God's Government

This is not a subject that we here much about in Christian addresses and writings. This may be partly because it comes over as a solemn subject and partly because when a person becomes a Christian and his sins are forgiven it is supposed that nothing in the way of punishment or reward can be expected for his works here on earth. Further, many do not believe that God deals with his creature man (Christian or not) for his actions here on earth in a governmental way, whether by way of reward or punishment. It appears that many think rewards and punishments are reserved for after death, because Scripture says: "It is the portion of men once to die, and after this judgement" (Hebrews 9:27). However, Scripture speaks a good deal regarding the consequences of our works in this life. Ignoring this subject can give people the idea that accepting Christ is a licence to sin and worry those who, holding that justification before God is by faith alone (Romans 4:1-3), cannot see where the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1) comes in to restrain the Christian from sinning. The love of God plays its part (the positive side), but the fear of God (the negative side) still also has its place. A bad conscience, loss of communion with God and so on may result from sin, but this in itself may not be enough to restain those who have little sense of guilt.

There are a number of ways in which God's government works now:-

(1) The natural consequences of abusing ones body. Drinking to excess can cause cirrhosis of the liver, delirium tremens, weakened judgement and reactions (where a driver is concerned it can cause a car crash). Smoking, drug taking, filthy sexual activity and so on have their consequences (Romans 1:27).

(2) Action by the powers that be where the law of the land is being infringed. This may be for driving whilst under the influence of drink, stealing, fraud, abusing children, violent behaviour etc (Romans 13:1-4).

(3) Action by a Christian Assembly where one called brother has been guilty of evil conduct or has been putting out evil doctrine (1 Corinthians 5; 1 Timothy 1:19/20)

(4) Direct action by the Lord, such as, where there is unworthy behaviour in the assembly (1 Corinthians 11:26-32; Revelation 2 & 3)

In the Old Testament little is said about what is after death. In the early chapters of Genesis it speaks of persons dying and that is all. There is nothing about resurrection and future judgement. Persons died in accord with the edict of God (Genesis 3:19). It is not until we get to Abraham that we get the thought of resurrection. Abraham believed in it because, though he was going to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice, he said to his young men " I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you" (Genesis 22:5). Hebrews 11:17-19 confirms that Abraham believed in the resurrection. Further, Abraham buried Sarah (Genesis 23:19), probably evidence that Abraham had a future resurrection in his mind. Because not much is said about resurrection and what is beyond death in the Old Testament, the Sadducees did not believe in it (Matthew 22:23), though Christ showed that it was implied in a passage such as Exodus 3:6 (Matthew 22:31-33). Further there are a number of Psalms which speak of God's blessings having no end (e.g. Psalm 23:6 and 121:8).

However, although there are intimations of an after-life in the Old Testament the emphasis is on this life and the blessings and curses connected with it (Deuteronomy 11). There are blessings connected with the keeping of the law e.g. "Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be prolonged in the land that Jehovah thy God giveth thee" (Exodus 20:12). This is noted by Paul in Ephesians 6:2/3. Generally blessings consisted in a long and prosperous life here, wealth and children (see for instance: Deuteronomy 28:1-6; Psalms 34:12-16; 112:1-3; 128). Further, it is said that the memory of the righteous shall be blessed (Proverbs 10:7). Thus a good name was itself a blessing.

By contrast, we have the opposite predicated of those that forget God. The Psalmist came to it that God sets the wicked in slippery places and casteth them down in ruins (Psalm 73:18). "Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days" (Psalm 55:23). Further, the iniquity of the fathers was to be visited upon the sons to the third and fourth generation of them that hate God according to the second commandment (Exodus 20:4-6). Those that did not keep God's commandments were subject to curses as set out in Deuteronomy 28:15-19. These would affect the fruitfulness of the fields as well as the fruit of the womb (man as well as cattle). Further, it is said of the wicked that their name shall rot (Proverbs 10:7).

The righteous, though often subject to adversity, in the end would be blessed: "Many are the adversities of the righteous, but Jehovah delivereth him out of them all" (Psalm 34:19). Job experienced a lot of adversity, but in the end he received greater blessing than he had at the beginning before things went ill with him (Job 42:10-17). See also James 5:11. Proverbs 24:19-20 shows that we should not fret because of evil doers or be envious of the wicked, because they have no future and the lamp of the wicked shall be put out. Many more passages of Scripture could be quoted having a similar purport.

God deals with the world, with nations, with cities, with families and with individuals. Noah's flood was over all the earth and all mankind died, save those that were in the ark (Genesis 7:17-24). God judged Egypt and brought Israel out of it (Genesis 15:13/14). The cities of the plain were destroyed by fire (Genesis 19:24-26). The house of Eli was judged (1 Samuel 2:27-36; 3:10-14) and individuals came under God's judgement. For instance, Saul (1 Chronicles 10:13/14), Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16-21) and Belshazzar (Daniel 5:17-31).