Tag Archives: judgment

How Is Judgment Related to the Gospel? (Fourteen 5)

In the New Testament generally, judgment is closely related to the gospel and it comes in three phases. First of all, judgment occurred at the cross (John 12:31; Rev. 5:5-10). The entire human race was judged in the person of its representative, Jesus Christ. At the cross, human sin was condemned in the suffering and death of Christ (Rom. 8:3). Then at the resurrection, the entire human race was approved in the person of Christ and raised from the dead (Acts 13:32-33). So the Christ event delivers two messages regarding the human race. One, the entire human race is condemned on account of its rebellion and sin. Two, the entire human race is acceptable to God in Jesus Christ. These two messages together are the sum total of the gospel. One without the other is unbalanced and leads to discouragement or licentiousness.

Second, throughout the New Testament judgment language is closely associated with the preaching of the gospel. Whenever the gospel is preached people are called into judgment based on their response to what Christ did on the cross. The preaching of the gospel is judgment hour (John 3:18-21; 5:22-25). People see how impossible it is for humanity on its own to be acceptable to God. At the same time they see how the death and resurrection of Jesus (the essence of the gospel—1 Cor 15:1-4) removes all barriers to full acceptance with God. If both these things are true, the preaching of the gospel is the most decisive moment in anyone’s life. In my view, this is the background to the four horsemen of the seals (Rev. 6:1-8). They portray the going forth of the gospel, the victorious response of those who accept it and the increasing consequences of rejection. The gospel is the supreme reality of the whole Christian era.

Third, there is a judgment at the end which ratifies the judgments we passed on ourselves in response to the hearing of the gospel (John 12:48). This is not double jeopardy. The end-time judgment ratifies the judgments we made on ourselves when the call of the gospel came to us. While the book of Revelation references the first (Rev 5) and second (Rev 6:1-8) phases of judgment in symbolic terms, it reserves the language of judgment for this end-time phase (Rev. 11:18; 14:7; 17:1; 20:4). In Rev. 14:7, the second and third phases of judgment outlined above occur together. The close of probation occurs when the final proclamation of the gospel (Rev 14:6-12) has divided the whole world into two camps (Rev 12:17). The second phase of the judgment (in the preaching of the gospel) is completed at the same time as the third phase. That is what we call the close of probation.

Facing the Judgment

The first angel of Revelation 14 suggests a most serious reason why we might become afraid. He says that the hour of God’s judgment has come (Rev 14:7). Those are awesome words that strike many people with fear. How thoroughly will we be judged? How much does God know about us? Hebrews 4:13 suggests that He knows a lot: “There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before his eyes. And it is to him that we must all give an account of ourselves” (GNB). Put that together with the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:14: “God is going to judge everything we do, whether good or bad, even things done in secret” (GNB).

How can you face a judgment at the hands of someone so well informed and be unafraid? Well, unafraid of what and unafraid of whom? The same John who warned us in Revelation 14:7 that the hour of God’s judgment has come, is the one who explains how it is possible to face the judgment without fear. In one of his letters, John uses the word “fear” with the meaning of “terror” in the face of the judgment. But notice what he does with that terror:

God is love, and whoever lives in love, lives in union with God, and God lives in union with him. Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgment Day. . . There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:16-18, GNB).

John’s point is surely crystal clear. If we really know the truth about God, there is no need to be afraid, even of the final judgment. And why is that? Is it only because God has given all judgment to the Son? John 5:22 says: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (RSV). Many find that comforting, because they feel they are much more likely to receive merciful treatment at the hand of the Son than of the Father. But is that true? I’ve heard some say with real gratitude, “I have no fear of the judgment because I know I have a Friend in court.”
And I ask, “Who is that Friend?”
Then comes the warm response, “Why, Jesus, of course.”
“You mean the Father is no Friend of yours?”
“Oh, I didn’t mean that.”
“Then what did you mean when you said that you were happy to have a Friend in court and Jesus is your Friend? Is the Father no Friend? What of the Holy Spirit?”

Some derive comfort from the thought, as they consider the final judgment at the hands of One who knows us in such detail, that Jesus will be there interceding with the Father in our behalf. Does that mean that the more Jesus pleads with the Father, the more likely we are to receive merciful treatment? Think what that implies about the Father! Is the Father less loving and less forgiving than the Son? Do we think that He is exacting, unforgiving, and severe? Are we even willing, in expressing our doctrines, to support Satan’s charges against our God?

Remember Jesus’ words to Philip in John 14:7, 9: “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. . . . He who has seen me has seen the Father” (RSV). If you really knew this to be true, you would never say, “I am grateful that I have a Friend in court, and I mean Jesus not the Father.” You couldn’t say that, could you? Remember Jesus’s words in John 16:26: “I need make no promise to plead to the Father for you. For the Father himself loves you” (Phillips). Or as Goodspeed’s translation put the same text: “There is no need for me to intercede with the Father for you.” According to Jesus Himself, the Son does not love us more than the Father, or understand us better than the Father. Neither is the Son more sympathetic than the Father. If we have seen the Son we have seen the Father.

According to Romans 8, all three members of the Godhead are for us; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If all of them are for us, then who is the one who is against us? Against whose charges do we need to be defended (Rom 8:26-39)? You see, whether we are judged by Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, we have no need to be afraid of God. But that is not the only reason to be unafraid. When we understand how the judgment is conducted and what determines whether we are saved or lost, we will have even further evidence that we don’t need to be afraid.