The Lord Knows the Difference
Can you tell the difference between the righteous and the unrighteous? When you walk down the road, when you go to work, when you are mowing your lawn and you see other people, can you tell who are the righteous and who are the unrighteous? Can you tell the difference based upon their appearance, their posture, their skin color, their language, or their hair color? Thankfully, God did not leave the responsibility of distinguishing between the righteous and the unrighteous to man. This responsibility belongs solely to God.
How does God tell the difference between the righteous and the unrighteous? To distinguish between the righteous and the unrighteous, God looks at the hearts of men. King David wrote, “If we had forgotten the name of our God, Or stretched out our hands to a foreign god, would not God search this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalms 44:20-21). The apostle Peter, in showing God’s acceptance of the Gentiles, said, “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, . . .” (Act 15:7-8). God looks into the hearts of men in order to distinguish between the righteous and the unrighteous.
A second method which God uses to distinguish between the righteous and the unrighteous is to look at the works of man. The Bible clearly reveals that God sees the works of man. Consider the example of Abraham. While it is true that Abraham was a man of faith, he was also a man of obedient works. Hebrews 11:17-19 says the following about the faith of Abraham: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Hebrews 11:17-19). After stopping Abraham from killing his son, the angel of the Lord said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Genesis 22:12). The Lord had seen the obedient actions of Abraham.
The Lord also sees the wicked works of man. According to what the apostle John saw, “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works” (Revelation 20:13). In referring to the second coming of the Lord, the apostle Paul taught that Jesus would be “revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). The Lord clearly sees the works of the wicked. For this reason, God is the perfect and just judge, condemning all the disobedient to eternity in hell, as the apostle John wrote, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
God’s ability to distinguish between the righteous and the unrighteous should bring great comfort to the righteous. God will not confuse the unrighteous with the righteous. God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation. God also knows how to reserve the unjust under punishment. In his second epistle, the apostle Peter makes this same argument. In 2 Peter 2:4-11, Peter begins by showing that God “did not spare the angels who sinned,” but instead, He “cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” (vs 4). God did not spare the ancient world during the days of Noah. (vs 5) God turned the “cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes,” condemning “them to destruction,” while delivering righteous Lot (vs 6-7). After showing God’s ability to deliver the godly, as well as His consistency in punishing the wicked, Peter wrote, “. . . (T)he Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority . . . ” (2 Peter 2:9-10).
If you are a Christian who is faithfully serving God, then take comfort knowing the Lord can tell the difference between you and the unrighteous of the world. However, if you are not faithfully serving God, then know for certain that the Lord is able to distinguish you from those who are faithfully serving him. Before the day of judgment arrives, make certain that you will be standing on the Lord’s right side. Remember the words of Jesus when He said, “And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:33-34).