The grapes of Sodom & the law of cumulative sin

By Scott Lively

I was very moved by a recent opinion piece by Erick Erickson on the atoning sacrifice of Union soldiers in the Civil War for the sin of slavery.

His purpose was to rebuke the New York Times for its pursuit of reparations for the descendants of slaves, noting that the debt had been fully paid in blood. He reminded us that this was a consensus of our nation at the time, invoking President Lincoln’s second inaugural address:

“The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses … if God wills … every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword.”

He then quoted that era’s defining hymn, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”: “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.”

If the Civil War was the price of slavery, the debt is certainly paid. The more important question, however, is whether America now has another bill to pay.

The generation of our forebears who fought that ugly war shared a Christian worldview, which recognized the biblical law of cumulative sin in human society relative to the land on which we live. The Bible makes clear that human sin hurts the land and that the longer the land suffers the accumulation of sin, the more severe the consequences for humankind.

Of the numerous examples from Scripture, perhaps the clearest is God’s explanation in Leviticus 18 of the reason for his command to the Hebrews that they purge the Holy Land of the demon-worshiping Canaanites: “Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. ‘For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. ‘But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you … so that the land will not spew you out.” (I urge you to read all of Leviticus 18 to fully grasp the import of this cite in context relative to our society today.)

Remember that the land at issue was promised to Abraham’s descendants as a perpetual inheritance, but God would not let Abraham possess it immediately. “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess … [but not yet.] … In the fourth generation your descendants will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” (Genesis 15:7-16).

God has His own formula by which He judges nations and the world as a whole. According to that formula, the sin of the Canaanites had not yet accumulated to the level that would justify their already scheduled extreme punishment by God. He knew in advance they would not repent, but stayed His own hand for the sake of His Master Plan (parts of which we are privileged to know if we study history and prophecy in His Word).

The equation in the U.S. Civil War era, as that generation of biblically literate Christians saw it, was that the blood drawn by the lash from slaves for 250 years eventually required the deaths of 620,000 soldiers to satisfy divine justice. It wasn’t God’s arbitrary choice but the natural consequences of the cumulative voluntary sin of the nation (a principle that explains why God characterized the Canaanite purge as the land itself “vomiting out” the inhabitants).

Importantly and mysteriously, it is God who “desolates” the land, for the sake of the land. In His perspective the land, indeed the whole (groaning) Creation, is the innocent victim of human sin, and the “desolating” of human beings from the land is His solution: the Great Flood, the incineration of Sodom and Gomorrah, the violent removal of the House and Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. and the violent removal of the House and Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. are four major examples.

Each was punishment for sin that accumulated through a long period of God’s long-suffering mercy until the growth of sin matured to the point that it required a harvest.

“He is trampling out the vineyards where the grapes of wrath are stored” reads “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” an allusion to the last-days harvest at Armageddon.

“‘Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe. … Swing your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the vine of the earth, because its grapes are ripe.’ So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the grapes of the earth, and he threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath,” reads Revelation 14:15-19 about the second coming of Christ (when He will judge and make war in a blood-spattered robe per Revelation 19:11-21).

Revelation 15 follows immediately with a glimpse into Heaven, where “seven angels with the seven final plagues, with which the wrath of God is completed … were holding harps from God, and they sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb.” The Song of Moses is found in Deuteronomy 32, and it identifies the “grapes of wrath” precisely: they are “from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah. … Their grapes are poisonous; Their clusters are bitter” (verse 32).

Last week, I drew some criticism for my observation that God does not seem to be blessing the ministry of those of us who have sought to restore America. One man rebuked me for “unbelief” in the power of God to heal our land. I did not suggest, however, that God was unable, but rather appears unwilling to restore us.

While it is true that America has made some slight progress in changing the public mind about the continuing slaughter of unborn babies, nevertheless the blood of more than 60 million has defiled the land, and there is no end in sight. But at the same time, the yet greater sin (biblically speaking) of societal acceptance of homosexual perversion not only advances unchecked (and largely unchallenged from the pulpit), it has invaded and corrupted vast swaths of American Christendom. And as much as I still believe Donald Trump is God’s man in the White House – like a warts-and-all Old Testament-style figure from the book of Judges – he is deliberately facilitating, not opposing, the LGBT agenda within his MAGA plan (a sign in itself that God’s intention is not restoration but the outworking of prophecy – watch for the Third Temple to be authorized during his presidency as proof of this).

I should add, for those who, like myself, consider Israel to be representative of the status of the world relative to prophecy, that abortion and sodomy are now embraced by the Israeli government as well and running rampant in the society.

One doesn’t need to recite the catalog of fulfilled elements of last-days prophecy to recognize that either the Lord’s return is getting close or America is under judgment pending the “fullness” of her iniquity (or both). It is enough to “do the math” on the law of cumulative sin and to admit there is no sign of a wholesale 2 Chronicles 7:14, or Nineveh-like repentance on the horizon.


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