We ended our last post noting that in the cross God ingeniously turned evil back on itself and triumphed over it. But what does all this teach us about the nature of divine judgment? Two things.
First, as the one who bore our sin, Jesus experienced the judgment we deserved when the Father withdrew himself and allowed wicked humans and wicked angelic agents to put him to death. The essence of sin is pushing God away, and since God is the source of life, the natural consequence of sin is death (Rom. 6:23; Ja. 1:13-15). Hence, the cross teaches us that the Divine Judge judges by “letting them have it”—that is, what they want. They want to be free from God, so God—with a grieving heart (Lk 19:41)—allows them to be free from him. He thus withdraws his protective presence thereby allowing them to experience the death-consequences of their choices. This is what the Father did with the innocent one who bore the sin of the world, and since this is the quintessential revelation of divine judgment, we should conclude that this is what he reluctantly does with all who persist in pushing him away.
Second, as we noted above, by delivering the one who bore the sin of the world over to Satan and the fallen powers, God defeated these forces of evil. The love that was manifested in this supremely loving sacrifice defeated the powers behind all hatred. The light and truth about God’s loving character that was manifested in this quintessential revelatory act ended the lie about God’s character that first infected human minds in the Garden (Gen. 3:1-5), and thus defeated the powers of darkness and deception. The manner in which Jesus’ death reconciled us to God, removing the sin that gave Satan rights over us (Col. 2:14-16), left the entire realm of darkness powerless against us.
In this light, it’s clear that the crucifixion—which Satan and the fallen powers helped to orchestrate—backfired on this entire realm of darkness, bringing about their demise. So it is that Paul declares that if the fallen cosmic rulers of this world had “understood the wisdom of God, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8). And since the cross is the quintessential revelation of the true nature of God’s judgment, it becomes apparent that God judges evil by allowing it to run its course and to ultimately self-implode.
Image by Duane Schoon. Used in accordance with Creative Commons. Sourced via Flickr.