Nazis were not nice people. In their quest for world domination, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party intentionally caused the deaths of well over 50 million people. We are not talking just about soldiers killing soldiers. The ultimate goal of Hitler’s “Final Solution” was to annihilate every Jew across the globe. The photo above is from the Ukraine in 1942. A woman is futilely trying to shield her child as Nazi soldiers take aim.
The severe danger of the Nazi aggression is why the U.S. government executed Herbert Hans Haupt for high treason on August 8, 1942. Although a U.S. citizen, Haupt conspired with the Nazi regime to sabotage military installations in the U.S. Had Haupt been successful as a traitor, the toll in human lives could have been significant. The United States government has always been far from perfect, but, in light of other human governments throughout the course of history, it stands a shining model. The comparison between Nazi Germany and the U.S. government at the time is almost as extreme as night and day.
What does all of this have to do with the God of the Old Testament? It is virtually impossible for us to understand God’s judgment without first grasping the nature of His rule. Every human government ever to exist was (is) colored by corruption when compared to the benevolent nature of God’s eternal kingdom. There simply has never been anything like it.
The government of God’s kingdom is defined by freedom but motivated by love. Those who wish to participate voluntarily seek the benefit of others, thereby producing a deeply rooted peace that no human effort can seem to duplicate. Since it is so profoundly good, it would only make sense for a loving God to tenaciously guard the integrity of such a government.
Some of us struggle to envision the beauty of God’s kingdom rule because our vision is corrupted by the pain, sin, and injustice of this world. Two acts of high treason, in particular, have led to a most unfavorable state.
In a somewhat cryptic scene from heaven, the prophets Isaiah (Isaiah 14:12-14) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 28:11-17) paint a picture of the day when Lucifer, the greatest of all angels recruited a third of the angels (Revelation 12:3-4) in an ill-fated attempt to overthrow the King of Glory.
Having failed miserably, Lucifer—in the form of a serpent—later ensnared Adam & Eve and, consequently, the entire human race. Although once created in His image, since that fateful day in the garden of Eden we have sought to recreate God according to our own desires. Some of us may hate to admit it, but within every human heart beats a desire to subject the Creator of the Universe to plans of human design. In failing to recognize our own short-sightedness, we rail against the most magnificent government ever to exist. How do we know all of this to be true? Look what the human race did to Jesus when He walked this earth! Not only did we reject His authority; we mercilessly nailed Him to a wooden cross. In totality, our rebellion was the ultimate act of betrayal.
All of this leaves us with two terrible problems. We are each guilty of high treason–of participating in rebellion against God’s benevolent rule. Each has, in his or her own way, contributed to the pain, suffering, and death of the human condition. A loving God—who so values all that is good—could never turn a blind eye to our rebellion. Worse still, our hearts are continually plagued with rebellious desires. Unless our human nature is somehow rewritten (so to speak), we will always be at war with the kingdom of heaven.
The reality of a loving God judging people makes little sense apart from an understanding of human rebellion. We’ll dig deeper into the story, but I find the idea of a malevolent God capriciously destroying innocent people to be thoroughly misguided.
Ironically, the judgment of God as displayed throughout the Old Testament wouldn’t much concern us if it were not for the sense of justice that remains in our hearts as a result of being created in His image. If not for God’s existence, why would any of us care about justice beyond ourselves? We’d be concerned only about the survival of the fittest–not right and wrong. We are bothered by injustice because God is bothered by injustice. I’ll show in future posts that God does indeed judge people for their actions, but the foundation of our understanding must be built upon the reality that God judges out of necessity rather than desire.