God’s Unerring Justice

It is a sad, yet sober reality, perhaps even unavoidable, that human justice often falls short of being just. Unscrupulous prosecutors and corrupt judges frequently succeed in condemning innocent victims to jail time and even to death. The premier example of justice gone awry is that of Jesus Christ. Falsely accused and convicted by evil men, He was condemned to death by the highest court in the Jewish nation for a crime He had never committed. This unfortunate scenario has been repeated countless times in the course of human history, especially in the case of Christian martyrs. Perfectly blameless words and acts deliberately misconstrued, motives impugned and maligned, they were assigned by unjust human tribunals to the rack, the stake, or the sword to suffer a martyr’s fate. We have been warned that Sabbath keepers will likewise experience this miscarriage of justice at the end of the world.

But even without resort to fraud and deceit, human jurisprudence is seriously flawed on two counts:

  1. Being framed by fallen human legislatures, the laws are not perfect. Note the following insightful words of inspiration: “Men had well-nigh lost the knowledge of the true God. Their minds were darkened by idolatry. For the divine statutes, which are ‘holy, and just, and good’ (Romans 7:12), men were endeavoring to substitute laws in harmony with the purposes of their own cruel, selfish hearts.” Prophets and Kings, 15.

Examples of such deficient laws include those dealing with abortions, rights of homosexuals, and laws attempting to stifle the conscience.

  1. Human laws can operate only in the outward domain of the words and acts of people, and not the inner domain of the character. This is the reason we so often read about “lone wolves,” “sleeper cells” and psychologically deranged would-be murderers and criminals walking freely abroad in society. They cannot be charged until the act is either carried out or its intent expressed in some manner, and then it makes the headlines.

In sharp contrast to human jurisprudence is God’s jurisprudence. In the Bible we have been provided a compendium of laws revealing the will of God for us. This affords us an answer to the second of life’s core questions: What is my raison d’etre – Why am I here? It is to carry out the will of the great Creator God. The Bible also gives us soul-satisfying answers to life’s first big question about our origin (Where did I come from?) and the third question relating to our final destiny (Where am I headed?). But we find ourselves against a huge problem at this point because the Scriptures also declare: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). With our limited capacity we cannot fully comprehend the mind of God and how His justice operates in every instance. How can anyone serve One whose actions he/she cannot understand, much less agree with? We all have troubling questions which God will answer only in the great hereafter. Notice the following Scripture, revealing a principle of God’s dealings, which was a matter of great perplexity to me:

“Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the Lord of hosts, is His name” (Jeremiah 32:18).

I was puzzled! From my earthbound perspective I was unable to wrap my mind around the notion of children suffering for the sins of their fathers. How was this just and equitable? Jesus reinforced it to the Jews of His day: “That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (Matthew 23:35).

The prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70 when the Roman General, Titus Vespasian besieged Jerusalem killing 1.2 million Jews, leaving the city and the temple in ruins, and creating the diaspora by scattering the Jews into every country under the sun. It was an act of God’s retributive wrath against a nation that had crucified His Son – except it was a whole generation after the crucifixion in AD 31! It is highly unlikely that any of the original actors in the death of Jesus were still alive. Certainly, Caiaphas was long gone, along with Pilate and Herod and the Sanhedrin. The only ones alive from that time were likely the little children whose mothers wept for Jesus along Via Dolorosa. But they were too little to be aware of what was going on, much less could they be held liable for it. So where was God’s justice in punishing a completely different generation than the actual perpetrators?

This enigmatic ethic is evidenced in several other Scriptures as well. Notice God’s dealings with the Amorites in Palestine: “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” (Genesis 15:16).

Our end time prophet offers an inspired commentary on this verse: “Although this nation was conspicuous because of its idolatry and corruption, it had not yet filled up the cup of its iniquity, and God would not give command for its utter destruction. … The compassionate Creator was willing to bear with their iniquity until the fourth generation. Then, if no change was seen for the better, His judgments were to fall upon them.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 208. Clearly, the judgments of God would fall on the fourth generation, while sparing the first three who were just as guilty. Was this really just and fair? I wondered.

The excerpt continues with more thought-provoking insight:

“With unerring accuracy the Infinite One still keeps an account with all nations. While His mercy is tendered with calls to repentance, this account will remain open; but when the figures reach a certain amount which God has fixed, the ministry of His wrath commences. The account is closed. Divine patience ceases. There is no more pleading of mercy in their behalf.” Ibid.

Mark the two concepts expressed in the passages above: 1) The concept of the Cup of Iniquity, and 2) The concept of the Accretion (accumulation) of Guilt.

The Cup of Iniquity is a metaphor for a mysterious “vessel” in which God collects and stores unconfessed and unforgiven sins. Because it is of limited capacity, which God alone determines, the cup can be filled up at some point. The concept of the Accretion of Guilt further teaches that sin can be understood as an objective product of human will and action, like drops of poison, which can add up over time. From the inspired records we understand that individual cups are placed in the hands of each person at birth, while national, corporate cups are placed in the hands of the leaders. Obviously, individual cups cease to exist at death, while national cups roll over to succeeding generations until God intervenes. We see the filling up of individual cups (e.g., King Saul) as well as national cups in the histories of both Israel and Judah.

Prophecy indicates that the United States will also fill up her cup of iniquity whenever the National Sunday Law is passed: “The people of the United States have been a favored people; but when they restrict religious liberty, surrender Protestantism, and give countenance to popery, the measure of their guilt will be full, and ‘national apostasy’ will be registered in the books of heaven. The result of this apostasy will be national ruin.” The Review and Herald, May 2, 1893. This cup in the hands of U.S. leaders has been gradually filling up over many generations. It will be filled to the brim with the passing of the National Sunday Law.

In line with the concept of the full cup, the sufferings of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane offer an amazing insight. Three times He prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). The sins of the whole human race were crushing the life out of Him. He was suffering the wrath of God against sin on behalf of each child of Adam. And since the ministry of God’s wrath begins only when the cup of iniquity is full, the cup that Jesus held in His trembling grasp was clearly overflowing with the poison of each individual cup of humanity.

Our feeble minds cannot comprehend the enormous cup that Jesus had to drink in order to save us. Is it any wonder He perspired great drops of blood before Gabriel was commissioned to strengthen Him to drink it? But in emptying our cups He made provision that they might remain empty, allowing us to escape the penalty of our own sins. Forever we should be grateful for the cup that the Savior drained in our stead!

But now we are faced with a conundrum: The Bible also explicitly declares: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20). This scripture effectively sweeps away the doctrine of Original Sin, which as Seventh-day Adventists we reject. So, how can we justify the act of God in punishing one generation for the sins of previous ones, when His Word clearly teaches individual accountability? It posed an insurmountable dilemma until I was able to grasp an important truth that had eluded me for years. It was stated in the Spirit of Prophecy, but it had never registered with me before. With reference to the 3rd plague we read:

“The angel of God declares: ‘Thou art righteous, O Lord, … because Thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy’ (Revelation 16:5, 6). By condemning the people of God to death, they have as truly incurred the guilt of their blood as if it had been shed by their hands. In like manner Christ declared the Jews of His time guilty of all the blood of holy men which had been shed since the days of Abel; for they possessed the same spirit and were seeking to do the same work with these murderers of the prophets.” The Great Controversy, 628.

Here was an act of God’s justice, completely outside the realm of human jurisprudence. With unerring accuracy, the God of Heaven was able to read the thoughts and purposes of humanity lurking within the deepest recesses of the mind. Here was the infallible basis for God’s judgments! The light finally came on in my mind. God did not need to wait until the secret desire or purpose manifested itself in action. I had misapprehended Divine justice by assuming it worked on the same level as human justice. While human jurisdiction was limited to the observable words and acts, God’s jurisdiction embraced also the very heart and mind, enabling Him to render perfect judgment based entirely on the hidden thoughts and purposes. Amazing!

Thus, the apparently contradictory Scriptures are harmonized: Every man will pay the penalty for his own rebellion (in keeping with the principle of individual accountability) while later generations will be punished for the sins of their forefathers for harboring the same wicked thoughts and purposes. God’s foreknowledge enables Him to predict with unfailing accuracy the potential for the same evil deeds, given the opportunity. Thus, a corrupt mind will inevitably devolve into corrupt deeds under the proper circumstances. Individual accountability is still preserved in this scenario. But because they collectively contribute to the filling up of the national cup by the same rebellious purposes as their forebears, God can justifiably rain His retributive wrath on their heads.

We have now a credible explanation for some other obscure passages of inspiration:

  1. The Death Sentence against God’s people we know is an exercise in futility because not one saint suffers martyrdom under it. Yet we read in Revelation 16:5, 6 regarding the 3rd plague: “And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy.” The only reason the angels can speak of the shedding of blood as a done deed is because of the murder potential inherent in the Death Decree.
  2. The Spirit of Prophecy numbers the 144,000 among the martyrs of the ages. In describing them after the time of Jacob’s Trouble, Ellen White states the following: “There stood revealed the throne of God. Around it were ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands upon thousands, and close about the throne were the martyrs. Among this number I saw the very ones who were so recently in such abject misery, whom the world knew not, whom the world hated and despised.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 428.

This is an amazing statement because we know that not one of the 144,000 will suffer death at the hands of their enemies. Notice: “God would not suffer the wicked to destroy those who were expecting translation and who would not bow to the decree of the beast or receive his mark. I saw that if the wicked were permitted to slay the saints, Satan and all his evil host, and all who hate God, would be gratified. And oh, what a triumph it would be for his satanic majesty to have power, in the last closing struggle, over those who had so long waited to behold Him whom they loved!” Early Writings, 284. Yet, strangely, they are included among the martyrs. How can this be if they were never killed? It is because they possessed the faith of the martyrs. Ready and willing to seal their testimony with their blood, they had taken their stand on the hill of God’s law on which they were willing to die. And God recognizes this fact by conferring on them the high honor of wearing a red border on their garments. So here again we see God acting from His knowledge of the heart and not merely the outward reality. What an amazing God!

  1. Ellen White has much to say about “cherished” sins: “The righteousness of Christ will not cover one cherished sin. A man may be a law-breaker in heart; yet if he commits no outward act of transgression, he may be regarded by the world as possessing great integrity. But God’s law looks into the secrets of the heart. … Only that which is in accord with the principles of God’s law will stand in the judgment.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 316. As depicted here, cherished sins are not necessarily open and observable, but they have the potential to break out under the proper circumstances. A cherished sin resides in a corrupt heart. It may not be indulged for lack of opportunity, yet it cannot accord with God’s law and will be condemned in the Judgment. Sadly, there will be many in the lake of fire, like the rich young ruler, (Matthew 19:16–22) who may not have broken the Ten Commandments outwardly, but with pride, envy, covetousness, selfishness, lust or malice resident in the heart (known only to God, of course) they could not be saved!

That God will stand fully vindicated in His dealings with sin and sinners is without question. This is why “every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Romans 14:11). “To declare, … at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). In undertaking the salvation of the human race, God acts from a divine, infallible perspective. His judgments will be able to pass the closest scrutiny of intelligent beings. And the reason He is able to guarantee that sin will never arise the second time (Nahum 1:9) is because He saves only those whose hearts are devoid of any secretly cherished sin. Like Joseph, they will not sin even under ideally hidden circumstances because they live as in the sight of a holy God. Not only do they love righteousness, but they hate sin. Thus, with sin eradicated from the heart by His grace, God accomplishes the complete eradication of sin from the universe and ensures its eternal non-emergence, all in the context of free, uncoerced human will. Hallelujah!

“Let us strive with all the power that God has given us to be among the hundred and forty-four thousand” (Maranatha, 241) who have crucified and died to self. They have no guile in their mouths because they have none in their hearts (Revelation 14:5). Their prayer throughout has been, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23, 24).


[All emphasis supplied.]

 Dr. Pandit is a retired cardiologist living in Arkansas with his wife Dorothy. He is proud to call himself a historic Seventh-day Adventist. He, with his wife, is involved in backing two self-supporting ministries in India 1) Medical Missionary Training and Lifestyle Center in South India and 2) A printing ministry in Western India. They are also founding members of a “home church” located in Hot Springs, AR. He can be contacted via his email address: sudor777@gmail.com, or phone: 870-356-4768.