Bildad’s Overly-Simplistic View

One view held by many churchgoers, “Christianised” non-churchgoers and members of non-Christian religions is that God operates solely by a system of totally deserved rewards and punishments. This theory teaches that people who suffer poverty, sickness and other earthly sufferings are obtaining the immediate full measure of the punishments they totally deserve. This viewpoint suggests that those who are enjoying earthly prosperity, health and lack of other earthly sufferings are experiencing the immediate fulfilment of the rewards they fully deserve.

The Old and New Testaments do contain much teaching on:

 

         what are the many rewards that a perfectly sinless person would fully deserve.

         what are the punishments any person who even sins only once totally deserves. These punishments are immediate physical death and eternal separation from God or spiritual death. Note all humans have Adam’s sin debited to their account. So this makes them deserving of immediate physical and spiritual death also.

 

 

Because of God’s love, grace, mercy, patience and longsuffering, no human immediately experiences these two fully deserved punishments. No human foetus or little baby who dies at an early age goes to hell. Older humans are given the opportunity of being saved and regenerated with eternal life through Jesus Christ. If they are saved and regenerated, they will not spend eternity in hell in a state of spiritual death.

Also, because no human except Jesus Christ has perfectly fulfilled the Law of Moses and perfectly loved God and others every moment of every day and never sinned (see Matthew 5:17, Romans 3:9-20, 7:7-13 and Hebrews 4:15), no one except Him fully deserves to be given earthly prosperity, health and other rewards from God. Therefore, the only rewards sinning humans receive in this earthly life are those which are undergirded or underpinned by God’s grace and which they only deserve to a very small degree. [1]

Deuteronomy 30:1-10 are verses in the Mosaic Law which promise that on the basis of an undergirding of His grace and compassion, God will give the reward of earthly prosperity to those Israelites under the Mosaic Covenant who:

 

         return from their sins to Him (see verses 2 and 10)

         and then begin to obey all the Mosaic commandments and statutes.

 

The Book of Judges contains many instances of God prospering the people of Israel with peace, victory over the enemies and other earthly rewards after they returned from their sins to Him and began to obey His commands and statutes found in the Mosaic Law (see Judges 3:7-8:28 and 11:1-33). For example, Judges 3:7-11 records: “So the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God, and served the Baals and Asherahs. Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the children of Israel served Cushan-Rishathaim eight years. When the children of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the children of Israel, who delivered them: Othniel the son of Kenez, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the Lord delivered Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed over Cushan-Rishathaim. So the land had rest for forty years…”

The type of earthly prosperity mentioned in Deuteronomy 30:1-10, Judges 3:7-8:28 and 11:1-33 was only possible because Jesus’ then-future death removed the guilt of the sinful Israelites and took the punishment of death they fully deserved. Jesus’ death therefore freed repentant Mosaic Covenant believers from the curse of the Law (see Galatians 3:13). The curse of the Law is death. 1 Peter 1:18-20 and Revelation 13:8 reveal Jesus’ death was eternally preplanned by God.

 

Bildad’s oversimplistic view of rewards, punishments and prosperity

 

In the Book of Job, one of Job’s so-called “comforters” named Bildad presented an overly simplistic view of rewards, punishments and prosperity from God. In Job 8:6, Bildad said: “If you were pure and upright, surely now He would awake for you, and prosper your rightful dwelling place.”

In Job Chapter 18, Bildad argued that the outward evidence a person was wicked was all the earthly sufferings seen in their lives. He believed the fact Job lost his prosperity, Job’s children died young and Job was sick was proof Job was more wicked than those who were not experiencing these things. In Job 18:12-13, Bildad taught that wicked people will be continually sick. In Job 8:4, he insisted Job’s sons died because of their sins. Bildad thought Job and his sons’ sufferings were all punishments from God.

Bildad saw little or no place for God’s grace, mercy, love, longsuffering and patience. His view of God’s justice was that God rewards the righteous immediately and punishes the wicked immediately. He believed there were no exceptions to these two generalised rules.

Note in Job 42:7, God revealed He was angry with Bildad and his two friends about what they had said earlier in relation to Him.

In Job 8:8, Bildad related his simplistic views to what he had been taught “by their fathers”. He was referring to the religious traditions of his forefathers. These religious traditions were false just as the later traditions of the forefathers of the Jews living in Christ’s time.

 

Old Testament exceptions to Bildad’s theory

 

The below are examples of people living in the Old Testament times who were not under the Mosaic Covenant, but who prospered despite their wickedness:

         The prophet Balaam prospered greatly for a period of time because he was willing to give wicked advice to the Moabite King Balak in order to obtain great wealth (see 2 Peter 2:15, Jude 11, Revelation 2:14 and Numbers 31:15-16).

         Habakkuk 1:2-4 and 12-17 refers to the enormous prosperity of the evil Babylonians. Habakkuk 1:13-17 records the prophet Habakkuk prayed to God: “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he? Why do You make men like fish of the sea, like creeping things that have no ruler over them? They take up all of them with a hook, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their dragnet. Therefore they rejoice and are glad. Therefore they sacrifice to their net, and burn incense to their dragnet; because by them their share is sumptuous and their food plentiful. Shall they therefore empty their net, and continue to slay nations without pity.”

Verse 16 above shows these wicked pagans were living in luxury and had plenty of food. They were prospering far more than the righteous. Note the righteous mentioned in Habakkuk 1:4 and 1:13 were justified by faith (see Habakkuk 2:4).

         Daniel 8:12 and 8:24 prophesied a future wicked leader, who would be the Syrian Seleuid King Antiochus Epiphanes and/or possibly the future Antichrist, who would prosper greatly despite attacking God’s people.

 

Many Bible verses referring to the wicked prospering

 

People with extreme views on prosperity ignore the fact the Bible records many examples of wicked people prospering, sometimes even enormously. Such prosperity can be:

 

         directly given by God by His undeserved grace as revealed in Matthew 5:45: “…your father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” and Luke 6:35: “…For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.” In Acts 14:17, Paul refers to God giving earthly blessings to sinful idol-worshippers. Such prosperity is based on God trying to lead unbelievers to repentance through showing undeserved goodness towards them, as Romans 2:4 infers: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance.”

         willingly permitted by God to occur but not be directly caused by Him. This occurs when He allows the wicked to prosper greatly through their acts of wickedness. Psalm 37:7 says: “…do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.” God willingly permits prosperity because of His gracious character and in order to achieve His purposes. An example of God permitting sinful unbelievers to greatly prosper through their own acts relates to the fact the richest man in Britain at present is the owner of a sinful pornographic magazine empire. God has not prospered this man, but has willingly allowed him to do so.

 

Anyone with a bit of sense can see that just because religious leaders prosper, this does not necessarily mean God is rewarding these people for their faith or holy lives or generosity. For example, the Muslims in Saudi Arabia receive multiple billions of dollars for their oil. They are prospering far more than any Christian ministry. They use much of this money to spread Islam in Africa and other places and to attack and limit the spread of the Christian Gospel. These Muslims believe God is prospering them.

If we apply the simplistic Biblically imbalanced hyper-prosperity doctrines of some American television preachers to these Muslims, we would have to conclude that God is prospering these Muslims because of their supposed faith, their generous giving to Allah’s work and supposed lack of sin. Such a conclusion is nonsense and unbiblical, but is a logical conclusion of many of these television ministries’ false teachings.

 

What generally happened under the Mosaic Covenant

 

Psalm 112:1-9 depicts the prosperity which God generally promises to the righteous: “Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches will be in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man deals graciously and lends; He will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established; he will not be afraid, until he sees his desire upon his enemies. He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be exalted with honor.”

It is generally true that under the Mosaic Covenant:

 

         God rewarded with various levels of prosperity those people who were righteous by His grace through faith and who in faith obeyed His moral, civil and ceremonial laws

         and after waiting patiently for lengthy periods for them to repent, He cursed with great punishments those Israelites who did not have faith and who did not obey these laws.

 

We see the above principles especially illustrated in the Books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Chronicles.

But there are many examples of people living under the Mosaic Covenant who were treated by God differently from this general rewards and punishments Law principle.

 

Many Mosaic Covenant period examples of evil people prospering

 

Here are some examples of evil people prospering while living under the Mosaic Covenant, despite the fact according to the principles of Leviticus 26:14-39 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68 they should have been severely punished:

 

Nabal

 

1 Samuel 25:2-3 records that an evil man named Nabal was very prosperous: “Now there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel, and the man was very rich. He had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. And he was shearing his sheep in Carmel. The name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. And she was a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance; but the man was harsh and evil in his doings…” Nabal was an Israelite living under the Mosaic Covenant.

 

Ahab, Jezebel and Jeroboam II

 

King Ahab and his wife Queen Jezebel greatly prospered for many years. This is even though 1 Kings 16:30 says Ahab was the most evil Israelite king up until that time and 1 Kings 21:25 records Jezebel’s exceeding wickedness. 1 Kings 20:5 reveals the large amount of gold and silver they both possessed.

Elijah was living at the same time. He had great faith and obeyed the laws of the Mosaic Covenant. Despite this, the Scriptures do not record Elijah experienced the earthly rewards of blessing and prosperity promised in the Mosaic Law. The Word of God does not even record him receiving the prosperity by undeserved grace mentioned in the Abrahamic Covenant.

King Jeroboam II of Israel was very prosperous despite his great sin. He reigned 41 years and Israel extended her borders under his rule (see 2 Kings 14:23-29). 2 Kings 14:24 says Jeroboam was evil. 2 Kings 14:26-27 shows how gracious God was to the northern tribes of Israel through various aspects of Jeroboam’s rule.

 

Wicked Jews prospering in Isaiah’s time

 

In Isaiah 2:6-8, Isaiah spoke the Word of the Lord about many wicked Judeans prospering greatly: “For You have forsaken Your people, the house of Jacob, because they are filled with eastern ways; they are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they are pleased with the children of foreigners. Their land is also full of silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is also full of horses, and there is no end to their chariots. Their land is also full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.”

 

Prosperous wicked religious Jews in Jeremiah’s time

 

In Jeremiah 12:1-2, Jeremiah questioned God in a respectful way about why so many wicked Israelites in his time were prospering and happy: “Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; yet let me talk with You about Your judgements. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? You have planted them, yes, they have taken root; they grow, yes, they bear fruit. You are near in their mouth but far from their mind.”

Jeremiah said God had prospered them. Similar words occur in Jeremiah 5:26-28. Jeremiah could not understand why God in His perfect justice and judgements had prospered such wicked people. He understood the Mosaic Law taught God would punish the wicked and not prosper them. Leviticus 26:14-39 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68 reveal God’s perfectly just standards about such matters.

At this stage, Jeremiah did not understand that God is so extremely gracious and merciful, exceptionally slow to become angry and reluctant to punish wicked people. God blessed these wicked unbelieving Israelites on the basis of the grace principles recorded in Matthew 5:45: “…your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” and Luke 6:35: “…you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.”

The people to whom Jeremiah was referring in Jeremiah 12:1-2 were outwardly religious (see Jeremiah 6:20, 14:12, 26:2 and 36:9). False prophets had promised these wicked unrepentant but religious Israelites peace and prosperity (see Jeremiah 14:13-16, 23:16-17 and 23:30-32).

Jeremiah – the man of faith and anointing by the Holy Spirit – experienced many hardships through his ministry and did not see evidence of the type of earthly prosperity which he saw in the lives of so many wicked unbelieving Israelites. He was hit, put in the stocks, imprisoned, continually threatened with violence and death, abused and constantly rejected (see Jeremiah 11:18-19, 15:10, 20:1-18 and 37:11-21).

Note Jeremiah 5:31 shows backslidden religious Jews loved to hear false prophets prophesying wrong things and to see their religious leaders ruling by their own power and not God’s: “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so…” Jeremiah 8:8 reveals that the religious leaders were interpreting God’s Word in sinful ways: “How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us?’ Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood.”

 

The Jewish worshippers of the Queen of Heaven

 

Jeremiah 44:15-23 speaks of Israelites who worshipped the pagan goddess called the Queen of Heaven, other false gods and the true God at the same time. [2] In these verses, we see these idolatrous Jews were very prosperous during the time they were worshipping the Queen of Heaven. But sometime after they stopped worshipping her, they were punished greatly by God.

These Jews has a simplistic Bildad understanding of rewards, prosperity and punishments. They assumed they were being rewarded by God and/or the Queen of Heaven when they were worshipping both of them and were punished by Him and/or her when they stopped worshipping her. They did not realize they had prospered greatly during the time they were wickedly worshipping the Queen of Heaven only because of God’s great mercy and undeserved grace, and not as a deserved reward.

After they stopped worshipping the Queen of Heaven, they still continued only nominally to follow the Lord (see Jeremiah 44:20-23). So God’s patience and longsuffering reached its limits. He had to punish them as Jeremiah 44:20-23 reveals. As shown by Jeremiah 44:15-18, these Jews totally misinterpreted God’s dealings with them.

 

The godly Biblical author and the wicked Babylonians

 

In Lamentations 3:17, the divinely inspired author says: “You have moved my soul far from peace; I have forgotten prosperity.” Here the author reveals he had not experienced God’s prosperity for some time. In Hebrew, the word “prosperity” here is “tob” and is used in Deuteronomy 28:11 and 30:9 for the abundance of earthly blessings God gives to those who meet the relevant conditions related to these verses. The author of Lamentations 3:17 was possibly Jeremiah. Whoever the author was, the Book of Lamentations reveals he was a very godly person.

In Lamentations 1:5, the author reveals that the wicked enemies of Judah – the Babylonians – were prospering: “Her adversaries have become the master, her enemies prosper…”

 

King Jehoiakim of Judah

 

Jeremiah 22:18-23 records King Jehoiakim of Judah prospered for a period of time despite his continual refusal to obey God. Jehoiakim ruled as king for eleven years and was an evil person (see 2 Chronicles 36:5 and 8). Jeremiah 22:21 records the Word of the Lord to Jehoiakim: “I spoke to you in your prosperity, but you said, ‘I will not hear’. This has been your manner from your youth, that you did not obey My voice.”

 

Psalm-writers and prophets asking why the wicked were prospering

 

Psalm 10:1-11, 73:1-16, Habakkuk 1:2-4 and 12-17 show two God-inspired Psalm-writers and the prophet Habakkuk asked why wicked people with no faith were prospering at their relevant times while people of faith and righteousness were not.

Psalm 10:1-5 states that numerous wicked proud unbelievers were always prospering at that time: “Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble? The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; let them be caught in the plots which they have devised. For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire; he blesses the greedy and renounces the Lord. The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts. His ways are always prospering; Your judgements are far above, out of his sight…”

Psalm 73:1-16 says: “Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride serves as their necklace; violence covers them like a garment. Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish. They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walks through the earth. Therefore his people return here, and waters of a full cup are drained by them. And they say, ‘How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?’ Behold, these are the ungodly, who are always at ease; they increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I had said, ‘I will speak thus’, behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children. When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me.”

In Malachi 3:13-15, the people of Israel complained to God that those who obey God’s Law did not seem outwardly to be blessed but those who continually did wicked things seemed to be blessed and raised up by Him.

 

Those who were not worse sinners than others

 

In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus referred to various groups of people who had died through different tragedies: “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingles with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no…’”

But note Christ here insists that those who died were no more sinful than those who did not. These people were still living under the Mosaic Covenant when they died.

According to the strict justice principles of the Mosaic Law, both the sinful people whom Jesus mentioned had died and those sinners He said had not died should have received the same punishment. Here we see even under the Mosaic Covenant, God often acted with great grace and mercy towards various sinful Israelites despite the Law saying they deserved dreadful punishments.

 

Sickness is not always a result of personal or parents’ sin

 

Psalm 31:10, 38:3-5 and James 5:15-16 show sickness is often the result of sin. But in John 9:1-3, Jesus stressed that our own personal or our parents’ sin is not always the cause of sickness and birth abnormalities: “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.’” Christ here was referring to a blind man living under the Mosaic Covenant.

Deuteronomy 28:28 says that one of the curses resulting from disobeying the Mosaic Covenant was blindness. On the basis of such verses, many Jews including the disciples at this time assumed blindness was always a punishment for disobedience to the Law. But Jesus disagreed with this simplistic view by saying blindness was not always a result of a person or their parents disobeying the commands of the Mosaic Covenant.

 

Other Old Testament verses about the wicked prospering

 

Ecclesiastes 7:15 states: “ I have seen everything in my days of vanity: There is a just man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs life in his wickedness.” Ecclesiastes 8:14 declares: “There is a vanity which occurs on earth, that there are just men to whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there are wicked men to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity.”

Psalm 49:16-18 says: “Do not be afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dies he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him. Though while he lives he blesses himself (for men will praise you when you do well for yourself).”

Psalm 37:7 and 16-17 state: “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass…A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.”

Proverbs 11:16 reveals that in some instances “ruthless men retain riches” (N.K.J.V.) or “violent men attain riches” (N.A.S.B.). Proverbs 28:6 also mentions some wicked people being rich.

 

An example of the wicked prospering in New Covenant times

 

In 1 Corinthians 16:2, God promises to prosper New Covenant believers by varying amounts at different times.

But note Acts 19:25 records that wicked men, who made idols to worship the pagan goddess Diana, said they were repeatedly or continually prospering through this evil idolatry: “He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said, ‘Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade.’” In Greek the word “prosperity” here is “euporia” which means “wealth, abundance”. [3] In Greek, the word “have” is in the present tense. In Greek, the present tense refers to a continuous or repeated action. The present tense signifies the ongoing nature of their financial prosperity through making idols.

 

Some Mosaic Covenant believers not receiving all the Law’s rewards

 

There are numerous examples of people living under the Mosaic Covenant who had saving faith in God and who obeyed its laws more than others but who did not seem to experience the degree of earthly rewards promised in the Mosaic Law:

 

Kings Josiah and Jotham compared to Manasseh

 

Deuteronomy 4:40, 5:16, 6:1-2 and 32:46-47 promise long life to those living under the Mosaic Covenant who obeyed its laws. Deuteronomy 6:1-2 says: “Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgements which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.”

King Josiah was an extremely godly man of faith and obedience to the laws of the Mosaic Covenant (see 2 Kings 23:3-25 and 2 Chronicles 34:2-35:19). 2 Kings 23:25 records Josiah obeyed the Mosaic Law more than any other king of Israel or Judah: “Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.” But 2 Kings 22:1 reveals Josiah died at the age of only 39 years.

King Manasseh, however, lived to the age of 67 years even though he led the Jews into terrible wickedness for a number of years (see 2 Chronicles 33:1-9). God showed enormous grace and mercy to Manasseh after he later turned from his sins to God (see 2 Chronicles 33:10-20).

2 Chronicles 34:28 reveals why Josiah died at such a young age. But people with a simplistic Bildad view of rewards and punishments, may have taken Josiah’s death wrongly as proof he was a great sinner who was punished severely by God.

A similar thing applies to King Jotham of Judah. 2 Chronicles 27:2-6 shows what a very godly man of faith and obedience to the Lord that Jotham was. 2 Chronicles 27:6 says: “So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.” But note 2 Chronicles 27:1 and 8 reveal he died at only the age of 41 years.

 

John the Baptist compared to King Herod

 

John the Baptist lived under the Mosaic Covenant. He was a man of great faith and obedience to the Mosaic Law. Luke 1:15-17 records what the angel Gabriel said about John: “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord…He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah…”

But note John did not live in the level of prosperity which God gave or willingly permitted sinful King Herod to have. Matthew 3:4 says: “And John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.”

Proverbs 20:7 promises that when the righteous walk in blamelessness or integrity, their children will be blessed by God greatly: “The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him.” Zacharias’ son, John the Baptist was blessed exceedingly in a spiritual sense (see Luke 1:15). But in an earthly sense, the Baptist did not experience some of the material blessings promised in the Law.

Herod was an adulterer (see Matthew 14:3-4) and deserved all of the curses of the Law as a result. But he lived in earthly prosperity for many years because of God’s longsuffering and patience. But John the Baptist died at about the age of 31. He did not receive the promise of the Mosaic Covenant related to long life for those who obeyed its laws.

 

King Jeroboam I’s son

 

1 Kings 14:1-13 reveals that out of King Jeroboam 1’s sons, the one who had the best attitude to the Lord died before the others. 1 Kings 14:13 records the prediction of the prophet Ahijah about this: “And all Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he is the only one of Jeroboam who shall come to the grave, because in him there is found something good toward the Lord God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.” 1 Kings 15:25-29 shows Jeroboam’s other children died later.

 

Many people of faith in Old Testament times

 

Hebrews 11:35-40 seems to refer partially at least to people of faith and obedience living under the Mosaic Covenant: “Women received their dead raised to life again. And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”

Hebrews 11:13 states Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah did not receive in their earthly lives all that God promised them: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

Job 1:1-22, Proverbs 19:1 and 28:6 show it is possible to be blameless or to walk in integrity but still experience times of poverty or great lack. Proverbs 19:1 says: “Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.”

 

God is not unfaithful

 

After reading the previous examples, do you ask yourself, “Do you mean God is unfaithful in keeping His promises?” If you think this, this means you do not really understand the Mosaic Covenant or God’s grace. The Mosaic Covenant promises its fully deserved rewards only to those who obey all its commands every moment of every day (see Leviticus 20:22, Deuteronomy 6:2-3, 6:24-25, 11:8-9, 15:4-5, 28:1-14 and 32:46-47). In the Mosaic Covenant, God does not promise totally deserved rewards to those who obey His commands only 99% of the time or less.

In the Mosaic Covenant, God promised to bless by undeserved grace sinners who turn back from their sins to Him (see Leviticus 26:40-45, Deuteronomy 4:25-31 and 30:1-10). Because such earthly blessings are through God’s undeserved grace and are not totally deserved rewards, He is not obligated to give them immediately and in full measure. Instead He can give them in whatever amount and for whatever time period He chooses.

According to His own perfect justice, God would be only obligated to give the full measure of His rewards promised in the Mosaic Law to those who totally deserved them. The principle of Romans 11:32 applies to every person throughout history, including those under the Mosaic Covenant except for Jesus Christ: “For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.”

King Josiah, John the Baptist and all other godly men and women of faith living under the Mosaic Covenant, obeyed God’s commands much but disobeyed sometimes. As a result, they all deserved the curse of the Law – death. But God showed great grace and mercy towards them. Mercy cannot be deserved. So whatever earthly blessings that any believer in Old or New Testament times received can never be fully deserved. Such earthly blessings can only ever be given either purely as gifts of God’s grace or as very slightly deserved rewards works underpinned or undergirded by grace.

Also, note the Mosaic Law can be summarized in the two great commandments about loving God and loving all other humans (see Matthew 22:37-40). But no human except Christ has perfectly fulfilled these two love commands every moment of every day. Therefore, no person except Christ has fulfilled the Mosaic Law in this sense either.

Those who believe that godly men of faith like Josiah and John the Baptist totally deserved all the blessings listed in Leviticus 26:3-13 and Deuteronomy 28:1-14 because of their high though imperfect level of obedience to the commands of the Mosaic Law, fall into a similar error to those Jews who believed God would declare them righteous for a high though imperfect level of obedience to the Law’s commands. Both do not understand the Law demands perfect obedience every day of one’s life in order for a person fully to deserve or merit its rewards from God.

Also note under the Abrahamic Covenant, Abraham and Sarah received the promises of a son and much earthly blessings in this life. But some of the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant were fulfilled only after Abraham and Sarah died (see Hebrews 11:13). Other Abrahamic Covenant promises are still being fulfilled now and will also be in the future.

We can debate about which promises Abel, Enoch and Noah had not seen completely fulfilled in their earthly lives by the time they died. These promises would either be totally fulfilled in Heaven and/or on Earth after they died.

 

The Bible teaches general principles of prosperity and poverty

 

One view suggests that the teachings in the Bible on earthly blessings are iron-clad “laws of prosperity” or “laws of poverty”. This is wrong. The Bible instead teaches general principles about such matters. One general principle is if someone perfectly obeys all the commands and statutes of the Mosaic Law every day of their lives, they will totally deserve to be prospered every day of their lives. Another general principle is if they disobey one or more of the Mosaic commands or statutes, they deserve poverty as a curse or punishment. All other teaching in the Bible on prosperity and poverty are based on a mixture of God’s grace, mercy, justice, holiness and covenantal principles. God applies these principles individually to each person.

Proverbs 21:17 refers to those who love pleasure being reduced to poverty: “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” But this is only a general principle of God. This verse cannot be taken in isolation but must be interpreted together with the many other Biblical verses which refer to prosperity and poverty.

Proof that Proverbs 21:17 is a general principle and not an absolute law is the fact there are Biblical exceptions to this verse. For example, Luke 16:19-31 refers to a rich man who prospered greatly and lived in pleasure. Verse 22 shows he was rich when he died. Verse 25 reveals he was prosperous throughout his whole life. He was sent to suffer in Hades after his death. According to those who have the simplistic Bildad doctrine that prosperity in a person’s life reveals always they have strong faith in God, this rich man should have gone to heaven.

Even just one disobedience makes a person deserving of severe punishment from God (see Galatians 3:10). Hebrews 2:2 says: “For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.” But because of God’s grace and mercy expressed in Jesus’ eternally pre-planned death, God does not punish any believer on this Earth with all the curses of poverty and other punishments they deserve.

God is mostly very slow to punish sinners and often mercifully helps them even though they do not deserve this. Matthew 5:45, Luke 6:35 and Acts 14:17 teach how kind God is to undeserving evil people. Bildad’s simplistic rewards and punishments scheme does not fit exactly with how God relates to humans while they are on Earth.

 

Oversimplified overgeneralised Jewish views of prosperity and poverty

 

Many of the Jews living in the time of Christ had a false understanding of many aspects of the Mosaic Covenant, the Mosaic Law (which was the terms and conditions of the Mosaic Covenant), rewards from God, punishments from Him, His grace, His mercy and forgiveness. Two of Jesus’ parables show this.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus taught that a very sinful Jew could be restored to a right relationship with God and receive earthly prosperity by God’s mercy and grace and not as a deserved reward in any way. The older brother of the Prodigal Son who symbolised many religious Jews, was angry about the way his father had accepted and prospered his repentant young brother.

Many religious Jews could understand how the younger brother would end up cursed by poverty because of his sins. They would agree with Jesus’ words in Luke 15:13-16: “And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.”

But they would not have understood Christ's words about the father’s compassion and great grace and generosity to his repentant son recorded in Luke 15:20-32. Note the older brother emphasised how obedient to his father’s commands he thought he had been. This is similar to many religious Jews who wrongly believed their obedience to the Mosaic Law was perfect. But note the lack of fulfilment of the love commands in the Mosaic Law is symbolised by the older brother’s great anger with his father and brother (see verse 28).

Legalistic Pharisees and ordinary Jews living at Christ's time would have found it hard to understand how a poverty-stricken diseased beggar named Lazarus would go to heaven while a rich healthy man would be punished in Hades (see Luke 16:19-31). To legalistic Jews, poverty and sickness were signs of much disobedience to the Mosaic Law and being under its full curses. Also such Jews would regard the riches and health enjoyed by the rich man as being signs he had a high level of obedience to the Mosaic Law and was therefore being deservedly rewarded with the blessings promised in Leviticus 26:3-13 and Deuteronomy 28:1-14. But note Christ challenged their overly simplistic Bildad-type interpretations of the blessings and curses of the Mosaic Law.

 

We must avoid becoming like many of the Pharisees

 

We need to avoid becoming like many of the Pharisees who invented man-made unbiblical rules for themselves about the Sabbath, oaths and many other issues. We can become like these Pharisees if we teach that all Christians who are not prospering or who die young have little faith or are very sinful.

In some cases, a lack of faith and/or the committing of various sins will result in God not blessing His children. But this is not always the case. There are many Biblical exceptions to this.

 

Hindus and some medieval churchgoers

 

There are many religious groups who teach forms of the Bildad doctrine of prosperity, rewards and punishments. For example, the Hindus teach that people in India who are poor are this way because they were more sinful in their supposed previous lives than those who are born into the priest, warrior-governing and merchant castes and than religious leaders called swamis and gurus. Hindu swamis and gurus often become rich through gifts from gullible Westerners.

In the Middle Ages, many churchgoers believed in a form of religious tradition about rewards and punishments which was similar in some way to Bildad’s. They argued that the winners of battles to the death between men accusing each other of wrong, were shown to be innocent by their victories. These churchgoers supposed these victories were deserved rewards from God. These religious people said those who died were punished by Him for their sin and guilt. We now laugh at such attitudes. But sadly, many modern churchgoers fall into similar over-simplified views of earthly rewards and punishments.

 

Living in an unbiblical fantasy realm

 

Those who believe in a Bildad-type view of prosperity, rewards and punishments try to fanaticise away the reality that many very sinful unbelievers experience more earthly prosperity throughout their lives than do many believers who have strong faith. These followers of Bildad-type ideas say things like, “We must believe that God prospers all New Covenant believers with earthly blessings far more than He does prosper all unbelievers. We must believe this even if the observations of our eyes, ears and minds tell us otherwise. We must not doubt the Word of God about these matters.”

I believe in being sure about what the Word of God teaches and in ignoring what our eyes, ears and minds tell us if what they suggest is contrary to the Word. For example, Abraham believed God’s Word about having a son even though this was contrary to what his eyes, ears and mind said (see Romans 4:17-21). But it is ridiculous trying to believe that all New Covenant believers will experience more earthly prosperity than all unbelievers when the written Word does not promise this.

Many in the homosexual and occult communities are extremely prosperous in relation to earthly riches. Many homosexual couples have both partners working and do not have expenses in relation to children. So they can accumulate much wealth. Many occultists charge very high fees and prosper financially from the many deceived people who pay for their services. Acts 16:16 refers to a fortune teller “who brought her masters much profit”.

The great earthly prosperity which homosexuals and occultists receive are not rewards from God. Such blessings are examples of God’s mercy and undeserved grace to sinful unbelieving humans (see Luke 5:45, Acts 14:15-17 and Romans 2:4).

 

 

 

 

Paul said some types of suffering are God’s gift

 

In Philippians 1:29-30, Paul said: “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.”

In Greek, the expression “it has been granted” is in the passive voice. In this context, the passive voice signifies God had performed the action of granting them to suffer. Note also this expression is a form of the word “charizomai” in Greek which in the context of Philippians 1:29 means “give freely or graciously as a favor”. [4] So this means Paul is saying his own personal present suffering in a Roman gaol was a free gift of God’s grace.

An oversimplified view of our human circumstances sees all earthly blessings as deserved rewards and all suffering as deserved punishments. But note in Philippians 1:29-30, Paul reveals that some instances of human suffering are not merited punishments from God, but are instead His undeserved gifts.

 

Lions and believers

 

The wife of a popular American preacher said “Lions don’t eat Faithful Men” in a mid-1990’s edition of her husband’s magazine. She used Daniel 6:1-23 referring to God saving Daniel from a lion as proof of her words.

The preacher’s wife’s words above are another example of the simplistic Bildad doctrine of rewards and punishments. By saying “Lions don’t eat faithful men”, she is making the dreadful accusation that the Christians who were eaten by lions in Roman persecutions had no or weak faith. But many of those poor souls had more faith than you or I.

The Roman authorities often gave Christians a choice of blaspheming Jesus Christ and going free or being eaten by the lions. Can you imagine this preacher’s wife leaving her pampered luxurious lifestyle provided by the offerings of God’s people and going into a Roman arena with some starving lions? I wonder whether her positive confessions of earthly rewards would save her from death?

 

Some American television preachers

 

Some American television ministries teach a form of the simplistic Bildad religious tradition about prosperity, earthly rewards and punishments. They have become a prisoner of their own beliefs. This is because they think that because their fund-raising methods result in them getting so much money in offerings, this is God’s earthly reward for their supposed right methods. They believe their critics are not as prosperous as them because God is not rewarding these critics because of their failure to follow the television preachers’ Bildad prosperity techniques. Jim Bakker’s PTL Club television show was a good example of this.

Bakker’s television show was exceedingly prosperous in terms of the money given to it by Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians. Many gullible believers interpreted this enormous prosperity as expressing God’s total approval and supposed rewarding of the show’s fund-raising techniques, teachings and other practices.

Sadly, many of these same preachers who teach a Bildad doctrine about rewards, prosperity and punishments also teach the heretical easy believism false “gospel”.


 


[1] Refer to the section “Rewards undergirded by God’s grace” in Chapter                  “Rewards” for more details.

[2] Jeremiah 44:15-23 states: “Then all the men who knew their wives had burned incense to other gods, with all the women who stood by, a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathos, answered Jeremiah, saying: ‘As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you! But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble. But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine’. The women also said, ‘And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make cakes for her, to worship her, and pour out drink offerings to her without our husbands’ permission?’ Then Jeremiah spoke to all the people – the men, the women, and all the people who had given him that answer – saying: the incense that you burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your fathers, your kings and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the Lord remember them, and did it not come into His mind? So the Lord could no longer bear it, because of the evil of your doings and because of the abominations which you committed. Therefore your land is a desolation, an astonishment, a curse, and without an inhabitant, as it is this day. Because you have burned incense and because you have sinned against the Lord, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord or walked in His law, in His statutes or in His testimonies, therefore this calamity has happened to you, as at this day.”

[3] Perschbacher, pages 181-182.

[4] Bauer, page 876.

 

 


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