Category Archives: judgment

God’s Judgment Events – The Judgment at Death

There are several judgment events promised in Scripture:

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28, ESV)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10, ESV)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (Matthew 25:31-33, ESV)

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15, ESV)

The first judgment we must face is when we die (Hebrews 9:27).  Jesus depicts one such experience for two men, Lazarus and the rich man he begged from (Luke 16).

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31, ESV)

It appears from this passage and others that when we die there is a separation made.  Those who know the Lord and trust in Him are assigned a place of rest and peace.  Our bodies are dead (“asleep” in Christian parlance), but our spirits are now with Jesus (see, Are My Husband and Father in Heaven Yet?).  Before Jesus took Paradise to heaven, this is where Lazarus was carried by the angels (see, Did Jesus not go to heaven immediately upon death on the cross? and, Did Jesus visit Hell?).  The rich man, on the other hand, went to a place of torment called Hades.  This is the Greek term equivalent to the Old Testament term Sheol.  It is a holding place for those who do not know the Lord until the final judgment (Revelation 20).

Do we actually make an appearance before God to receive our placement orders upon death?  We are not told.  But there is a judgment that has occurred that has determined that we either did indeed trust in Christ for our rescue or did not.  Hebrews 9:27, quoted above, seems to indicate that there are no exceptions.  No one’s ghost hangs around waiting for resolution of some earthly issue.  No one gets to come back and have a do-over.  If you did not embrace Christ in this life you have no chance to do so in the life to come.

For further reading:

What is Purgatory?

Learning to Love (Theology for Living from Philippians)

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 1, verses 9-11)

When great men and women of the faith pray, we should listen.  Paul was not a flippant pray-er.  In fact, we can learn a lot about the theme of any of his given letters from what he is reporting that he prays for them.  In this particular prayer we learn much of the theological underpinning for Paul’s remarks in the rest of the letter.  He begins outlining his themes for the letter right here in what he is praying.  There are three main concepts Paul alludes to here:

A crucial part of Christian love is knowledge.  We will discover that the Philippians, in their love for Paul, had a desperate urge to send him money to help with his expenses (see 4:10-20).  And we can read between the lines in 1:12 that their deep but erroneous concern was that Paul’s imprisonment had served to defeat the gospel.  So though Paul assures them that God sees (or should we say, “smells”) their gift as a fragrant and acceptable sacrifice, he must correct the motive for which it was sent.  Their love was lacking knowledge and depth of insight.  We need a knowledge of God’s truth in order to correctly direct our love.

We see this principle in many areas.  There are those who love their children but use disciplinary tactics that actually do more harm than good.  There are ways we seek to help the poor that though motivated by love end up not being very helpful but rather keep them entrenched in poverty.  We may counsel those we love but use unwise counseling approaches and hinder their healing.  We may seek to cure a loved one’s wound by following an old wives tale that actually causes more wounding.  Love, to be most loving, needs knowledge!

How well love chooses to act will be measured at the judgment.  It is best for us to be pure and blameless on the day of Christ.  This day of Christ is equivalent to the Day of the Lord in Old Testament passages.  It is a time of God’s judgment that results in an outpouring of His wrath on those who have stayed in rebellion but results in blessing for those who have been submissive and faithful.  Paul talks in 2 Corinthians 5 about this time of judgment for believers.  It is not a time of determining if we have done enough to merit God’s forgiveness and eternal life.  We have that only on the merit of Jesus Himself.  Rather, it is a time to determine what rewards or lack thereof we will enjoy in the kingdom.

God is concerned about how well you and I love, with what knowledge we come to the task, and how sincerely.  That He will judge our efforts in the last day shows how serious He is that we get it.  Love is the standard for God’s holiness and ours.  Paul will apply this standard to the Philippian conflict in the remainder of this letter.

We are not competent to love.  Paul’s prayer is that we might be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.  Only Jesus can really enable us to love.  Learning how to love should be our lifelong obsession because it is God’s passionate desire for our lives.  We must understand that the gospel includes in it not only the rescue from sin’s guilt but also from sin’s stain on our souls.  The gospel promises to deliver us from hell and from our sinful selves.  We must learn to depend on Jesus to bear the fruit of love in our lives.

The Philippians had much to learn about love and the unity it creates among fallen human beings.  So do we.  Paul’s letter continues to teach us exactly what we need to know.

Lessons From the Old Testament: Evil Instruments in a Righteous Hand

O Lord my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal— surely you do not plan to wipe us out?  O Lord, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us, to punish us for our many sins.  But you are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil.  Will you wink at their treachery?  Should you be silent while the wicked swallow up people more righteous than they? (Habakkuk 1:12,13)

Habakkuk had been complaining that his own people were living abominable lives and punishment needed to happen.  There was too much injustice, too much suffering by the innocent, for God to let it continue.  But when God told him that He was going to send the Babylonians to punish His people, Habakkuk had a change of heart.  Now God was going too far, using a people even more unrighteous than his own to punish them.

There are two wrong assumptions made here by Habakkuk, and by us too, most likely.

(1) One form of rebellion, because it is more violent and despicable than another, is therefore more deserving of just punishment.  It is true that the more heinous the crime the more severe the punishment (Matthew 10:15), but it is also true that all sin is rebellion and desesrving of just requital (James 2:8-13).  Israel did not deserve to get off the hook because Babylon was more unrighteous than her.

(2) God cannot stand to be in the presence of evil.  This seems true on the face of it, but we find several times in Scripture when God interacts with, even tolerates, evil in His presence.  The most famous example is Satan (see Job 1, 2; Revelation 12:10).  And in fact, every human being with whom God fellowships is evil at his or her base (Jeremiah 17:9,10).

So Habakkuk is unjustifiably upset with God.  God does assure Habakkuk that He will punish Babylon, too (chapter 2).  But He is going to use this unrighteous, horrendously violent juggernaut of a nation to cause Israel to suffer.  He is going to do this because He loves Israel and wants to move them to righteous living.

So then, the real question for Habakkuk and for us becomes, “How do I live through the season of life where God looks like He is absent from the righteous, not answering my prayers for relief, and not doing things the way I think He should do them?”  Habukkuk‘s answer is in chapter 3.

I trembled inside when I heard this; my lips quivered with fear.  My legs gave way beneath me, and I shook in terror.  I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster will strike the people who invade us.  Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord!  I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!  The Sovereign Lord is my strength!  He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. (3:16-19)

He honestly acknowledged that present circumstances were not going to be tenable, acceptable, good.  But he was determined to believe that God was using this for good.  And because of this truth he was going to rejoice in the God of his salvation.  He was not going to rejoice in his sufferings, but in what God was going to do by way of showing off His salvation.  He believed that God was going to prove right and fair in the end and more wise than Habakkuk in His determination to bless those He loved.

Evil instruments in God’s righteous hand means that the evil instrument does not get the last word, but the righteous hand does.

Jesus, the Lion of Judah

Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:1-5)

Way back in history, as recorded in Genesis 49:8-12, Jacob, the patriarch of the twelve sons who became the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel, prophesied about each of his sons right before his death.  When he spoke of his son Judah, he said this:

Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;  your father’s sons will bow down to you.  You are a lion’s cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness-who dares to rouse him?  The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. (Genesis 49-8-10)

Here he, Jacob, bequeaths to Judah the place of prominence among his brothers and predicts that from him will come the one who will rule over all Israel and indeed all nations in God’s kingdom.  Jesus, of course, was of the tribe of Judah and the family of David, the king of Israel from the tribe of Judah.  Judah is described by Jacob as a lion’s cub, a lion and an lioness in terms of his energy and ferocity.  Any enemies of Judah had better watch out.

So when John, the apostle begins to weep because there is no one to open the scroll of God’s judgment that must be poured out on all God’s enemies so that His people may be vindicated, John is told that the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is worthy to open this scroll because he has triumphed.  Jesus is the ultimate offspring of Judah, the most terrifying of lions from that tribe, worthy and capable of pouring out God’s judgment on the whole earth.

When John looks he does not see a lion but a lamb that has been slain.  Jesus became ready to bring judgment by dying as a sacrifice for all who look to him to escape judgment.  The way has been paved for all to find grace instead of justice.  No one has an excuse to say there was no way out of paying the penalty.  But no one who has failed to embrace the sacrificed Lamb will be able to escape the fierce Lion of Judah.

If you do not know Jesus as the Lamb slain for you, if you have not laid your sins on his head and received his forgiveness for your rebellion against God’s ownership of your life, you will know the ferocity of the Lion who crouches in readiness and who dares not be roused.  Come to the Lamb and find life, not judgment

Lessons From the Old Testament: God’s Judgment

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. (Genesis 6:11-13)

God does not kill Cain for murdering his brother.  We see no punishment for Lamech‘s boastful claim to kill a man for wounding him.  But here, when it becomes apparent that all the earth is sold out to disobedience and corruption, God tells Noah that he is going to kill everyone on earth.  We see this again when Israel is heading toward Canaan to completely destroy man, woman and child in obedience to God’s command (Deuteronomy 20:16-18).  Is God a God of love or a God of judgment?  And the answer must be yes.  He is both.

Even against His own people God leveled a stunning series of judgments while they were traveling from Egypt to Canaan.  When His people or any other human beings who owe their existence to God choose to rebel and to reject the God who provides for them, God will eventually bring some form of judgment to bear on them.  At the same time, God Himself says,

“Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. “Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)

God punishes to the third and fourth generation those who hate Him, but he shows love to a thousand generations of those who obey Him (Exodus 20:5,6).  His judgment is His “strange” work (Isaiah 28:21).  It is not the norm of His heart or His behavior.  But He will not hesitate if justice calls for judgment.

What kind of God would He be if He did not measure out justice?  What kind of world would we have if justice were not carried out?  Couldn’t God just forgive and forget?  Couldn’t He merely ignore those who rebel and bless those who obey?  Wouldn’t that be enough to show people the benefits of obedience and be a more appropriate demonstration of God’s love?

Apparently not.  God’s own character won’t stand for rebellion.  And we won’t either.  When we see the results of someone’s evil perpetrated in the life of another, are we content to simply reward those who did not perpetrate evil, or do we feel within us the demand for justice?  We are just like God (yes, we are made in His image) and our concept of justice comes from Him.  He understands the evil of those He punishes or asks others to punish.

Though we may not be able to see the justice of God’s judgment, we may trust that He is judging fairly.  And if we are prone to see the evil in others and assume that they deserve judgment, we must exercise the discretion of the Old Testament saints and leave vengeance in the hands of God.   David may have prayed for the destruction of his enemies, but he did not act on that himself.  Paul’s quote, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” in Romans 12 is from Deuteronomy 32:35.