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Love and Vengeance

by Tom Stewart

October 20, 2000

John the Beloved informs us that "He that sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the Earth; and the Earth was reaped" (Revelation 14:16). It may be difficult for the human mind to imagine, but the Almighty's judgment of the Earth is in keeping with the Eternal Law of Love. "If ye fulfil the Royal Law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well" (James 2:8). Not so strange to say, but the Eternal God only demands of man what He is willing to give Himself. And, the righteous demand of God's Moral Law has always been supreme love and consideration for God (for it is only right and fitting) and an equal love of our neighbour as ourselves. "Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind... and... thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:37, 39). So then, when Christ the Judge harvests the Earth, He may, without divorcing Himself of Perfect Love, say, "Vengeance is Mine; I will repay" (Romans 12:19).

A great failure of Professed Christianity, is not to properly distinguish between the two kinds of love-- disinterested benevolence and complacent love-- that God employs in the administration of His vast Moral Government. The nineteenth century American evangelist Charles G. Finney used the terms disinterested benevolence and the love of complacency to make the distinction.
[See Finney's "Lectures on Systematic Theology"---New Window for a thorough discussion of these two terms.] Disinterested benevolence would be represented in the Scriptures with the love that God demonstrates to all men, regardless of their character-- evil or good. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life" (John 3:16). The good will of God towards man is disinterested (free of bias or self-interest) benevolence in that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

Further, the term complacent love or the love of complacency has virtually lost its meaning in the 21st Century. Complacent or complacency now has the negative connotation of being self-satisfied or unconcerned, while the nineteenth century used the term complacent to encompass the positive idea of resting in a satisfied way upon something. Scripturally, God manifests complacent love towards only the godly, i.e., He rests in a satisfied way upon the right character of the righteous.
"He that hath My Commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21). And, when man demonstrates True Obedience to God, it is the love of complacency, for man is then demonstrating his satisfaction with the character of the God that he obeyed. "If ye love Me, keep My Commandments" (14:15). It is appropriate, then, to say that God loves complacently only those who love and obey Him. "23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My Words: and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him. 24 He that loveth Me not keepeth not My Sayings: and the Word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father's which sent Me" (John 14:23-24). Then, to equate the love of God, i.e., the love man ought to have toward God, with our obedience to God, is to describe why God can approve and rest in our character, which is complacent love. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His Commandments: and His Commandments are not grievous [i.e., unbearably burdensome]" (1John 5:3).

So then, how can the God of Love be also the
"LORD God to Whom Vengeance Belongeth" (Psalm 94:1), reaping the Earth in the Apocalypse? Since the Almighty has manifested Himself in His Son as the "Saviour of the World" (1John 4:14), it is unequivocal that "God so loved the world" (John 3:16) with a disinterested benevolence, giving to the good and to the evil the Gift of His Son. But, since "all men have not faith" (2Thessalonians 3:2) and "many" (Matthew 7:13), ultimately, will be cast "into outer darkness" (22:13), then God does not cease to love the damned with a disinterested benevolence. But, He never did love these finally damned with the love of complacency, because there was never anything in them, in which He could approve of their character, i.e., these wicked never repented. "37 But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed NOT on Him: 38 that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, LORD, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the LORD been revealed? 39 Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, 40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them" (John 12:37-40).

Tom Stewart

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