The Suffering Of The Wicked
March 18, 2019
The Bible is quite candid about the consequences of denying the Lord. The Book of Romans begins by explaining that God will reveal His wrath against the unrighteous and ungodly. Those who deny the Lord and the grace He offers through the forgiveness of sins according to the Gospel, will suffer eternal consequences. The Bible is also helpful to explain that eternity is not the only time that unbelievers will suffer. Though many non-believers try to paint their lives as happy and satisfying, the scriptures are candid to expose the truth. The scriptures are clear to explain that, whatever the outward appearance may seem to be, the consequences of wickedness are exceptionally vexing internally. We can’t deny God, His holiness, His goodness, His righteousness, His, mercy, grace, and love, and expect that everything will just be okay. No matter how we try to fill our lives with distractions, the Bible is clear to show that the wicked will suffer greatly, in this life and the next.
The testimony of Job 15:14-35 makes this point very clearly. Here, the Bible documents the response of Eliphaz to Job’s previous complains and to his prayer. Eliphaz, still figuring Job to be an unrepentant hypocrite, let Job know the truth about what happens to such people. Eliphaz was convinced that Job’s suffering was on account of the wickedness that was in his heart. Eliphaz felt that God was punishing Job in the manner that He punishes all of the wicked, and so he sought to remind Job about the fate of the wicked so as to scare Job straight. The problem is that Eliphaz was wrong. Job was not harboring hypocrisy in his heart. Job was not a wicked man as a non-believer rejecting God. Job was confused and in pain, but not a blasphemer and enemy of God. His suffering was not punishment for specific sin. Eliphaz spoke truth about the wicked, but did so presumptuously as if he was wise to know the heart of Job. Eliphaz spoke as if his wisdom of God’s judgments was sufficient to give him special insight concerning Job. Eliphaz was wrong about Job, but right about the wicked. Thus, it is important to consider the statements made.
Eliphaz began his point by asking a simple, yet critical question: What is man, that he could be pure?
Is it possible for a person to stand pure before God on the basis of their own merits? Is there a such thing as a perfect person? Even by self-righteous standards, most people are willing to admit that they are not perfect. If none are perfect, then who is pure by God’s standards of purity? Eliphaz pointed out that God doesn’t even place trust in His angels. Recall that Eliphaz testified that he was visited by an angel in a vision so that an angel confessed that their ability to serve before God’s presence was based on grace that humans require. In other words, while angels might have greater authority and power to some degree, they are not more righteous so that their service to God doesn’t require His mercy, grace, and love. Even angels in heaven are dependent on God to serve in their capacity according to the perfect standards of God. Eliphaz also pointed out that God doesn’t even consider the heavens pure. Here, Eliphaz makes a profound statement that has prophetic implications. The testimony of the Book of Revelation explains that God will create a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem. The Apostle Peter explained that before doing this, God will purge the heavens and earth with great fire so as to remove impurities. This shows that God considers, not only earth, but also heaven, impure to a certain degree. He will create everything new so that no trace of corruption, decay, or darkness exists in His presence ever again! Eliphaz somehow understood this concept long, even before God established the patriarchs of Israel!
If this is true of angels and the heavens, how much worse are people? If angels require grace to serve the Lord, how much more people? If God will purge the heavens to start fresh, what does that say about the effects of our own hands that we’ve produced in this earth? Clearly, no one is pure in the sight of God so that we cannot stand as just before Him, thereby making ALL people wicked in the eyes of God, requiring supernatural intervention to address the issue on our behalf. Knowing this, Eliphaz sought to share the things he had learned over the years; things he learned from wise men before him, from men whose experience and integrity was not corrupted by vain philosophies.
Eliphaz stated that the wicked, who will not confess their impurity before God, have dreadful sounds in their ears. They hear things through the filter of corruption. The issues of this life bring panic and fear of loss and decay. Though they may have outward prosperity, there is fear that “the destroyer” will come and take it away. Thus, everything is considered a threat so that the prosperity of the unrepentant wicked cannot be enjoyed. They might have increase, but no joy with it. The reason for this is because deep down, the unrepentant wicked know that when death comes upon them, they will be in darkness and cannot escape. The Book of Romans explains that God revealed the principles of His righteousness by implanting certain convictions about His judgments into our conscience. When we are born, we know that there is a supreme Judge. We have some basis of understanding of right and wrong and have an idea about severe consequences, though we might not understand the details. Those who do not seek the Lord and His mercy as the Judge, remain with that conviction deep down. No matter how hard they try to hide or suppress the truth, the Bible teaches that the wicked know that darkness awaits them.
The outward appearance of those who live according to wickedness are vain and aimless. Eliphaz stated that they wander about looking for bread and cannot be satisfied. Their whole lives are consumed by the pursuit of earthly resources that do not satisfy. Whether rich or poor, the wicked continue searching and seeking that which satisfies the flesh, not the Lord. They seek to over-indulge because they know that there is an inevitable end that cannot be avoided. The more they get a fill now, they figure the lighter their fate will be. Yet, they know this is not true. Trouble and anguish bring fear into their lives in many ways. Those who refuse to seek God’s mercy and grace for forgiveness are consumed with fear and panic over loss, and the finality of life on this earth. This is what happens when people deny God. Running stubbornly against God, as if there is escape, as if we can hide, as if we can shield ourselves from His judgments, causes deep internal anguish and anxiety that can only be addressed with repentance.
Eliphaz explained that, though the wicked might try to make their lives appear to be satisfying and happy, it is not true. They cover their face with “fatness” and make their “waist heavy with fat.” This means that they seek to indulge as often as possible, feeding the flesh in hopes that it will make the sting of wickedness go away. It doesn’t. The Bible teaches that though there might be the appearance of prosperity now, there will not be in the end. They will not be rich. Wealth will not continue. Their legacy will not spread in the world. Those who do not turn from the darkness that identifies their lives will be consumed in the end, and the truth of this coming judgment will have consequences in this life too. Eliphaz encouraged Job not to trust in futile things, knowing that those who do will wither like branches and unripe fruit. The wicked may appear for a time to be useful and fruitful, but in the end, produce nothing of substance in the eyes of the Almighty God.
Eliphaz explained that hypocrites are lonely people. They may be surrounded by people or in isolation, but inside, they are alone and barren. Their hearts will be consumed by fire because their self-righteous manner of living produces trouble and futility. The effects of their hands produces lies that permeate into the world, making it seem as if there is hope for those who live separated from God, unwilling to confess their wickedness. This is why God will reveal His wrath upon those who refuse to repent and trust in the provision of His righteousness according to the Gospel. Everything that Eliphaz said is absolutely right – validated by the scriptures and the events of human history. Though Eliphaz’s words were misapplied to Job, they were generally true. Eliphaz was wrong to consider Job a wicked and unrepentant man, but was helpful to all people nonetheless, reminding us all that our natural condition requires us all to humble ourselves before God, confess our wickedness and inadequacy, and seek His forgiveness according to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!