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The Christian idea of the atonement, that Christ died for sin in the place of man, depends on the premise that God holds humans accountable for their sins. But God sent his Son to deal with this problem. The Son willingly placed himself under God’s judgment, and in people’s place he received the divine punishment (Gal 3:13). Christ’s death for sin may therefore be considered the extreme manifestation of divine judgment. God as judge visits upon the soul of Christ in his crucifixion the total divine judgment against sin.
Through faith, brought about by the Holy Spirit and fed by the Word, a believer becomes one with Christ and thus escapes divine judgment and is rescued from punishment (Rom 3:22). Those who, by faith, share in the benefits of Christ’s death stand before the divine Judge and receive a verdict of “not guilty,” and instead of punishment and divine retribution, receive a sentence of eternal life. Jesus says of those who believe in him that they have already passed through judgment, have escaped death, and are already sharing in eternal life (Jn 5:24).
Though sins have been atoned for by Christ, each person—believer and unbeliever alike—still suffers certain consequences of his or her sins here in this life. For every human action there is a divine reaction (Rom 2:6). Paul speaks about the conscience, which carries out a series of judgments even upon the actions of those who do not know the true God (v 15).
Governments are also manifestations of divine judgment upon man’s public performances with respect to the law. Civil justice, though often corrupted, is a means through which God carries out temporal judgment upon any infringement of the law in this life (Rom 13:1–2). Public crimes against society are not the only sins subject to divine judgment.
In addition to the accusations of the conscience against even the most private of sins, each human action carries with it potential reward or punishment. Living within the moral bounds established by God, especially as they are revealed in the Ten Commandments and further explicated in the rest of Scripture, results in certain physical benefits in this life. Living in disregard of the moral law results in penalties and hardships appropriate to the infraction (Gal 6:7–8). For example, refusal to work can result in poverty, and overindulgence can result in poor health. Some activities bring their own penalties. Christians should not conclude, however, that the presence of calamities in a person’s life must indicate a specific judgment of God against a particular sin. God can use calamities in the life of a Christian to guide him providentially to the goal of eternal life (1 Pt 4:12–13).
On account of Adam’s sin, the creation was subject to a judgment of corruption (Gn 3:17). All of human life participates in a deterioration that is a manifestation of divine judgment against the sin that originated with Adam. God remains sovereign even over the universal corruption and is able to direct and control it for his ultimate purposes (Rom 8:20). Thus he can use calamities for the benefit of the Christian’s life (v 28), but he can also use them to manifest his anger on those who persist in deliberate sin and who reject his Son Jesus Christ as the Redeemer from sin. Pharaoh, who recognized Moses as God’s prophet and still rejected him and his message, is a prime example of a person who received God’s judgment (Ex 10:20). The Jews who saw the miracles of Jesus and rejected his claims to be the Messiah are also among those who received God’s judgment while living (Mt 12:22–32).
Through wars and the creation and destruction of nations, God carries out judgment collectively against entire peoples. The OT records the rise and fall of nations and of kings. The refusal to acknowledge and worship the true God and to follow his laws eventually and most certainly results in national extinction. The destruction of Nineveh and Israel in the OT and Jerusalem in the NT are clear examples of God’s judgment against entire peoples who reject his message of salvation. Public disregard of the moral law must result in national disintegration, which is then frequently compounded by invasion by a foreign nation. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was the direct result of immoral license (Jude 1:7).
 Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Tyndale Reference Library (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 761–762.