9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” (Revelation 6:9–11, NKJV)
The souls of martyred saints cried out to the Lord for righteous judgment against those who drew their blood and took their lives because of their faith. His promise to execute His vengeance against evil would prevail (cf. Rom. 12:17-19). But other Christians would face distress and death before God judged and removed the persecutors. With elaborate imagery, The Revelation tells of Rome’s defeat and the victory of the faithful (cf. Rev. 17:14). We must patiently endure and remain faithful to Christ when we face pressure and persecutions “for the word of God and for the testimony” we hold (Heb. 10:32-39). God will reward our patience (1 Pet. 4:12-13; Rev. 14:12-13). The Lord will defeat evil, just as He did in the days of Rome (which was “Babylon, the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth,” Rev. 14:6-11; 17:5-6, 14, 18; 19:1-6, 11-21). When our faith is tested, let us be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3, NKJV)
The foundations of our society are cracked. Decades of denying the existence of God and His truth, of sanctioning the killing innocent, unborn life, of oppression of our neighbors to get ahead, and of rejecting the fundamental truths of morality and marriage – all these and more can tempt us to despair of hope and remedy. Through David, God gives us answers that look above the moment and beyond the horizon of hurt and horror. When the foundations are destroyed, the righteous can 1) Keep their trust in the Lord God (Psa. 11:1-2). Corrective truth comes from God, not humans (Jer. 10:23). He protects us from an eternal perspective that we must foster that grounds us in times of trouble. 2) Remember God has not moved (Psa. 11:4). He remains enthroned in heaven; His sovereignty secures our faith and assures us His purposes prevail. 3) Know God sees and investigates every person and judges between the good and the evil (Psa. 11:4-6). The wicked do not escape His gaze and cannot hide from His justice (Rev. 6:12-17). 4) Know God is righteous, and He loves righteousness (Psa. 11:7). He beholds and rewards those who seek peace and pursue righteousness (Matt. 6:33). The righteous remain steadfast when foundations are shaken because we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken. God is a consuming fire upon evil and the sustaining hope of all who serve Him “acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb. 12:27-29). These are the things the righteous can do.
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, 5 which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; 6 since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels (2 Thessalonians 1:3–7, NKJV)
What a magnificent summary of the Thessalonian saints’ faithfulness in the face of persecution, of their tremendous example of suffering for the kingdom and its powerful influence on brethren, and of God’s justice that trouble the troublers and rewards the faithful with rest. God is righteous; therefore, so is His judgment. In the glory of Christ returns, God will right every wrong leveled against His people (2 Thess. 1:8-10). Until then, keep patiently enduring in faith and love. God sees, He repays, and He and rewards.
“When the wicked arise, men hide themselves; But when they perish, the righteous increase.” (Proverbs 28:28, NKJV)
We are living through a moment of social upheaval in America. To say there is only one cause would be simplistic. Scripture says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach of any people” (Prov. 14:34). We have witnessed wickedness and righteousness by people with authority and by people who live under it. Godly people pray for peace and pursue conduct that makes for peace (1 Tim. 2:1-2; Heb. 12:14). Evil increases when civil authority does not live up to its God-given work to punish evildoers and protect the innocent (Rom. 13:1-7). Sin draws a crowd of likeminded people. The righteous diminish when sin has free rein in communities and nations. Solomon observed the opposite is also true (see Prov. 28:12). The decision we must make is not to wring our hands and fret over evildoers – they will soon be removed (Psa. 37:1-2, 9-10). What we must do is “trust the Lord, and do good,” “commit your way to the Lord,” and “rest in the Lord” (Psa. 37:3, 5, 7). “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).
32 The wicked watches the righteous, and seeks to slay him. 33 The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged. (Psalm 37:32–33, NKJV)
Someone is watching you – someone who does not have your best interests at heart. So it is that the wicked scrutinize the righteous, looking for any chink in the armor, anything they can twist to slay (actually or figuratively) the upright in heart. It was so with Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees relentlessly assailed Him, cross-examining Him, “lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him” (Lk. 11:54). When the wicked condemn the righteous, the Lord assures His abiding presence and approval despite the judgment of the wicked. What are the righteous to do when judged and condemned by the wicked? Do not give reviling for reviling, but speak wisdom and justice (Psa. 37:30). Keep God’s law in your heart, so you do not slip from following God’s path (Psa. 37:31). Patiently endure the evil and keep trusting the Lord. He will bless you and bring His judgment against the wicked (Psa. 37:34). Although transgressors may prosper temporarily, they will come to ruin, so, do not envy them (Psa. 37:1-2). It is the blameless who receive peace from the Lord (Psa. 37:35-40).
“The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9, NKJV)
God’s judgments are “true and righteous,” reliable and trustworthy, unbiased by error and untainted by the stain of prejudice. We must resist the temptation to pronounce judgment upon those who would speak God’s judgments to us. When someone speaks to us the truth of the gospel we must refrain from the defensive, futile deflection that says, “You’re just judging me!” It is ironic (not to mention, hypocritical) that those who charge others with “judging” them are doing the very thing they condemn in others. Yes, let us speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Yes, let us correct sinners with humility as we call them to repentance and salvation (2 Tim. 2:24-26). But let there be no mistake, we are not “judging” the sinner when we identify their sin and error from the Scriptures. We are teaching God’s word to help the sinner turn from sin and be saved. By doing so we are sharing God’s judgments, not rendering our own. “With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth” (Psa. 119:13). God’s true and righteous judgments are revealed in His word. By hearing His judgments (His word) we can turn from sin, turn to God, and conform ourselves to His judgments (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:20-24). May we never condemn someone for telling us the truth (Gal. 4:16). Instead, may it be said of us, “I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me” (Psa. 119:30).
If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:18, NKJV)
Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jno. 16:33). As they preached the gospel, Paul and Barnabas were “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22). Peter said, “do not think it strange” when fiery trials happen to you because of your faith (1 Pet. 4:12). These statements do not suggest we earn our way to heaven. They explain being a faithful Christian brings you face to face with challenges and turmoil that require the effort and conviction of a faith to endure and prevail when they come. “Scarcely” is from a Greek word that means “with difficulty.” Luke used it in Acts 27:16 of securing the skiff with difficulty during a storm. He also used it in Acts 14:18 of the difficulty of restraining the mob from sacrificing to Paul and Barnabas. The righteous are saved, but not without difficulties that test our faith. Trials purge the dross from their faith and identify them as being unashamed to live for Christ (1 Pet. 1:6-7; 4:16-17). On the other hand, the “ungodly and the sinner” will not appear in glory due to their lack of faith. They are unwilling to endure tribulations to enter the kingdom of God, preferring not to obey the gospel of God (1 Pet. 4:17).
“He was thirty-two years old when he became king. He reigned in Jerusalem eight years and, to no one’s sorrow, departed. However they buried him in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” (2 Chronicles 21:20, NKJV)
Thus is the summation of the life of a particularly wicked man, Jehoram, king of Judah. He was a murderer who killed his brothers after the death of their father, king Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 21:1-4). He was an idolater, having married the daughter of king Ahab (Athaliah), he led Judah astray into pagan worship (2 Chron. 21:6, 11; 22:2). During Jehoram’s reign, Edom and other nations revolted and plundered Judah (2 Chron. 21:8-10, 16-17). Jehoram suffered an ignominious death following a two-year, incurable disease (2 Chron. 21:12-19). Everyone, it seems, was glad to see him go. No achievements of his reign were recognized. No state funeral was held in his honor, for nothing about him was honorable (v. 19). No one grieved his death. What a tragic legacy! And, the worst of it is Jehoram died condemned in his sins. What sort of legacy will you leave when you die? Let it be a life well lived for Christ and others. Let it be a life faith, holiness, service, and devotion to the gospel of Christ. Let it be a legacy of righteousness that will speak long after your departure (Heb. 11:4). Be a Christian, faithful and true to Christ, and it will be so.
1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.” (Romans 2:1–2, NKJV)
The fear of being labeled “judgmental” can keep us from judging with “righteous judgment” (Jno. 7:24). It is true that we must be very careful and accurate in the judgments we make. Jesus’ warning to “judge not, that you be not judged” is understood by His explanation that how we judge will be the measure of our own judgment: “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matt. 7:1-2). By doing so, He exposed the sin of hypocritical judgment (Matt. 7:5). Today’s passage is a clear condemnation of holding others to moral and religious standards to which we refuse to hold ourselves. The Jews were “inexcusable” to condemn the Gentiles while practicing the same sins (Rom. 2:17-24). Christians who condemn the sins of others while committing the same sins are hypocrites, and will not escape God’s judgment of truth. “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Rom. 2:3). God’s judgments are “true and righteous altogether” (Psa. 19:9). We can help others follow God’s judgments by holding ourselves to His judgments of truth (Matt. 7:3-5; Gal. 6:1-2). When we don’t we run the real danger of hindering the salvation of others (Matt. 18:6-7; Rom. 2:21-24).
16 A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. 17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. (Psalm 37:16–17, NKJV)
We use the wrong measuring stick when we measure success by material prosperity. The “prosperity gospel” promotes riches as if they measure God’s presence and approval. More than one religious movement tells us the strength of their bottom line shows God’s approval of their teachings and practices. This is a purely material assessment of spiritual things – a completely futile and false standard of what God accepts (1 Cor. 1:26-31). The poverty and itinerant life of God’s Son, Jesus, disproves such human wisdom (Lk. 9:57-58; 8:3). True, righteous men and women can be wealthy. With God, Jesus said, it is possible for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom (Matt. 19:23-26). The trouble is, riches become a great temptation to leave God out of the picture, and not to become “poor” for the sake of the kingdom (Matt. 19:20-22, 27-30). The riches of the wicked will not save them. God has not promised to make you wealthy. His word says to measure success according to righteousness. May we learn to be content with “a little” from a glad and grateful heart, instead of running after prosperity at the expense of righteousness. Godliness with contentment is great gain, but the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:6-10).