God’s Gonna Cut You Down

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Now if we come to the understanding that the devil is “the accuser,” and not God, what are we to make of the necessary holiness of God’s law? And how can we make sense of the Last Judgment? Doesn’t God run the Last Day, and not the devil?

Go tell that long tongue liar,
Go and tell that midnight rider,
Tell the rambler, the gambler, the back biter,
Tell ’em that God’s gonna cut ’em down.

This is true in staggering ways, but how it is true matters a great deal.

God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:16). The seraphim fly in His courts, crying out holy, holy, holy (Is. 6:3). And when that holiness is juxtaposed with our sinful condition, we are immediately aware of the gulf between us. When Isaiah sees the vision, he cries out that he is a man of unclean lips (Is. 6:5). When Joshua the high priest stood before the angel of the Lord, Satan, the celestial prosecutor, was right there to accuse him (Zech. 3:1). And although Joshua was aware he was indeed deserving of accusation (Zech. 3:3), because his clothes were filthy, God’s response is to clothe him appropriately. When the apostle Peter caught a glimpse of the Lord’s holiness in the miracle of the fish, his response was to collapse, aware of his own sinfulness (Luke 5:8).

When we find ourselves in the numinous presence of God, our response is the right kind of self-accusation. And in such juxtapositions, notice how God responds in grace — because the right kind of self-accusation is evangelical repentance.

But there is a wrong kind of reaction to God’s presence also. The sinful heart can repent, but it can also recoil. When it recoils from God’s holiness, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, the fundamental motion that the soul is making is that of preferring to accuse God than to accuse self. If you have repented, if you have received John’s baptism, then what you do is justify God (Luke 7:29). If you have not, then you justify self, and accuse God.

So the law pierces, but it does not always pierce all the way through. When the law pierces partially, the response of the sinner is anger directed toward the one who wielded the spear — whether that is the preacher or the God who sent him. When the law pierces fully, the result is down to the ground self-accusation, which is repentance. When the law pierces partially, the result is an accusation directed at God. How could a loving God condemn anyone? This is said by the one who is rejecting and despising the love of God being extended to him at that very moment. “I know that He is offering me everlasting life right now, purchased by the blood of His Son, but I insist that He is not loving enough for me.” If this is not the spirit of irrational accusation, what is?

One of the ways we make our accusations against God stick is by pretending that in the Last Judgment, He will lose it and act like the devil. We assume the wrath of God is God flying off the handle. We want to pretend that the Day of Justice is actually the Day of Injustice, and that it will be the day when the Maker and Sustainer of all things loses, for some reason, all sense of proportion. But the Day of Justice is what it is precisely because everything will be perfectly proportioned. The Last Day will be nothing but justice.

So what must we sort out? In short, everyone who believes in the Final Judgment knows what God is going to do. But what we miss is how He will do it. His judgment will be holy and therefore the wrath will be holy wrath. It will not be a Day filled with vindictive and petty finger-pointing. God is not the devil. That will be the Day when all vindictive and petty finger-pointing will be thrown into the lake of fire, where it belongs (Matt. 25:41). Accusation will not only be accused on that Day, but it will also be condemned. But not only will condemnation fall on the Accuser, but also on all his angels. What are angels? They are messengers. Messengers of the devil are the delivery boys of accusation. Accusation, and all its messengers, will be thrown into everlasting fire, where they may blame everybody else to their heart’s content.

Accusation is holy law poured through the filter of a tiny and defiled soul. Justice is holy law, unfiltered. Love is holy law poured out on the only sinless man, broken on a tree. And why was He willing to be broken there? He did it so a world full of accusers could become a world full of former accusers.

So the fundamental accusation that is appropriate is directed against the spirit of accusation. But even here we must be careful, lest we not know what spirit we are of (Luke 9:55). “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 9). When Michael was fighting with the accuser, he was careful not be bring a railing accusation — lest he be sucked into that malicious vortex. He left that rebuke to God. We see the same thing elsewhere. Another time Satan, the accuser, was being resisted by the angel of the Lord, but without a return accusation (Zech. 3:2). The Lord rebuke you.

The reason the devil’s accusation have force with us is that because we have broken God’s law, we are indeed subject to death. He wields that threat of death very effectively. God gives law its potency, the law gives sin its strength, sin gives death its sting, and the devil tells lies with all of it. And as with all effective lies, there is truth in it. That’s why it works so well.

“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15).

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54b-57).

If you want out of the devil’s realm, you want out of the world of accusation. If you insist on remaining there, you will discover that those who live by the sword die by the sword. Those who feast on accusations will eventually be eaten by them. This won’t necessarily happen tomorrow.

You can run on for a long time.

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