Damned by God?
Could You Have Exhausted God’s Grace and Patience
and be Condemned to Eternal Damnation?
There is Still Hope
The Mysterious Nature of Prophecy
In the previous webpage (Feeling Rejected by God) it was becoming evident that behind even dramatic displays of divine rejection is a surprise hidden motive. It is typical of the God of the Bible that the driving force behind divine declarations of doom is God’s longing to inspire the apparently damned people to receive great blessing.
We’ll continue to explore this astounding discovery; examining Scriptural instances of people seemingly rejected or even damned by God. In the process, we will gain fascinating, little-known insights into the nature of Old Testament prophecy. Our aim, however, is not mere head knowledge, but the heart-warming discovery of how loving and forgiving God really is, and the immense comfort this brings us when we feel condemned or rejected by God.
Jonah was not an evangelist. As clearly stated in Scripture, this man was a prophet (2 Kings 14:25). His prophecy from God to the Ninevites was that in just forty more days, they would be destroyed (Jonah 3:4). That was his entire message. The prophecy held not a shadow of hope. God’s chosen instrument to pronounce this death sentence was a man who hated these people with a passion. He wanted them annihilated. You can be sure there was nothing about the body language or tone of voice of this messenger from God to hint to these pagans that the God of this foreigner might be loving or merciful. Everything hitting their senses told them they were doomed. They were wicked. They deserved destruction. Their time was up. And yet, desperately longing to find hope where there was no hope, the Ninevites repented and earnestly sought God, just like Jonah had dreaded and the Lord had secretly yearned for.
The prophet had tried to flee from his mission because he knew the tender heart that beat beneath the stony exterior God typically presents to the world. He knew God would delight in turning the Almighty’s prophecy into a false prophecy. He knew the Lord’s apparent harshness and rejection was only to inspire God’s enemies to change into people he could pour out his love and mercy upon.
I doubt very much that you have had a personal word from God pronouncing your doom. If you were convinced you had received such a word it would almost certainly be a trick from the Enemy of our souls, whom Scripture calls the Deceiver, the Accuser and the one who masquerades as an angel of light. He lusts after your relationship with God; yearning to rob you by sabotaging your faith in God’s eagerness to bless you. He would get his fill of sadistic pleasure out of you believing him when he slanders the Faithful One. How dare he suggest that God – who commands everyone to forgive seventy times seven – would himself have a limit on how many times he will forgive you, who long for forgiveness! That is accusing the Holy One of hypocrisy! The Deceiver’s hope is that, weighed down by gloom and doubts about God’s faithfulness, you might give up on the One who would never give up on you.
Nevertheless, let’s just suppose you were genuinely told by God that you are doomed. Even then, that pronouncement would not be the final word. If the reversal of Jonah’s prophecy does not convince you, let’s examine yet another biblical example of God’s eagerness to trash his own prophecy of doom.
Isaiah 38:1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” (2) Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, (3) . . . And Hezekiah wept bitterly. (4) Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: (5) “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. (6) And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. . . .
What makes our relationship with God so perplexing is that he has intelligence that is infinitely beyond our own. Only a genius could have guessed the effect of the Lord’s negative prophecy through Isaiah. Because of the Almighty’s pronouncement, “Hezekiah wept bitterly.” Suddenly in Hezekiah’s eyes it was no longer a matter of sickness or health, but life or death. The message of doom intensified his prayers, powering him to a life-changing miracle. Hezekiah’s breakthrough hinged on two things: God implying his fate was sealed, and Hezekiah refusing to accept it as final.
Rare Exceptions to the Rule?
I’ve gone way outside mainstream Old Testament prophecy to find a couple of highly exceptional examples, right? Wrong. Many Christians are like me in having wrongly supposed that if God prophesies something, it is final. The startling truth is that Scripture emphatically and repeatedly declares that whether God’s prophecies come true depends on the response of the people the prophecy is aimed at. We’ve looked at famous minor prophet Jonah and major prophet Isaiah. Let’s now seal it with the pronouncement of yet another renowned prophet: Jeremiah. This time, the Lord, through the prophet, clearly states the very principle we have discovered:
Jeremiah 18:7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, (8) and if that nation . . . repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.
We are plunging into some of the blackest parts of Scripture and yet even here we keep finding enormous hope for any condemned person or nation that repents. The Bible was written not as an historical curiosity; it was written by God for you (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 9:10; 10:6,11). So if ever you feel damned and utterly rejected by God, take seriously Scripture’s words of hope to people who likewise seemed doomed.
Later in the same book the Lord again reveals the intent of his prophecies of disaster:
Jeremiah 26:3 Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done.
Jeremiah 26:13 Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the LORD your God. Then the LORD will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you.
Jeremiah 36:3 Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.
These verses in Jeremiah are like islands of hope in a terrifying sea of fire. Prophecies of judgment are often worded as if God hates the people and that their fate is sealed. Our Lord goes to such lengths in firing words of doom at people not because there is no hope of them escaping the prophesied disasters, but precisely because there is hope. Prophecies are worded to seem final, not because everything is set in concrete, but to arm the prophecies with sufficient power to blast people back to reality. Our loving Lord goes to the extreme of what seem angry, hate-filled words as a last-ditch effort to snap his loved ones out of the complacency that is threatening their eternity. In his grace, he is giving them a foretaste of what it would be like unless they get serious with God, the only one who can save them. So most prophecies are not declaring the inevitable future but are detailing what the target audience can expect if they do not change their hearts.
Again in Amos 7:1-3 the prophet is shown in a vision a swarm of locusts that devastates the entire land. Amos intercedes, asking the Lord’s forgiveness, and the Lord relents, promising it will not happen. Then in the next verses we read:
Amos 7:4 This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: The Sovereign LORD was calling for judgment by fire; it dried up the great deep and devoured the land. (5) Then I cried out, “Sovereign LORD, I beg you, stop! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!” (6) So the LORD relented. “This will not happen either,” the Sovereign LORD said.
It is not our purpose here to explore prophecies of blessings, but Scripture is clear that the same principle applies: a change of heart – this time a change for the worse – can also nullify prophecies of blessings (1 Samuel 2:30; Jeremiah 18:7; Ezekiel 33:13).
If your mind is reeling as your entire view of prophecy comes crashing down, I can well understand your reaction. We’ve now looked at four prophets. Scripture says that the truth of a matter shall be established out of the mouth of two or three witnesses. To God, for a prophecy of doom to “fail” is the ultimate success. Nevertheless, the notion that divine prophecies can fail to materialize is so shattering to common opinion, that perhaps you are demanding a fifth Scriptural witness. No problem. This time we will go to yet another major prophet: Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 33:14 And if I say to the wicked man, “You will surely die,” but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right . . . (16) None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.
The yearning of God’s heart is not to waste people’s time by giving them information they can’t do anything with; much less to torment them by letting them know there is no hope. What drives our Lord to talk about future disasters is a longing to avert tragedy. As God, through Ezekiel, said just moments earlier:
Ezekiel 33:11 Say to them, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. . . .”
God’s purpose in telling people they are facing destruction is to motivate them to call upon him, because “Everyone [no exceptions] who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13). If God truly wanted people damned, he would keep them blissfully ignorant of their fate because once they realized their fearful predicament, they might call out to God for help. Then the Lord would be compelled to keep his word and save them!
Now that I have cited two minor and three major prophets, for any reader to have the tiniest doubt would be ridiculous. If, after all of this, someone wanted still more confirmation, I would be astounded, but I would be quite unfazed. You see, Scripture heaps up even more proof. Let’s look at yet another minor prophet. Micah’s ministry is summarized in one of Scripture’s historical comments.
Jeremiah 26:18 “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. He told all the people of Judah, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: “‘Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.’
Here, yet again, we have a prophecy of doom, offering no hope. Let’s read the next verse:
Jeremiah 26:19 “ . . . Did not Hezekiah fear the LORD and seek his favor? And did not the LORD relent, so that he did not bring the disaster he pronounced against them? . . .”
Let’s examine Micah’s prophecy to see if it really was a damning as the above quote suggests:
Micah 1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah – the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. . . . 3:9 Hear this, you leaders of the house of Jacob, you rulers of the house of Israel, who despise justice and distort all that is right; . . . (12) . . . because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.
Perhaps you are sometimes tempted to feel as doomed to destruction as Jerusalem was in this prophecy. If so, remember that Hezekiah repented and the Lord relented.
We’ve noted that even prophecies of blessing can be nullified. That means we can’t be complacent. If you are fearing that you have gone beyond God’s grace, however, that very fear means that, regardless of how you felt other times, you are anything but complacent right now. It would be a mistake to take Scriptures intended for the complacent or rebellious, and apply them to yourself if, as of this moment, you are no longer complacent or rebellious. You might have appallingly abused God’s grace right up until ten seconds ago, but because of the power of Jesus’ blood to wipe out the past, all that matters is your present attitude.
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Punished by God
Some people terrified about being unforgivable just need Bible-based reassurance or an explanation of a disturbing Scripture. If vast amounts of rational support and biblical exposition are the answer, keep following the links. Many Christians, however, presume this is what they need but it turns out that no amount of biblical proof or sound, theological argument or even spectacular spiritual experience can put their minds to rest. If you have already sought much help but worries keep resurfacing, you most likely need a totally different approach. You should skip these pages (you can return later if you wish) and go straight to Scrupulosity.
Not to be sold. © Copyright, 2004, 2009 Grantley Morris. Not to be copied in whole or in part without citing this entire paragraph. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings by Grantley Morris available free at the following internet site www.net-burst.net Freely you have received, freely give.