In this teaching series, I started out by asking the question “Will God Judge America for Abortion and Gay Marriage?” As I have tried to show, this is a complex question with many parts–which is why I have done a many part teaching on this.
Let’s review what I have already said:
Part 1 – This issue of Judgment is complex and not as easy as some would like
Part 2 – The Principle of Delayed Consequences
Part 3 – Why is Judgment Delayed (the concept of God’s patience and grace)
Part 4 – Quick Judgment teaches that God can judge quickly if it suits His purpose
Part 5 – It is often difficult to interpret circumstances in light of God’s judgment. This is because you can interpret events many different ways and still sound credible.
Some readers have observed I have not spent a lot of time in the Old Testament in this study on Judgment. I have mentioned various incidents from the Old Covenant writings, but it is correct that a full theology of Judgment should be based on the New Covenant and the writings associated with it. There is a solid reason for this.
In John 5:22-23 we read,
22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
This must have been a brutal thing for Jewish leaders to hear. Of all the things Jesus says to the religious stalwarts of his day, this was among the hardest. Essentially, this says that the Son (Jesus) is not only the Messiah, but also will be the Judge over all creation. And, his teaching emphasizes that the Father (i.e. 1st member of the God/Trinity) will not be the Judge. The entire understanding of how God’s Judgment would work was all based upon their understanding of Jahweh the one who brings Justice and fire.
But Jesus changed the entire equation in this fifth chapter of John. He begins by calling God his Father, hinting at a deep, intimate relationship that no Jews would ever claim. Then, he continues deeper into heretical territory by stating that this “Father” of his shows him everything he does. This means that Jesus is an active partner and collaborator on all the works of God the Father. It is a miracle they didn’t take up stones to kill him that moment.
But the crowning glory of this teaching is Jesus’ insistence that he now is the Judge, the Arbitrar of all men’s deeds. It is upon this teaching of John’s Gospel we start to piece together the various elements of the Judgment of God.
First, notice that John 5:23 gives us the purpose of Judgment. “That all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.” Most people reading this verse will probably be confused. How does the concept of “honor” relate to Judgment? And since Jesus has died, come back to life through the Resurrection, ascended into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God the Father, how can any judgment in this world bring honor to Jesus?
The simple answer is this: It can’t. This is because the kind of judgment Jesus is referring to here will not take place on this earth. This is not the judgment of man against man. This is not the judgment of circumstances. It is not even the quick judgment to deal with egregious error and potential disaster. The Judgment of Jesus is of a different nature.
We come back to something mentioned in an earlier article. The word for judgment refers to the entire process and not just the end result. It refers to the gathering and pronouncing of all the evidence. It refers to the declaration of the Judge concerning his decision and deliberation. It refers to the carrying out of that Judgment. It refers to every part of this process. And since we read here in John 5 that all judgment is now given to Jesus and that this will all be done so all creation can honor the Son, it must be done by Jesus publicly and decisively. Does the Bible have anything to say about Jesus’ public and visible judgment time?
The Book of Revelation is about many things. One of my theology professors , Dr. James Cheung, used to say that Chinese Christians who had endured decades of intense persecution for their faith, read the book of Revelation differently than Westerners. He said, to the Chinese Christian the phrase “To him who overcomes…” is the key to the book. This is about enduring to the end, not about trying to determine when the end will come. But he also told us that Christians who go through persecution throughout history have been comforted by one other theme in the book: That Jesus Himself will judge every person for their deeds, and there will be no evil deeds that go unpunished.
Look at several things Revelation tells us about Judgment:
9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:10)
This is what Dr. Cheung was referring to. It is easier to endure hardship and torture when you know there will be justice meted out by Jesus Himself.
Revelation 11:18 says this about Judgment:
18 The nations were angry,
and your wrath has come.
The time has come for judging the dead,
and for rewarding your servants the prophets
and your people who revere your name,
both great and small—
and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”
This verse explains quite clearly that there is a time for judging the dead and for rewarding God’s servants. By implication, this is a Judgment and a Reward that has been delayed and put off for the proper time. This teaches us that Judgment is not a continuous thing.
Revelation 14:7 carries that thought further:
7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
In this verse, we are told about the “hour” of judgment. This word is used to refer to a point in time rather than an ongoing event. Judgment is seen as an “hour” not as a lifetime.
The Book of Revelation also explains what will happen in this “hour of judgment”.
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” p He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:11-16)
This is the final battle on earth between the forces of darkness and the forces of light. At the end of that battle, Jesus (King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Word of God etc.) will triumph over all the armies in the land and set up the Millennium. Though this is certainly the Judge bringing his rule and reign upon the nations, there are several elements missing from the concept of Judgment. Where is the deliberation of wrongdoing? Where is the evidence?
Could it be that this is not even the Hour of Judgment? No, this battle is but a precursor to that day.
In Revelation 20:11-15 we read,
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
This portion of the Bible fits all the descriptions for Judgment. Everyone will stand before this throne. Books will be opened. Because all are judged by what is written in the books, we can safely assume this is evidence of wrong and right behavior. Then we are told every person will be judged according to what they have done.
This is called “The Great White Throne Judgment”. This is Jesus’ judgment day. Why do we refer to it that way? Because there are two books opened on that day. The first book is the aforementioned recording of every good and evil deed. Just as this forms the basis of evidence in a court of law, so too in Jesus’ court, we will each hear of the things we have done. Even for the best of it, this moment will be hard to bear.
The good news is there is a second book. This book is called the Book of Life. Anyone who has asked God to forgive their sins in the name of Jesus (or a facsimile thereof) has their name in this book. This book guarantees that someone else–Jesus Christ the Righteous One–will have been punished for those sins. It is called by some, “the great exchange”. Jesus gives us his righteous deeds and takes upon himself the punishment for our evil deeds.
This is the Day of Judgment. This is when God, through Jesus, will judge the earth. Until that day, God records all the good and evil deeds of every man.
In the final article in this series, we will answer the questions that we asked in the first one. Will God judge America for those sins we as a nation have committed?