Though it may seem as if the evil and wicked people in the world are getting a long-standing free pass, the Bible emphatically teaches that God will judge. The Bible speaks of God’s judgment as coming “soon,” and it is this time reference that makes things difficult to understand concerning God’s work. Many evil people have lived full lives until old age and seemingly did not receive any harsh consequences for their sin while alive in this world. This has gone on for quite some time. Since God has not administrated His final judgment yet, it can sometimes seem like God won’t judge. Our perspective is limited to our lifetime, which on the full scale of earth’s timeline, is but a blip on the radar. God sits and administrates His righteousness from the eternal realm, so “soon” to Him is much different than “soon” to us. This is why the Bible continually repeats the reality of God’s coming judgment. Regardless of our perspective and the way we view God’s treatment of the wicked right now, the repeated proclamations of scripture show that God will give everyone their just due at the appropriate time He considers to be “soon.”
This is an important principle to understand, especially in the context of Job’s references to the wicked. When Zophar accused Job of being a wicked hypocrite, he pointed to Job’s circumstances of suffering as proof. Zophar figured that, since Job suffered, and his suffering was similar to the ways that God judges the wicked, that Job must be wicked. Job refuted that logic by explaining that God doesn’t always deal with the wicked the same way. Thus, to assume someone is wicked based on the difficulty of their circumstances is to speak presumptuously. Job explained that often times, the wicked live long prosperous lives and never seem to experience any sort of hardships at all. Job pointed out that many times, God restrains His judgments upon the wicked, making it seem as if God has ignored them or approves of their conduct.
In the testimony of Job 21:17-21 Job discusses the other part of the story. It is true that God sometimes delays His judgment of the wicked, but that doesn’t mean that He dismisses it altogether. Job began his explanation by comparing God’s judgment of the wicked to a lit candle or a wick in a lamp. Consider the use of a lamp. How often does a person put out the wick prior to it burning out? Usually when a lamp is lit, the wick will continue to burn until it burns itself out, not requiring any special intervention. Job explained that God will often let the wicked come to their end the same way. He won’t intervene to put out the fire of the wicked, but often times, just let the wicked burn themselves out by their sin so as to show no light to the Lord when they face Him in judgment. Their absence of light will be a compelling witness against them when facing the Almighty in judgment. Since God knows that the wicked will face Him at some point, He doesn’t need to rush things for certain people. God often times doesn’t need to bring sorrow to the wicked in this life since He is sure of the eternal sorrow the wicked will face in judgment.
Job explained that the wicked, though they seem to be living it up in this world, are merely straw before the wind; chaff in the midst of a storm. It might seem like the unrighteous and ungodly are getting away with their evil, but they are not. They are not able to contend with God in eternity even though they may appear to have power and influence here. The power and influence that the wicked display in this life is worth nothing when standing before the Almighty God. Can straw remain still and stable when the wind blows against it? Can the chaff stay in their place when the storm comes? This is why Jesus taught that the wise people are those who build the structure of their lives on Him as the Rock of salvation. Since the wind and storm of God’s judgment inevitably comes to all people, only those who are founded on the Rock of Jesus Christ by faith will remain. All others will be swept away into the fiery furnace. Job didn’t have full understanding of the means of God’s judgment, but knew that the pride and self-righteousness of the wicked will crumble though it appears to stand tall now.
The testimony of Job 21:17-21 explains that people often try to explain God’s judgments wrongly. Job mentioned that people often feel like God restrains or delays judgment of the wicked so as to administrate the consequences of the wicked upon their children. While the evil of one person can affect another, God does not place the guilt of one person onto another. People might think that God delays His judgment so as to bury the next generation in consequences, but He doesn’t work this way. The scriptures repeatedly state that God will place the guilt of a sinner upon their own head. They will pay their own debt. They will be punished according to their own guilt. The guilt of one will not be placed upon the life of another, unless of course that guilt is placed upon Jesus Christ by faith in His identity as the Son of God and Messiah. God doesn’t delay His judgment in order to punish another generation. God delays His judgments for many reasons which are known to Him and Him alone.
Job explained that he preferred God NOT place the guilt of the wicked on the next generation. Job trusted that God would judge the guilty, and hoped He would do so in a manner that served to teach the next generation, not punish them. Job hoped that the wicked would be judged clearly and publicly so that the children of the wicked could learn from the consequences of their parents and elders. Job preferred that the eyes of the wicked see their destruction. Job felt it would be fitting for those who wanted to live life blind to the grace of God, to suddenly be able to see when it was time for their destruction. It is true that those who desire to live in rebellion against God are blind to the light of Christ, but they will not be blind to the fire that condemns. Consider the testimony of the rich man in Luke Chapter 16. That man lived richly in this life, but was wicked to the poor and lowly. He was blind to the compassion and mercy of God, but when he was suffering in Hades, saw the man he wronged in this world and was aware of the extent of his pain and misery. It might seem like the wicked are able to escape difficulty, but the Bible shows that this isn’t true. Their time will come, though we might not see it.
Job expressed his desire for the wicked to drink from the wrath of the Almighty. If there was ever a statement that expressed Job’s innocence of hypocrisy! Those who are confident in their relationship with the Lord are usually those who agree with the judgment of God and the severity of it because they have nothing to fear. Those who are concerned about their guilt and are consumed with convictions of the Lord, usually despise God’s judgments because they are afraid of God’s wrath. The proud and wicked go through life feeling as if they are superior to all people, but Job explained that they will eventually meet their match – the Almighty God. Who can stand before the Almighty? Who can fight against the source of all power, ability, and functionality? The Bible makes it clear that there are only two cups with two beverages for all people to drink. We will either drink the water that gives life by faith in Jesus Christ, or drink from the cup of God’s wrath unto eternal condemnation. Those who deny the grace of God in favor of selfish gratification will not be permitted to drink of the water of life, leaving only the cup of God’s wrath.
In the end, what does a wicked person care about their household when they’re dead? What does a wicked person care about their riches when they’re dead? Is there anything to value or to be concerned about that outweighs the severity of God’s wrath? The rich man in Luke Chapter 16 showed some concern for his five brothers at first, but the reality of his eternal suffering soon consumed his attention. The rich man learned that he couldn’t do anything for his brothers. He could provide no benefit. He had his chance to seek the Lord and do right, but spent his life on himself instead. His chance to be a benefit to his household had come and gone. He now had to deal with the foolishness of his selfishness so that his children, brothers, and rest of his household were nothing anymore.
Job explained that there are two sides to the coin when it comes to God’s dealing with the wicked. Zophar was right: God often causes the wicked to be miserable, frustrated, and empty in this life and brings great ruin to them. Think of Nebuchadnezzar. He was a very proud man that God brought great grief and ruin to, unto his destruction, but also unto his salvation. On the other hand, Job was right too. God often retrains His harsh treatment of the wicked while they live in this world, being confident in the extent of suffering they will certainly face when they meet Him in judgment. The rich man of Luke Chapter 16 is a perfect example of this instance. The point of Job 21:17-21 is simple either way. All of the wicked will be judged in the end by God, but we don’t know how God will deal with them in this life. Whether a person is tormented by God’s wrath in this life or not doesn’t indicate how God will treat them in final judgment. It is possible for God to inflict anger to the wicked in this life AND the next life; just as it is possible for God to refrain anger until the wick of the lamp burns itself out at which point God will reignite it with a different sort of flame – hellfire. This makes it impossible for people to know God’s judgment based on what we see. Thus, we should refrain from coming to definitive conclusions about people like Job’s friends did.