One of the subjects that invariably comes up when the judgement of God upon individuals or nations is discussed, is why the LORD God sees fit to leave certain individuals on this earth long after it is obvious that they are condemned and cut off from any hope of salvation.
Now, to be certain, there are those who are indeed cut off from any hope of salvation. Romans, chapter one makes this plain, as does the example of Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. It is quite plain that Pharaoh was not going to repent and neither was the LORD going to allow him to repent. This was also the case with Esau when he despised the birthright of having the Messiah come through his lineage. The operative rule for this is Jeremiah 17:9-10 which states:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
Thus, according to what was in Pharaoh’s and Esau’s hearts, they received the due reward for their attitude toward the LORD God and the things of God — the LORD cut them off. Yet, the LORD also left them on this earth. Although, Pharaoh did not make it as long as Esau did, he still lived a considerable length of time. Yet, the question remains: Why did the LORD let them continue to live?
There are two answers to this question. The answers to both questions require an understanding of how the LORD uses the evil nature of man for judging man, and the sovereignty of God and how far that extends.
In the first instance, we do well to understand that the LORD God does not have to raise His hand (so to speak) against someone who is utterly rebellious against the law of God. The reason for this is that there are plenty of wicked men who love nothing more than to destroy someone else for a variety of reasons. All the LORD has to do is give His permission for wicked men to act against another, and it is done. There are specific instances of this in Scripture. Of the many that exist, I will only use two to illustrate. The first is the judgement of Ahab, the wicked king of Israel.
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil? And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee. (I Kings 22:18-23)
In the above incident, all the LORD had to do was allow the lying spirit (a devil) to give the wicked prophets of Israel the words to say to convince Ahab that he would be victorious at Ramothgilead. The false prophets were all too happy to say what Ahab wanted to hear, and Ahab was all too willing to believe it. In fact, both Ahab and the false prophets got angry at Micaiah for telling them what they did not want to hear. Unfortunately for Ahab, Micaiah was quite correct, and Ahab died in battle the next day. Thus, all the LORD did, was allow the devil the leeway to do what devils love to do, and allow the false prophets and Ahab to say and do what they loved to do, which is tell lies to each other.
In the second illustration, the LORD brings judgement upon Edom (the descendants of Esau) for their lack of compassion upon Israel in the day of judgement of Israel. It is notable how the Lord does it.
The vision of Obadiah. Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning Edom; We have heard a rumour from the LORD, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen, Arise ye, and let us rise up against her in battle. Behold, I have made thee small among the heathen: thou art greatly despised. The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground? (Obadiah 1-3)
All the Lord had to do to have Edom judged, was allow the heathen nations around Edom (Teman) to despise Teman and determine that they needed to destroy Teman because of the arrogance of Edom and the way Edom viewed everyone around them. By the rest of the passage, it is plain that Teman thought it was unconquerable, and had an attitude to match. It became unbearable to the nations around them, and the LORD allowed it to be the impetus for the destruction of Edom.
So then, that (in a nutshell) covers one of the reasons why the LORD God allows wicked men who are cut off from any hope of salvation to continue on this earth. The second reason will probably be a bit more disconcerting to some.
One of the most misunderstood aspects of the LORD God is His sovereignty and how that works. Most people think that sovereignty means that the one who is sovereign must immediately call into account anyone who works against them. While that may be true for men, and particularly those who are unsure of their control of events, that is assuredly not the case with the LORD God. The LORD God has no such concerns about His ability to control events, or foresee the future. As pertaining to this, the LORD has made it plain in His word that He certainly knows the events to come.
(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. (Romans 4:17)
And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods. Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel. (Deuteronomy 31:16-19)
And indeed, though the children of Israel had not yet departed, they certainly did, and moreover, they did everything the LORD told Moses they would do, and the LORD did every thing He said He would do in response. Thus, the question of events to come is not an issue with the LORD God. He sees all time all at once, and differentiates every point in time from every other point in time.
Moreover, there is no place where one may go to escape the LORD God and His judgement. In the Psalms, David was express in understanding this:
Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. (Psalm 139:7-12)
Yet, this is not all, in Isaiah, chapter 40, the LORD endeavors to teach us that this physical world and all that is in it, are less than nothing to Him.
Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. (Isaiah 40:12-17)
Now, if all this physical world is counted as nothing, and less than nothing in the sight of God, what will all the physical universe add up to — seeing He created it all with “let there be. . .?”
Thus, even when those who refuse to acknowledge God and refuse to obey Him pass off this earth into eternity, they have not escaped the LORD there either as Christ made that expressly plain in John, chapter 5:
For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:26-29)
So it is when the Lord Jesus Christ orders those in the graves to come forth for judgement, they will obey. Even Hell will give up the those who are there as Revelation, chapter 20 clearly states.
Why does the LORD God leave those who are wicked here on this earth long after all hope of their salvation has passed?
Just where will the wicked run to? Where can they go to escape the judgement to come? The LORD God is not worried – they are not going anywhere. This is God’s box — and no one gets out of it.