Are the Saints in Heaven Sinning When they Ask for Justice?

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9-11)

We have heard all kinds of theological charlatanism when it comes to the application of what are called “imprecatory” prayers. An imprecation is a curse. Sometimes of course it can be a sinful thing. When someone uses foul language when we they are angry, we call it “cursing.” Uttering a “damnation” against someone unjustly is indeed a sin. And a serious one. Jesus said so —

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:22)

However, Scripture also shows us that there IS a proper and righteous prayer of cursing someone! This is called, once again, an imprecatory prayer. Here is an example:

So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love. Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him come forth guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin! May his days be few; may another take his office! May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow! May his children wander about and beg, seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit! May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil! Let there be none to extend kindness to him, nor any to pity his fatherless children! (Psalm 109:5-12)

Recently a lady wrote and said that she had to endure a sermon recently in which the preacher claimed that such imprecations in the Psalms were the sin of the Psalmist breaking out (which he later repented of!). This kind of false teaching is sadly typical. All anger, all desire for justice is seen as sin. Victims are blamed and accused… while the wicked perpetrator folds his arms and smugly says, “Yep, I told you so. You are the one with the problem. You are unforgiving.”

Well then, consider the prayer cited above by the martyrs in heaven. Do they have sin in them? Only the craziest of false teachers would say that they do (and there are plenty of crazies out there nowadays it seems). They are in heaven! In the presence of Christ! Of course they have no sin. And here they are, praying. Praying what? Imprecations against their enemies who are also and fundamentally the Lord’s enemies. “Judge them, Lord! Take vengeance upon them! Give us justice.” That’s the prayer, you see.

How does the Lord respond to these prayers? “Now, now, now children. You must not be angry. You need to confess your own sin. You need to love these people and forgive them. You know, you are sinners too.” No way! And yet those are the kinds of words being put in Jesus’ mouth by so many professing Christians and preachers nowadays. (It’s a wicked and dangerous thing to put words into God’s mouth, by the way. To say “thus saith the Lord” when in fact He has not said it.)

No, the Lord responds to their prayer by AGREEING with it! He comforts them, rewards them, and assures them that justice and vengeance are on the way. Just a little longer and that Day will arrive.

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. (2Thess 1:5-10)

If the inspired words of Scripture, written by God’s prophets and apostles, include expressions of their own sin (that are not clearly identified as such by the inspired writers themselves), then who decides what portions of God’s Word are the sinful utterances of the biblical authors and which are not? Who decides? Who handles the cutting and pasting and deleting? You see it? This approach sets man as judge on the Word of God and leaves him free to accept or reject whatever he wants, based on what appeals to him or not.

It is right and just and proper for victims of wickedness to call for God’s justice, just as the saints in heaven are doing right now. Anyone calling such desires and prayers evil are simply revealing themselves to be ignorant of the character of God, or an intentional ally of the kingdom of darkness themselves.

How then do Jesus’ words about loving our enemies and praying for them reconcile with the imprecatory prayers?  I will let you answer that question, with this hint — read ALL the verses, not just “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Read it in context. How is this love defined here?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

11 thoughts on “Are the Saints in Heaven Sinning When they Ask for Justice?

  1. Pastor Crippen,
    Can you expound a little more on the meaning of the verses at the end of your post. About how to explain to others who condemn us victims of abuse for not “loving our enemies and praying for them”? I pray imprecatory prayers for justice and vengeance upon those who did terrible, ongoing evil to me. They harmed me badly to this day. But I still don’t have a clear answer for those who use the “love and pray for your enemies” verses to say I am sinning by not doing so. I know I am not sinning. I read the imprecatory prayers in the Bible and also your initial verses about the saints IN HEAVEN! praying imprecatory prayers about vengeance on their persecutors. I just don’t know how or have the right words to explain the seeming “contradiction”. Can you help me be able to explain it better? Thanks.

    1. Z and walkinginlight – I will answer as soon as I am able. It may be a couple of days as I am swamped this weekend with a Sunday School lesson to teach, a sermon to prepare, and working on finishing up the manuscript of a new book. Good questions, I have a note on my desk to remind me. Remind me to look at the note:)

    2. The key to getting hold of what Jesus means by “love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you” is verse 43 – Matthew 5:43  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ Jesus all through this section is exposing the false notions and teachings the Jewish leaders were laying on the people. Each false teaching is introduced with “you have heard that it was said.” In this case what was “said” was – love your neighbor and HATE your enemy. But that is not what Scripture says. The “hate your enemy” part had been added and it taught personal vengeance. Vengeance however is for the Lord, not us. Rather, we are to imitate God. How does He deal with His enemies? Well, He loved us when we were still sinners by sending Christ to die for us. He sends rain upon the righteous and the unrighteous. He extends His common grace to all.

      At the same time, He hates the wicked man. His just wrath is upon those who hate Him. He is patient and longsuffering, desiring that all will repent and be saved.

      This is what it means to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Do what God does. Hate their wickedness, expose their evil, warn them that judgment is coming, but if we see them bleeding after a car wreck we are going to help them. We are going to pray for their salvation (unless they are those kind who pretend to be Christians and yet are evil, wicked abusers of the oppressed, see 1 John 5).

      1. Thank you Pastor. So the Imprecatory Psalms and prayers for JUSTICE AND GOD’S VENGEANCE are good and proper for us, the victims of evil people, to cry out to God about those who profess to be Christians, duping and manipulating others, but are actually habitual, unrepentant wolves, abusers, willing, knowingly immoral and reprobates. We are not to pray for them any longer (as 1 John 5:16-17 explains) as God has reserved their condemnation already.

        This is the case with my abusers, they’ve gone from what I thought was the worst to even WORSE, so I will continue to pray the Imprecatory Psalms and prayers for God to mete out HIS vengeance and HIS justice according to their horrific unrepentant sins and their mocking God and His grace by their continuing false act posing as “professing Christians” as they continually engage in many extremely wicked acts and harm behind their facade. They are completely and arrogantly counterfeit Christians, unashamedly, and for many, many decades. Sealed for destruction.

        Jude 1:4-“They are godless men (whose condemnation was written about long ago) who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality..”
        Jude 1:11 says “They have taken the way of Cain.” “They are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm..” “..For whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.”

        We who have the Holy Spirit KNOW when we are dealing with such condemned wicked people.

      2. I’m glad Z and Walkinginlight asked because I too thought we were to love everyone and help everyone and that made me a bigger target for predators. Then I came across the verses, “Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.”

        I’m still unclear as to how to reconcile the “love your enemies” with common sense (don’t be such easy prey for predators) and also the Imprecatory Psalms, as well as justice being a crucial component to have.

        I would not want a truly repentant person to go to hell, and yet it’s rare that people actually are repentant. How many people want their abusers running around in heaven, spending eternity with predators? Not me. So, the only other place is hell.

        Not sure about this all. To love one’s enemies seems foolish. It is how battered wives end up letting their guard down around their abusers and being further harmed by them. If my batterer was bleeding out in a ditch somewhere, I’d be tempted to employ utilitarianism principles and not attempt to heroically save his life, as then I’d be contributing to more victims being made (if he lives, he’ll victimize, so it’s better he dies and people are safe).

        Perhaps “love your enemies” applies to those in the faith, Christians we have a conflict with, instead of children of the devil. They are on another level.

        1. Dear Cara,
          I too struggle with the concept of having to “render help to my abusers-enemies of God and me-if they were bleeding in a ditch. Your reason of saving future victims is a very valid point! My reason is that my abusers have posed as “christians” all the while they were abusing me and still are abusing and posing as “christians”. They are the worst kind of counterfeits there are. Criminals in many crimes, extremely physically violent and dangerous, false accusers to the point of their victim who called the police for their attack getting falsely arrested along with the attacker due to their false accusations and clear evidence to the contrary. EXTREMELY UNSAFE PEOPLE. I would not feel comfortable being anywhere near them as they are so unsafe. Also, their false accusations (children of their father the devil-chief accuser of the brethren!) likely would end up getting me arrested or in some kind of mess. It’s not safe for me to be anywhere where I know they are. And I make sure I’m not!

          How could I safely render aid when my common sense and past experience tells me to run the other way? Even a phone call for help would be twisted into making me their target and scapegoat. Especially now that I’ve gone No Contact and they so badly want to retaliate if given ANY opportunity. I speak with the Lord about this and pour out the truth of how I feel and think. He knows what I’ve been through all my life at their hands. And He grieves And has His Wrath in store for them. I believe God hates them for their unrelenting wickedness and especially under the guise of “professing christian” for most of their evil, destructive lives. I think God understands my predicament and I don’t think He would punish me for guarding myself from known evil. He knows my heart wants to please Him but He also loves me and does not want me harmed anymore.

  2. Thank you Z for asking pastor Crippen this question as I am wondering the same thing. I would not leave my abuser laying bleeding in a ditch, but at the same time I would not invite him to dinner. I think most of the Christians in our country have been brainwashed that forgiveness automatically means “reconciliation” with the evil doer. To try and keep my heart where the Lord wants it, I always tell myself to hate their evil behavior and not the person. I know they are deceived by darkness. I look forward to hearing pastor explain this.


  3. Z,

    I appreciate you saying what you did. After I commented, I wondered how ‘out there’ I was in expressing what I did. Hypotheticals are one thing, real life is another. People don’t know what they’ll do until they are actually in the situation. In the end, I’d probably render aid. Way too tenderhearted and empathetic for my own good.

    As for the victim being arrested, this is all too common. Abusers usually are very familiar with working the system, especially domestic violence mandatory arrest laws, and abusers are practiced liars who aren’t traumatized when police arrive so they tend to present as the ‘credible one’, which is complete nonsense and quite backwards.

    Some abusers will injure themselves in order to have their victims falsely arrested. Perhaps that is what was done to you. Some abusers will claim victimhood in other ways. It’s really endless the number of variations, schemes, and tactics abusers (and their allies) will employ to further harm the actual victim.

    Sorry for what happened to you. Isn’t is something how the abuser usually has others, whereas the victim is almost invariably alone?

  4. You are right Cara! All the schemes and practiced tactics abusers use when police are called on them were used the night my husband and I were attacked with a weapon by several of my former family members. The DV groups I spoke with afterwards were appalled that the police broke with all the protocols they’ve been trained by the DV groups to follow. But as you said and the DV people said, that is unfortunately the usual, not the anomaly. And the abusers are really, really good liars. Mine have had a lifetime of practice with eluding criminal accountability.
    And yes, it’s pretty unbelievable that even among “Christian” circles, other “Christians” flock to the perpetrator of the abuse and abandon the victim. Again, the abusers are good liars and actors and have had years and years of practice duping people. They duped police. It works!! What’s unreal is that victims who have lived their lifetimes with good character, are true Christians with the fruit to show for it, have shown all these people who now side with evil nothing but kindness, compassion and generosity of heart. Always there when they needed us. We did for them and gave of ourselves over and above what they needed. Open, empathetic hearts that they exploited with either abuses or with betrayals and abandonments of us. How that happens in “Christian” communities so often is mind-boggling. They are not true Christians. That’s the only answer that makes sense. I know the abusers are not-that’s for sure! But all the others? I doubt they could do what they’ve done if they had Jesus truly living in their hearts.

    1. Z,

      It probably is due to the skillfulness of these liars. They’ve spent their lives practicing it. There are also lots of societal things that also hurt victims. The myths that victims are scorned, bitter, vengeful, vindictive, gold-digging women trying to ruin a good guy. The myths that women are crazy psychos and need to be controlled like children, lest they hurt themselves. There are lots of men, and women alike, who believe in sexism. They believe men are more credible than women. They see men as having voices of authority and being voices of truth/facts/logic, whereas women are petty, emotional, liars out to take men down. There are all sorts of lies, myths, and sexist worldviews that add to the plight of abused women.

      Also, I’ve found that families of abusers back up the abusers no matter what. Instead of the parents and siblings of abusers recognizing their son/brother is an abuser, they go completely all out to destroy the victim, basically conspiring with the abuser as to how to take her (the abused woman) down. Same goes for the friends of the abuser. And then comes all the other people the abuser has been poisoning with lies (grooming to hate the abused woman, all, of course, done without the abused woman having any idea) about the supposed badness of the abuse victim and how everyone should hate her.

      Some people are dupes. They genuinely are taken in by the skilled liars that abusers are. Others know and are too scared to oppose the abuser so they become silent bystanders (which feels and looks to the abused like they actively support the abuser because they refuse to speak of their dislike or discomfort as to what the abuser is doing to the victim). And then there are the massive numbers of like-minded fellow abusers. Family and friends tend to not be in the dark about the abusers, despite what they may claim. Abusers look to hang out with other abusers. Just like criminals tend to associate with other criminals.

      I think the church’s bad teachings also set-up girls and women to be more susceptible to abuse because of all the ‘marriage is for life’ ‘divorce and you’re going to hell’ ‘God will only give you as much trouble as you can handle’ ‘submit more, pray harder, be even more servile and doormat-like to your abuser and he’ll come around’ ‘women are to be quiet, only men speak and have authority’ ‘that woman is divorced, she obviously didn’t care to work on her marriage and gave up on it’ ‘suffering is only natural in this life, we deserve worse’ ‘women are to be nice/supportive/caring/nurturing/loving/self-sacrificing’ (which sets women up to feel ashamed and guilty for standing up for themselves or opposing abuse) and a lot of other things. Conservatism and church/religion tends to blend together. And it seems girls’ spirits are to be broken in childhood, more so than boys’ spirits, since women are to be the gentler ones, quiet, meek, submissive, long-suffering, and self-sacrificing.

      It’s all such a mess! I am convinced that abusers are abusers and they never change nor reform themselves because they are children of the devil. Nobody should counsel women to continue in sham marriages to abusers (and yes, all marriages to abusers are total shams, because of the abuser, not the victim) or to bend themselves to their abusers’ whims, etc. They should be seen as evil, wicked, dangerous, children of the devil. Trouble is, they are practiced, excellent liars, manipulators, deceivers, and the abused often don’t even know they are abused, due to the extensive brainwashing and coercive control. It’s up to outsiders to be savvy enough to correctly read the situation, despite all the abusers’ deceptions and manipulations, and to help the victims escape. If the abuse is bad enough, the victims truly are hostages. People don’t see it that way, but they truly are captives, and hostages, and the really desperate, most extreme cases are usually completely undetected for years and years.

      Woman abuse really needs to be the priority because not only is the targeted woman destroyed, but then there are the ripples of harm. Children are affected. Her family is negatively affected. Seriously, one abuser can do so much harm. Even when the abuser goes and finally murders the woman, people still dismiss it as something one-off, downplay it, give pity to the abuser, and don’t recognize that the victim suffered a long time before she was finally killed and pure evil in the abuser did it. Trauma affects so many and sometimes it ruins people for the rest of their lives and if society valued women, they’d seriously crack down on sexism, misogyny, and woman abuse because it is so widespread.

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