Jesus Died To Expose Lies About God and Punishment

reward and punishmentI’ve always heard that God’s justice and mercy fit with perfect synergy into His character of love, but no one could ever explain it to me in a way that made any sense. Regardless of good intentions, the portrayal of God’s justice always came across as violent and full of punishment, and violence never seemed to me like God’s unconditional goodness. After all, the Old and New Testaments teach that God’s goodness—His justice—equals His mercy (Psalm 89:14, Matthew 23:23, Isaiah 16:5).

Of course, this is the devil’s fault. He thought he could improve on God’s government, and he blames the colossal failure of his form of law on God, pawning off his iniquity on his creator. The amazing thing is that the world, including Christians, have almost universally bought into it. I know I did. My mind has been so completely indoctrinated in Satan’s system of law that it has been almost impossible to unlearn. God’s system of government, where justice equals mercy, is foolishness to the world. Only through the death of Jesus can we understand.

Just what kind of nuance could the devil spin into the law of God that would be so successful in convincing so many? The biggest clue is in the two trees that stood in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. One would think that the forbidden tree would have just been called the Tree of Evil, but no. Pure evil would have been a dead give away. It is the mixture of good and evil that is so deceptive. Let me explain.

Arbitrary Goodness (Imperial Law) Vs. Unconditional Goodness (Design Law)

God’s government is based on agape love. Because God’s love is indiscriminate, unconditional, and self-sacrificing, there is no arbitrary reward for being good or punishment for being bad. God treats His creatures the same whether they’re good or bad.

However, Satan believed that the positive and negative forces of reward and punishment would work better at creating a model universe than unconditional goodness and mercy. He believed that fear and force were better motivators for behavior than unconditional love, which to him was foolishness. So he formulated a hierarchical law where the value and freedom of the individual depended on whether they were naughty or nice.

That’s all good and fine…as long as you’re nice. However, if you’re naughty, well, the law and order produced by your punishment justifies the violence used to obtain it. The end justifies the means in Satan’s system. Violent actions are justified to maintain order in Satan’s form of government and iniquity—brutality, cruelty, punishment, and coercion—has been the result. Every sin must be punished.

“In the opening of the great controversy, Satan had declared that the law of God could not be obeyed, that justice was inconsistent with mercy, and that, should the law be broken, it would be impossible for the sinner to be pardoned. Every sin must meet its punishment, urged Satan; and if God should remit the punishment of sin, He would not be a God of truth and justice.” – Ellen White, The Great Controversy 761

Is Love Weak?

Satan claimed that God’s government of agape love was doomed to fail without arbitrary reward and punishment because mercy and grace were weak. In their book, God On Trial, Oswald and Denise Grant describe Satan’s mindset:

“Lucifer came to believe that if agape was ever confronted with evil, it would be too weak to ‘take care’ of it. In his mind, agape would fail precisely because it lacked an arbitrary system of reward and punishment – a merit and demerit system. This is why, from Lucifer’s perspective, God’s law was ineffectual when confronted with evil. And he could prove it. ‘What do you mean, he could prove it?’ you may ask. Look at his own case: he was rebelling against God, and what was God doing about it? Nothing. It appeared that God was letting him get away with murder.

“And what was God doing? For all intents and purposes it appeared that He was being exactly what Lucifer accused Him of: foolish and weak. God didn’t stop him, didn’t put him away, didn’t even secretly conduct some kind of brain surgery to erase his evil thoughts–after all God could have done that easily without anyone ever knowing. But He did no such thing.”

What Satan couldn’t understand however is that God’s law needs no system of arbitrary punishment to defend it. Rebellion needs no censure. Sure punishment and destruction were contained within Satan’s own violent system of law because God’s moral laws contain intrinsic consequences just like His natural laws. What happens when you break the law of gravity or respiration?

Who Is Telling the Truth? Only the Cross Can Tell

No wonder God seriously warned Adam and Eve of this good and evil tree. It represented an evil system where good is not really good and justice is evil, merciless, and violent. The mixture of good and evil, once imbibed, produces in its consumer a duality, a split personality. Think Gollum. Think Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Because of this, even the good of this tree is evil.

Ever since men bought into Satan’s yin and yang system we have been unable to divorce ourselves from it. His spell, which is nothing more than an attempt to immortalize evil, enamors us. Our books, movies, governments, and theology exonerate his tree.

However, like Jesus said, God’s kingdom (The Tree of Life) is not divided. It is based on the design of God’s character (agape love), which never arbitrarily rewards or punishes. Unconditional love does not punish, for there is no punishment in love (1 John 4:18). No matter what form of punishment evil takes—ostracism, backbiting, character assassination, death—it is always violent. And there is found within God’s law no violence. In all of the definitions of justice in the Bible, there is never any mention of violence in God’s justice.

Jesus died to reveal how much God values unconditional goodness and freedom. He also settled once and for all just how God feels about coercion, violence and arbitrary punishment.

A special thanks to Denice Grant for many of these thoughts and such lucid teaching on this subject

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