“The fact that retribution–the reward or the penalty for certain actions or conduct performed in this life are often delayed is frequently presumed upon by the foolish, who vainly think that they can sow their crop of wild oats and never realize their harvest. Both individuals and nations have long presumed to act upon this hazardous and vain hypothesis.”
The operations of this law are most manifest upon classes and nations–first, because their prominence gives them world-wide publicity; and, second, because their harvest must of necessity be in the present life, since beyond the present life they will have no existence. A glance at the pages of history reveals the fact that all the nations of the past have reaped a bitter harvest, and amid harrowing scenes have breathed their last. They had their rising, struggling periods and then their flourishing eras; and then pride and fullness of bread caused them to rest in fancied security, and to sink in the scale of morals, until their decline was followed by their fall:–they reaped what they had sown.
Where presently do you imagine this once great nation of ours to be along these lines? Have we not experience “pride and fullness of bread”, have we not rested in our own imagined security as a super power and aloud the so-called Christian fundamentals upon which this nation was supposedly founded to erode into vanity and depravity? Are we not now suffering the just consequences of this course? Are we not now approaching the final outcome of this course, the fall?
Just now all the nations of the world are fast approaching the terrible crises of their national existences. In a great time of unparalleled trouble, which is even now imminent, they are about to reap what they have sown. They have sown to the wind the seeds of selfishness, and now they are about to reap the whirlwind of anarchy and terror and the destruction of all law and order and national and social organization.
“Behold, the whirlwind of the lord goes forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind: it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked. The fierce anger of the LORD shall not return, until he hath done it, and until he has performed the intents of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it.” (Jer 30:23, 24)
Now it is our understanding that when the “Sin Offering” is complete, and has been fully applied on behalf of the world, and when all sins which, were committed against light (truth) have been atoned for (represented by the high priest laying his hands upon the “scapegoat”), then shall the slate be clean, the “books squared”, and noting more (of the past) will be held against mankind.
Before we discuss how the foregoing scriptures apply, let us first consider this “squaring of the books” that is, the accounting for ALL sins committed in this age, whether they come through original sin or are committed somewhat more or less intelligently.
Why should this be, for what purpose? Think about it, if God did not completely clear the books then justice, one of the very foundations of His throne could not be served. It was Gods purpose that through the redemption brought about through the sacrifice of His Son that ALL men should be given the opportunity for a clean slate and placed on trial even as was the case with father Adam from the beginning. In what way could it be said that they were given a fair trial if past sins could be brought against them? How could one love and trust a God who could at any time pull from the closet some past sin (i.e. form this age) to hold against the accused?
Let us let God speak for Himself,
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isa 1:18)
“For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his loving-kindness toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, So far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psa 103:11, 12)
“Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom, the Lord will not reckon (impute) sin.” (Rom 4:7, 8)
How now shall we account for our opening text as well as several others which attest to the same facts? (Hosea 8:7; Prov 22:8; 2 Cor 9:6; Prov 15:3; Eccl 12:14; Luke 12:2, 3; Rom 12:19)
“The Scriptures, as well as observation, assure us that our justification before God does not remove at once and without our co-operation all the results of previous transgressions. The harvest comes like the sowing, but the penitent and forgiven one has promise of grace to help him in the battle with his inherited as well as his cultivated weakness; and so we read (1 John 1:9): God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
It is in this cleansing process, which follows the legal justification, that the justified believer must, of necessity, experience some of the baneful results of a past course of sin, reap the reward of his former sowing. While the Lord will be very merciful in dealing with him, nevertheless, as a wise physician, he will not spare the necessary discipline to eradicate the deep-seated evil propensities of long cultivation in the past.
If you violate the principles of righteousness you deface the image of God in your being. Impure thoughts write in clearly legible signs upon the countenance the dark lines of a bad character; while pure, just and noble thoughts illuminate the countenance and render the pure character transparent to beholders.
The operations of this law in individual cases, though not so prominent, are nonetheless sure.
Every thought harbored, and every disposition exercised and cultivated, is woven into the fabric of individual character; and this character, which is more or less plastic in early life, becomes fixed and fossilized in the course of years.
If the cultivation has been along the lines of righteousness and truth, according to the light possessed–whether of conscience merely, or of revelation also–the ripened fruit of an established, right-preferring and benevolent character is a blessed harvest in comparison with others, the reverse.
If the cultivation has been along the lines of depravity, self-gratification and degradation, the terrible fruits are a fearful penalty. Even though such a one be freely forgiven upon repentance and faith in the Redeemer– fully absolved from legal condemnation through Christ, who bore its divinely pronounced penalty, death, nevertheless, the fruits of his sowing are manifest in his character, and must all be rooted out and a proper character formed at a considerable cost of painful but valuable experience; for God is just, not only to forgive us our sins, but also to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, i.e. cleanse from our character our fallen and mired disposition.
The eradicating of these evil dispositions, propensities and appetites, deep-rooted and long-cultivated, will cause great disturbances of the soil in which they have grown; and pain as well as joy will attend their removal, and their replacement with the graces of the spirit. The Lord, as a wise physician, will be as merciful and tender with his patient as the necessities of the cure will permit. All will be shown their need of his aid, but no patient will be treated further except with his own consent and co-operation.”
Another feature of retribution upon the world during its millennial trial will be the publicity, which will then be given to the reaping and to the deeds of the past. Our Lord has so intimated, saying, “There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; neither hid that shall not be known,” etc. (Matt 10:26; Luke 12:2, 3) This also will come about in a natural way, when in that day all that are in their graves shall come forth–when the murderer and his victim, the debtor and his creditor, the thief and his dupe, the defamer and the defamed, must face each other and the facts which, with even the secret motives, will be discerned. The terms of their reconciliation to each other and to the judge will be equitable, and will be known to all.
Past history will have proclaimed to the world the character of many a Nero; but in addition to that, there will be the necessity of facing the former victims of their ignoble cruelty; and that in the light of a new and healthy public sentiment that will manifest crime in all its horrid deformity. Truly such “shall awake to shame and (age) lasting [Heb., olan] contempt,” even in their own eyes; for as their renewed manhood begins to assert itself, they will the more fully realize the depth of the pit of degradation whence they were dug; and even the generous forgiveness of formerly injured and outraged fellow-men will be a great humiliation. It will truly be, as the Scriptures suggest, the heaping of coals of fire on their heads (Prov 25:21, 22; Rom 12:20), so great will be their shame and confusion.–Jer 20:11.
The same conditions which will thus expose the evils of the past life and thus, in the natural operations of moral law, bring about a measure of retribution to the evil-doers, will also make manifest the good deeds of the righteous, so that even the slightest favors done for others (which at the time blessed the characters of the doers) will then be recognized and appreciated.
In this view of the matter we can see how, in a perfectly natural way, a man must reap the harvest of his sowing of wild oats, even though he has been freely forgiven, absolved from guilt and its penalty, death, and legally justified through faith in Christ. He will reap it, both in the difficulties he will have piled up for himself in the hardening of his own character, making the steps up to perfection more painful and slow, and requiring severer discipline and also in the just disapproval or indignation of a righteous public sentiment in that millennial Day of Judgment.
Such will be the natural and inevitable results of present wrong doing, though one consolation will be the fact that this humiliation, in some measure at least, will be shared by all; “for there is none righteous [none perfect], no, not one” (Rom 3:10); and all must pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others.” It will indeed be a time for melting and mellowing all hearts. Thus the Lord will take away the stony heart and give to all who under the New Covenant shall become his people (typified by Israel) a heart of flesh, according to his promise.” Ezek 36:22-25-28.
Excerpts taken from R1654 “The Retributive Character of Divine Law”