One of the stock themes in Scripture is the fact that God will judge men according to their deeds. However, the principle of divine judgment runs deeper than deeds. In Scripture, one of God’s qualifications to be the judge of all mankind is his omniscience. For instance:
10 "I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds" (Jer 17:10).
12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Heb 4:12-13).
And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works (Rev 2:23).
Divine omniscience is a precondition of divine judgment. And the judicial scope of God’s knowledge isn’t confined to what men do. It’s not just that God sees what we do in secret. What we do when there is no one to witness the crime. It’s not just that God remembers long forgotten deeds–or misdeeds.
No. It goes behind outward actions to the hidden realm of intent. Not just what we do, but what we meant to do. God’s omniscience is germane to his judicial role, not merely because that equips him to know everything we do, but everything we contemplate. Unspoken malice. Imaginary crimes.
And that, in turn, raises the specter of punishment for counterfactual sins and crimes. Not merely for what men do, but what they’d do–given the chance, or absent the deterrent.