it’s not there. I don’t believe such a man exists. Men everywhere are fleeing from God, and the heathen in Africa or Thailand has no more interest in the true God than the average heathen that walks the streets of Los Angeles.

I just want to make the point that God is not under obligation to save angels or men. He chose to save men in this case because of his mercy. But in the process I think He is going to demonstrate to angels that He is entirely just in the judgment that He has rendered to them.