Forum Class for 1/16/05
Some popular schools of Christian theology suppose that there is a coming single day of judgment for everyone. One finds this view reflected in literature and art through Christendom. However, a careful reading of the Bible indicates that there are at least eight major judgments recorded in Scripture applicable to various groups of people.
Jesus as Judge
John's gospel, Chapter 5, is very important to this entire discussion.
"For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.
Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me." (John 5: 20-30)
Since God is both holy and just, He must judge evil and vindicate (recompense) those who have been wronged. He does this in accordance with His own time-tables and calendar. In the Lamentations of Jeremiah we learn that God's judgments are undertaken reluctantly after all else fails. God is "slow to anger" and very patient and "longsuffering," --but when He does judge He is thorough and even (to us) ruthless.
In his commentary on the Gospel of John, Ray C. Stedman writes,
The claim of Jesus is that life belongs to him. He only loans it, for a while, to us. Think of that! It cuts right across the philosophy and the propaganda of our day! Television, radio, newspapers and magazines tell you that your life belongs to you, and you can do with it what you want; it is up to you to make of yourself whatever you desire. That is what is fed to us all the time. But that is a lie! Your life is not yours. You did not invent it, you were handed it, you were given it. One of these days you will have to give it back. Those two great facts underscore all of life, yet how easy it is to forget them.
How frequently the world tries to operate on a basis that is not true, that life belongs to us, and it will go on as long as we want it to! One of the reasons we gather here Sunday after Sunday is that we might counteract that lie and remind ourselves afresh that many of the things that are being said to us by the world are not true, they are not based on reality. Sooner or later, an exciting, compelling, terrifying reality is going to crash in upon us and we will have to deal with life the way it really is. That is what this claim of Jesus states. He claims not only to possess the power to give physical life, but spiritual life as well.
"Spiritual" life is what the Bible calls "eternal" life. It is a different level of life. It is not merely, as it is frequently translated (especially in the King James version), "everlasting" life. That conveys the idea that this present, earthly life will be extended infinitely. But that is not what the Bible is talking about when it speaks of "spiritual" or "eternal" life. It is rather describing a quality of life. It is true that it goes on forever, but primarily the Bible is talking about the richness, the fullness, the beauty of life. It is a quality of life that is enduring, true, but it is also enriching; it cannot be diminished by circumstances or ended by death. It is a quality of life that is given to us now. It begins here, not in heaven after you die. The claim of Jesus is that he alone has the power to give that kind of life.
Because Jesus gives "to whom he will," that makes him also the arbiter of the destiny of human beings: He is the Judge of all men. It is his knowledge of who is to receive eternal life, and who is to remain without it, that constitutes him an infallible Judge of human destiny. These two ideas blend together; one grows out of the other. If Jesus gives you life you are on your way to heaven. If he gives you eternal life you will never die, you will never taste the emptiness and awful loneliness of death. You will immediately have a fuller experience of life than you have ever had before. But only if Jesus gives it to you. He is the sole possessor of spiritual life.
If he does not give you life then you remain exactly the way you were, on your way to hell, on your way to frustration, torment, hollowness -- all those negative things the Scripture means when it speaks of hell -- life without God, without blessing, without richness, without fullness.
If this claim of Jesus is, real it clearly makes him the most important Person in anybody's life. If your very physical existence has come from him, and your spiritual destiny is in his hands, then he is the most important Person you will ever have to deal with. More than that, he is the most important Person in the whole world, the central figure in all the universe. This is stated all through the Scriptures.
In the last book of the Bible, which was also written by the Apostle John, there is a tremendous scene described in Chapter 5, where John takes us beyond the limits of earth and shows us the throne of God. The creatures of heaven are gathered around the throne, worshiping God, and in the center of the scene John sees a Lamb that has been slain. Here is his description:
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, "To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!" And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Rev 5:11-14)
There is Jesus, sitting at the heart of the universe. Because of this, no Christian can ever put Jesus Christ on a par with Mohammed, Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, the virgin Mary, Moses, the prophets, or any religious leader of any time. This is why we cannot call a Christian one who only accepts the teachings of Jesus, or who adopts his moral standards, or admires him as a social reformer or religious leader. Jesus himself does not allow us that privilege. He is above all of this. He alone has the right to give the gift of eternal life. In his first letter, John has written of him, "This is the record, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life, but he who does not have the Son of God does not have life," (1 John 5:11-12). The relationship you have to Jesus Christ is the most important relationship of your life. It determines your ultimate destiny.
If that is true, the great question before us is, "To whom and on what terms does Jesus give eternal life?" The answer to that is given in one of the greatest verses in Scripture, Verse 24. It is one of my favorite texts, one I have used many, many times. I hope you will memorize these words of Jesus,
Truly, truly, I say to you [remember, that introduction in effect underlines the words that follow, calling attention to the importance of them], he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24 RSV)
That verse makes clear that when Jesus says he gives life "to whom he will," it is not a matter of arbitrary selection on his part. He does not point at people in a capricious way, and say, "You, and you, and you, can have eternal life," and so on. It is clear there is a responsibility we are to fulfill.
To whom does Jesus give eternal life? To the man or woman, boy or girl who "hears his words and believes in Him who sent him," to the one who is willing to listen to his claims, believe his credentials, and act on that basis, to follow him and be his obedient disciple. When one hears his words and obeys what he says, notice what happens: immediately Jesus says he "has eternal life;" not, he "shall have" it some day when he dies. He has it, right then. Immediately also all judgment is past. Such a one has "passed from death to life." Our Lord is making very clear to these Jews and to everyone else who reads his words the terms on which one passes from death to life.
All of us are born headed for death. We do not like to talk about it, we put it away from our thoughts as long as possible, but we are all headed for death. Beyond death lies the second death -- unless we have eternal life. Thus the most important question anybody has to settle is whether he has believed in Jesus and received from his hand the gift of eternal life. In Verse 25 Jesus extends this well into the future:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead [the spiritually dead] will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself..." (John 5:25-26)
What does Jesus mean by the words, "the hour is coming"? This is a clear reference to the Day of Pentecost, to the new thing that would happen when the Spirit of God would come in a new, fresh way and this gift of eternal life would be given to Jews and Gentiles alike all over the world and through all the succeeding periods of time. Already the "hour" of which Jesus speaks is over 1900 years long. During that time whoever hears his word and believes on him who sent him receives eternal life.
But, Jesus also says, "it now is," i.e., it was already happening. By those words he is referring to his own giving to individuals of the gift of life. We have already seen this in John's gospel. Nicodemus, the troubled religious leader, came by night to Jesus in an effort to find peace. Jesus said to him, "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up [on a cross], that whoever believes in him may have eternal life," (John 3:15 RSV). Nicodemus believed and received the gift of eternal life. The Samaritan woman at the well, who was living such an empty life, trying to find satisfaction in five husbands, hoping marriage would satisfy her yearnings, came empty, hungry, and thirsty to Jesus. To her he said, "If you knew who is speaking to you, you would have asked of him and he would have given you a well of water springing up to eternal life," (John 4:10 RSV). Thus he gave her eternal life. She went away so excited she could not contain herself, but soon brought the whole town out to hear this One who could give the gift of eternal life.
So it was already happening, "the hour is coming, and now is," when the spiritually dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. Then he adds that as the Son of God, as the One who is eternally with the Father, he has always had this ability to give life to the spiritually dead. He has this life "in Himself." He is the One who has always given eternal life, in the Old Testament as well as the New. But now he adds something else. Verse 27:
"...and [the Father] has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man." (John 5:27)
In other words, because he has now become a man and understands how we live, how we feel and what we face, he has the right to pass judgment on whether we should have the gift of life or remain in death. It is because Jesus came among us that he understands us. He knows the pressures and the problems we face, therefore he knows clearly when we have reached the place where we are ready to give up depending on ourselves and are able to receive the gift of life.
To receive the gift of life is the only way by which a man can be permanently changed, whether he has a black record or not. The only thing that can transform us right at the very heart of our being, and make us new again, is the gift of eternal life. Those who have it can never be the same again. The growth process can sometimes be very painful, as many of us know, but, when the gift of life is there at the heart of our being, we can never go back to what we once were. That life is in God's Son. But all physical life is also in his hands. Verse 28:
"Do not marvel at this [What does that tell you about what they were doing? They were agog with astonishment that he would speak like this. Their mouths dropped open at the daring claims he made.] for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me," (John 5:28-30)
What a marvelous claim! Jesus says there is coming an hour in history when all the dead, all of them -- bad, good, evil, kind, loving, unloving, murderers, rapists -- all, shall come forth from the grave. He is going to empty the cemeteries of the world. Then, even the bodies of men and women will share in their final destiny.
Those who have "done good" shall experience the resurrection of life. What does "done good" mean? Many people extract this verse from the context and make up their own ideas about what it means to "do good." They say if you have been fairly nice to your neighbor, do not beat your wife too often, speak kindly to people now and then, and try your best to obey the Ten Commandments, then perhaps the good you have done will outweigh the evil and God will let you into heaven.
But that is not what this verse is saying. This is just a few verses removed from what Jesus said about the gift of eternal life. To "do good," of course, means to have received eternal life. Only those in whom the life of God is dwelling can "do good" in God's eyes. In the words of an old hymn, "He died that we might be forgiven, He died to make us good; That we might go at last to heaven, Saved by His precious blood." Those who have obeyed his word, walked in fellowship with him and shared his life -- those are the ones who have "done good."
What does "done evil" mean? Obviously this is referring to those who have refused his life, turned their backs on truth, and shut their ears to the offer of grace from God; those who have denied even the witness of nature, the witness of their own inner hearts. Those are the ones who have all their life "done evil" even though there were times when they thought they were doing good. They will come forth to the "resurrection of judgment."
That is clearly the import of the words of Jesus. No wonder he frightened and challenged the people who heard him on that day, as he frightens and challenges us when we hear his words today. But note his assurance in Verse 30:
"I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just..." (John 5:30a)
There will be no argument against his judgment, no one can complain that it is unfair, because it is the work of both the Father and the Son; the Father who gave us life to begin with and who knows all that is in our hearts; the Son who came among us and knows how we feel and is both our Savior and Judge. We decide which he is going to be by the reaction we have to truth. (He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/john/3844.html).
Judgment of everyone is based on our Knowledge and on our "Works"
God judges all men on the basis of the truth they have received and their actions (deeds) in life. (The works that count in the life as far as God is concerned are the acts of Christ in and through us--the result of our faith).
"...do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:4-16)
In Chapter One of Romans we learn that the active, ever-present "wrath" of God "is [continuously] revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who repress the truth in unrighteousness." Furthermore, all men everywhere know enough about God to be without excuse--one can not plead ignorance on the day of judgment. "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36)
In Romans chapter 2 we are introduced to the "stored up" aspect of the wrath of God. When the "stored-up" wrath is unleashed it can not be stopped. For example, "The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great, and the land is full of bloodshed, and the city full of perversity; for they say, 'The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD does not see!' "And as for Me [the Lord] also, My eye will neither spare, nor will I have pity, but I will recompense their deeds on their own head." (Ezekiel 9:9-10)
Romans 2 tells that that when we judge and condemn others we are playing God. We have neither the knowledge nor the right to sit in judgment on others. Therefore our judgmental attitudes are serious sin. (Judging others in order to make ourselves look good is not the same as discernment which we do need in order to help and encourage others).
Motives matter. "Man looks upon the outward appearance, God looks upon the heart." At the judgment of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31ff men are evaluated, basically, on the basis of loving their neighbor in practical ways. The Sermon on the Mount intensifies the demands of the Law of Moses by showing that the motives of the heart are as important as outward conduct. James says, "Whoever keeps the whole Law and fails in any one point, is guilty of all of it."
The standards of God are very high. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." One of the definitions of sin is compared to shooting an arrow at a target and missing the mark. Trying hard is not good enough. Who among us actually lives out the Golden Rule (Mt. 7:12) in our daily lives? The gulf between a holy God and us sinners is an infinite chasm, bridgeable only by God Himself who, in Christ, has made our reconciliation possible.
What is the standard for acceptable human conduct? The standard is actually Jesus Himself. Jesus is God's righteousness. In contrast "...we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away." (Isaiah 64:6)
The three-fold work of the Holy Spirit in the world during the age we live in includes convicting the world of its unrighteousness:
"Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I [Jesus] go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged."
Life Styles: People who live outwardly moral and decent lives are usually pursuing goals in life that run contrary to the will of God because they are most likely selfish and self-seeking. From whence comes the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or the freedom to have an abortion, or the right to choose one's sexual preferences? Man is a worshiping being by nature and if not serving the true and living God, is automatically serving idols.
Hypocrisy (pretending to be godly when one is not) is actually worse than open immorality.
"These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren." (Proverbs 6:16-19)
Providence and Common Grace: God is kind to all men, "He makes his rain fall on the just and the unjust." His kindness, patience and love to all mankind is for the purpose of bringing us to repentance. The proper response to God's grace is thanksgiving, worship, and commitment.
God's judgment is utterly fair and impartial. He judges us on our actual conduct based on what we do know about Him. God judges according to truth and He takes our motives into account. Doing good occasionally is not enough. A consistent good life marks the path of the righteous.
Summary of God's Judgments
1. God is holy and just. He must judge all evil everywhere. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25)
2. The Lord prefers mercy to judgment: He is compassionate and longsuffering, He is, "Not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9)
3. Because judgment is often delayed in time (God is longsuffering), many people assume God will never judge us.
4. Judgment is God's "strange work"--however when God does move in judgment He is thorough and even ruthless.
5. More than one single judgment: Some popular schools of theology suppose that there is a coming single day of judgment for everyone. One finds this view reflected in religious literature and art. However, the Bible indicates that there are eight or more separate judgments of various groups of people recorded in Scripture.
Judgments at the Cross
A. When Jesus died on the cross the sins of all of mankind were judged. Jesus, the innocent Lamb of God, was the substitute who endured the full wrath and punishment of God for all of the sins of everyone who has ever lived. (Rom. 3:21-26, 1 John 2:2) The judgment of all human sin by God through the propitiatory sacrifice of his Son on the cross has made it possible for all men everywhere to be freely forgiven and thus reconciled to God. For instance, Paul pleads with men to accept God good favor towards them now (2 Cor. 5:14-21). "He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (This does not mean that all men are saved, because God can not violate human freedom to refuse his grace).
B. The judgment of the Adamic nature of believers was carried by Christ on the cross. (Rom. 6:1-10) This aspect of the work of Christ on the cross with us (not merely for us) is widely overlooked by Christians today!
C. Satan, the chief of the fallen angels, was judged at the cross. This is a vast subject contained within the short statement "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself." (Col. 1:19-20, John 12:31) "For it pleased the Father that in Christ all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross." (Col. 1:19-20)
The Judgment Seat of Christ.
This one judgment applies to Christians only. This judgment is not a judgment for the Christian's sin but of his "works." (John 3:18, 5:24, Rom. 8:1-4, 1 Cor. 3:9-15, 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:9-10, Rom. 14:7-12). It is a "job performance evaluation."
The Judgment of Israel
This event comes after the rapture of the church but before the judgment of the nations. (Matt. 24:1-25:46). This is a vast subject! (For starters see Daniel 12:1-3, Ezek. 20:33-44, Matt. 24:29-31, Zech. 12: 10-14, Joel 3, Malachi 3:1-6, Ezek. 36-37, Isa. 63-66, Hosea 5:13-6:3, Rom. 11:25-36, Rev. 14:14-20, Matt. 25:31-46). Jesus is the Avenger of Blood and Kinsman Redeemer, especially for Israel. Jesus has a special and unique relationship with His own people Israel, and they are a special nation as God's model nation. They are to be judged more strictly than the gentile nations for these two reasons.
The Judgment of Angels
Christians, working together with their Lord Jesus will judge both angels and the world. (1 Cor. 6:2,3). No details are given.
The Final Judgment of the Nations
The gentile nations will be judged immediately following the judgment of the nation Israel, just after the Lord Jesus has returned to the Mount of Olives at the Second Advent. The basis for this judgment is how the nations have treated the Jews! (Joel 3:1-8, Matt. 25:31-46)
The Great White Throne Judgment
Sometimes called the "Last Judgment". (Rev. 20:11-15) All the unbelievers of all time, will be judged by the deeds and banished forever from the presence of God. There are degrees of punishment for the wicked. This judgment comes (in earth-history time) at the end of the Millennium, but before the "New Heavens and New Earth."
God also judges nations down through history. Nations ruse and nations fall. This is discussed in Ray Stedman's studies of the parables of Matthew 13, Behind the Scenes of History, http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/behind/, and can be seen in his book Death of a Nation on the book of Jeremiah, http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/jeremiah/. Points in time when God judges an individual or a nation are illustrative of greater judgments which will come later in time. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the Plain is an example of a temporal, point-in-time judgment. Jude says, "And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Jude 6,7) The latter event was a judgment by God at a certain point in time past, about 2000 BC, (Genesis 18-19).
The judgment of the Canaanites whom God ordered Joshua and
the incoming Israelites to "utterly destroy" is often
criticized by non-Christians as an indication that Yahweh is cruel
and arbitrary. Glenn Miller discusses this judgment in an article,
How could a God of Love order the massacre/annihilation of the
Individuals are also judged when any group of people is being judged.
Individuals are also judged during their life-times. A particular sin "which leads to death" means that a certain believer may not be allowed to live out his full life span on earth but may be called home early because of disobedience. See Ray Stedman's notes on "the sin unto death," http://ldolphin.org/deliberate.html.
Wars are temporal judgments from God applicable to both parties. (That is, there are no just wars). God's role in these judgments usually escapes the notice of the world, but discerning believers will see God's hand in world affairs. "Acts of God" in legalese are "accidents," such as shipwrecks in a storm, where there is no obvious human cause. Since there are in reality no accidents in a universe where God is in full control of all the details, God allows and even causes shipwrecks, and such, but we don't always know why. When a natural disaster occurs many prognosticators rush to explain why the victims in the disaster suffered and died. In most cases we can not track down the chain of causality and we ought not to try. Romans 11:33 reminds us "How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out" is a clear statement
We can avoid being judged by God and we can avoid being disqualified for the Lord's work--if we judge ourselves regularly. The Apostle Paul suggests he was all too aware of the possibility he might fail to finish the task he was called to--that he might be disqualified. He says, "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified." (1 Cor. 9:27) He also says, "For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged." (1 Cor. 11:31) and further adds that every follower of Christ can expect corrective discipline from God. "But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world." (1 Cor. 11:32) The discipline of God for the believer is not punitive but corrective. This is discussed in Hebrews 12:1-17.
|GGod will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks onto the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right, but what is the good of saying you're on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else--something it never entered your head to conceive--comes crashing in; something so beautiful to us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love, or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down, when it's become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realize it or not. Now, today, in this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever; we must take it or leave it. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)|
Systematic Theology by Lewis
Sperry Chafer, Kregel Press, 1976. CHAPTER XXVI:
OF EIGHT JUDGMENTS announced in the Bible, one is wholly past, two pertain to the present, and five are wholly future. The five, being future, are themes of unfulfilled prophecy. To the end that the entire field of judgment may be appraised under this general division, those judgments which are not predictive in character will be included in this thesis; and the two pertaining to the present, because of their interrelationship, will be considered together. By their recognizance of but one so-called final judgment, theologians in general have laid themselves open to the suspicion that they have not been worthy firsthand students of the Sacred Text. It is here contended that there are various judgments which are widely separated with respect to time, theme, subjects, and circumstances. This body of truth bearing on these judgments is not only comprehensive but free from complications. These judgments are:
I. THE DIVINE JUDGMENTS THROUGH THE CROSS: Three features of divine judgment, already indicated under Soteriology, were achieved by Christ's death on the cross. These are (1) the judgment of the sin of the world, (2) the judgment of the believer's sin nature, and (3) the judgment of Satan. These, it will be seen, were perfectly met by Christ when He died.
1. THE JUDGMENT OF THE SIN OF THE WORLD: Regardless of objections raised by some theologians who have a theory to defend, the New Testament asserts with unqualified assurance that Christ died for the sin of the world (cf. John 1:29; 3:16; Heb. 2:9; I John 2:2). It is true that out of at least fourteen objectives in His death Christ had a specific design regarding the sins of the elect, or those who would believe (cf. John 11:11; Eph. 5:25-27; I John 2:2); but His inclusion of the sins of the elect as a particular class does not exclude the essential truth that He also had a world-wide purpose in His death. Though it may not be comprehended wholly by finite minds, the message is to be received, as declared in the Word of God, which asserts that full pardon and deliverance from the penalty of sin has been perfectly secured for all those who believe. Without discussing again the theological implications of this declaration, it may be pointed out that this is a divine judgment for sin which falls upon Another, who bears it as a Substitute. In this judgment unrestricted demands are imposed and these are endured to infinite completeness.
2. THE JUDGMENT OF THE BELIEVER'S SIN NATURE: Evidence that this important judgment is not extended to the unregenerate is conclusive, since no Scripture relates it to them. The value to the believer of the accomplishment of a sufficient and final divine judgment of the sin nature (cf. Rom. 6:1-10) is far-reaching. That value does not accomplish any change in the present vital forcefulness of that nature. This judgment consists rather in a divine reckoning which disposes of every moral objection that the sin nature would otherwise impose upon the indwelling Holy Spirit so as to preclude His control of that nature. Thus the entire possibility of the overcoming power of the Spirit in the daily life of the Christian is involve- Since there is no divine intention that the unsaved shall be empowered to holy living in their unsaved state--having not the Spirit (cf. Jude 1:19)-there is neither provision nor promise which extends the value of this judgment beyond the limits of those who are saved. It could not be questioned that Christ's death for the believer's sin nature is a form of divine judgment (cf. Rom. 6:1-10; Gal. 5: 24; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:9-10).
3. THE JUDGMENT OF SATAN THROUGH THE CROSS: Since it is but partially revealed, to human minds the relationship between God and the angels is incomprehensible. The particular relation between Christ and Satan is equally veiled. Though vast in its scope, some light is gained on the relations existing between Christ and the angels from the protevangelium of Genesis 3:15, the temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4: 1-13), the war in heaven (Rev. 12: 7-12), the thousand-year reign in which angelic powers are subdued (I Cor. 15:25-26), but more especially from the judgment of Satan by Christ in connection with the cross (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; Col. 2:14-15). Thus it is disclosed that the cross of Christ in its threefold outreach is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of all divine judgments.
II. THE SELF-JUDGMENT OF THE BELIEVER AND THE CHASTENING JUDGMENTS OF GOD: Two distinct judgments are in view under this general head and, as before stated, because of their interdependence. The child in the Father's household and family must understand that God is a perfect disciplinarian. Disobedience must in His own time and way result in chastisement. The central passage on the Father's discipline is Hebrews 12:3-15. In this context it is declared that every son in the Father's household is subject to chastisement as occasion may arise. Verse 6 makes reference to both chastisement and scourging. These are to be distinguished. Scourging aims at a once-for-all conquering of the human will, and when the will is yielded there is no more need for scourging. On the other hand, chastisement may be many times repeated and may be administered to the end that the believer may be strengthened thereby, or to prevent him from going into evil paths. A good man may by discipline become a better man. Christ said, "Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth [pruneth] it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2). As for chastisement which is a correction for wrong, it is written of those who partake of the communion unworthily, "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (I Cor. II: 30). Immediately following this declaration and closely related to it is the added truth that the Christian may avoid chastisement for wrongdoing by making a confession of it to God, which confession is self-judgment. Should the confession be withheld, there must be chastisement. The passage reads, "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (I Cor. 11:31-32). It is in this passage that two aspects of judgment appear with the one dependent upon the other. First, the believer is to confess to God every known sin, and, second, the Father may judge His child by chastisement when the confession is refused (cf. I John I :9). The divine provision is gracious to the last degree. When the Christian has sinned, God awaits the confession of that sin. Should the confession be withheld, God, in His own time and way, must correct His child.
III. THE JUDGMENT OF THE BELIEVER'S WORKS: Though in infinite faithfulness--which is based on infinite provisions--the believer cannot come into judgment respecting the sins which Christ has borne (cf. John 3:18; 5:24; Rom. 8:1, R.V.), it yet remains true that the believer will be brought into judgment concerning his service for God-the use he has made of his ransomed powers after he has been saved. This judgment is to the end that suitable rewards may be bestowed on those who have served in faithfulness. This form of judgment, so far as it is related to believers who have not been faithful, brings it about that such works as they may have wrought will be burned, but with the assurance that, in spite of the burning of the works, the believer himself will be saved. He must remain saved, since his salvation rests not at all upon his works but upon the worthiness of Christ who never changes, He who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb.13:8).
The doctrine of rewards--treated elsewhere in this theology at length--must be considered an essential companion doctrine to the doctrine of saving grace. Since the saved one is in no way allowed to contribute to the ground of his acceptance, it becomes certain that his service is not credited to his salvation; therefore, his service is subject the rather to rewards, which are the divine acknowledgment of the sacrifice and service rendered. This judgment is wrought at the bema, which is "the judgment seat of Christ" (2 Cor. 5: 10). Scripture bearing on this form of judgment may be considered, in part.
1 Corinthians 3:9-15. "For we are laborers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." In this passage, the believer who is once-for-all established on the Rock, Christ Jesus, is said to be building on that Rock either of materials that are subject to burning by fire or of materials which are purified by fire. There is no reference here to "character building" since Christian character, under the economy of grace, is produced in the child of God as a fruit of the indwelling Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). It is the believer's works or service which he is building, that are in view. These are the works foreordained that he should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).
1 Corinthians 9:27. "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Having dwelt at length upon the truth that rewards are in store for believers who are faithful and having borne testimony to his service for Christ (vss. 16-26), the Apostle expresses fear lest his own service should be adokimos--disapproved. The exact meaning of adokimos is disapproved and not castaway, as in the A. V. It is the negative form and its positive is rightly translated in 2 Timothy 2: 15, "Study to shew thyself approved [dokimos] unto God." The disapproval which the Apostle dreaded is none other than the burning of unworthy works of service (cf. 2 Cor. 5: 11).
2 Corinthians 5:9-10. "Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." Here, as before intimated, the word bema is translated "judgment seat" and it is definitely declared that all believers must appear before the judgment seat of Christ (d. Rom. 14:10). The judgment is in heaven and raises neither the question of whether the believer shall enter heaven nor of whether he shall remain in heaven. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that this judgment is unrelated to the problem of sin, that it is more for the bestowing of rewards than for the rejection of failure; and it is clearly asserted in I Corinthians 4:5 that, in spite of all failure, every (Christian) man shall have praise of God. Additional Scriptures bearing on this particular judgment are Romans 14:10; Ephesians 6:8; 2 Timothy 4:8; Revelation 22:12.
IV. THE JUDGMENT OF ISRAEL: In the order in which the future judgments occur, the judgment of Israel is next. It occurs in connection with the second advent of Christ. That the judgment of Israel precedes the judgment of the nations is indicated by the fact that these judgments are recorded in that order in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:1-25:46); however, both of these great judgments are related to the second advent and occur at the end of the tribulation. Quite in contrast to the experience accorded the Church (cf. John 5:24), the nation Israel must be judged, and it is reasonable to believe that this judgment will include all of that nation who in past dispensations have lived under the covenants and promises. Therefore a resurrection of those generations of Israel is called for and must precede their judgment. The glorious Messianic kingdom has been the hope of the Old Testament saints and in conformity It this hope they ordered their lives. In the same immediate context in which a resurrection of Daniel's people is promised, Daniel is himself told that he would "rest" and "stand" in his lot at the end of the days. Of those raised he declares, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting con. tempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever" (Dan. 12:2-3). Some in Daniel's day, as in all of Israel's generations, are written in the book. Malachi declares of the Israel of his day what was equally true of all of Israel's generations, "Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth not" (Mal. 3:16-18; cf. Dan. 12:1). Their rewards will be for them when they "return," which term anticipates the day of Israel's regathering.
Three major passages set forth the future judgment of Israel, and attention is called to these:
Ezekiel 20:33-44. This portion of Scripture should be read
at this point. Only a part of this prediction is quoted here,
"As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand,
and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I
rule over you: and I will bring you out from the people, and will
gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with
a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured
out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and
there will I plead with you face to face. Like as I pleaded with
your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I
plead with you, saith the Lord GOD. And I will cause you to pass
under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:
and I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that
transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country
where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of
Israel: and ye shall know that I am the LORD" (vss. 33-38).
In this Scripture it is revealed that this judgment will occur
in "the wilderness of the people" evidently the very
place where Jehovah pleaded with the fathers when they came out
of Egypt. This pleading will be "face to face" and the
judgment will result in a separation of the rebels and those that
transgress from the rest of the congregation of Israel. These,
it is said, shall not enter the land of Israel. This announcement
of an oncoming judgment is not only a prediction which is to be
fulfilled at the time of Israel's return to her land, but concerns
that generation to whom Ezekiel wrote and all generations of that
people. Therefore, it may be concluded that this judgment is not
restricted to the last generation alone who will be on the earth
at the time of this judgment.
Malachi 3:2-6. "But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years. And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."
In Malachi 3:1 there is a distinction between "my messenger ," who is John the Baptist, and "the messenger of the covenant," who is Christ the Messiah. The question about "who may abide the day of his coming?" is not of John, therefore, but of Christ, and, while the prophet saw no distinction between the first and second advents, the passage describes the final judgment of Israel that will occur when the King returns.
Matthew 24:37-25:30. This entire context, too extended for quotation, should be read at this point, bearing in mind (1) that it is an address to Israel, (2) that, up to 25:13, it is a warning to that nation of the unexpected character of the return of their Messiah-a passage which, like many others, will come to have its primary application in the time of the great tribulation. It is declared in 24:33 that Israel may be aroused to expectation "when ye shall see all these things." Certain Scriptures are related to events which are wholly past, while other Scriptures--and this is one of them--are wholly related to that which is future. In the day when these things begin to come to pass (cf. Mark 13: 28-29; Luke 21:29-31), Israel will welcome these direct words of instruction and be held responsible for heeding them.
The parable of the householder (Matt. 24:45-51) asserts that the servants will be judged according to their faithfulness, and the unfaithful, so far from being admitted into the grace and presence of their Master, will be cut asunder and consigned to the portion of the hypocrites. There shall be "weeping and gnashing of teeth."
Similarly, the parable of the virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) teaches the importance of preparation as well as the unexpectedness of the King's return. Israel is enjoined to watch. Certain features of this passage have been indicated on earlier pages. The virgins are Israel (cf. Ps. 45:8-15); according to certain Greek manuscripts the value of which is unquestioned, these virgins go forth to meet the Bridegroom and the Bride (cf. Luke 12:35-36). The event is the return of Messiah to the earth, and it is Israel's portion to welcome Him and to enter with Him and His Bride into the marriage feast here on earth (cf. 25:10, R.V.). It is clearly declared that a large portion of the virgins will be refused entrance into the feast, which is equivalent to failure to enter the kingdom. Hence they are told to watch (25:13).
Again, and finally, entrance for Israel into her kingdom is made to depend upon the right use of talents (Matt. 25:14-30). In this parable the verdict is certain. It is written that Christ said, "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (vss. 29-30).
If no other evidence were present that would demonstrate that
Matthew 24:37-25:30 refers to Israel, it could be shown in the
twofold fact that the Church is not to be judged, and that the
nations are judged (not with Israel but separately) according
to the context which immediately follows (cf. Matt. 25:31-46).
If the Church is never judged and if the nations are not judged until after the judgment recorded in Matthew 24:37-25:30, it is evident that this prior judgment must be of Israel (cf Ps. 50:1-7). It may be added that the portion of Israel represented by the five wise virgins--those who pass this national judgment--become the final representation of that nation--those who are appointed to enter the kingdom. These are referred to in Romans 11:26-27, "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins."
V. THE JUDGMENT OF THE NATIONS: The period designated as "the times of the Gentiles," which times but for the intercalary age of the Church extend from the Babylonian captivity to the close of the great tribulation, ends in judgment upon the nations. Unlike other judgments which reach backward to include past generations, this judgment falls only upon the then existing generation of Gentiles upon the earth. This is an equitable arrangement since those involved are to be judged for their treatment of Israel during the seven years of the tribulation. But one generation is thus involved. God has judged individual nations in the past because of their treatment of Israel and it has never failed to be true that a curse has rested upon those nations which have cursed Israel, and a blessing has rested upon those nations which have blessed Israel (cf. Gen. 12: 3); but a specific curse and a specific blessing await the nations who in the great tribulation have either cursed or blessed Israel. In like manner, the judgment of one generation of Gentiles does not take the place of the final judgment at the great white throne of all nations and peoples of all the ages who have rejected the counsels of God. So, likewise, when at the judgment of the nations some are dismissed to the lake of fire (d. Matt. 25:41), it need not be implied that they are thus doomed solely because of their treatment of Israel in the tribulation; it is rather that they, like all Christ-rejecting peoples, are consigned to the lake of fire. The time of that consignment is probably at the close of the millennium and among all others at the great white throne (cf. Rev. 20: 11-15; Matt. 13 :30).
The basis of the judgment of the nations will be recognized only as it is seen that the one nation Israel is chosen of God above all the nations of the earth. For this elect people God has an unchangeable and imperishable love and purpose. No right approach will be made to an understanding of the divine program for the earth unless the sovereign, divine favor toward Israel is acknowledged. If that sovereign favor is acknowledged, little difficulty will arise respecting the issue upon which the nations are judged at the end of the tribulation.
The judgment of the nations includes not only their appearance before the King on His throne (Matt. 25:31-32), but also the defeat of those nations when they rise up in opposition to God. The utter subjugation of all nations by the returning Messiah is predicted in various Scriptures (cf. Ps. 2:1-10; Isa. 63:1-6; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; Rev. 19:11-21). It is when these nations have been thus vanquished by the returning Christ that they stand in awful silence before the throne of His glory and there receive the sentence respecting their divinely appointed destiny. Two extended passages describe the incomparable time when the nations are judged--Joel 3:9-16 and Matthew 25:31-46. Joel pictures Jehovah as both the judge of the nations and the hope of Israel in that hour. Matthew records the King's own prediction in which He describes the assembling of the nations before Him, the ground of their judgment their treatment of His brethren, Israel-and the verdict which invites some into the kingdom prepared for them by the Father and dismisses others to the lake of fire.
VI. THE JUDGMENT OF ANGELS: Having conquered the nations at the time of His return to the earth, Christ will then undertake the stupendous task of subduing angelic powers, and this will be extended over His entire millennial reign. It is predicted that, before the end or final resurrection of the wicked dead, Christ must put down all rule and authority. The passage reads, "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:24-26). Satan the chief of the fallen angels must be consigned to the lake of fire with all his angels, and this after the thousand years in the abyss and after the last revolt (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:7-10). Thus the activities of Christ in subduing angels which have been extended for a thousand years will be consummated before the creation of the new heavens and the new earth. Both Peter and Jude refer to the judgment of angels and especially of those that have been reserved in chains of darkness until the day of their judgment: "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment" (2 Pet. 2:4); "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 1:6).
VII. THE JUDGMENT OF THE GREAT WHITE THRONE: This, the final judgment which consummates the judgment of the cross and the judgment of all people who are unredeemed, occurs at the close of the millennium. These people will be raised for that judgment and will be judged according to their works. These works are a matter of divine record in books which are opened at that judgment. The book of life is also in evidence, but probably with a view to demonstrating that no errors have been made and that those gathered before the great white throne have not the gift of God which is eternal life. The doom that awaits them is terrible beyond comprehension; but it is the last word of a holy God respecting sin and all unrighteousness. In view of the general tendency to confuse the judgment of the nations with that of the great white throne, the distinctions between them should be observed. At the judgment of the nations three classes are present--"sheep," "goats," and Christ's "brethren," while at the judgment of the great white throne there is but one class--the wicked dead. In the former the scene is on earth, while in the latter it is in space. In the former the issue is the treatment of the Jew, while in the latter it is the evil works of those being judged. In the former some enter the kingdom at its inception and some go to the lake of fire, in the latter all go to the lake of fire.
From the foregoing it will be seen that the theological assertion
that there is but one general judgment is a great error; and it
will be recognized, as well, that the whole theme of divine judgment
is not only far-reaching but vital in the right understanding
of all prophecy.