For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” (Hebrews 10:30, N.K.J.V.)
If you have any fight in you at all, it can be almost impossible not to seek revenge when you have been done wrong. Even worse, it’s not like God always metes out His vengeance in a manner that we consider timely or on par with what has been done to us. Speaking for myself, it really does seem like whatever vengeance God repays oftentimes seems to be a day late and a dollar short.
We read stories in the Old Testament about the waters of the Red Sea drowning Pharaoh’s army (Exodus 14:24-28), the ground opening up and swallowing those who were opposing Moses (Numbers 16:1-40), Samuel hacking the Amalekite king Agag to pieces (1 Samuel 15:32-33), David slaying the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17:1-58), Elijah ordering the executions of 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:17-40), the wicked queen Jezebel being thrown out of a window to her death (2 Kings 9:30-37), Haman being hung on the gallows he had built to hang Mordecai (Esther 7:1-10), and those who plotted to get Daniel eaten by lions getting eaten themselves by those lions (Daniel 6:1-24). These stories appeal to our basic human longing for revenge and justice. We read them and think, “Now that’s a God who knows how to deal with those who are working to thwart His will and harm His servants.”
But then we come to the New Testament and find that those type of stories pretty much dry up altogether. Herod Antipas has John the Baptist beheaded, and God doesn’t do anything about it (Matthew 14:1-9). The Jewish Sanhedrin stone Stephen to death. and God doesn’t do anything about it (Acts 7:54-60). Herod Agrippa I has the apostle James executed, and God doesn’t do anything about it (Acts 12:1-2). The apostle Paul gets stoned almost to death by unbelieving Jews, and God doesn’t do anything about it (Acts 14:19-20). These stories leave us wondering, “Where is the God who repays in vengeance when His enemies are conquering over His servants?”
Going even deeper into the matter, not only does God not do much vengeful repaying in the New Testament, He commands His people (Christians) to do things like: love our enemies, pray for them, turn the other cheek when they strike us, give them our shirt as well when they sue us to take our coat, and go a second mile when they force us to go one (Matthew 5:38-48). Even Jesus, who was literally God in the flesh, said concerning the very people who were crucifying Him, “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Additionally, He wouldn’t let Peter fight to defend Him when He was arrested (Matthew 26:51-54; Mark 14:46-47; Luke 22:47-51; John 18:10-11), and He rebuked James and John for wanting to call fire down upon a village that had refused to let Him enter it (Luke 9:51-56).
Christian, I’m telling you this to warn you against expecting God to go “Old Testament” on anyone who does you a bad turn. Even if the perpetrator makes a habit of regularly treating you badly over a very long period of time, I doubt the ground will ever open up and swallow that person whole. You say, “But isn’t it true that God never changes?” Yes, it is (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17). However, that refers to His character and nature, not to the specific ways in which He deals with mankind during the various dispensations and eras that make up human history. As I have pointed out, there is clearly a major change in the way that God deals with His enemies in the New Testament as opposed to the Old Testament.
Or is there? Let’s keep in mind that the same Jesus who gave us The Sermon on the Mount and all those teachings about forgiving others (Matthew 18:21-35, Mark 11:25; Luke 17:3-4) had a lot to say about the horrific eternal judgment that lost unbelievers will endure (Matthew 5:29-30; 7:13-14; 8:12; 13:36-43; 13:47-50; 18:8-9; 23:33; 25:31-46; Luke 13:22-30; 16:19-31). And let’s also keep in mind that every saved believer will have to stand before The Judgment Seat of Christ in heaven to receive what he or she has coming in regards to heavenly rewards gained or lost for the bodily deeds done on earth after getting saved (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11). That is why our text verse makes a point of saying that God will judge His people.
Based upon all this, it is correct to say that whatever vengeance God repays in this life — whether that vengeance be paid upon a lost unbeliever or a Christian — He will settle all accounts fully in the afterlife. Remember this, Christian, the next time that someone does something truly awful to you and seems to get away with it. That person hasn’t gotten away with anything; it’s just that God’s timing hasn’t rolled around yet for His vengeance to be repaid.