The Purpose of Judgment Throughout Scripture (a Clear, Consistent Theme of Redemption)
God the Father disciplines his children
One fascinating, and strangely overlooked Biblical concept in the discussion of hell is the fact that God is referred to as our Father. Interestingly, he is never referred to as our fascist dictator, or great tormenter!
There is meaningful connotation to the word Father. We would do well to learn about God as our Father and apply this to our understanding of God’s purpose in judgment. Like a good father, he disciplines us in order to bring us to righteousness. There is abundant Scriptural support for this concept.
God is Our Father
Malachi 2:10 (ESV)
Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?
Here we see that God is the Father of all. It is clear that this is referring to everyone because Malachi expounds on the idea, tying the fact that He created us to his Fatherhood. All of humanity was created by God. Therefore He is the Father of us all.
Additionally, it is clear that he is not speaking to righteous people in this passage but rather to “faithless” people who are “profaning the covenant.” Yet God is our Father (whether righteous or unrighteous) because he is our Creator. It is impossible to intelligently argue that God is only the Father of the righteous from this passage. Rather, He is the Father of all.
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Notice again that God is Father of all. And notice how the Apostle Paul adds that he is “over all and through all and in all.” This is done for emphasis to show the comprehensiveness of God’s dominion as Father. It would be a gross misreading of the text to suggest that God’s role as Father is limited to only a few.
Now, as final confirmation that we are all children of God, we will use everyone's favorite type of bibical passage: the genealogy. As a foundational concept to understanding the point that is about to be made, it is key to understand that scripturally we are all considered children of Adam in the sense that we are distant descendants. This is why Paul says that we are "in Adam" and explains that for this reason we "all die" (1 Corinthians 15:22) having inherited our sinful natures from him.
Genealogy in Luke 3 (only verse 38 is shown)
...the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
So we see that we are all children of God, through Adam who is described as the son of God, even though he was sinful.
Now that we’ve firmly established that God is the Father of all people, let’s examine what our Father is like.
What is God the Father Like?
We See the Father by Looking at Christ
John 14:9-11 (ESV)
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
I think that many people carry the mistaken notion that Jesus and the Father are very different from one another. This could not be further from the truth. Jesus and the Father “are one” (John 10:30) and Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). When reading the Bible, it is impossible to not see Jesus’ overwhelming forgiveness, compassion, and love for all. And the character of Jesus is the perfect reflection of the character of the Father.
A Father of Mercy, Compassion and Comfort
1 Peter 1:3 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Psalm 103:13 ESV
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
Psalm 68:5 (ESV)
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.
These verses hardly need commentary. Read them again to see God the Father’s great mercy and compassion. Let those truths sink in to your soul.
A Father Who Knows What We Need and Gives us Good Gifts
James 1:17 ESV
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
Matthew 6: 25-32
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Again, God’s great love for us is displayed as he shows his Fatherly characteristics. He knows what we need and we can trust Him.
A Father Who Redeems
Isaiah 63:16 ESV
For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In both of the above passages we clearly see, if we are paying attention, that the Father is our Redeemer. We have already established that He is the father to all, so it is logical that He is also the Redeemer of all, since these two concepts of God are inextricably tied together in Isaiah 63.
It is also ironic that Ephesians 1:2-10 is a passage that is sometimes used to argue for limited atonement, that only some of us are predestined to be his children while the rest are predestined to hell. This is clearly NOT the argument being made.
Although Paul is specifically writing to believers and reminding us of God’s great plan of redemption, there is no indication that only current believers are predestined to be adopted as sons. In fact, the opposite is true. His plan is to unite “all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” Again, notice the comprehensive language being used.
Notice, too, that God has made known to believers “the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” This passage itself tells us His will is to unite all things to himself! And we have confirmation in many other places that His will is the salvation of all people, as we have discussed already! But just as a reminder, let’s review a couple examples:
2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
1 Timothy 2
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
There are many more verses that say this same thing and we’ve already looked at several of them in previous chapters. So, we have independent confirmation that God’s will is to save all mankind, that we are all predestined “for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” in order to eventually be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). It is for this very reason that we must be judged and disciplined.
God Disciplines Us Because He is Our Father
My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.
And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
We have seen that as our Creator, God is our Father (and that this applies to everyone). Now we see the purpose of His judgment. Like a good father, He “disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.” The painful discipline we receive, whether in this life or after, serves an amazing purpose, producing “a harvest of righteousness and peace.” God’s role as Heavenly Father fits perfectly with the view that all mankind will be saved, although for the rebellious it is clear that the discipline received on the day of judgment will be more painful.
Advice From the Father on How to Be a Good Father
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.
We can see from the verses above that fathers are exhorted to discipline, train, and teach their children. And we are to do so in such a way that we don’t exasperate them. Is God asking us to be like Him because He disciplines and trains us for our good?
I think so.
God is characterized as the Heavenly Father of everyone. And he is a good Father who loves us, has compassion on us, and gives us His good gifts. He disciplines us purposefully in order to produce a “harvest of righteousness.” He encourages us to be like Him as earthly parents by training up our own children just as He does. He is the model.
With this in mind, it is wholly unreasonable to say that our Father will torment His children endlessly in hell. This is not how He characterizes Himself. Far be it from us to impose such a doctrine on Him. Any earthly father who vengefully tortures his children is rightly deemed an immoral monster. We know this is wrong. Everybody knows it. You know it!
He has shown us the purpose of judgment. It is for discipline and correction for he is our Father who loves us.
We will see next that this principle holds true throughout the history of the Bible in the judgment of nations as well.
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