Creator, Redeemer, and Judge
In the Bible God has revealed himself to humanity in numerous ways, including three distinct roles that belong uniquely to him, defining God, each one a position of power and authority, each one meriting gratitude, obedience, respect, honor and praise. One of several places we find these three great attributes and works of God described in sequence is Isaiah 45:18-25, where the Lord identifies himself through the prophet as Creator, Redeemer, and Judge.
In Isaiah 45:18, and in the Bible as a whole, God reveals himself first of all as Creator, “For this is what the Lord says — he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it…” (Isaiah 45:18-20). Because God is creator, mankind owes him, our maker, obedience, gratitude and honor. Instead though, humanity persistently chooses to honor and serve the products of human thought and imagination, and refuses to obey and honor the Creator (see also Romans 1:18-25).
Almost from the beginning, rather than happily serving the Creator, mankind willfully has parted company with God, refusing to be thankful or to obey him. Because of this rebellion and its terrible consequences, God presents himself to man as Redeemer or savior, communicating the message of how to be saved and providing salvation. From Isaiah 45:
… Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. ‘Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other (Isaiah 45:21-22).
God, the rejected Creator, nevertheless presents himself as Redeemer, savior to all who will accept his invitation and turn to him to be saved. Both as Creator and as Redeemer God deserves praise and gratitude, worship and obedience, and gladly rewards those who turn to him to be saved.
Third and finally, truly finally, God shows himself to man as Judge, and all men must face him in this final way. Continuing in Isaiah, the Lord says in 45:23-25:
By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength.’ All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame. But in the Lord all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult.
The Lord thus spoke of everyone coming before himself in judgment, every knee bowing, every tongue confessing who God is, what he has done, and then everyone getting what they deserve, whether the shame of rebellion, or the exultation of being one of God’s people, one of the redeemed. (See also Philippians 2:9-11 where Paul applies these statements to Jesus Christ, exalted to the highest place, and honored in judgment by every knee bowing, every tongue confessing). God should be thanked as Creator, and obeyed as Redeemer, and definitely will be honored as Judge.
The triune description of God found in Isaiah 45:18-25 is found repeatedly in stories and teachings throughout the Bible. In Genesis, we have God the Creator making everything good (chapters 1-2), and then mankind’s rebellion and increasing wickedness (chapters 3-5), followed by the Redeemer saving Noah and his family with the ark (Genesis 6). Once the redeemed were safe in the ark, God the Judge destroyed the world and its inhabitants in righteous judgment in the tumult of the great flood (Genesis 7-9). Later, when God gave the 10 Commandments to Israel at Mt. Sinai, the order shifted for emphasis, but God reminded his people again that he was their Creator (Exodus 20:8-11), and their Redeemer (Exodus 20:2) and their Judge (Exodus 20:4-7).
In the New Testament, when the apostle Peter briefly used the events of Noah’s time as an illustration of the coming divine judgment of the world, he also highlighted that God created everything (2 Peter 3:5) and then executed judgment on the ungodly in the flood (2 Peter 3:6), and so the Creator who sustains the cosmos will also bring judgment by fire on the world at the time of his choosing. Yet for now, before God acts as Judge for the final time, condemning the ungodly and saving the redeemed (2 Peter 3:10-13), he will fulfill his own times and purposes as Redeemer, biding his time to save as many as possible, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:7-9).
When John wrote his testimony of Jesus, the Lamb of God, he emphasized that Jesus is the Son of God who became a man in the flesh, and that Jesus too must be understood and honored as Creator (John 1:1-3), Redeemer (John 3:14-21) and Judge (John 5:22-27).
In Isaiah 45:18ff, when God described himself through the prophet as Creator, Redeemer, and Judge, he emphasized the idea that he had revealed himself in these ways for a purpose, that he had spoken and provided evidence that his words were trustworthy and true so that mankind might turn to him and be saved. Having this divine testimony, the very words of God about himself, if humans will not obey their awesome Creator or surrender to the loving Redeemer, they will still necessarily answer to the righteous Judge. One way or another, sooner or later, men will deal with God, and acknowledge him as God. He forestalls judgment when he can, as long as he can, not wanting any to perish, willing to give men generous opportunities to be saved, but finally, God will deal with man as Judge, to the shame and dismay of many who have rebelled against him.