Attempted & Hardly Thwarted Events of Total Annihilation
The Doctrine of Collective Judgment Refuted
Heretofore we have weighed this matter from one of two necessary angles. Firstly, we have looked at actual events where total annihilation was taking place among Israelite and non-Israelite peoples. From that angle, we have seen the just due process (moral protocol) by which God judges each individual person. Secondarily, we need to look at the attempted and hardly thwarted events of total annihilation which took place among the Israelites.
Actual Events Where Total Annihilation Transpired (Israelite and Non-Israelite)
Attempted & Hardly Thwarted Events of Total Annihilation (Israelite)
In the cases of attempted and hardly thwarted events of total annihilation taking place among Israelites, it appears that Israel was collectively judged unto death on account of one man’s sins. However, when the doctrine of Sovereign Mercy is properly understood in these circumstances of hardly thwarted annihilation, the controversy dissolves. By Sovereign Mercy, I mean, the fact that Israel did collectively and individually deserved to suffer a total annihilation despite the occasions provided by the various instances of wrath breaking forth on account of one man’s sins. We must not slander God’s attempts to totally annihilate His people by assuming that the desires of His heart lack the justice and due process demonstrated in the former examples of actual total annihilation. The attempted and actual events of total annihilation abide by the same rules of moral protocol.
Vindicating the Scriptural Emphasis of One Man’s Sins
one guilty man providing an occasion of judgment for other guilty men
Take, for example, when David cried out to God in humble objection to an annihilating plague that was taking place in his day, saying, “Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done?” (2 Sam. 24:17). My reader, this was after God had slain 70,000 men of Israel dead and David was left alive and untouched. David was under the impression that he, and he alone, was guilty of the sin for which God was angry, thus he beckoned the judgement of God to come upon himself, saying, “Let Thine hand, I pray Thee, be against me, and against my father’s house” (2 Sam. 24:17). Was David’s objection righteous?
It would appear so at first glance. However, diligent study proves that David’s sin was an occasion through which God channeled pent-up wrath against the sin of the people of Israel. Clarification of this was provided in 2 Samuel 24:1, the inspired writer narrating, “And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.” David’s sin was an occasion through which God judged each and every guilty individual of Israel and Judah. In other words, the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel corporately because of unjudged and unpurged individuals who were presumptuously sinning (Num. 15:30-31). Or, in other words, there were many roots of bitterness that had sprung up and defiled multitudes of people… and God would suffer it no longer (Deut. 29:18-21, Heb. 12:15). Do you believe it? “Every plant, which My Heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:13)! Why else do you think 70,000 men were slaughtered in the occasion of David’s sin, my reader? Take, for example, when the Levite blade was commissioned to slaughter men who were a defilement to the Church in the Wilderness (Acts 7:38) – the impenitent idolaters were targeted by the LORD in this fashion: the Levites were commanded by God, “go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor” (Ex. 32:27). In this manner the collective was searched and the guilty individuals were slain, right? Yes, of course. Should we imagine that the angel’s blade is less specific?
“And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched over Jerusalem.” – 1 Chron. 21:16
Hereby, through the angel’s sword, “the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men” (1 Chron. 21:14). My reader, do you think that the angel carelessly and randomly struck people with his sword? The angels with slaughtering weapons in Ezekiel’s vision wouldn’t dare slay a righteous man even among the population of Evil Figs in the condemned City of Jerusalem (Ezek. 9:1-11)! The Almighty commanded the angels: “come not near any man upon whom is the mark” (Ezek. 9:6)! Behold, the precision! The exactitude! The slaughtering weapons of angels came not near any righteous man in the woeful City! Even so, did not the LORD say, in another place, “Yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth” (Amos 9:9-10)? And in another place, it was written, “He will throughly purge His floor and gather the wheat into His Garner” (Luke 3:17)! Exactly. Therefore, likewise, in David’s situation, the sword of the angel was finding sinners out (Num. 32:23)! The slaughtering of 70,000 men was not only less than what Israel deserved, but it was on Israel’s behalf! Justly so, there needed to be person-specific purging of guilty individuals so that, as it was written, “all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously” (Deut. 17:13). Even so, comprehensibly, no matter the plague in operation throughout Biblical Church History, the moral protocol is the same. If any man survived the plague of Baal-peor, recorded in Numbers 25:1-9 (wherein 24,000 Israelites died), or if any man survived the plague occasioned through David’s numbering of the people, recorded in 2 Samuel 24:1-25 (wherein 70,000 Israelites died), the identity of the survivors according to moral protocol will always be, as it was written: “But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day” (Deut. 4:3-4). My reader, think of it! No plague would have come nigh the dwelling of those individuals who were abiding under the shadow of the Almighty! For, it was written,
“Thou shalt not be afraid…for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come night thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.” – Psalm 91:5-10
Amidst the seeming ungovernable chaos of a roaming pestilence and wasting destruction, lo, and behold: GOD IS MAJESTICALLY SOVEREIGN! It was “the angel that destroyed the people” (2 Sam. 24:16), wielding a plague, hence the plague was sovereignly dispensed to each and every guilty man in Israel. “Behold and see the reward of the wicked” (Ps. 91:8)! The angel of the LORD did not unjustly strike a righteous man in Israel, contradicting God’s word! Rather, he rewarded the wicked - individual by individual - in accordance with moral protocol. The judgment of God functioned according to what was written, “For the upright shall dwell in the Land, and the perfect shall remain in it. But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it” (Prov. 2:21-22; for more information, see: Chapter #16 of the Church Realized).
This fearful judgment against Israel, occasioned by David’s sin (one man’s sin), was but one of many like-situations which need to be considered comprehensively to understand the doctrine of Sovereign Mercy. In David’s situation, the annihilation was in progress and came nowhere near a total annihilation, but in other instances the LORD clearly demonstrated His righteous willingness to totally annihilate His people; and, seeing that only those who were guilty of capital wickedness became the objects of God’s fury unto annihilation and death, all the people of Israel must have been thus reckoned by God in these various instances, with none exempted, as it is with every instance of attempted total annihilation! Such a proposal may be frustrating to you, dear reader, or even heretical, erroneously so called, but it is dogmatically proven in scripture as objective truth essential to understanding the doctrine of Sovereign Mercy.
In fact, there were six different out-breaks of total annihilation that took place among the people of Israel in the Exodus Generation. In four of these six occasions the inspired text explicitly states God’s objective to totally annihilate His people (Ex. 32:10, Num. 14:11-12, 16:21-22, 16:45). Also, because the other two occasions of wrath are encased in the same situational context, it is clear that they too were out-breaks of totally annihilating wrath thwarted from their course by Moses’ intercession via prayer and judgment (Num. 11:1-3, 11:33-35). This is why scripture affirms that Israel would have been destroyed, namely by totally annihilating wrath, had not Moses stood in the gap via intercession (“Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.” – Ps. 106:23). Focusing on this thread of events throughout Biblical Church History, events which I call The Near Annihilation of God’s People, Moses’ intercession amidst the scarcity of salvation is central - Exodus 32:10-14, Ex. 33:11-34:9, Deut. 9:6-29 (Ex. 17:8-16); Psalm 106:23 (Num. 11:1-3, 33-35, 12:13); Numbers 14:11-21; Num. 16:21-22; Num. 16:45-50. Amidst annihilating wrath the bewildered people were made to reckon with the harm which comes from the sins of one or more Israelites, and occasioned thereby, the judgment of others whom God could no longer endure because of their individual guilt before Him, and as for those who were justly doomed to annihilation and scarcely escaped it, they reckoned the fate of their comrades to be their just desert and humbly adored God for Sovereign Mercy as they repented of all known sin! Notably, the recipients of Sovereign Mercy did not continue in the wickedness that merited annihilation as their just desert. Being exercised by God’s judgment of the Church, the scarcely saved individuals were brought to repentance (1 Pet. 4:17-18)!
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the House of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” – 1 Pet. 4:17-18
Do you see the divine remedy, my reader? Do you see the working of elect-redemption through a scarce escape of annihilating judgments upon the Church (1 Pet. 4:17-18, 1 Cor. 11:31-32)? Judgment begins at the Church so that an elect remnant, scarcely escaping, would be wrought upon unto salvation through it! Very literally, scripture means what it says. Even so, in an outbreak of totally annihilating wrath (before God repented of His just intention to totally annihilate) the totally guilty multitude experienced a progressive manslaughter without remission… however, as the divinely selected targets amidst the guilty multitude were being slain and the bodies were enumerating, the scarcely escaping survivors were chastened therewith unto repentance. They, of like-guiltiness as their fallen comrades, repented amidst the annihilation so that at last, when Sovereign Mercy was undeservedly shown, the spared individuals were those who clave unto God at last and were thereby loosed from the guilt of their former backslidings. These in-the-moment repentances unto life were carefully referenced by God in context of the annihilating plagues that were destined to totally wipe out the Evil Figs in the Land of Judah, confirming the moral protocol. “The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth” (Ezek. 33:12). As you can see, in the very day of tribulation amidst the annihilating plague, therein did backslidden Church Members (righteous men who were in “the day of [their] transgression[s]”) turn to God at last and in so doing they lived! This is certainly what is meant by Moses, when he said: “But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day” (Deut. 4:4)!
Moses referenced the annihilating wrath of God at the event of Baalpeor in Deut. 4:3, confirming that God aimed to and successfully slew all wicked and impenitent persons who would not cease from following Baalpeor (“the LORD thy God hath destoyed them from among you” – Deut. 4:3). Only the righteous remained alive universally and consistently according to God’s promises of old (Deut. 28:45-47, Num. 15:30-31) and God’s promises anew in the Tribulation Period (Ezek. 3:17-21, 18:1-32, 33:1-20, Jer. 18:7-11). “But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live” (Ezek. 18:21-22). Hence, as the wrath of God slew impenitent righteous persons in the days of their transgression (their backslidings into wickedness), those who survived it were the selfsame people who were not condemned by it because of their newly obtained or longstanding repentance from sin and faith toward God. Therefore, when the LORD said, “Vengeance belongeth unto Me, I will recompense”, in the same context as the saying, “The Lord shall judge His people”, He was describing the annihilating wrath that comes upon “them who draw back unto perdition” (Heb. 10:30, 39). Remember, only those with whom God was not well-pleased perished in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:5-6): the lustful (1 Cor. 10:6), the idolaters (1 Cor. 10:7), the fornicators (1 Cor. 10:8), the tempters (1 Cor. 10:9), the murmurers (1 Cor. 10:10), and such like men. Thus, watching men die proved to be an effectual chastisement upon backsliders to bring them to repentance.
The chastening of the Captivities is a more intensified expression of what formerly happened to the Exodus Generation, when nearly all of that generation died in reprobating wrath. In the Exodus Generation and the Captivities, all that “did cleave unto the LORD” were enabled to remain alive (Deut. 4:4). Those that did remain alive were, primarily, the children of the Exodus Generation, and they were instructed as to what their eyes had seen - that it was, namely, “the chastisement of the LORD your God”. They saw, Moses said, “the chastisement of the LORD your God, His greatness, His mighty hand, and His stretched out arm…and what He did unto you in the wilderness, until ye came into this place; and what He did unto Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and the son of Reuben: how the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and their tents, and all the substance that was in their possessions, in the midst of all Israel:…your eyes have seen all the great acts of the LORD which He did” (Deut. 11:1-7), and this example is pointedly applied to the NT children of God with a fearful warning: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: that are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:11-12). With this in mind, do you think Paul was defining biblical chastening, as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11:31-32, with a different understanding than the previous chapter’s awful annals (recounted in 1 Corinthians 10:1-12, stemming from what Deut. 11:2 called “chastisement”). It is understandable, then, why Paul declared chastening to be a means for redemption, and it is – just that – for those who survive it, but it is condemnation for those who die in it. “When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die (Ezek. 18:26-28). While watching men die, being chastened therewith, let us avoid dying like unto their example! See, those Christian Corinthians who were in damnable sin (“damnation” – 1 Cor. 11:29) died in their iniquities (hence, the people came “together unto condemnation” – 1 Cor. 11:34), while those people who were alive unto that day were being chastened so that they should not be condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:31-32). While watching men fall, being chastened therewith, let us take heed lest we fall and so become like unto them! [For more information, see: “How is Repentance Wrought in Regenerate Children of God?”.]
Therefore, let it be duly noted and emphatically defended that, in the situations of attempted and hardly thwarted acts of total annihilation among Israel (the Church), the recipients of Sovereign Mercy did not continue in the wickedness that merited annihilation as their just desert. Being exercised by God’s judgment of the Church, the scarcely saved individuals were brought to repentance through it (1 Pet. 4:17-18, 1 Cor. 11:31-32)! With all scripture taken into proper consideration, this is the conclusion of the matter. There are passages which would seem to teach and even emphasize otherwise, but when the Prophets gave commentary to the events which took place in these questionable instances, I say again, Sovereign Mercy is realized. For example, on several different occasions, emphasizing what appears to be collective judgment irrespective of each person’s individual status of innocence or guilt before God, the following exclamatory statements were made and correlating events were narrated:
“…shall one man sin, and wilt Thou be wroth with all the congregation?" – Numbers 16:22
“Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish…shall we be consumed with dying” – Numbers 17:13
“…and it will be, seeing ye rebel to day against the LORD, that to morrow He will be wroth with the whole congregation of Israel.” – Josh. 22:16-20
“…behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought until his brethren a Midianitish woman… And… Phinehas… went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through…” – Num. 25:1-13
“And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? The LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones” – Joshua 7:25
Emphatic guilt was indeed placed upon the man (or men) who immediately provoked the out-break of wrath! Nevertheless, with all scripture considered, we know that this seemingly collective judgment was individually specific and precise like in the instance of David numbering the people (2 Sam. 24:17, 2 Sam. 24:1). The Lord had an account to settle with others in Israel besides the “one man” who is foremost in view. The others who perished with the “one man” were not miscellaneous casualties. For, no one would ever suffer the death penalty at random! Therefore, dogmatically, justice begged for a total annihilation of Israel time and time again throughout the pages of Biblical Church History (Ex. 32:10, Num. 14:11-12, 16:21-22, 16:45, Ezek. 20:1-44). These details are essential to understanding both The Near Annihilation of God’s People and Sovereign Mercy, and here, in Ezekiel 18:2 & Jeremiah 31:29-30, they prove essential to understanding the erroneous manmade proverb in comparison to the truth of God’s righteous judgment that is on the contrary. Furthermore, in Ezekiel 20:1-44, the LORD would soon make a full address of this most glorious doctrine, Sovereign Mercy, by rehearsing the almost happenings of total annihilation suffered by Israel so as to convince them of their wickedness in that they justly deserved it, and do deserve it, even though grace prevented it.
This is no new argument, my reader. Far from it! As you may have observed already in your own studies of the Bible, my reader, the LORD had been notating the perversity of the Israelite people’s proneness to rebellion throughout redemptive history by saying such statements like those found in Deuteronomy 9:7-12, 9:24, 31:27, 1 Samuel 8:7-8, Jeremiah 7:25-26, 22:21, 32:30-31, & Ezra 9:7. To prove that these passages reference the frequency of rebellious instances (such that truly converted people commit during repeated backslidings) rather than a continuous state of rebellion (such that unconverted people commit without intermission), one must be fully acquainted with the condition of the Israelite People, the Church, in the stages of redemption from the Wilderness unto the Civilization and onward. Furthermore, one must understand the powers that are employed by God to make such sweeping denouncements (denouncements that are intentionally regardless of the people’s genuine conversion and real righteousness). Through memory-omitting powers God is able to forget the righteousness of backsliders and accuse them as if it was altogether nonexistent and unworthy to be mentioned (“his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered” – Ezek. 3:20; “all his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned” – Ezek. 18:24). Hence, in the aforementioned passages of controversy, the scripture rightly accused the people by declaring that they had been “rebellious against the LORD from the day that [Moses] knew [them]” (Deut. 9:7-12, 24); that “all the works which they had done since the day that [God] brought them up out of Egypt even unto [Samuel’s day]”, the people had forsaken God and committed idolatry (1 Sam. 8:7-8); that the people had “only done evil before [God] from their youth” and “only provoked [God] to anger with the work of their hands” unto Jeremiah’s day (Jer. 32:30-31). Upon revisiting the controverted passages (Deuteronomy 9:7-12, 9:24, 31:27, 1 Samuel 8:7-8, Jeremiah 7:25-26, 22:21, 32:30-31, & Ezra 9:7) with God’s memory-omitting powers in mind, the actual meaning is both apparent and perfectly united with the real situation – the provocative situation of sinning saints resulting in a scarcity of salvation amidst God’s judgment upon the Church – hence, the totality of Biblical Church History surveys the Near Annihilation of God’s People and, meanwhile, the triumphant and undeserved administration of Sovereign Mercy! “For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Rom. 9:15-16).