Does Wickedness Have a Tipping Point? A Point of No Return?
Jeffrey Dahmer, the notorious serial killer, could be considered one of the most wicked human beings known to modern American society. He was a pedophile, sodomite, rapist, murderer, necrophiliac, and a cannibal who ate the flesh of his multitude of victims. Dahmer was also a practicing Satanist who used the bones and blood of his victims to create altars for which to worship the beast. He descended to a level of utter depravity, perversion and wickedness that most people cannot fathom. And yet, he was saved and baptized in prison right before he was murdered by a fellow inmate.
After his jailhouse conversion hit mainstream news, Christians everywhere sat in deep skepticism and credulity. Was Dahmer truly redeemed and was his conversion genuine? Christians were quoted saying, “If Dahmer is going to heaven, then I don’t want to go.”
Does wickedness have a tipping point? At what stage in a person’s active, conscious wickedness are they beyond the point of rescue? Where exactly is terminus and what happens when it’s reached? Is there a line that once crossed wickedness takes over, completely consumes that person, and nothing can reverse the process?
According to scripture, the answer is yes.
First, let’s look at the difference between sin and wickedness. To sin is to error, to “miss the mark.” Sin is when one tries to do right but fails or falls short. Sin is the desire to do what is right and good according to God’s standards but is unable to achieve it in their own strength or ability. If you are a genuine Christian and part of the body of Christ, you fall in this area.
Wickedness, on the other hand, is the deliberate, conscious choice to sin and move against God’s law. Wickedness has no desire to do what is right or good in God’s eyes. The wicked do not care that what they do is wrong nor have any remorse. The wicked live to do what is evil, they discard truth, and lash out at anyone who attempts to offer it to them. Ultimately, wickedness is rebellion against God.
Wickedness, according to the King James Bible dictionary, is scripturally defined as a “state of being wicked; a mental disregard for justice, righteousness, truth, honor, virtue; evil in thought and life; depravity; sinfulness; criminality”.
For the unbeliever, sin in is the gateway drug to wickedness. Operating from pride, vanity, lust, and greed among other sins are all paths to wickedness. Wickedness then takes up residence in a person’s heart. If one is consciously (with the mind) choosing wicked, sinful things, it comes from a heart of wickedness.
For the believer, sin cannot overtake the heart because God resides there. Sin is no longer a governing feature in the life of the believer because while we can and will sin throughout the course of our lives, we have a God who will not let us fall (Psalms 37:24), will always make a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13), and guards our heart and our mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
The "heart" in biblical terms is the spiritual part of us where our emotions and desires reside. The heart and its contents encapsulate and define who we are as a person. A heart that belongs to God is motivated by righteousness, desires to obey Him and to be like Christ. A wicked heart belongs to Satan and is governed and motivated by evil. Wickedness is Satan’s turf. A wicked heart is territory that Satan is allowed to tread upon. He has a legal right to stand on that territory, it belongs to him. Once a heart is established in wickedness, Satan is the ruling power over it.
For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” ~Mark 7:21-23
In the book of Exodus, the historical account of the release of the Israelite slaves under an Egyptian Pharaoh is depicted. Pharaoh was an evil man with some very deep-seated character flaws rooted in pride. In his heart, his rule, reign and legacy were more important to him than anything, even to the point of enslaving an entire race of people and murdering all of their infant male children. The Israelites had been oppressed and enslaved into hard labor in this nation for 400 years. In terms of captivity, it was like Babylon the sequel, on steroids, with mass infant genocide as the encore.
In the span of 400 years, the Israelites increased to a great multitude, became exceedingly mighty and filled the land. This was the covenant blessing to Abraham (many, many descendants, impossible to count them all) to restore everything lost in the fall and bring us back into relationship with God (Genesis 1:28; 17:1-7).
Pharaoh, however, did not view the Israelites as a blessing. In his heart, this enormous group of immigrants whose numbers were rapidly increasing were like a “plague” upon him and a serious threat to his power. Pharaoh ordered the murder of every Hebrew male child by having them thrown into the Nile river. He built his kingdom with the blood, sweat, and on the backs of Israelite people.
Photo: Exodus: Gods and Kings. Film. 20th Century Fox, 2014
Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.
Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.
And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour. ~Exodus 1:10-12
God appointed Moses as His magistrate/viceregent to demand Pharaoh to release His people. However, at one point it went from Pharaoh hardening his own heart to God doing the hardening. Scripture clearly states two things: God will harden Pharaoh’s heart and that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Which one is it? And, what are the implications for both? To understand this phrasing, one has to understand the literary style used for writing this book as well as the rough results in the translation.
God indeed hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but not at first. Pharaoh’s heart was already hard and it persistently remained that way through the course of these events. However, there was a point of no return, a terminus, where Pharaoh’s wickedness was given over to itself.
And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god* to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land.
And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. ~Exodus 7:1-3
*"made thee a god" means an appointed authoritative representative of God, a magistrate, a viceregent.
God begins the process with Moses learning of his true identity and his heart begins to soften toward his own people. The veil is lifted and he is now able to see the inhumane way his people are treated. This quickly escalated to Moses killing an Egyptian taskmaster who was mercilessly beating a Hebrew slave.
Moses splits the scene and goes into the wilderness (a sort of pre-exodus exodus) where he meets a wife and begins a new life. During this time he goes up the mountain where God speaks to him through the burning bush. God tells Moses that he is appointed to confront the Pharaoh and demand that he free the Israelite people.
God warned Moses that Pharaoh would resist but that He will send plagues upon him. God gave Moses instructions for each approach to the Pharaoh, one at a time, to offer Pharaoh an opportunity (and a warning) to let His people go.
At first, Moses (magistrate/viceregent) and Aaron (prophet) were to make initial contact with Pharaoh and state their demand. Exactly as God instructed and to prove to Pharaoh that they were truly sent by God, Aaron threw the staff on the ground which turned into a snake. Pharaoh’s magicians recreated the event using “enchantments” and upon seeing that, Pharaoh dismissed the entire thing.
An interesting note about the initial contact: God sends Moses and Aaron to display a miracle to Pharaoh knowing full well that his magicians could easily recreate the same thing. Why would God do that? God could have sent them in there with a mighty display, but instead sent them with a small, unimpressive move. Why would God have them perform something He knew would not impress Pharaoh in the least?
Pharaoh dismissed God’s demand because his heart was already hard. Everything God does reveals His character and purpose. And, sometimes that operates on multiple levels. In Pharaoh’s dismissal, he hadn’t noticed that Moses’ staff completely devoured the magicians’ snakes that were created to mock God.
Phase 1 was complete.
Pharaoh was given ten chances to free God’s people. Ten.
With each approach Moses brought his demand with a warning. And with every single one, Pharaoh “hardened his heart” and refused to free the people. God started sending plagues, each one confronting both Pharaoh and one of his Egyptian gods, and still Pharaoh was unmoved. The plague would hit, Pharaoh would freak out and give in a little. Then, after God lifted the plague, Pharaoh felt the relief, would change his mind and go back on his word.
With each of the first five plagues, Pharaoh either “hardened his heart” or “his heart grew hard.” With the remaining five plagues, however, Pharaoh’s evil reached a point of no return and God did the hardening. If God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in the middle of a series of punishments for rejecting God’s demand, how was it possible for Pharaoh to have a change of heart?
It seemed that God closed that door of opportunity.
After the first five plagues it was clear that Pharaoh was utterly unmovable in his decision. Pharaoh’s pride, stubbornness and rebellion eventually passed the tipping point. After the first five opportunities to humble himself before God it was clear that Pharaoh would not succumb and his wickedness was turned against him. In other words, Pharaoh would not bend and his own wickedness was used against him to further God's plan. God turned Pharaoh’s wickedness to His own purposes and lured Pharaoh to his own destruction.
Do not mess with God's plan or His people.
Interesting side note: With the first five plagues, Aaron, the appointed prophet, raised the staff (rod) to launch the punishments. In the second five, after God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Moses, the appointed judge and viceregent, launched the punishments with the raising of his hand.
Here's the rundown of the entire account:
Aaron (prophet) raises the staff, the Nile turns to blood, all the fish die, everything stinks and the water is undrinkable. Magicians recreate the effect in some measure. Pharaoh hardened his heart.
And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the Lord had said. ~Exodus 7:22
Photo: Exodus: Gods and Kings. Film. 20th Century Fox. 2014
Aaron (prophet) raises the staff, a zillion frogs rise out of the Nile and take over the whole region. Magicians recreate the effect in some measure. Pharaoh bends a little bit. Moses reports this to God, the frogs die, and the moment Pharaoh finds relief he changes his mind and goes back on his promise.
But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said. ~Exodus 8:15
Plague 3 (no advance warning):
Aaron (prophet) raises his staff, dense swarms of gnats/lice rise out of the ground and take over the region. Magicians try to recreate the event, fail at their task and admit to Pharaoh this is the hand of God. Pharaoh hardened his heart.
Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said. ~Exodus 8:19
Aaron (prophet) raises his staff, dense swarms of flies take over the region. No magician support here at all. Pharaoh bends a little, Moses asks God to lift the plague, and Pharaoh hardened his heart.
And the Lord did according to the word of Moses; and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; there remained not one. And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go. ~Exodus 8:31-32
Moses warns Pharaoh that if he doesn’t release the people, all the Egyptian livestock (cattle, horses, camels, oxen, sheep, etc.) will be slain. Aaron was present, but not used in this event. No magician attempts to recreate it, either.
And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go. ~Exodus 9:7
TERMINUS REACHED HERE...
With the remaining punitive measures, Pharaoh no longer hardened his own heart. The LORD did the hardening. It was at this point that terminus was reached. The gavel went down, God gave him over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28-32) and the judicial punitive hardening of his heart was set. Every approach to Pharaoh at this point was through Moses (magistrate/vicere). Aaron hung back, no more raising the staff (rod). Now, Moses raises his hand.
God’s was not playing. Now, it goes next level.
Plague 6 (no advance warning):
Moses and Aaron were told to both gather handfuls of ashes from the furnace for Moses to sprinkle it toward the sky in Pharaoh’s presence. Boils and sores raised on Pharaoh, the magicians, the Egyptian people and all their livestock. Magicians could not stand against Moses as they too were covered in boils and sores.
And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses. ~Exodus 9:12
Moses warns Pharaoh to gather his people and livestock and take cover or else fall victim. Moses raises his hand, hail of “biblical proportion” rains down. This wasn’t ordinary hail. This was hail mixed with fire. Basically, it was a meteor shower. Everything got beaten down and burned up.
And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the Lord had spoken by Moses. ~Exodus 9:34-35
Moses and Aaron warn Pharaoh. God hardened his heart. Locusts swarmed so thick it covered the entire region and devoured up everything that was left from the hail. Pharaoh’s servants and magicians tried to speak reason to him. Pharaoh caves, God blows the locusts away in a mighty wind, but still Pharaoh refused to let the people go.
But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go. ~Exodus 10:20
Plague 9 (no warning):
This one is important because it speaks on many levels. This plague brought “thick darkness” that can be felt. In other words, complete and total darkness… no light visible anywhere, not even the stars. This includes candle, fire or any other light. Zero visible light, I cannot stress this enough. This darkness (which is a symbol for spiritual darkness and wickedness) brings deep emotion and terror.
“He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.” ~Psalm 78:49
The third, sixth and ninth plagues all came with no advanced warning. Remember that each of these plagues confronted one of Pharaoh’s Egyptian gods which also confronted Pharaoh's heart. This plague confronts Ra, the sun god. For Pharaoh and his people, this darkness was as if their god had vanished completely. Jewish tradition tells that in the darkness, evil spirits were present making sounds and murmurs. This went on for three continuous days and nights.
But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go. ~Exodus 10:27
The last and final judgment. This is not merely tit-for-tat for killing all of the Hebrew infant males. This was the very last day of their bondage. A 400 year oppression had come to an end. God put favor on the hearts of the Egyptians and they go and gather their wages owed to them.
Moses warned that at midnight he would go out to the midst of Egypt then every first born child and beast would die.The Israelites were to take an unblemished male lamb, separate it from the goats, and keep it until the 14th day of the month. They were to then slaughter it and paint their thresholds with its blood. This was the blood covering that would protect them from God’s wrath. That night, they were to roast it, head and feet intact, and eat it in haste. This is the Lord’s Passover. That night God executed His judgment. From that point forward, the Passover feast was recognized and kept as memorial to this event.
There is never a repentant heart turned away from God’s grace. Anyone, at any time, can ask God for His forgiveness and they will receive it in that instant. However, remaining in unbelief, sin and wickedness has a shelf-life. There may come a point when the heart will no longer be able to make that conscious choice to repent. Do not remain in wickedness and turn your heart toward God now. Just as the prodigal son returned to open, welcoming arms, a repentant heart will also be welcomed and rejoiced (Luke 15:11-32). The angels throw a party!
This is an important time to be alive. We are so very near to Christ’s return that there simply is no time for lukewarm faith. Remaining in wickedness only brings destruction. If you don’t know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, now is the time. The book of Exodus is an example of how God deals with hard-heartedness in both the unbeliever and the believer. The part of the book shown here is only half the story. The second half deals with the hard-heartedness of the Israelites after their release from bondage. This is a story of the heart of every person. Aquaint yourself with it and learn God's character and plan of salvation.
God is slow to wrath as is evidenced in this series of events. Get right with God now, and don’t wait.
If you are not yet a believer and would like to be saved, say this simple prayer:
"God, I know that I am a sinner. I know that I deserve the consequences of my sin. However, I am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior. I believe that His death and resurrection provided for my forgiveness. I trust in Jesus and Jesus alone as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank you Lord, for saving me and forgiving me! Amen!"
If you have prayed this prayer, please let us know. Send us an email and let us rejoice with you and pray for you, too.