God and Judgment

The Bible's Theme

Many believe the Bible's theme is "salvation" and such a joy is not inaccurate. One must admit there are several over-lapping themes in the Bible. However, a little thought would make it clear that before "salvation" there must be something else. Something which leads to salvation. Something which is the very basis of salvation. That something is "judgment."

Let us consider for a moment the word "salvation" as it occurs in at least one translation. "Salvation" occurs a total of 226 times. It occurs first in Jacob's death-bed prophecy: "I will truly wait for your salvation, O Yehowah!" [Genesis 49:18] The word occurs most often in the Psalms. [80 times] and next in Isaiah. [30 times]

How often does Jesus [meaning, "Yah Saves"] the Nazarene mention "salvation"? It may surprise some that the Nazarene only used the word "salvation" twice as reported in the Gospels. First, our Lord speaks to the short Jewish man, Zachaeus: "Today, [Zachaeus], salvation has visited your home because you are a child of Abraham. For the Son of Humankind came to seek and save what was lost." [Luke 19:9, 10] And, secondly, when he speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well: "You [Samaritans] worship in ignorance. We Jews know whom we worship, because salvation is of the Jews." [John 4:22] Thus, in the entire bulk of the Nazarene's teachings he mentions the word "salvation" only twice.

What about other mentions of "salvation" in the Christian Bible? In the Book of Acts Peter uses the word in a sermon to the Jews: "There is no salvation in another person. There is not another name under heaven given to humans by means of which we may get saved." [Acts 4:12] Also, Paul uses the word when before a Jewish synagogue: "[Jewish] men, my brothers, you offspring of Abraham, and those in our midst who fear The God, the message of salvation has been sent to us." [Acts 13:26] And, again later, when rejected by the Jews, Paul says: "Since you [Jews] are pushing us away from you because you do not consider yourselves worthy of ageless life -- behold! we turn to the non-Jews. Indeed, the God commanded us in the words [of Isaiah], 'I have appointed [Israel] as a light to the non-Jews, for you to be a salvation to the farthest reaches of the earth." [Acts 13:46, 47]

The apostle Paul uses the word "salvation" about two dozen times. Salvation comes only to those who have conviction. [Romans 1:16] Paul prays for the Jews' salvation. [Romans 10:1] To attain salvation one must confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. [Romans 10:10] Because the Jews rejected Messiah (heavenly) salvation may come to the non-Jews [Romans 11:11] Salvation is nearer than when we first believed. [Romans 13:11] "Now is the day of salvation." [2 Corinthians 6:2] Repentance must precede salvation. [2 Corinthians 7:10] The Gospel includes salvation. [Ephesians 1:13] Put on the "helmet of salvation." [Ephesians 6:17] To gain salvation one must behave in a manner worthy of the Gospel. [Philippians 1:27, 28] Salvation must be worked out in fear and trembling. [Philippians 2:12] One must stand firm and remain sanctified to gain salvation. [2 Thessalonians 2:13] The Scriptures are necessary to make one wise for salvation. [2 Timothy 3:15-17] Salvation is available to all, however, the worldly life must be rejected. [Titus 2:11, 12] There is no deliverance if salvation is rejected. [Hebrews 1:14] Before salvation would become a reality the Son of God had to be perfected through obedience to God. [Hebrews 2:10] Only by obedience may one gain salvation. [Hebrews 5:9]

Other occurrences of "salvation" in the Christian Bible are 1 Peter 1:5, 9, 10; 2:2; 2 Peter 3:15; Jude 3. Neither John nor James use the word "salvation" in their epistles. The word occurs three times in Revelation 7:10; 12:10; 19:1]

Since repentance, faith, and works must precede salvation it is clear something else must come before it. That is -- judgment -- God's declaration that a person is "Not guilty!" and may be judicially declared acceptable for life, either in heaven amidst the Church, or upon earth as the everlasting home of humanity.

Now consider a more powerful and pervasive theme in the Bible.

God as Judge

That God is Judge few would dispute. It follows that as the Almighty Creator he may inspect or judge His work at any time. Of course, He cannot be Judge without Law, which He Himself establishes. Thus, Isaiah speaks of God, "Yehowah is our Judge. Yehowah is our Law-giver. Yehowah is our King. He will save us!" [Isaiah 33:22] It seems clear that these three offices of God are involved in salvation and thus precede it.

The word group "judge" and "judgment" occurs many times in the Bible, more often than "salvation." For example, the word "judge" occurs 183 times, one of the earliest at Genesis 18:25 where Abraham calls Yehowah "The Judge of All the Earth." In the Hebrew Bible the word "judge" occurs most often in the two books Psalms [20 times] and Ezekiel [22 times]. The words judges and judging occur 106 times. The word judicial 158 times. The word "judgment" itself occurs 256 times. So, with over 700 occurrences of the idea of judgment, the Bible is very much a book about such.

In the Bible judgment begins in Eden where Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were thus judged by Him. [Genesis 3:16-20] This not only affected them, but also their children, like an STD. [Romans 5:12-17] God's judgment upon humanity was death (unconscious extinction) and there still all humanity who ever lived -- save One -- remain. Would all of the dead receive their own judgment? This would be impossible if they remained in the grave. How would God exercise His authority as Judge, Law-giver, and King -- if He so wished -- and make it possible for all humanity to be judged? The how of that is explained in the Christian Bible. Let us examine the subject of judgment and salvation as taught by Jesus and Paul.

The Nazarene and "Judgment"

Though Jesus only used the word "salvation" twice in the Gospel accounts, he had much to say about judgment. The Scriptures will show that the Nazarene taught there would be a Judgment Day upon which all mankind would be judged according to their words and works during their life time on earth. Let us compare some of his teachings.

Sodom and Gomorrah would rise with certain Jewish cities on Judgment Day. [Matthew 10:13] Other cities and lands would also rise on Judgment Day. [Matthew 11:22-24; 12:41, 42; Luke 10:14; 11:31, 32] Some may find it difficult or impossible escape the judgment of Gehenna -- everlasting extinction. Some could never be forgiven even upon their rising in the New Age. [Matthew 12:32; 23:33; Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47] Even wicked men realized they deserved a certain type of judgment. [Luke 23:40]

On what basis would people be judged, according to the teachings of Jesus Christ? Would they rise in a resurrection for some probationary opportunity, to re-live their human existence as it were, and thus be judged in perfection? There is no such idea presented any where in the teachings of the Nazarene. Did Jesus have anything to say on how exactly humanity would be judged? Indeed.

Note what he teaches in Matthew 12:34-37, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person brings forth good out of a good treasure; and, the evil person brings forth evil out of an evil treasure. However, I tell you this: every careless word which humans speak they will give an account for it on the Day of Judgment. Because by your words you will be pronounced innocent and by your words you will be found guilty and condemned." Is it fair to conclude from these words of Jesus that whenever Judgment Day occurs everyone will be judged on the basis of their speech? These words here do not seem words spoken at some future probationary period, but rather those spoken now while in this life.

Jesus speaks about the basis for judgment at John 3:16-21 in a very famous context: "For The God had such loving concern for the whole world of humankind that He gave his Only-begotten Son, so that everyone with deep conviction in the Son may not be destroyed but attain ageless life. He that has deep conviction in the Son will not be condemned. The person who does not have deep conviction in the Son has been condemned already, because of not showing deep conviction in the name of the Only-begotten Son of The God. Now this is the judgment: Light has come into the world of humankind, but people have loved darkness over Light because of their own evil works. Because the person who is habitually vile hates the Light and refuses to approach the Light so that they might not be rebuked. However, the person who is truthful is willing to approach the Light so that their deeds may be revealed as having been done according to the will of God."

Such persons living in Jesus' generation of time would be raised on Judgment Day and receive whatever payment is due them. As Jesus taught them: "Because the Son of Humankind is destined to arrive in the Father's glory with his angels and then every person will be repaid in harmony with their conduct. ... For everyone who is ashamed by me and my words among this adulterous and wicked generation, the Son of Humankind will also be ashamed of them when he arrives." [Matthew 16:27; Mark 8:38]

At John 5:28, 29 Jesus shows this judgment will occur upon the resurrection with two outcomes: "For just as the Father has life in himself, so also the He gave the Son to have life in himself. The Father gave to the Son the authority to make judgment because he is the Son of Humankind. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming in which all those in the graves will hear his voice and will come out. Those who have done good things to a resurrection of life; but, those who habitually practiced evil things to a resurrection of condemnation." Jesus draws these words from a combination of Isaiah 26:19 and Daniel 12:2 from the Jewish Greek Septuagint, "The dead shall rise, and they that are in the tombs hall be raised. ... And multitudes of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall arise -- some to ageless life, and some to ageless reproach and shame."

Jesus taught his apostles that he would send a spiritual helper upon his return to heaven. This spirit-helper or comforter was to teach them about a variety of subjects. Note this in John 16:8-11 where one of these subjects will be "judgment." On the basis of this we could expect that those inspired disciples who wrote later would also deal with "judgment." We find just the case. Consider Paul's teachings on the same subject.

Paul and "Judgment"

Did Paul agree with his Lord Jesus: humanity would be resurrected to be judged regarding their conduct during their life times? Did Paul ever mention a probationary period in which mankind would grow to perfection and then be judged?

The earliest mention of Paul's teachings on "judgment" and the "resurrection" are found in the book of Acts 17:31 and Acts 24:15: "Because The God has determined a day upon which He will righteously judge the earth's inhabitants by a Man He appointed. Also, He has given an assurance to everyone by having resurrected him from those dead. ... I have a hope in The God concerning a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous." In order to judge those righteous and those unrighteous God would have to resurrect all humanity from the grave.

This Paul assures will result because of the resurrection of Jesus. Note how he puts this in 1 Corinthians 15:20-26: "Now, however, Christ has risen from the dead as the first of the harvest of all those who have lain down in [death's] sleep. For since death came about because of a human [Adam], resurrection of the dead is likewise because of a Human. For just as all continue to die in Adam, just so all will be made alive in Christ." Exactly how and when this will happen will be discussed under a following sub-heading.

So, if it were not for the sacrificial death -- the ransom -- of Christ Jesus all humanity would never even have an opportunity to be judged! Now, God would be pleased if every single one of humanity could be saved, for he really does not desire any to be destroyed, but all to attain repentance. Compare 1 Timothy 2:3-6, "God wishes that all humans should be save and reach a completely knowledge of truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and humankind, a man, Christ Jesus, who surrendered himself as a ransom for all." And, Peter writes, "God does not wish any to be destroyed but all to make room for repentance." [2 Peter 3:9] Though this is what God would wish it is not what will be the final outcome. For, Paul states that some of the elementary teachings of Christ's doctrine is "repentance from dead works, conviction in God ... resurrection from the dead, everlasting condemnation [judgment]." [Hebrews 6:1, 2] He also makes it clear in Hebrews 9:27, "It is destined for humankind to die once, and after this, a judgment."

Did Paul agree with Jesus regarding the manner in which humanity would be judged? He writes precisely about this subject in Romans 2:14-17 -- just before asking the question, "How will The God judge the world of mankind?" [Romans 3:6] -- "For when Gentiles who have no Law obey by natural instinct the commands of the Law, they, without having a Law, are a Law to themselves; since they exhibit proof that a knowledge of the conduct which the Law requires is engraved on their hearts, while their consciences also bear witness to the Law, and their thoughts, as if in mutual discussion, accuse them or perhaps maintain their innocence-- on the day when God will judge the secrets of men's lives by Jesus Christ, as declared in the Good News as I have taught it." [Weymouth] It is Paul's Gospel that all humanity will be judged based on their conduct in this life.

Now, we saw in Ephesians 1:13 that salvation was part of the Gospel. Above in Romans 2:17 we note "judgment" is part of the Gospel. Of course, the judgment comes before salvation.

Now some will ask, "Is this fair?" That is, is it fair for God to judge humanity in their sinful state? [Romans 5:12] Paul describes two parts to humanity -- the Jew and the non-Jew. The Jew will be judged based on his own Law [Romans 2:12], while the non-Jewish world will be judged by their own conscience. Is this a valid assumption? When the judges of Nuremberg had before them the Nazi leaders most responsible for the holocaust they were confronted with this problem -- what if one is only acting in obedience to their superiors? The judges determined that there was such a thing as "the universal human conscience." Thus, these human judges agreed with Paul regarding even the sinner's conscience being an adequate judge. Therefore, upon their resurrection to that future Judgment Day, Jews and non-Jews will be judged on the basis of their words and conduct during their life times as the children of Adam.

Is it possible that God knows that despite inherited sin "the universal human conscience" is enough to cause "righteous" persons to avoid habitual evil? It seems so. So, we all face that judgment based on our own life record. As Paul puts it in Romans 2:3-6, "And you who pronounce judgment upon those who do such things although your own conduct is the same as theirs -- do you imagine that you yourself will escape unpunished when God judges? Or is it that you think slightenly of His infinite goodness, forbearance and patience, unaware that the goodness of God is gently drawing you to repentance? The fact is that in the stubbornness of your impenitent heart you are treasuring up against yourself anger on the day of Anger -- the day when the righteousness of God's judgments will stand revealed." [Weymouth]

What about those who "never heard about God"? Twice in his letter to the Romans Paul makes it clear that humanity is without excuse if they did not come to a belief in God. For example, in Romans 1:20 he writes, "[The God's] invisible attributes are clearly apparent from the world's creation, being understood by the things made -- both His power and godship. Therefore, they are without an excuse." And, again in Romans 10:18, Paul asks, "Did they not hear? Surely, they did." And then he quotes from the creation Psalm 19:4, "Into all the earth their voice went out and to the very limits of the inhabited world their words." In other words, creation it sufficient to arouse awe in any person living on the planet. From this awe, reverence for the Maker should have resulted. This, together with the implanted conscience -- lacking in animals -- should have been enough to cause two reactions: faith in God (whatever He may be), and, human-kindness toward others living on this planet.

What does the Bible actually say about Judgment Day? Let us turn out attention to some details.

The Day of "Judgment"

There will be a Judgment Day. All humanity alive and dead at that moment -- or should we say, those moments -- will be judged completely on what they did, or did not do, during their life times. There is not one Bible text which describes some future "probationary period." The Bible teaches there will be two basic judgments: one involving only the Church of Christ or "Christendom." And, later, humanity in general.

Paul inferred such when he was discussing the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:23-26, "However, everyone in their own order: Christians, at [Christ's] Arrival; next, the End, when .... the last enemy, death, is abolished." Possibly, one may argue that there are three future periods of judgment. What are they?

1. The Parousia-Judgment of the Church

As Paul shows above the first resurrection and judgment take place following the Parousia (Presence) of Jesus Christ. Paul refers to this early or initial judgment in several places in his epistles. All of these texts deal with the parousia-judgment on the Church:

" ... the revelation of God's righteous judgment. He will give back to every [Christian] person in harmony with their own deeds -- ageless life to those persons who seek glory, honor, and incorruption by enduring in good works. However, to those [Christian] persons who are belligerent and disobedient to the truth, but rather obey unrighteousness -- there will be wrath, anger, oppression and distress upon the soul of every person who works harm [to a fellow] -- first the Jew, but also the rest of the world. In contrast, glory, honor and peace to every person who does good works -- first the Jew and then the rest of the world. For The God is completely impartial." [Romans 2:5-11]

"Because everyone of us will present ourselves before God's judgment, just as it is written, 'As I am living, says the LORD, every knee will bend before Me and every tongue will confess to The God.' So, then, everyone of us will render an account to The God." [Romans 14:10-12]

"Do not judge matters before the time -- until the Lord arrives -- for he will expose and bring into the Light dark secrets and motives of the heart. It will be then that everyone of us will have praise from The God." [1 Corinthians 4:5]

"Because all of us [Christians] will be exposed before Christ's judgment-seat. Then everyone of us [Christians] will get the proper payment for everything done while in the fleshly body -- whatever was habitually practiced -- good or vile." [2 Corinthians 5:10]

Peter speaks in a similar fashion when he writes: "However, these persons will provide an account to the One ready to judge the living and the dead. ... Because the judgment will start with the House of The God, and, if it begins first with us [Christians] what will be the end of those [Christians] disobedient to God's Evangel?" [1 Peter 4:5, 17]

Also, the beloved apostle John writes, "So, then, my little children, continue united in [the Son] so that whenever he is made visible we may speak freely [in the day of judgment] and not be shamed in his presence." [1 John 2:28; 4:17]

Jesus the Nazarene teaches these truths in many parables regarding the parousia-judgment of the Church. These can be read at Matthew 24:43-25:46 and Luke 12:32-48. In all of these the disciples of Jesus who are raised in the parousia-judgment are judged on the basis of their expectant conviction and their loving charity to others. Those Christians throughout the Gospel Age who abused their fellow associates and refused to aid those in need -- a sin of omission -- will have their professed Lord say to them, "Get away from me! I never knew you! ... Depart into ageless extinction!" [Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:46]

2. The Thousand Year Judgment

That Christian body of the Saints declared to be "righteous" [Matthew 25:37, 40] will become part of the Celestial Kingdom reigning with Messiah over the earth. Their reign will include "judgment." Revelation 20:3, 4, 6 promises: "... so that [the Devil] may no longer mislead the non-Jews anymore until the Thousand Years have ended. I beheld those sitting down on thrones and judgment was given to them. ... They came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a Thousand Years. ... This is the first resurrection."

Over whom will these judge? Revelation 20:3 has just mentioned the non-Jews [ethne] whom Satan can no longer mislead. It seems fair to conclude that these non-Jews are those of the two-thirds majority of humanity who are not killed during the Day of Wrath of the Almighty and the Lamb. [Revelation 6:17; Revelation 7:1, 2' Revelation 9:15] If humanity is about six billion at that time, then four billion will be permitted to continue living on earth at the beginning of the Thousand Years.

It is likely these non-Jews, or "nations," are the same as those mentioned in Zechariah 14:3, 5, 16, "Yehowah shall go forth and fight with those non-Jews [ethnsin] as when He fought in the day of battle. ... Yehowah my God will come with all His Saints. ... And it shall come to pass that those non-Jews [ethnon] that came against Jerusalem [and who] survived will annually come to worship the King, Yehowah Almighty." [We will discuss other features of this in a moment.]

It should be admitted that Revelation does not provide many details of life DURING the Thousand Years. We only know non-Jews, or nations, who survived the Day of Wrath, perhaps amounting into the billions, will enter a life without the Devil. [Compare Revelation 21:24 KJV] We are not told here that these peoples continue to live on throughout the Thousand Years. We are not told that this will be a probationary period while these peoples grow to human perfection. We are told very precisely, directly, and with no room for misunderstanding, "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the Thousand Years were ended." [Revelation 20:5]

There are several Bible-based speculations we can make. First, Revelation 20:6 tells us that Second Death has no authority over the glorified Church. This would seem to indicate Second Death has authority over others, likely those non-Jewish nations who survived the Day of Wrath. That this is the case is made evident in two Scriptures.

The first is back in Zechariah 14:17 which declares that those non-Jews who refuse to worship the King will have the same fate as those peoples who died in the Day of Wrath. This would seem to harmonize with the Second Death which will be authorized by God over these non-Jews during the Thousand Years.

Also, note several things from Isaiah 65:17-20: "For here I am creating new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart. But exult, you people, and be joyful forever in what I am creating. For here I am creating Jerusalem a cause for joyfulness and her people a cause for exultation. And I will be joyful in Jerusalem and exult in my people; and no more will there be heard in her the sound of weeping or the sound of a plaintive cry. No more will there come to be a suckling a few days old from that place, NEITHER AN OLD MAN THAT DOES NOT FULFILL HIS DAYS; FOR ONE WILL DIE AS A MERE BOY, ALTHOUGH A HUNDRED YEARS OF AGE; and as for THE SINNER, ALTHOUGH A HUNDRED YEARS OF AGE HE WILL HAVE EVIL CALLED DOWN UPON HIM. [NWT] If we apply this to the Thousand Years -- and many rightly do -- we learn there will be older persons who will die. These are in contrast to the "sinner" and thus it seems fair to conclude these older persons who die are righteous persons. Therefore, these older people do not live throughout the whole Thousand Years.

In contrast there will be "sinners" who will live to be one hundred years of age -- or one-tenth of the length of the Thousand Years. These "sinners" were not misled by the Devil for he is out of action during the Thousand Years. Though one-hundred years old these "sinners" will also die as old persons but in their case "they have evil called down upon." [Ecclesiastes 8:12] This seems to harmonize with Zechariah 14:17 as well as with the Second Death which remains an executionary instrument to be used on any habitual sinners DURING the Thousand Years.

This Bible-based view will seem new and unusual to many who have had other Biblical commentators form their understandings of Revelation. No doubt there are many questions these will raise based on the view given above. "Why would God do it that way? It makes more sense to .... " Of course, it is obvious that the clay should never say to the Potter, "Why?" as if to challenge His way of doing things. [Romans 9:20, 21]

Paul states that Christ must reign until the last enemy death is destroyed. [1 Corinthians 15:24-28] Judging from Revelation 20:11-13 this occurs AFTER the Thousand Years are finished and the Devil has been destroyed by the Second Death. "What is the point to the Thousand Years?" someone will ask. One answer would be: By Christ and the reign of the Church for a Thousand Years absent the Devil, God will demonstrate to all humanity that His way of doing things is right and successful. [Isaiah 11:1-5] Imagine a world without the Devil and with the righteous influence of Messiah reigning supreme. [Isaiah 26:9] Thus, Christ will do what "the god of this world" could not -- and do it in one-sixth of the time, or less. [2 Corinthians 4:4]

With ten generations of humanity living under the Thousand Year reign of Christ and his Church, despite any "sinners" who refused to repent and change [Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:15] -- and under the righteous influence of the godly -- the earth will be turned into a paradise. A paradise ready for those future peoples who will inherit the earth forever. [Psalm 37:29] But, how and when will this final judgment occur?

3. The Last Judgment

We come now to what many have called "the Last Judgment." We have already read how only the Church is raised in the "first resurrection" BEFORE the Thousand Years. Also, we have read that "the rest of the dead did not come to live until the Thousand Years were ended." [Revelation 20:5] This is exactly what the rest of the chapter reveals. For after the Thousand Years have ended and are completely over, the Devil is released to make a final attempt upon those non-Jews alive at that time. Though Satan will have those who will join him in a futile attack against the New Jerusalem, God's fire will descend upon all of these rebels and into Second Death they go -- everlasting extinction. [Revelation 20:7-10]

It is after this -- after the destruction of the Devil and his rebellious followers -- that death traceable to Adam is "destroyed." [1 Corinthians 15:24-28] Death and Hades are emptied and become useless. Even those millions who were buried at sea, or died at sea, will also be raised. For the grand vision promises: "And I saw a great white throne and the one [Messiah] seated on it. From before him the earth and the heaven fled away [Revelation 20:10], and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead [Revelation 20:5], the great and the small, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. But another scroll was opened; it is the scroll of life. And THE DEAD WERE JUDGED OUT OF THOSE THINGS WRITTEN IN THE SCROLLS ACCORDING TO THEIR DEEDS. And the sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Ha'des gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds. And death and Ha'des were hurled into the lake of fire. This means the second death, the lake of fire. Furthermore, whoever was not found written in the book of life was hurled into the lake of fire. [Revelation 20:11-15 NWT]

These masses of all humanity who have ever lived are not raised to some probationary period. They are judged, as Paul has already stated, on the basis of their God-implanted conscience. [Romans 2:15-17] These are judged, as the Nazarene taught, on the basis of their words and their deeds. [Matthew 12:36, 37; John 3:19-21] Thus, proving that God has not changed as the "Judge of All the Earth," the Davidic Psalm will come true: "For you, [Yehowah], will pay back to everyone in harmony with their deeds." [Psalm 62:12]

But, we wonder, what we must do -- or not do -- to receive God's favorable judgment and the approval of Christ? Consider the article "A Warning to the Judgmental".

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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