It is rare today for a Church or preacher to focus on or talk explicitly about judgement.  Indeed many within the liberal part of the Emerging Church renounce any notion of judgment, arguing that since God tells us to forgive those who have sinned against us, how could he do any differently.  Hell and judgment are therefore excluded from their theology.

In rejecting Judaeo-Christian values, the secular, pagan world also renounces any form of guilt or judgement.  A one world religious system, part of the coming New World Order, based on the deification of man, the tenets of neo-Paganism, New Age, Eastern mysticism and a rejection of the saving work of Jesus Christ, is a developing reality.

Tolerance, inclusiveness, pluralism, pacifism and equality are the new gods and a satanically inspired system of thought, which discards Judaeo-Christian values and precepts, undergirds this historic shift.  Absolutism and religion are now out of favour, whilst relativism and spirituality are in vogue.  New Age teaching, together with motivational psychology, invades every arena of life and any idea of judgement is now out of fashion.

Recurring theme in the Bible

Judgement, however, is a recurring theme throughout the Bible and a key component of any eschatological vision seeking to do justice to what the Bible says.  

Throughout Bible history God from time to time brought judgement on those who persisted in wickedness, evil and rebellion.  God judged Adam and Eve’s sin, expelling them from the garden, he judged the corruption and violence of the world by flooding it (Genesis 6-8), he judged the pride and arrogance of those building the Tower of Babel by confusing their language and scattering them over the face of the earth (Genesis 11) and also the perversion and immorality of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19) by destroying the city.

As we uphold a biblical world view and contend for the faith we must ensure we take our lead from the Bible and not from an already discredited culture based on an a Postmodern world view.  We must say loud and clear that the imminent return of Jesus and the inauguration of his Millennial kingdom on earth is accompanied by the certainty of a coming Day of Judgement, which should move us with compassion concerning the lost.

A Day of Judgement and the Great White Throne Judgement

The Bible speaks about it no uncertain terms - a judgement that is different in scope and nature from all preceding judgements.  This judgement is often called the ‘day of judgement’ and is the culmination and fulfilment of each preceding judgement.  This day of judgement is a final judgement and will determine the eternal destiny of every man and woman who has ever lived.

Revelation 20:11-15 gives a clear account of what this judgement will look like.  It will take place around the ‘great white throne’ (v. 11) and will involve a series of books (one of which is referred to as ‘the Book of Life’ v. 12) within which is accurately recorded all the deeds of every human being (v. 13).

Many other passages refer to the same day of judgement.  In Acts, Paul tells the Athenians that God has ‘set a day when he will judge the world with justice . . . ’ (17:31).  In Romans 2:5 Paul refers to the ‘day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgement will be revealed.’  There are numerous other passages that refer to the same day (Matthew 10:15; 11:22, 24; 12:36; 25:31-46; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Hebrews 6:2; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6 etc).

During this day of judgement both believers and unbelievers will be judged.  Paul says in Romans that ‘God will give to each person according to what he has done.  To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life.  But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger’ (Romans 2:6-8).  Whilst both groups are judged clearly the outcome of the judgement could not be more different.

Different judgements, different outcomes

The judgement of believers is entirely different in nature from the judgement of unbelievers.  Unbelievers will be condemned whereas believers are will find praise, eternal life and reward.  The Bible makes it clear that ‘there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus . . . ’ (Romans 8:1).  Rather the day of judgement will be for ‘rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name’ (Revelation 11:18).

The day of judgement is, therefore, simultaneously a day of great terror and great joy.  And no one may hope that their inmost secrets will escape divine evaluation for Paul also says that ‘God will judge men’s secrets . . . ’ (Romans 2:16).  Jesus teaches much the same thing in Luke 12:2-3.

Judgement of angels

Even the angels, the Bible says, will be judged.  Peter says that ‘God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgement’ (2 Peter 2:4).

Only one judge - Jesus

On the day of judgement there will be only one judge, Jesus Christ.  Peter refers to Jesus as the ‘one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead’ (Acts 10:42).  In 2 Timothy, Paul also refers to Jesus as the judge of ‘the living and the dead’ (4:1).  Jesus says of himself in John 5 that ‘he (God the Father) has given him (Jesus) authority to judge because he is the Son of Man’ (v. 27).

And we may be confident that Jesus will exercise this authority with complete justice, righteousness and impartiality.  In 1 Peter we read that God ‘judges each man’s work impartially . . . ’ (1:17).  In Romans, Paul says that ‘God does not show favouritism’ (2:11).  The perfect justice of God will be clearly displayed and will be seen as a source of great wonder and worship on the day of judgement and throughout eternity.  In Heaven the great multitude will shout ‘Hallelujah!  Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgements’ (Revelation 19:1-2).

John the Baptist

In the beginning of Luke we read that John the Baptists taught clearly the reality of divine judgement.  In 3:17 John the Baptist says of Jesus ‘His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather up wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’  Luke’s next verse is extremely interesting in that it says ‘with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them’ (v. 18).  To awaken someone to the reality of divine judgement and to the grace embodied in Jesus is to preach the good news to them.

Living in the last days

We are living in the last days, days when the prophet Joel and the apostle Peter said that God would pour out his Spirit on all people (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17).  We are a people ‘anointed . . . to preach good news to the poor . . . to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour’ (Luke 4:18-19).  Jesus, when reading from the book of Isaiah, deliberately omitted the reference to the ‘day of vengeance of our God’ (Isaiah 61:2) because he knew that the current season is a season of grace.  This season, however, will come to an end and we would do well to remain conscious of this fact.  We believe we are living in the last days before Jesus' return, which will mark the change of season.

What should our response be?

In the light of these observations what should our response be?  Judgement begins with the House of God and so firstly, we should consider carefully the state of our own heart and ask whether we have put our trust and hope in the saving work of Jesus Christ.

Secondly, we should be motivated for evangelism.  People’s decisions in this life affect their eternal destiny and we should be fervent for their hearts to be turned toward Jesus in repentance and faith.  In 2 Peter we read that ‘the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9).  The Lord Jesus is indeed delaying his return in order that more people may put their trust in him.  There will, however, come a day when that gracious window of opportunity will close.

The nations will also be judged and to the nations of the earth we would respectfully say that one day you will be judged for how you treated Israel.  The Bible tells us:

In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat.  There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land (Joel 3:1-2).

God's word never fails and history shows that when we bless Israel we are blessed, but when we curse Israel we bring a curse upon ourselves.  We have been warned.

It is rare today for a Church or preacher to focus on or talk explicitly about judgement. Judgement is, however, a recurring theme throughout the Bible and a key component of any eschatological vision seeking to do justice to what the Bible says . . .

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