WHY DO THE WICKED PROSPER? WHEN WILL THEIR PUNISHMENT COME, AND WHEN WILL JUSTICE BE SERVED?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“Why do the wicked prosper?” is an “age-old” question the Bible answered ages ago. Dear friends, readers, and saints, we are obligated, not to go around asking a question God already answered, but to search His Word and discover the answer He has already given. We can thus rejoice in His truth!
For 6,000 years, every person has thought about it from late childhood to late adulthood: “Why bother to do good? The wicked always win.” True, dear friends, there is much injustice in this world. When we read about greedy politicians and avaricious preachers enjoying lavish lifestyles while their constituents and congregants live at or below the poverty line. We read about the world’s dictators who mercilessly oppress and slaughter their own people for many decades. The mainstream media promotes the promiscuity, vanity, immaturity, foolishness of celebrities—we see their vulgarity and stupidity on magazine covers, television news segments, website homepages, and so on. They refuse to have Christian programming that can edify and save the soul from false teaching and Christian news items that can provide light in the world of error, but they welcome everything else because they have profits in mind. The rich and powerful influence the court systems so that justice is not always meted out. Families of wronged parties do not always receive justice. Criminals receive light punishment or they even escape punishment altogether. Oh, what injustices! Will they ever come to an end? Will truth ever win? Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! That is what makes the Bible such a book of hope!
We read a wonderful passage, Psalm 37:1-2: “ Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.  For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.” This is a timeless truth, one sure to be fulfilled as God Himself testifies in His Holy Word, such precious truths and comfort the world can never offer us. (We will return to this passage later.)
When God placed Adam and Eve on the Earth, He gave them “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Mankind occupied a God-given office of government over planet Earth: Adam and Eve were the king and queen over earth for God the Son’s glory. They were to prepare planet Earth for Jesus Christ to come down and permanently dwell with them on this planet.
Nevertheless, when Adam gave in to Satan’s tempting and disobeyed His Creator in Genesis chapter 3, he rebelled against God’s purpose and plan for him (just like Satan had sometime earlier). God the Son’s glory and honor had been stolen from Him, for now the human race—those created in His image (Genesis 1:26-27)—was against Him. Immediately, sin infiltrated the planet: man’s physical body was now depraved, his soul was now darkened, and his spirit was now dead. Adam had lost sight of his purpose, and he was no longer able to function in a capacity that brought His Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, glory and honor. In short, Adam relinquished man’s office over earth and Satan usurped earth’s governments. The entire human race, although not yet born, was now tainted by rebellion against God.
“ Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned….  For if through the offence of one many be dead….  for the judgment was by one to condemnation….  For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one….  Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation….  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners…” (Romans 5:12,15-19). This is the underlying cause of the wicked prospering.
When Adam ate of the forbidden fruit in Genesis chapter 3, he gave in to Satan’s rebellion against God. The entire human race became a part of Satan’s policy of evil: no longer would man seek the Lord Jesus Christ’s will, but his own will. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6ab). “ The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.  The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.  They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:1-3; cf. Psalm 53:1-3).
Sin—that is, our sin nature—values everything that the Lord Jesus Christ does not. In His Holy Word, the God of heaven and earth has declared how He has purposed creation to function. Whenever we go against those principles He has instituted, we sin. Whenever we value and glory in the things in which the Lord Jesus Christ does not esteem and praise, we sin. A sin is not necessarily an action; it can also be a thought and/or an attitude.
With both the heavenly places and planet earth now polluted by sin, God would have to implement His plan to restore His authority in heaven and earth. In fact, much of the Holy Bible is the account of the battle between God’s plan for creation and Satan’s policy of evil aimed at preventing that plan from being accomplished. When Adam ate of the forbidden fruit in Genesis chapter 3, he also allowed Satan to take over the earth’s governmental structure. The entire system of beliefs, actions, and consequences that God disapproved, would also reign.
When Adam joined Satan’s rebellion against God in Genesis chapter 3, he relinquished his God-given dominion over earth (Genesis 1:26-28). Consequently, when Satan tempted the Lord Jesus Christ, notice what happened: “ Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;  And saith unto him, All these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8,9; Luke 4:5-7). Satan offered to give Jesus Christ the kingdoms of the world because he had possession of them, and he wanted worship from God so badly that he offered to give those kingdoms over to Jesus if Jesus would worship him. Jesus never denied that Satan had those kingdoms in his power. (One day, Jesus Christ will rule the world’s kingdoms, without having to worship Satan!)
Hence, Paul referred to Satan as “the god [ruler] of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The Lord Jesus called Satan “the prince [ruler] of this world” (John 12:31). It is also why Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36).
Jesus Christ cannot use today’s governmental structure to be His kingdom—that whole system will have to be cleansed thoroughly, and it will be when Jesus Christ returns. When Satan is bound at Christ’s Second Coming, the 1000-year reign of Jesus Christ on earth will begin (Revelation 20:1-7). Satan’s evil world system—the “course of this world” (Ephesians 2:2)—will thereby end, and Jesus Christ’s righteous world system will take over (reversing what happened in Genesis chapter 3). Until then, Satan’s evil world system will reign, and it will reward those who follow it.
The Lord has allowed Satan’s evil world system to operate for 6,000 years now, to the intent that mankind has free will, an opportunity to obey Him or follow Satan. Without the satanic policy of evil, man has no alternative to following the God of the Bible. In other words, God’s purpose and plan for creation are delayed partly because of Satan and man’s interference (sin). Nevertheless, this works out for man’s benefit. Actually, in this the Dispensation of Grace, God is graciously allowing more time so additional people can trust the Lord Jesus Christ alone as their personal Saviour, before His wrath falls on Satan and the people who join him (Satan) in hindering His (God’s) plan.
Beloved, we will never even partially fathom the depths of God’s longsuffering. Even in the Apostle Peter’s day, nearly 20 centuries ago, the scoffers kept asking how long before Jesus Christ would return and wipe them out. We read in 2 Peter 3:8-9: “ But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Once God gets angry, whether one day or 1000 years later, His wrath is still undiminished, until it is poured out. But, today, God is withholding that wrath. Oh, dear friends, may we not take God’s goodness, grace, and longsuffering, for granted!
In verses 15 and 16, Peter reminded them that Paul had the answers to Christ’s delay—He was waiting for people to be saved into the Body of Christ: “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;…” May we never take God’s peace in and through Christ for granted, for one day, He will withdraw it from this world, and replace it with His wrath!
We read in Romans chapter 2: “ And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?  Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?  But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;  Who will render to every man according to his deeds:  To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:  But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,  Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;  But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:  For there is no respect of persons with God.”
Unbelievers prosper because their master (Satan) is usurping God’s authority in the earth. God’s will is not being fully accomplished in the earth… yet. Although the God of the Bible is still saving people through Christ Jesus, and while He is still teaching people the truth through His written Word, the Holy Bible, His will is not being accomplished in the sense of righteous judgment. Satan’s policy of evil is why the entire world is so messed up today—the religions, the schools, the politics, the courts, the economics, and so on. Satan is ruling, and God’s authority in the earth needs to be restored (and it will when Jesus Christ returns at His Second Coming to usher in Israel’s earthly kingdom).
Before Jesus Christ returns to earth (His Second Coming) to establish righteousness in the earth for Father God’s glory, the seven-year Tribulation will have to run its awful course. As we will see, the satanic policy of evil—specifically, the righteous (God’s people) suffering and the wicked (unbelievers) prospering—will be greatly manifested during that Tribulation period, even more so than it is today.
Once our Dispensation of Grace concludes with the rapture, the “catching up” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) of the Church the Body of Christ into the heavenly places, Israel’s prophetic program will resume exactly where it paused 2,000 years ago. The seven-year Tribulation is the next event on Israel’s prophetic calendar: “ He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.  Then shall he speak unto them [those on earth] in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure” (Psalm 2:4-5).
At that point, Satan’s policy of evil, the wicked plan that has been hindering God’s purpose for creation, will crescendo. The Antichrist, the literal and physical embodiment of the devil’s original plan to rob the Lord Jesus Christ of His glory, will achieve global dominion. This counterfeit Jesus Christ will bully, and yet finagle, his way into office, and Satan’s chief man will finally head a world government (imitating Jesus Christ’s worldwide kingdom that will be established later).
Notice what this Antichrist will do: “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High” (Daniel 7:25). That Antichrist will claim to be God Himself (2 Thessalonians 2:4), and he will persecute and/or slay the Jewish believers who reject him!
Psalm 10 is actually spoken from the viewpoint of those believing Jews living during the Tribulation: “ Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?  The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor…  He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it….  Break thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man… … that the man of the earth may no more oppress” (verses 1,2,11,15,18). The Antichrist assumes he is getting away with his evil deeds, but the Bible says otherwise! “ Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.  For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb” (Psalm 37:1-2).
Over halfway into the seven-year Tribulation, the Antichrist will institute a religion that worships him (reminiscent of Satan’s original desire). The Antichrist’s religious leader, the “false prophet,” will execute those who refuse to worship the Antichrist’s idol (Revelation 13:15). “ He causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:  And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.  Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (verses 16-18).
The Lord Jesus Christ’s believing Jews will reject the Antichrist’s mark, name, and number to the point of beheading (Revelation 20:4; cf. Revelation 6:9-11; Revelation 13:15), so, according to the Bible, will they be able to buy or sell? NO! Frankly, the evil world system will not care less as Israel’s believing remnant starves, goes homeless, and perishes! However, God will use believing Gentiles to assist some of these Messianic Jews (see Jesus Christ’s comments in Matthew 25:31-46, noting also the unbelieving Gentiles and their mistreatment of believing Israel). According to our Lord, those believing Gentiles will inherit Israel’s earthly kingdom with the Jews—remember, we, the Church the Body of Christ, are not in this passage.
Believing Israel will suffer greatly (imprisoned, starved, beheaded, et cetera) while the unbelievers will enjoy economic rewards for following the devil and his Antichrist. The religious element of the Antichrist’s regime is described in Revelation chapter 17. Note its “gold, precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand…” (verse 4)—material riches! Read about the economic element of the Antichrist’s regime in Revelation chapter 18, and notice: “that great city [Babylon], that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!” (verse 16)—more material riches!
During the Tribulation, the wicked will prosper, but the prophetic Scriptures are God’s comfort to His suffering Jewish believers. We return to Psalm 37:1-2: “ Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.  For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.”
This is actually referring to the end of Satan’s evil world system: “ For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.  For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.  But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” Jesus Christ quoted this—“The meek shall inherit the earth”—in His “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5:5), referring to believing Jews who will inherit His millennial earthly kingdom, when Satan is bound and his policy and its adherents are removed from earth and then ultimately confined to the lake of fire (Revelation 20:1-15)!
“The wicked plotteth against the just [believers], and gnasheth upon him with his teeth” (Psalm 37:12). Now, behold verse 13, “The LORD shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming.” Psalm 37:1-2 amplifies that just as one would mow a lawn and cut down tall grass, so the Lord Jesus Christ, with a righteous sword, will sever the (haughty, prosperous) wicked from earth at His Second Coming! “For in one hour so great riches is come to nought” (Revelation 18:17a).
Returning to Psalm 10, the thoughts of the believing Jews being persecuted for righteousness’ sake in the Tribulation. Note verses 12,15: “ Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble….  Break thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man: seek out his wickedness till thou find none.” This is Christ’s Second Coming, when He defeats Satan’s Antichrist. Finally, verse 16: “The LORD is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land.” There is the earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ, and Satan’s evil world system and its followers are removed!
Our world is always searching for peace, always searching for justice, always looking for peoples’ rights to be upheld rather than abused or removed. It is said if we could eliminate anything and everything “religious” and “spiritual,” our world we be peaceful. It is said that if we vote out the wicked politicians and elect honest ones that our nation will be great. Others say that we should meet and converse with heads-of-state, and make many peace treaties to ensure international tranquility. Africa and the Middle East are ravaged by war and destruction, ever so desperate for peace from centuries- or millennia-long conflicts. The suffering these poor people are facing make even some Christians wonder how can God just keep letting it continue. All the wickedness in the court systems in the nations of the world, the corrupt global economy, the religious organizations around the world, on and on we could name them. We can rest assured that God is not “sitting around in heaven in a recliner,” taking pleasure in what mankind has done to His once-perfect world. In His own time, He will consummate it all: we cannot rush Him because He knows best. In order to give people more time to avoid God’s wrath and trust Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, God must delay the punishment of the wicked. Oh, may we not take this Dispensation of Grace for granted. It is 2,000 years shorter than when it was when the Bible was completed, and it grows shorter and shorter every day. As Christians, let us be about our Father’s work, the message of His grace, that more may be saved through Christ from the wrath to come!