Theology

The Bible Says God Will Judge Sin

One of the fundamental, life altering questions people ask is, “Will God judge my sin?” But additionally, we should be asking whether God will judge the sins of others? Both questions have tremendous ramifications. Thankfully, the Bible speaks with tremendous clarity on whether or not God will judge sin.

Photo of blind justice will judge

God will judge personal sin.

The Bible is clear that individuals who practice sin will be judged. For example, after a large laundry list of sin in Romans 1:29-32, Paul clearly states that God will judge those who practice those things (Rom 2:2-3). Revelation 21:8 also gives a list of those who practice sins such as murder and idolatry—all who practice these things have a portion in the lake of fire. Likewise, Hebrews tells us God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous (Heb 13:4). To top it all off, Jesus himself says the one who rejects Him will be judged (John 12:48). So the conclusion is unavoidable—God will hold individuals accountable for their unbelief and He will judge their sin (cf. 2 Thess 2:12).

One of the most encouraging statements in Scripture is that there is no condemnation for those in Christ (cf. Rom 8:1). Those who put their faith in Christ are saved from condemnation by God’s grace. Christ’s righteousness is applied to the believer, and Christ takes the penalty of the believer’s sins (2 Cor 5:21). So, yes God does judge the sin of a believer too. However, he judges Christ on behalf of the believer. The believer is a recipient of grace.

That being said, there remains judgment for a believer. Passages like 2 Corinthians 5:10 and James 3:1 indicate there will be a judgment on believers. Obviously this cannot be a condemnation to hell, but it appears to emphasize that the actions of believers will be judged. Obedience to Christ will be rewarded, and everything else will be worthless (cf. 1 Cor 3:12-15). God will judge believers personally in that sense.

God will judge national sin.

This is an important (but often neglected) part of the discussion of judgment. Yes, God will judge individuals for their actions, but Scripture is also clear that God will judge nations for their actions as well.

One of the clearest examples of this is Genesis 12:3a, which gives the template for how nations will be judged for their interaction with Israel as a nation. The verse reads, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse.” This is played out in the rest of the Old Testament. For example, in Ezekiel 25 we see that God will judge the Ammonites, “Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the malice within your soul against the land of Israel” (v. 6).

It is important to note that the attack on Israel mentioned in Ezekiel 25 is the desolation brought by the Babylonians. This was decreed by God as a just judgment upon the people of Israel because of their sin. Yet, even though Israel was rightfully judged for their sins, God will still judge Ammon because of their failure to apply Genesis 12:3 and mourn for Israel instead of rejoicing at their devastation.

We see similar scenarios where God promises to judge nations that do not fall in line with his commands, both in the past (Jer 27:8) as well as in the future (Zech 14:16-17).

This is a difficult concept for societies that prize the status as an individual. But, a nation is responsible to God for its actions—whether submitting to Him and honoring Him as Creator, or rejecting Him and serving any other god.

God will judge in the future.

Having talked about God’s judgment of personal sin, we have seen that there is a future element of God’s judgment. Hebrew 9:27 is clear that man is appointed to die once, and after that comes judgment. That judgment will be carried out by Christ, who is appointed by God to judge the world (Acts 17:31). This future judgment entails hell for the unbeliever.

God will judge in the present.

An important consideration in this discussion is that Scripture teaches God will judge in the present as well. This applies both to an individual and a national level.

Jeremiah 18:5-10 speaks of the actions of a nation (specifically their repentance) influencing whether or not God will judge them. In Revelation 2:5 this same principle seems to apply to the church at Ephesus. In 1 Corinthians 11:29-30, Paul specifies that believers who had disobeyed God’s instruction concerning the Lord’s Table were being judged, and some had even died! This thread seems to be present in 1 John 5:16-17 where believers are to intercede for one another because a believer can sin and that can lead to death (via God’s judgment).

In my mind, this is an important biblical principle to keep in mind. Believers are covered by the blood of Christ to be sure, but God has the right to judge the decisions of believers, churches, and nations.

One of the difficulties of God’s judgment in the present is that it sometimes does not seem fair to us. The unrighteous sometimes prosper (Ps 73:4-7), sometimes the righteous die (Eccl 7:15). We trust God that He will judge with perfection (Ps 37:28).

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Peter serves at Shepherd's Theological Seminary in Cary, NC as the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages. He loves studying the Bible and helping others understand it. He also runs the Bible Sojourner podcast.

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