Friday, October 7, 2011

Ezekiel 33: No Pleasure In the Death of the Wicked

In the fourth installment of this Ezekiel 33 trilogy*, it's worth looking at one verse used as an appeal at the end of the first post on this chapter.
    Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:11 ESV)
Universalists look at this verse (and others, like John 3:16, 1 John 4:7-19) and set up a dichotomy for those who aren't. They say that God is all loving and wants no one to perish, and God is all powerful, and so will save everyone. The universalist makes the following arguments for those that claim God would send people to hell:

  • God is all loving but does not have the power to save everyone, so then he must not be all powerful
  • God has the power to save everybody, but he doesn't, so he must not be all loving
Either argument destroys the God of the Bible. So, simple logic leads them to universalism. For if God is not all powerful, then he is not God. We may as well be desist or atheists, for God has been emasculated. But if God does have the power and consigns some to hell, then he must be a treacherous tyrant, and such a spiteful, hateful God is not worth worshiping, right?

The problem is, their logic truly is simple. Reducing the character and attributes of God to trite conceptualizations will lead to absurd conclusions like universalism. God is deep, and our finite minds must wrestle through his revelation to have any hope of comprehending the glory of God. 

The first bad assumption in the universalist's logic is that all love from God is exactly the same. But personal experience alone should remove such notions. Every person loves their spouse differently than their children and friends and co-workers and complete strangers. The concept of love is not contained in one four-letter word. Aside from that, it is not hard to discover a particular love of God in the Bible (Matthew 5:45, Romans 9:13, Deut 9:6-7, John 21:20). Fully developing that theology would take a book, but at the surface it is easy to see that while God does have one kind of love for all, he has not chosen to have a redeeming love toward all.

That leads to the second bad assumption, that only a mean-spirited God would choose to punish people for eternity if it's within his power to save them. This is a delicate subject that would probably require a book of its own to think through. But a little can be thought through in this limited space. Romans 3:12 teaches that nobody deserves God's salvation. We really all deserve the eternal punishment of God (Romans 6:23), so that any are saved is a staggering miracle. But if some, why not all? Rather than spend too much space here, read Romans 9. It could be part of a great discussion, which could be started through the comments below.

Finally, it's not hard to see what Ezekiel 33:11 really means when understanding it in the context of God's character. It's not as if God is a masochist who laughs maniacally as he throws people into the lake of fire. No, there is no pleasure in punishment, but God is glorified as his justice is poured out in wrath.

We know. We have no excuse. We must turn back from our wickedness and live. Knowing what we know, why will anyone choose death?

* [Part 1- Part 2 - Part 3]

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