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THIS INNOCENT WORLD!
A question the pope did not answer, Easter 2011.
THE FIRST STEP
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
because what may be known of God is manifest in them,
for God has shown it to them."
WHY ? they asked, but why did innocent children die in the churning seas in Japan ?
or at least that was the burden of their interrogation of the pope, the style of question.
He did not know the answer, the Sunday evening TV told us, but he pointed out that Jesus also suffered.
The Bible knows the answer to what lies behind the question, and it is well to see it.
First, there is none innocent; for in iniquity, says David in Psalm 51, was he both conceived and born. "I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me." Romans 5 tells similarly that death reigned over the human race because of its initial fall into sin; for people sinned, each not as an innocent, like Adam, but yet in the line and form of Adam, they sinned. There was a difference in the situation, but not in this, that it was sin.
How then can the innocent suffer, since there are none in the human race in that position ?
That is the biblical perspective. Well over 3,000 years ago, God gave the scriptures to Moses, and these contained records as you see in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Death was the consequence of failing to obey the conditions of life, naturally enough, which is what, precisely what first Eve and then Adam did. Hence they were exposed to the duress of labours, the dissociation from blessedness and the necessity of sacrifice, to acknowledge sin and to depict a cover for it. They died first spiritually and later physically.
When, following vast prophetic preparation and
prediction, Christ came to die, the just for the unjust to bring us to God
(I Peter 3:18), then suffering occurred, which more than that of beasts,
and adequate to infinity, would provide a just counter-weight to the guilt of
man. Thus in this sacrifice divine, its horror and holiness alike right in the
face of God, who foretold it in detail a millenium or so before, so that when it
came it could the more readily be recognised, sin could finally be covered
effectually, so that man, though sinful and not at all innocent, might be
saved from death. In scope it was for all the world (I John 2:1-2), though
it was paid out only for those who received it as before God, and before time,
these being the more surely His own (Romans 8:32). To them, "all things"
come, as children of God! Moreover, now man could be given a better life, since
it would not be a life under test; for Christ passed that test, but one eternal,
without impediment or disruption. Hence what His gift is, is both eternal and
free (Romans 5:15, 6:23).
CHAFING AT CHAFF
It is not just that Christ suffered; He suffered ENOUGH and in a way sufficient to substitute for man, and bring man back from the position in which ultimately, he otherwise must face. And that ? It is as in Psalm 1, where the wicked are as chaff blown away. If chaff were human, it would suffer in being blown away, and might die. Such is the divinely described situation for man without the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who paid the ransom as in Matthew 20:28, and endured the curse due to sin as in Galatians 3, and offered Himself without sin or spot (Hebrews 6), to die for all, that those who live should not live to themselves, but to Him. Thus God became man (Philippians 2), who manifested Himself now not only in creation as in Romans 1:20, but in salvation, completing the circuit (Hebrews 8-10). These things when they eventuate, are received by faith (Hebrews 11, Ephesians 2), assigned where it belongs in the times in the hand of God (John 3).
But if instead of sacrifice accepted, there be rejection, or indifference, or neglect, then there is sacrilege instead of sacrifice. That merely makes it worse as in Hebrews 10, leading in 'trampling underfoot' the blood of Christ, a double phase of sinfulness, to disobey and to displace remedy, and if more, to despise it, then a third one also.
That is biblically and actually the position of the human race, first in sin, then without receiving redemption. If a tsunami surges, it is like the wind on the chaff. There is simply no guarantee from God concerning what will or will not happen when in 2 millenia, His word is not adopted and His will is ignored, His suffering is dismissed, and its reason and result in salvation, is treated as if counterfeit or unaccountable.
But what does this imply for those who HAVE received His salvation, His sacrifice treated with awe and reverence, and His death and resurrection of the self-same body with a divine power that transforms ? Are they to escape suffering on this earth ? Far from it, for as Paul says, in I Corinthians 15:31, "I protest by the rejoicing in you which I have in Christ Jesus, I die daily." He is revealing to them in the full joy of the Lord as he works with them, and the Lord works, that so far from being without suffering, he even dies, and that on a daily basis! Constantly, he affirmed, was he in jeopardy, and in fact he was in the end evidently killed by Nero. That hurts, is an affront, is cruel, unjust ... that too!
THE SECOND STEP
It is necessary to be willing to die for Jesus Christ if you serve Him, since this makes up the testimony to His love to this day (Colossians 1:24); for it is some 2000 years since He left, and the time is near for His return*1, so that what is needed is fresh confirmation in continual testimony in word and life by those who love the Lord. Thus those many who die for Christ in this world, or who suffer with gross injustice, as in China, India, Egypt, Iran, for example, these are not like the chaff, but are, if following the Lord, Christians in reality, WHERE they are because of the Lord, and so like Abraham, may escape some things (like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the patriarch's case), being kept by the Lord from it; and others like Lot, actually living in one of these cities, may escape because God brings them out (Genesis 19). Again, some like Stephen (Acts 7), may not escape, or like James (Acts 12:1ff.), because God has decided to let them seal their testimony of his salvation to men, by their blood. Love is willing; wisdom chooses.
But what of children ? Alas, we parents who have children, we need to be where we should be all the time, so that if we or they or all are to die or suffer, it will be for a good cause, and bring fame to the name of Christ, and not be in vain. Precious, says the Psalm, in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Psalm 116:15).
Christ is the epitome of this, being sinless so that at any moment, occasion He was precisely where meant to be in the divine mercy, and was not put to death, for example, at Nazareth (Luke 4), avoiding this adroitly, but at Calvary, facing this manfully in godly fashion and insisting on no protection from man, indeed (Matthew 26:52-56), dispensing with it, He did His divine duty out of love, for the salvation of many. Further, He had the matter fully resolved beforehand at Gethsemane, as in Luke 22:39ff., that it was a case of no other way, so that He who rejoiced to do what had to be done before history dug its claws into Him (as in the prophecy of Psalm 40), did not wilt but willed to proceed, when tested.
But what if parents are where they are supposed to be, what then ? and why do they suffer if their parents are set there to suffer in this way, whereas they may be too young even to understand such things ? That is the question.
Man is formed in families, and it is the nature of the case, that as for the parents, so for the children in general, it may be, when they are very young, and their carers are their parents. Hence if the parents are struck down by man in his evil ways, the children may also be struck down. But they are not 'innocent', for all have sinned and consciousness is not its sole criterion. Nor is this life the end, for it is only the test platform, as for an aircraft. Many hours of flying remain after the test. God, He has foreknown His own*1 (cf. Romans 8:29ff.), and predestinated them, not for time only but for ever; so that whatever is lost as smitten on this earth is not by any means to be simply assumed lost in heaven, where those who come are there according to those whom He has foreknown. Indeed, as John 3:16ff. declares, God would LIKE to save this world to the extent that He sent in love the Lord Jesus that those who believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. There is nothing grievous about that for a sinner. No technical problems may His infinite wisdom and power, and the only ones to be left out are those who, foreknown, would come only by force, which aborts love and so far from fulfilling it, mars it.
Furthermore, He does not just routinely select this white-haired boy or attractive girl, for the outside has nothing to do with it (as in I Samuel 16:7). In love, Colossians 1:19ff. tells us, He would like ALL to be reconciled to Himself, yes whether in heaven or on earth. If you do not believe that, then you are talking about someone who is not God, and to that extent, it then has nothing to do with the question which is being here answered from the Bible, and the God who there declares Himself to man. The CONDITION for exclusion, in the foreknowledge of God to whom all future is foreknown (Isaiah 46:9-10, Ephesians 1:11), is one only: light has come into the world, even Jesus, the light of the world, the divine light poured into flesh, sharing direct, speaking face to face; and some have preferred darkness. That is the STATED principle of exclusion in the light and face of the inclusion of Christ as the critical test.
THE THIRD STEP
God makes it even clearer if possible in John 15:21ff., for said Jesus to some rejecting Him as the Saviour,
"If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin,
but now they have no excuse for their sin.
He who hates Me hates My Father also.
"If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin, but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father."
The meaning is perfect in clarity. Sinners though all men are, the question then current was this, What would become of people who no more being ignorant, and having spoken directly and to the point with Jesus the Christ, and having seen His works, in view of His ransoming offer as Saviour, yet did not believe in Him ?
IF they had both seen and heard and then rejected yet, then there was no more cover from the love of God. If the death of His Son in anguish and agony, since sin separates as in Isaiah 59:1ff., then what would be sufficient ? (cf. Isaiah 57:15-16). If infinity is too small, then the fault lies with the rejecting one. THAT then is the condemnation, for as far as God is concerned, He would have ALL to be reconciled (John 3:19, 3:36, Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, Ezekiel 33:11).
Hence there is no question whatsoever of poor children being thrown away for ever, any more than anyone else being thrown away for ever, without trial; and here the trial is this, are they willing before God and in HIS sight, as foreknown to Him before man or sin, or our time, or the fall even came to be, to become His, to be redeemed, to be reconciled; or are they irreconcilable, moving where their heart takes them ?
This He perceives in principle before human time and heart were ever formed on earth; and He performs, providing enough for all, as basis in practice. There is nothing but prodigality in His act, liberality and love; and just as it goes only to those who receive it, what would you expect ? In famine do you open the mouth of the ungrateful non-recipients of food by using a jemmy or a saw ? It is not, this foreknown preference for darkness, an inferiority, or its reception a matter of some kind of superiority; for before man fell, there being no sin, there is nothing but goodness. There is no grading. This comes with test, and before time, His test is. He knows His own (II Timothy 2:19). Not one is lost. This is the maximum attainment, though a limited atonement because of man's liberty in love.
None can come to Him without the Father therefore, but none is lost because of any lack of love, since there IS no lack, since both in purpose and in practice God loses not one of those who are His, and not one is lost because His love was short-circuited or His wisdom dumbfounded. Let us be very clear: the ONLY principle of FINAL condemnation is as stated in the Bible, LIGHT has come and man has PREFERRED darkness. It is no mere intellectual light, though it includes all blessed illumination; it is the light of the reality of God which man has suppressed, as Romans 1:20 declares.
It is suppressed in this, that
"since the creation of the
That is the third diamond verse in this Chapter, added to Romans 1:18-19.
Īt is no small thing to hand a discharge notice to God, and its results short of repentance, can be incalculable (John 3:36). It is possible to be confused, but not for God. He knows His own and not one is lost. He has given infinite worth to redeem, and there is nothing more to give; He has acted practically, He has come personally, His words take hold of history and it flows as foretold, He is returning soon, for it is near (Answers to Questions Ch. 5), and the case is one for child or for parent. If you want to do YOUR best, teach your children concerning Jesus Christ and seek to win them for Him. Love is like that. It does not leave anything undone; but it does not force. That is another thing altogether and has nothing to do with it.
Child, youth, parent, all must face judgment (II Corinthians 5:9ff.), and those not yet grown before they are swept away, these are no different in this, that God has foreknown them, whether as His or not, whether as attained or not, in the love which would have all repent and be reconciled to Him. We are by nature, now, on the outside, and the question is whether we come in. There is no question of being naturally in and having this and that happen. WHEN you are outside, that is precisely what is in store, although in perpetual mercy, God may deliver in this or that field, again and again, as in His infinite wisdom, He tests now this and that and prepares for eternity the annals of history. Here as in His word, there is constantly shown that there is no other way but His, even in practice; and that an attitude of continual superiority or indifference towards God is an insufferable conceit on the part of man, which without correction (Luke 9:26) is merely the prelude, and not the antidote to condemnation.
The message therefore is this: GET IN, the ark of Christ, prepared with a battering of nail, a dumping of cross in the ground, even as He was on it - if the custom was followed, and the slow dribbling out of blood during slow suffocation, as if to seal the ark. It is His gift of salvation which is so presented: He has built it, and you need to enter, not like some errant resistance fighter against evil, despising some escape network, because you do not feel like it! We who are His have fled to Him for refuge (Hebrews 6:19), and count ourselves blessed to have escaped what leers, sneers, snivels, shrivels, and will not come (John 5:39ff.), though He to whom one comes has all that heart could desire, provided only that it be not proud, in disjunction from its own Maker in His own holiness.
See also: Pain, Suffering and Evil.
POSSESS YOUR POSSESSIONS Vol. 6, Ch. 2,
entitled SOVEREIGN LOVE LACKS ALL SHOVE, as appearing in Predestination Review, volume 7 of the foreknowledge and predestination set.
With it are germane references to cover the topic broadly and in no little detail.