Salvation through Judgment for the Glory of God

This post is mainly in response to Damion’s question in a comment on my previous post. Damion asked about how judgment fits in the equation. Brett commented that this is a no-brainer, and all I can say is that when you look at typical surveys of Biblical Theology in resources such as the Anchor Bible Dictionary or the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia or the relevant article in the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, you won’t find a the glory of God mentioned as a possible center of Biblical Theology.

For fuller discussion of these issues, please see the paper I presented, a revised version of which will be in the next issue of Tyndale Bulletin.

Briefly, here’s how I see the “salvation through judgment” part working:

  1. Salvation shows God to be “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exod 34:6b–7a).
  2. Judgment shows God to be the one “who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation” (Exod 34:7b).
  3. Thus, salvation and judgment balance one another. The reality of judgment should keep us from thinking of God in purely sentimental terms as though he were a grandfatherly buddy who just lets things go. The reality of salvation should likewise keep us from thinking of God as a terrifying vengeful judge. Those who flee to him will be saved, but those who do not fear him will be judged.
  4. Salvation always comes through judgment in various ways.
    1. Salvation for the nation of Israel at the Exodus came through the judgment of Egypt, and this pattern is repeated throughout the OT. When God saves Israel, he delivers the nation by bringing judgment on the nation’s enemies.
    2. Salvation for all believers of all ages is made possible by the judgment that falls on Jesus at the cross. The cross allows God to be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:24–26). Even though members of the remnant live before Jesus, saving faith is explicit trust in the promises of God. I believe the promises of God begin in Genesis 3:15, and I think that many of these promises concern an anointed redeemer whom God will raise up to accomplish the salvation of his people—Messiah. So even though OT saints don’t know that the Messiah will be named Jesus, grow up in Nazareth etc., they have heard God promise to raise up a man who will save them and they trust God to keep his word. So they are saved by faith in God’s promised Messiah.
    3. Everyone who gets saved gets saved through judgment. All who flee to Christ and confess that he is Lord and that God raised him from the dead do so because they realize their need for a Savior. They realize their need for a Savior because they have become convinced that God is holy, they are sinful, and they know God will judge. In a sense, they feel the force of condemnation and justice, the wrath that remains upon them, and they recognize that Jesus is their only hope.
    4. Thus, historically (in Christ on the cross) and existentially (in their own experience of the wrath of God that makes them feel their need for Christ) believers are saved through judgment.

All of this reveals God as righteous and merciful, loving and just, holy and forgiving, for his glory forever. And his glory is what is best for all concerned. . . This is not my philosophy. Those who raise issues of omni-benevolence need to wrestle with what the texts say. The texts are the controlling elements in the discussion. The texts lead me to these conclusions. Soli Deo Gloria.

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