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The Divine Avenger

by David A. DePra

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto
wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
     It is amazing how many scriptures we read wrongly. I don't
mean that we read the wrong words, or that the translation is
wrong (even though sometimes it is) -- but I mean we read a
verse or passage from a wrong point of view. We read it from the
perspective of our bias, or from that of our self-will. Or from that
of our hurt. We translate it emotionally and end up receiving the
words in an entirely wrong spirit.
     Such is often the case with Romans 12:19. It sure sounds like
God is promising us that He will punish our enemies for us. It
sounds as if there will come a day of reckoning when people are
going to be sorry for all they have done to us. All we have to do is
put aside our wrath, and wait for the day when God will pour out
His wrath upon the unjust -- especially the unjust who have hurt
     Gladly, however, this scripture isn't saying that at all. It is, in
fact, of an entirely other spirit. A quick check of the Greek word
which is translated "avenge" tells us this. The words means, "to
work that which is right." So God is really saying, "Don't YOU try
to set things right. You can't fix sin. Instead, give it into My hands.
Vengence, the working of what is right, is MINE. I will see to it that
whatever is right comes to pass -- in My time and in My way."
     Notice the big difference in this interpretation, and the
traditional way of reading the verse. Instead of a promise from
God that He will PUNISH people for the wrong they have done, He
is saying that He will "work what is right" in their lives, and in any
situation. This carries the thought of a God who is no respector of
persons, and who is not on anyone's side. He simply promises to
"work what is right," He promises to JUDGE with perfect justice.
     The point is this: God WILL work what is right. But not
necessarily "right" according to US. He will "work what is right"
according to HIM. Our forgiveness of others is simply our
acknowledgement that WE are not the judge of that. He is. We
must step aside and allow God to decide what is right and just
regarding another person.

That Which is Right

     If God promises to "work that which is right," it doesn't mean
that those upon whom He "works that which is right" are going to
LIKE it. In fact, what is right, for them, may be quite unpleasant.
Yet because God loves them, He must chastise them.
     The Bible shows God to be our Father. And it says that He
will CHASTISE us. Now the word "chastise" is much different than
the word "punish." And we need to see the difference.
     If we were to go through the Bible and pull out every verse
which contains the English word "punish," and then look up the
word in the original language, we might be surprised. In almost
every case, the words carry the sense of "chastisement" -- never
revenge or punitive punishment. The most often used words in
both Hebrew and Greek speak of God intervening for the the
purpose of BETTERING the one He is "punishing" or "chastising."
God is a Redemptive God. He always seeks to restore and help.
     Thus, we see the difference between "punish" and "chastise."
To "punish" means to punitively inflict pain. It means to pay back
someone out of the motive of bitterness and revenge. There is no
thought at all of bettering the one you are punishing. But "chastise"
is much different. It always carries the idea of betterment. It is for
the good of the one being chastised. The motive behind it is love.
     God promises us He will chastise us -- because He loves us.
But God NEVER punishes us as defined above. There is never
any motive of revenge or of "getting back" at someone with God.
ALL that God does is redemptive in nature. All of it is. That's
because God is love.
      The idea of God "chastising" us is, of course, in harmony with
His role as our Heavenly Father. Indeed, He tells us this outright in
the epistle to the Hebrews.
My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint
when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he
chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye
endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what
son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without
chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and
not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which
corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much
rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they
verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he
for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no
chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous:
nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of
righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
     This verse, of course, is speaking of God's dealing with those
who are in Christ. But there is also an overall application to the
entirety of humankind. God is our Father, and He always works
redemptively. He chastises for the purpose of bettering the one
whom He is chastising. There is never vindictiveness with God.
     God is the Avenger. He "works that which is right." In the end,
He is going to "work that which is right" -- His will -- in all things. No
exceptions. God WILL judge all things -- all of us -- in Jesus Christ.

The Wrath of God

     Once we understand God's motives in chastising us, and what
God really means when He says, "Vengence is Mine," then the real
meaning of the "wrath of God" becomes clear. God's "wrath" is His
"working that which is right" upon those who oppose Him.
     This fits perfectly into God as our Heavenly Father. There are
times in the life of every child when they perceive the actions of
their parent as "wrath," when it is actually love. How many of us
can recall times when we thought our parents were just plain
mean to us, only to later discover that they were "working that
which is right?" Sure. If I am in rebellion against God, and God
comes into my life for the purpose of "working that which is right,"
I'm going to perceive Him as "mean." I'm going to consider His
intention of "bettering me" as "wrath" -- because His intervention
will usually result in consequences I don't like.
We see this in Romans:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in
unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is
manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them....Because
that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither
were thankful. (Romans 1:18-19)
     Here we see HOW to view God as wrathful: Be ungodly and
unrighteous. Refuse to submit to Him AS God. Then, Paul says,
the "wrath of God is revealed from heaven." You will see God as
an enemy; as someone who opposes you on every front.
     This is basic self-will. By definition, the chastisement of God is
going to clash with my will. And when it does, to me, God's
chastisement will be as "wrath." I'll think of it as "punishment," or
as God being "mean" to me. In reality, however, God is "working
what is right." He is loving me and trying to bring me back to
     The fact is, WE are wrong. WE are rebellious. WE need help.
So when God "works what is right" in our lives, and we persist in
our wrong, we will perceive God's love as wrath. We will see Him
as an enemy. To us, He'll be the a very negative Divine Avenger.
     There will come a day in eternity, if we will yield to God by faith,
when we are going to see that He was perfectly right and just in all
that He did and all He allowed. Indeed, we will fall down in utter
worship, marvelling at how we doubted Him. God knows exactly
what He is doing. He is, right now, "working that which is right" in
each one of our lives. He is the Divine Avenger -- FOR us; unto
our redemption.

The Judgment of God for Sin

     The Bible makes it perfectly clear that God is going to judge
humankind for sin. But what does that mean? Does it mean that
God is going to "punish" us for sin? Or does God intend to judge us
in the sense of "avenging" for sin -- that is -- "working that which is
right" regarding sin? And what IS that "right?"
     As incredible as it may seem, God never punishes for sin. Not
in the sense of punitive punishment, revenge, or in rage and anger.
But once we say that, we must then explain why redemption is
necessary? Afterall, didn't Adam die because God punished him
for sin? And didn't Jesus Christ bear that punishment for us?
     The Truth is, death is not God's "punishment" for sin. Death is
the wage sin earns. And there is a big difference between the two.
God did not put Adam to death because he sinned. Rather, Adam
died as the consequence of his sin.
     What this means is that sin kills. Not God. But the fact that sin
kills, and not God, does not mean that God is divorced from the
consequences of sin. It does not mean that God is merely a
by-stander to sin, and a by-stander to the death which follows.
     No. Indeed, sin kills BECAUSE it is against God. Death is the
judgment of God which sin carries. It is immediate and automatic.
God does not have to come down and put to death the sinner. The
wages of sin is death. Every time and all the time. And it's because
sin is against God.
     God created man to be completely dependent upon Him. In
God only does man have life. But Adam chose to reject God. He
was therefore rejecting his only source of life. It was impossible that
anything but death could be the consequence.
     Now notice something. If death was the result of Adam's sin, then
God didn't have to come down and "add" the "punishment" of death.
God didn't have to come down and take Adam's life. No. Adam
died because he sinned against God. This was judgment.
     This is easily proven. Imagine if death WAS a punishment which
God "added" to Adam. That would mean that sin itself does not
result in death. Not until God "adds" it. And if that is the case, then
sin isn't all that bad. There is nothing morally deadly in it. God
must introduce death to us if we are to die for our sin.
     This is error. The Truth is, sin results in death because sin is
against God. Death IS the judgment, or divine consequence
which rejecting God carries. It is, in fact, a judgment built into the
very fabric of our being. We were made for God. So if we sin and
reject Him, death is the consequence. THAT is judgment. It must
be so if God is God.

Jesus Christ

     Now we come to Christ. Some teaching suggests that on the
Cross Jesus bore our punishment at the hand of God. But this is
also error. In Truth, Jesus bore our SIN. And because He bore our
sin, He also bore God's judgment for sin: Death.
     What this means is that our sin, and not God, killed Jesus Christ.
It means that because Jesus Christ bore the fullness of sin for us,
that He likewise bore the fullness of God's judgment for sin: Death.
This satisfied God's justice, and His judgment upon the sinner.
But this is a universe apart from the notion that Jesus bore our
"punishment." God did not pour out His angry wrath upon Jesus
Christ. No. In fact, in Christ, God was AVENGING Himself. He was
"working that which is right" for all eternity.
     Do we realize that in Jesus Christ God cancelled all debts for all
eternity? Do we realize that there is no sin, no matter how deep
or continuous, that Jesus did not bear? And that's because Jesus
bore the fullness of God's judgment of death, that there is no
judgment left for us to bear? We can live in newness of life.
     God is indeed the Divine Avenger. He has "worked that which
is right" through His Son. And He continues to "work that which is
right" through Jesus in our hearts and lives today.

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