Church Education Trust

Christian Belief

ST010/8 The Final Judgement.


The Final Judgment.

The teaching of the church generally has been that there will be one final judgment day at the close of the age and immediately before the final consummation of all things. As in the case of the resurrection, however, there have been those, especially in recent years, who believe that there will be two, or even three, judgment days. These writers would place one at the parousia, the first stage of the second coming at the time of the rapture; the second is at the end of the millenium, and the third at thefinal consummation of all things. 

While, it is true, there is in a sense a day of judgment at the time of death and our final destiny is settled then, yet it seems quite clear that this is not what the Bible means by the Judgment Day. This day is at a future date at the end of the age, and connected with the second coming of the Lord. All the references also seem to point to there being one "day" and not two or three separate ones. 

For example, in Acts 17:31 we read, "He bath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness". Paul speaks of "The day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ" (Rom.2:16); and Peter says, "The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of un-godly men" (2 Pet.3:7). 

Other passages which may be added 2 Pet.2:9; Jude 6; Rev.6:17. The only passage which appears to speak of two judgments is Rev.20.

(a) The Person of the Judge.

We need to ask the question as to who is the one who is to judge the world. The Scriptures make it clear that God the Father has handed over the matter of judging the world into the hands of His Son. John 5:22, 23 says "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father".

Paul in preaching to the Athenians declares that God "will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained" (Acts 17:31). The last judgment would appear to be the final act of Christ in His mediatorial ministry before He hands over the rule to the Father that God may be all in all (1 Cor.15:24-28).

It is only right that our Lord should be the Judge. He is the One Who became incarnate and died for us, and because He is God and Man, is able and entitled to be our Judge.

(b) The Nature of the Judgment.

The purpose and nature of the judgment would seem to be the manifestation of character rather than its discovery. It will also mean the vindication and manifestation of God's justice, love and grace. It appears that it will be a general judgment and will not be limited to the wicked.

All will be judged and all will come to light. "Every idle word" and "every secret thing" is to be judged (Matt.12:36; Rom.2:16; 1 Cor.4:5;). Such passages also as Matt.13:30,40-43 & 49; 25:14-23,34-40 & 46 show that both the righteous and the unrighteous will appear before the judgment seat.

Wicked angels likewise will be judged (see Matt.8:29; 2 Pet.2:4 and Jude 6). All this is necessary that the justice of God may be revealed, and His love and grace manifested, and also that the greatness of the grace of God in the salvation of each person may be shown to the world.

While salvation does and will depend on our relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, it does seem that judgment will be meted out according to the revealed will of God, which may not necessarily be the same for all (see Matt.11:21-24; Rom.2:12-16). There are difficulties and problems in this but there are clear indications in the Now _nestament that there will be
grades of some sort both in heaven and in hell. 

Luke 12:47-48 is sufficient evidence to show that there are grounds for such an assumption. We are not told enough to enable us to understand completely all that will happen, but we can be assured that the Judge of all the earth will do right and that the final Judgment will be a clear declaration of this.

Perhaps this section cannot be closed in a better way than with the words of Wiley on the matter:-"In order to understand the purpose of the general judgment it must be considered in its relation to God, Jesus Christ, and man. First, the judgment will furnish a worthy arena for the display of God's attributes. His justice, faithfulness, wisdom, omnipotence and other attributes will be witnessed and sanctioned by countless myriads of angels and men. Again, the glory of Christ's work will then appear, not only as Judge, out as Lord and King. 

As Lord, His dominion is now seen to be universal, and as King who has reigned in the hearts of His people, He now welcomes them into His joy, and invites them to participate in His glory. Lastly, as it concerns man the judgment is necessary for several reasons. 

  1. The condition of the righteous in this world is frequently such, that without the awards of the future, the justice and equity of God cannot be vindicated. 
  2. Only in the judgment can the total influence of man's life be summed up either for good or evil. Men are social creatures, and are responsible for their influence on others. This influence goes on and on in an ever widening circle ever after an individual's death. Only in the final judgment can such influent be evaluated for good or evil.
  3. The judgment is necessary in order that man's true character may be made manifest. "We must all appear (or be made manifest) 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" (2 Cor.5:10). Thus in the judgment God discriminates between the righteous and the unrighteous, and separates them from each other, that He may uncover or make manifest their true character". (Intro. to Christian Theology p.434),

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