Ignoring Judgment?

Understanding Judgment

For most Christians the word ‘judgment’ seems to imply only bad consequences, especially when reference is made to ‘the judgment of God.’ This thought pattern is the result of many years of traditional teachings in which an imbalance was placed on the term ‘judgment’ seeing it was mostly used to describe God’s wrath on the ungodly. This one-sided point of view resulted from the use of scriptures such as 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, in which Paul wrote, “…the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven … in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus…”

Peter also made a similar proclamation saying, “But the heavens and the earth…are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (2 Pet. 3:7). These verses, together with many other scriptures, are indeed referring to God’s judgment of the ungodly in the last days, but should not influence an impartial understanding of the term ‘judgment.’

As we endeavour to comprehend and relate to the judgment of God in our lives, it is necessary for us to understand the following basic facts.

First, we must recognize God the Father as Judge. Psalms 58:11 states that God is the One that judges in the Earth. All judgment, whether direct or indirect, at the present time or in the future, comes from Him. The book of Hebrews described God as, “God the Judge of all”. (Heb. 12:23). Proverbs 29:26 states that, “every man’s judgment cometh from the Lord.” Solomon wrote, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.” (Eccl. 12:14). The biblical fact is that God is the Judge over all creation.

The second fact to consider is that God is Just and as such, His judgments are executed without partiality. The Apostle Peter wrote, “And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work…” (1 Pet. 1:17). Paul also stated that, “… ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.” (Col. 3:24-25). Moses described God this way: “…his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” (Deut. 32:4)

Elihu sums it up by saying, “For the work of a man shall he render unto him, and cause every man to find according to his ways. Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.” (Job 34:11-12). Therefore, it can be said of the Lord that He is Just and His judgments are never influenced by emotionalism, but by the principles of His word.

Thirdly, it is important to know that God the Father has committed all judgment to his Son – our Lord and Saviour Jesus. As we study the written Bible we will constantly come across statements establishing the Son not only as Saviour, but as Judge in the place of His Father.

Paul’s speech to the scholars at Athens declared, “…Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained…” (Acts 17:31). In Romans 2:16, he makes a similar statement saying, “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” 1 Corinthians 4:5 states, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts…” Also, in 2 Corinthians 5:10 Paul excluded no one from judgment and wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” The epistle to Timothy established Jesus as the One who will execute God’s final judgment on all humanity. Paul wrote, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom…” (2 Tim. 4:1). In addition to these scriptures there are many prophecies describing Jesus as returning to the Earth to execute judgment on the ungodly.

The fourth fact to understand regarding judgment is that God’s judgment is not biased, but includes all of humanity – both the saved and unsaved. Ecclesiastes 3:17 states, “I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked…” In chapter 12:14 it continues to say, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.”

Two Stages of Judgment

It appears from scripture that God’s judgment for the whole world is executed in two stages. Whether it be for the ungodly or the Christian, judgment is first received on a daily basis during one’s lifetime, and then the final judgment at the resurrection. Man’s response to judgment during his lifetime will determine God’s reaction to man in the final judgment. Notice the two distinct categories of judgment dispensed at the resurrection. Jesus said, “…for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (Jn. 5:28-29, see also Dan. 12:2, Matt. 25:14 and Acts 24:15).

In Revelation, there are two words that are used to distinguish the final judgment between the ungodly and the saint. The word “wrath” describes God’s final action against the ungodly, while the word “reward” is used to describe the benefits received by the child of God. John wrote, “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.” (Rev. 11:18).

As is stated in Revelation 11:18, eternal judgment is predicated on the way we respond to God during our lifetime. Paul wrote to the Galatians saying, “…whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Gal. 6:7-8).

God’s Purpose

Because mankind is born with a depraved and sinful nature, we are all sentenced to die. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23). Judgment must be executed! Yet, the goodness and grace of God is extended to fallen man, offering him a way of escape. God will save and cleanse those who will repent and respond to His salvaging efforts and destroy those who reject His salvation. Judgment for the Christian during his lifetime is a ‘saving judgment’, but for the ungodly it is a ‘destroying judgment’.

In referring to God’s daily judgment of the elect, the Apostle Peter declared, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God…” (1 Pet. 4:17). With this execution of ‘saving judgment’ in the form of chastisement and trials, transgressions are dealt with at the source.

Chastening is not a punishment for sin, but rather a cleansing from the source of sin. Paul’s ‘thorn in the flesh’ was not a punishment for sin, but rather the means of preventing sin. He said, “…lest I should be exalted above measure… there was given to me a thorn in the flesh…” (2 Cor. 12:7). We must bear in mind that the process of conversion and sanctification is only manifested by progressive changes and conforming to the image of Christ.

Paul wrote, “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.” (1 Tim 5:24). It is absolutely necessary that the child of God be able to recognize and accept chastening as from the Lord, then with God’s help make changes. For someone to come forth in the resurrection with immortality, that individual must first go through the cleansing process of judgment in this life. This is God’s method of producing overcomers.

The primary purpose of this article is to assist us in recognizing God’s hand of judgment in our lives so that we can make changes. Paul, in writing to the church at Ephesus, described God’s work of salvaging His children by saying, “…Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it…that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:25-27).

Although the judgment executed against the saints and the ungodly may be identical, and for the same acts of disobedience there is great difference in the response and results. The non-elect responds negatively to judgment and there is no improvement in his relationship to God. Solomon said, “Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad…” (Eccl. 7:7). Also, the book of Revelation highlights the negative attitude of the ungodly in response to God’s judgment stating, “…and they repented not…and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds… and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.” (Rev. 16:9,11 & 21). The same judgment that destroys one saves the other.

Therefore, it is necessary for us to be able to recognize the hand of God in judgment and His ultimate purpose. Failure to do so may result in a prolonged period of judgment. Nebuchadnezzar was a typical example of someone whose resistance to God’s demands for change prolonged the extent of his judgment. What could have been accomplished in minutes was extended to seven years of extreme misery. (Dan 4:27-37). But the work was finally accomplished! We either fall on the rock and be broken or let the rock fall on us and grind us to powder. (Lk. 21:44).

God Speaketh

In the account of Job’s process of chastening judgment, Elihu made a remarkable statement. He said, “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.” (Job 33:14).

We are living in an age of religious arrogance where every religious novice claims to hear from God, yet the many divisions in Christendom indicate otherwise. It is common to hear Christians say, “God spoke to me” or “The Holy Ghost told me.” But how can this be when there is so little awareness to the subtlety of evil in our day? Is it not true that the judgment of God which plagues the ungodly and forces him into the doctor’s office also plagues the so-called godly? The big question is: why is the child of God and the unbeliever suffering the same consequences resulting from national judgment? The answer is simply because they are both drinking of the same cup and partaking of the same sins. God is warning His people in Revelation 18:4, which emphatically declares, “…Come out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”

Are We Listening?

When a child of God is being judged of God, whether it be sickness, poverty, job loss, or any other form of trial, it is of absolute necessity for such a one not to ignore the reason for judgment. Scripture states that, “the curse causeless shall not come”. (Prov. 26:2). Also in 1 Corinthians 11:31-32, the Apostle Paul suggested that, “if we would judge ourselves” by examining our lifestyle in the light of God’s word, “we should not be judged” by the Lord. “But when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”

An honest evaluation of our sanctification from sin and the spirit of the world, followed by genuine repentance and a change of lifestyle may be a good place to start. However, the purpose of God must be sought in whatever circumstances the child of God faces .

May God help us not to ignore His intervention in our lives by allowing human reasoning to justify our circumstances.