By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Explain Luke 18:7,8. In what matters will God avenge His elect on earth?
Reply: The parable of the unrighteous judge, as set forth in Luke 18:1-8, deserves a careful study. The purpose of the parable is given by Jesus at the outset – “to the end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint” (v. 1). “There was in a city a judge, who feared not God, and regarded not man” (v. 2). He was irreverent and heartless. A widow came to him to avenge her of her adversary. This godless and hardened judge was not disposed to grant the request of this importunate widow, but finally he avenged her “lest she wear me out by her continual coming” (v. 5). He did not give her justice because it was right, but because he did not want to be bothered by her. The lesson is obvious. If this judge, who was without feeling, was willing to grant the request of the widow; how much more would the righteous and compassionate judge avenge his elect (his children) who cry to him day and night? The force of the parable is the contrast between the unrighteous judge and the righteous judge.
The widow who came to the judge wanted to be avenged of her adversary. This was her opponent, one who no doubt oppressed her. Literally, the Greek word anddikos translated “adversary,” means “an opponent in a suit at law.” She was asking to be avenged or vindicated. She was wanting judgment from mistreatment.
The “elect” are those who are children of God as a result of their obedience to the gospel (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; etc.). Our question relates to those matters of which God will avenge his elect on earth. In a more general sense than an adversary in a lawsuit, our adversaries are those who persecute us “for righteousness sake” (Matt. 5:10). The matters, therefore, on which God will avenge his elect are the wrongs done them by their enemies.
When the fifth seal was opened in the book of Revelation, John wrote: “I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a great voice, saying, How long, O Master, the holy and true dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:9,10) John saw “souls” beneath the altar – those who had given up their lives for Christ, and they are asking for vengeance. They asked, “How long, O Master, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” When would they be avenged?
Some of the psalms are imprecatory in nature, and are referred to as such, because the psalmist invoked vengeance upon his enemies. In the 58th psalm, verses 10 and 11, David declares: “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked; So that men shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth.” Another example of an imprecatory psalm is the 59th, verses 11-13. Here David says in regard to his enemies, “Scatter them by thy power, and bring them down, O Lord our shield. For the sin of their mouth, and the words of their lips, Let them even be taken in their pride, And for cursing and lying which they speak. Consume them in wrath, consume them, so they be no more: And let them know that God ruleth in Jacob.” Petitions to God for the defeat of the wicked are thus to be found in both the Old and New Testaments.
Two things should be considered. First, vengeance belongs to God, not man. This is with respect to those who wrong us personally. Capital punishment for crime is not considered here. Paul wrote: “Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place to the wrath of God: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). This passage, taken from Deuteronomy 32:35, teaches that we are not to take matters in our own hands. Even when crimes are committed against the State, men are not to take the law into their own hands. In Romans 13, Paul states that civil government is “a minister of God, an avenger of wrath to him that doeth evil” (v. 4). So, the punishment of the evil doer is God’s prerogative. Second, God will avenge his elect in his own time. When the wicked apparently prosper and the evil doer seems to be succeeding it is not easy to be patient; and, like the souls beneath the altar in Revelation 6:9, 10, we cry out: “How long . . . dost thou not judge and avenge. . . ?”
God said that He would avenge his elect “speedily” (Lk. 18:8). To us, and those in the Bible who asked for vengeance, it seems slow. But we need to understand that God delays his punishments because he is longsuffering and wishes to save as many as possible (2 Pet. 3:9). Also, we must remember that what seems long to us in time is short to God. It is “speedy” to him because he does not count time as man does. “But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” We can be assured that God will avenge his “elect” when he is ready. And, when it is the proper time he will move quickly.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 17, p. 517
September 3, 1987