Salvation through judgment. This phrase sounds somewhat absurd when you think about it. We live in a culture that revolts against the idea of judgment. Our culture seems to think that the worst possible thing that could ever happen to them is that someone might judge them. And yet, I’m arguing that salvation comes through judgment? Yes. It does.
Jonah flees the presence of the Lord and finds himself in the midst of a ferocious storm while at sea. The pagan sailors aboard his storm-tossed ship are in great danger of experiencing the wrath of God, experiencing judgment. Don’t pity them though. They deserve the same judgment that Jonah deserves. They deserve death. As soon as the storm hits, these men begin praying to false gods (Jonah 1:5)! They are certainly not innocent. They are guilty of sin against the holy God, and they deserve to be lost at sea, as Jonah does.
Notice though, that as soon as they toss Jonah overboard, presumably to his death, the sea calms down. And for the moment, the pagan sailors are saved (Jonah 1:15). They are saved when Jonah is tossed to his death. They are saved when Jonah experiences God’s judgment. Salvation through judgment.
This is an early picture of the gospel of Christ. One man experiences judgment so that many might be saved (Romans 5:12-21). Remember Barabbas? A man who clearly deserved to die? Yet, he went free, while the innocent man died in his place. The innocent man, Jesus, received the judgment of God that the guilty man might be saved. You and I can only identify with Barabbas in the gospel story. We are the guilty man that is saved because of the judgment upon Jesus.
Pay attention here. Please notice, and contrast this with, the notion of salvation without judgment. God does not save people by simply ignoring their sin. Often times Christians think of forgiveness as God just simply forgetting about their sin, overlooking their sin, or maybe just ignoring their sin. Maybe like a parent saying to a guilty child, “It’s okay. Just don’t do it again.” The problem with this is, it’s not okay. Even on the very first sin, eating the forbidden fruit, God did not excuse it, overlook look it, or ignore it. Rather, he judged it. He banished Adam and Eve from the garden because of their sin, he banished them from the tree of life, to die. He judged their sin.
This is the same thing that happens at the Passover, in Exodus 12. The Israelites are spared the judgment of death upon the firstborn of their homes only because they have applied the blood of the lamb upon the doorposts of their homes. The blood signifies that judgment has already occurred there. Read more about the Passover here.
God does not and will not ignore your sin. He will not simply forgive and forget, hoping you won’t do it again. God will judge every single sin. Either you trust that the judgment Christ received is sufficient, that Christ sufficiently absorbed your judgment, in your place; or you experience judgment for eternity. Those are the options. Trust that you are saved through judgment. Trust Jesus today.