Many accuse the God of the Bible as being unfair and unjust. How? Because those who believe in Him are going to heaven and those who sincerely believe in other things and deities are going to hell!
Jesus told a parable that addresses the fairness issue:
· “For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.” (Matthew 20:1-2; ESV)
However, the master did not stop there. Throughout the day, he continued to invite all to come and labor in his vineyard. At the end of the work-day, he gave them all the same wage. However, those who have worked the longest were irate. Therefore, the master explained that he wasn’t unfair:
· “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:13-16)
It seems that the irate parties left. They had been the first, but in an eternal sense, they had become the last. How? They stormed away from the master and had rejected any future hope of his mercy. They had, in a sense, damned themselves by their self-righteous attitude. Self-righteous? Yes! They despised the idea of mercy and generosity. Why? They felt that only the “deserving” were entitled to the full day’s wage. And who were the deserving? Only them!
Does this parable give us a picture of the final judgment? Will the damned continue to reject grace, even in the end? There is a lot of Biblical evidence that we already stand self-condemned, as had the first-comers. For one thing, we have already condemned ourselves in this life:
· “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment [or condemnation]: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:17-20)
Already, those who do not believe stand condemned. Well, who condemned them? Jesus didn’t come into the world “to condemn the world” (John 8:15; 12:47-49). From where, then, does our condemnation come? From ourselves! We have refused to believe, despite the overwhelming evidence in favor of the Gospel. Elsewhere, Jesus explained that even someone rising from the dead wouldn’t, in itself, turn the damned around from their fatal course of self-destruction (Luke 16:19-31). Why not? Primarily, coming to Christ is a matter of the heart. Ordinarily, we love the darkness rather than the light.
Does this same principle of self-condemnation also apply to the next life? It certainly is reasonable to conclude so. If, in this life, we hate the light so that we reject it in favor of the darkness, what will be the case in the next life when the light is more intense? Will the unbeliever flee? Yes:
· But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. (Malachi 3:2; Psalm 1:5; 24:1-2; Isaiah 20:20-22; Revelation 6:15-16; Luke 21:36)
Why this terror before the Lord? This had been the reality for Israel before the redemption of the Cross. They could not endure the presence of God or even His voice:
· Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. (Deuteronomy 5:25)
What enables us to stand now? Only one thing – the blood of Christ poured out for our sins! However, this must be received by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Without this, no one will be able to stand.
Instead, our inability to tolerate the light exposing our unredeemed guilt and shame will make us flee:
· Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. (Revelation 6:15-16)
And will their final judgment not be presided over by God? Will he not have to separate the saved from the unsaved? Yes! However, it seems that only the redeemed will be able to stand before our Lord to receive His mercy. The others will flee away with the rest of the goats to be self-condemned (Rev. 20:11; Matthew 25:30-46).
But weren’t the first workers right in being irate? In a human sense, yes! We deserve a fair wage from our employer. However, the denarius that they had been given at the end of the day was a fair and agreed-upon wage. What then was the substance of their complaint? The first-comers had become irate with the master’s generosity towards those workers who had arrived after them. Consequently, they stormed off.
Well, why shouldn’t they have been irate that the master’s generosity was extended to the late-comers? The master explained that he had been fair and just with the first-comers and that he had a right to be generous to the late-comers.
Salvation is offered to all, even to those who haven’t heard the Gospel:
· 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. (Romans 1:18-20)
God is angry at humanity. Why? He has offered Himself to all. They all have been given irrefutable evidence of His existence and even who He is. Therefore, they are “without excuse” in rejecting Him.
But can’t humanity sincerely reject this God of the Bible? Not sincerely! Because of the magnitude of the evidence, they, all of us, are “without excuse.” None of us deserve anything from this Holy God but judgment (Romans 3:23; 6:23). What hope, then, do we have? The mercy of God!
The first-comers had witnessed the mercy of God, but they rejected it. Humanity is convinced that they do not need His mercy and that they are good and deserving people, entitled to whatever might be in God’s storehouse.
However, we should know better. When we invite our friends and neighbors to a party but do not invite the entire neighboring town, no one can accuse of injustice. Why not? No code of justice has been violated. Instead, we are free to be gracious and to invite just those we want to come to our party.
Israel knew that God was not unjust. God also plenteously revealed that their hope depended upon His mercy and forgiveness. Why? Because they were sinless and undeserving like everyone else, as Scripture continually taught:
· “‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’” (Deuteronomy 27:26)
Unless we are totally delusional, we should realize that we have failed in many ways. Scripture makes this explicit:
· Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. (Psalm 143:2)
· If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3)
· “If they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin”…(1 Kings 8:46)
For Israel, these were incontestable truths. Their entire sacrificial system affirmed their sinfulness. Nevertheless, most had erroneously convinced themselves that they could earn their way to heaven.
Meanwhile, God cries out to this broken world:
· “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:16-17)
We should know that we are desperately in need of His mercy. Our guilt and shame give ample testimony to this fact. However, instead of accepting His mercy, we are encouraged to merely forgive ourselves, even after we beat our wives. In this way, we are in denial that we have broken God’s laws and our wives. However, our feelings of guilt and shame continue to testify against us, no matter how hard we try to forgive ourselves. We can suppress these feelings, but they continue to condemn us.
In the same way that we flee from these feelings, we continue to flee from God and the light He shines upon us. If we cannot endure God’s scrutiny here, we will never be able to endure it in heaven.
We must give thanks where thanks are due! The first-comers never thanked the master for hiring and paying them. Humanity refuses to thank God for the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat, the surrounding beauty and pleasures, and even for their lives. Instead, we have convinced ourselves, like the first-comers, that it is all owed to us.
Instead of crediting God for his gifts to us, we invent alternative explanations for the good things we enjoy – naturalistic explanations, the multiverse, and anything else that helps us to avoid the Light, as Biologist Richard Lewontin had confessed:
- We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs . . . in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated commitment to materialism. . . . we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. (Lewontin, Richard, Review of The Demon-Haunted World, by Carl Sagan. In New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997.)
We are “without excuse” when we deny God. It is like receiving a gift by UPS and refusing to look at the enclosed card to learn the identity of the giver, lest we might begin to experience any sense of our indebtedness.
Once we do this, we will avoid and reject this giver to whom we have refused to give thanks. Where then does the fault lie? Certainly not with the Giver!