God told Israel exactly what would happen if they broke their covenant with him. Deuteronomy 28:15-68 lays down curse-after-curse in detail. But now that the covenant made with Israel has ended (Heb 7:12; 8:13) and Christ has inaugurated the new covenant in his blood (Luke 22:20), what does judgment look like today?
How would God judge the nation of Canada? What might that look like?
I suppose most of us might think of the decline of our military, economic, and social structures. Perhaps we might also think of a more direct form of judgment like an earthquake or a famine or a pandemic. These aspects of the curse certainly are the result of sin and the curse, but we must be careful not to over-interpret God’s Providence.
How would God judge the nation of Canada? What might that look like?
The Mongolian Empire lasted for over a hundred years, and yet most would say its wars of aggression did not have virtuous purpose. Did God bless them? Were other nations cursed through them as God used them as a hammer to strike these nations with the wrath of God? I suspect the more insight we have into a particular time and era, the more confidence we may have in making such a judgment. Yet for me, God’s good providence often seems inscrutable yet always there and wise.
To answer the question of what God’s judgment on Canada might look like, we need to turn to the first chapter of Romans. There, Paul outlines a generalized pattern of God’s punishment of the nations, which provides a general yet sufficient answer to the question.
In short, God’s wrath against a nation is giving them up to their own sinful desires without restraining their sin. The increasing pleasure and desire for sin without God’s restraining grace is punishment, a hell of existence without grace, and a precursor to the judgment to come (Rom 2:5).
As the great fourth century preacher Chyrsostom (AD 347–407) said, “Even if hell did not exist, even if no further punishment were threatened, to live as they do would be worse than any punishment.”
God’s Wrath is Justified
Romans 1:18-32 begins by affirming and vindicating God’s wrath against unrighteous people: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18).
God’s wrath justly falls upon people because “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:19-20).
Since all people can know God’s invisible attributes, including his “eternal power and divine nature … in the things that have been made,” they are “without excuse” (Rom 1:20). Had they been unable to know God by creation, that is, by nature, then they would be with excuse. Since they are without excuse, natural theology or a natural knowledge of God is not only possible but required for God’s wrath to be just.
After affirming and vindicating God’s wrath against the unrighteous, Paul then explains how God’s wrath “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom 1:18).
God’s Wrath is Giving them up
“For although they knew God,” Paul argued, “they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him” (Rom 1:21). As a consequence, Paul repeats three times that God gave them up to their own desires (Rom 1:24, 26, 28).
First, Paul says people people rejected God and so “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Rom 1:24-25).
If they deny God, exchanging him for idols, then God draws back his preserving grace. The Lord’s common grace prevents evil and sustains the moral fabric of life. That grace disappears. “God gave them up,” Paul says. Without this grace, “they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom 1:21). Augustine (AD 354–430) explains, “That darkening was itself a retribution and punishment.” This withdrawal of wisdom meant they “fell into more and greater sins.”
Paul continues, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom 1:26-27).
Ambrosiaster (4th ce.) comments, “Well, then, they were handed over to impurity, to afflict their own bodies through mutual abuse.” God hands them over to self-destruction, destruction that they themselves choose: “In that way, they brought forth in action what they had conceived in desire—for such people are incapable of good thoughts.”
And the ridiculousness of rational humans worshiping and serving “the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25) leads Ambrosiaster to say: “Such worship adds to their punishment.” Humans worshiping birds and creeping things is a self-own, a mockery of reason (Rom 1:23). That shame is their punishment. Humans exchanged God’s truth for lies, worshiping creatures. Origen (AD 185–253) bluntly says, “rational human beings began to live like irrational beasts.”
While earlier God gave them up to lusts of their hearts, here Paul spells out the larger societal implications of sin. Here, unnatural sexual relationships are the punishment, since these represent God giving people up. This giving up is “in themselves the due penalty for their error,” since being given over to unnatural relations, insatiable passion, and shameless acts are punishment.
Chrysostom writes, “pleasure itself was its own punishment.” The pleasure of sin and unnatural relations are punishment. And in this pleasure, “they harm themselves.”
God’s Wrath in Giving them up Brings About Self-destruction
Watch any crime movie or listen to any true crime story. Crime pays for a short time, but it leads to self-destruction. Sin destroys. It ruins relationships. It makes us fear everyone. It twists and turns us, wrecking us. We are not made for evil. It is unnatural and deprives us of our very being.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Rom 1:28-32)
Again, God gave them up to a “debased mind.” The consequence is malice and envy and murder.
The consequence is the hell of existence apart from common grace. Augustine explains, “Pay attention: each time God takes revenge, the vengeance itself gives birth to further sins.” The vengeance occurs when God gives people up darkness or unnatural passions. That leads to greater sin. And greater sin leads to greater suffering. Nobody can sin and be happy.
Nobody can sin and be happy.
Sin destroys the conscience, making one feel increasingly guilty over their lives but unable to do anything about it: “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
The billions of dollars spent on the health and self-improvement industry shows that everyone wants to change. They can’t. They are unable. They know the way they live is wrong. They suffer internally. They love it externally. Their desire and passion rules them. There is no self-control. There is no hope.
It is the twisting of the guts, that inward pain of being unable to do what one ought. Some for a time can sear their conscience. But whether now or later, the judge of all the earth will make things clear and put all things to rights. God “will render to each one according to his works” (Rom 2:6).
In three verses that sum up the problem, Paul explains:
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Rom 2:14–16)
Gentiles, the nations, have a law imprinted upon them by nature, so that they can discern right from wrong. Our conscience then stands between us and God, in a sense, to excuse or accuse us. And ultimately whether we follow our conscience or not, “God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”
So what Would God’s Judgment on Canada look like?
In the first chapter of Romans, Paul does not argue that society moves in a sequence from sin to sin or that some sins are worse than others. Rather, he shows the effects of God giving people up. Living without God’s preserving and common grace is a hell, a place of self-destruction with no hope for restraint.
It is the death of goodness, and the deprivation of all that is natural and thus good (1 Tim 4:4). We make ourselves unnatural through passion, like a virus unto ourselves, eating away at our health.
Paul argues that God’s judgment is handing people over to do as they will and desire, since evil begets suffering. We choose it. God lets us implode. He shows us life without his grace.
Canada may have economic and physical security for a hundred years, a golden age of material prosperity. This prosperity, however, may simply give us room to exploit and dehumanize ourselves.
God can unleash his judgment against us despite our relative prosperity. In fact, prosperity and physical safety would not help us. It would only prolong our ability to destroy ourselves physically and spiritually. We do it to ourselves. And this is God’s judgment against the nations according to the first chapter of Romans.