Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

The Doctrine of the Last Things (17)

Written by Rev. C.A. Schouls
We again rely extensively on Wm. HendriksenÕs excellent little book The Bible on the Life Hereafter
We have dealt with the ÒRaptureÓ and, although there are a number of things about this that we could still discuss, we must leave them for now. Most of them relate to variations on doctrines thought out by premillenialists and it would be tedious to spend all our time refuting error. As we now move into this broad topic, we will try to deal with it in various smaller segments. In all, we can make ten distinctions in considering the ÒFinal Judgement.Ó

1. How Many?
Premillenialists often speak of at least three judgment days: at ChristÕs first second coming (Parousia), at His second second coming (the Revelation) and, one thousand years later, the judgment before the Great White throne. The first is said to concern the living and risen saints; the second is for the nations at large, particularly with respect to how they have treated the Jews; the third concerns the wicked. Some, however, believe in as many as seven final judgments.

We note that Scripture always speaks of this as one event. It speaks of the Day of Judgment, not the days. Revelation 20:11-14 makes it clear there is only one judgment; this is confirmed by passages such as John 5:28, 29; Acts 17:31; 2 Peter 3:7 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10.

2. Who Will Be the Judge?
Revelation 20 teaches that the Judge will be the One sitting on the great white throne. At various times we read of Òhim that sits upon the throne É and the Lamb.Ó We conclude, therefore, that the judging will be done by God through the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. Of course, we remember that all three persons of the Trinity are active in all the divine works. From passages such as Daniel 7:13, Matthew 25:31,32, 26:64, 28:18; John 5:27 and Philippians 2:9, 10, we believe this judging will clearly be especially the work of Jesus Christ, the Mediator. This honour is awarded to Him as a reward for the work done as mediator (in his human nature).

3. Will Anyone Help the Judge?
The Bible makes it clear that the angels will assist Christ in this judging. See Matthew 13:41, 42; 24:31; 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7,8 and Revelation 14:17-20. They will gather the wicked before the judgment throne and cast them into the furnace of fire. They will likely also welcome the Bride (the Church) as she goes forth to meet the Bridegroom (Christ).

Psalm 149:5-9 and I Corinthians 6:2, 3 show that believers will have an active share in the work of judging. In any event, they will praise the righteous judgments of Christ (Rev.15: 3,4.).

4. Who Will Be Judged?
a.
The Fallen Angels (Matthew 8:29; 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6). This refers to Satan and his demons.

b. All Mankind. As is clear from the passage in Revelation 20, it includes Òthe great and the small.Ó Also, both the wicked and the righteous are included (Matt.25: 32; Rom.14: 10; 2 Cor.5: 10)

5. Where Will the Judgment Take Place?
ÒBefore the Great White Throne.Ó But where will that throne be? Here we cannot be certain, but we can consider some possibilities. Some say the throne will be set on earth. However, two objections can be raised: 1) In Scripture, the throne of God is always pictured in heaven; 2) If it were set up on this earth, could enough room be found to have all people of all ages gathered before that throne? Perhaps it will be in the air (and Christ could still stand upon the earth, after the judgment). Believers will meet the Lord in the air (2 Thess.4: 17). Could they not all go joyfully to meet the Lord while the wicked must be driven before the throne? Or is all this taking the description of the vision of the throne far too literally?

6. When Will the Judgment Take Place?
Revelation 20 makes clear that this will happen right after the LordÕs public return and the resurrection of the dead (cf.Matt.25: 3: ÒWhen the Son of man shall come in his glory and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his gloryÓ). Our Belgic Confession, in Article 37, makes a beautiful statement about all this.

7. Why Must It Take Place?
Sometimes the objection is heard that all this is not necessary, for both the elect and the reprobate have long been judged already. Most of them are already in either heaven or hell. Why judge them now?
We may note:

a. At least, those who are living at the time of the LordÕs return will then be judged.

b. Those who are already in eternity are there with respect to their souls only; the full measure of their eternal weal or woe must now be implemented.

c. The righteousness of God must be displayed to all so that all may justify and praise Him.

d. The cause of Christ and His people must be vindicated. The last time the world saw Him, He was hanging on a cross! This must be reversed. Now they must see His glory and be made to acknowledge that He was right and that His people, whom they have so often offended and persecuted, are truly glorified. They Òmust look upon Him whom they have piercedÓ (Zechariah 12:10). This will give cause for much anguish and sorrow on the part of the wicked and will add to their punishment.

8. What Will Be the Standard of Judgment?
The only thing that will determine entrance into heaven or hell will be the fact whether or not we are covered with the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from Him, there is no salvation. However, there will be degrees both in glory and in punishment. Luke 12 :47 and 48 speaks of Òmany stripes, É few stripes.Ó What will determine the degree of glory or punishment? Two things:

a. The amount of light or knowledge a person received (Rom.2:12);

b. How he used this knowledge. Has he been faithful and, if so, to what measure? This will be evident from his works. These works will show both whether or not a person was a believer and, if a believer, to what extent he used the light he received (Rev 20:13; 1 Cor.3:12-14).

9. What Will be the Elements of this Judgment?
Outlining the exact order of all the elements or components of this judgment is not possible for us. In a human court-case, one expects various standard elements: charge, defence, testimony, summation, verdict and sentence. In this ultimate court case we may expect the following:

a. Separation. The sheep will be separated from the goats. According to the parable in Matthew 25, this is the first act in judgment. We know that God knows all things; He does not have to gather all kinds of evidence and sift through it to come to a conclusion of guilt or innocence. He knew it all along; in fact, from eternity He chose His sheep. Furthermore, the greater number, by far, have been with Him in glory for many years already. Making this separation will not be difficult for the great Judge.

b. Adjudication. It must not be thought, however, that this separation is based only on the decree of election. But it actually takes into account what man has done in this life. We will be judged according to what we have done. Even his inmost thoughts will be brought into judgment. This will make clear the justice of the basic decision by God, whether a person is saved or damned.

c. Revelation. The Òbooks will be opened.Ó Every deed done, every thought conceived, every word spoken, every hope cherished, every motive prompting to action will be laid bare for all to see (Luke 12:3; 1 Cor.4:5; Rev.20:12). Will this take a long time? Not necessarily so. One can describe a scene in great detail or one can have a general impression by means of a mere look.

d. Promulgation. Sentence will be pronounced on each with the exact reasons given. This is clearly and vividly pictured in Matthew 25.

e. Effectuation. Whatever the sentence may be, it will be quickly and effectively carried out (Matt.13:30).

f. Vindication. The justice of God will be made clear throughout all of this as will the righteousness of Christ, His cause and His people. Even the damned will have to admit this and the saved will praise the Triune God for it. Every knee shall bow--also of those under the earth (Phil.2:9-11; Rev.15:3,4; 19:2).

10. What Will Be the Outcome?
We read of this in Matthew 25:46: everlasting punishment for the one; life eternal for the other. We hope to deal with these things in more detail the next time, D.V.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1.
We read that Òthe books will be opened.Ó Does not John 5:24 teach that believers do not come into judgment? How can you explain this? Is it a dreadful thought that all our actions and thoughts will be made known?

2.Why has the work of judging been committed to the Son? Does Philippians 2 shed any light on this? What about promises in Luke 1 and in Psalm 89, etc.?

3.Check again Matthew 25:35, 36. What makes ChristÕs words of praise so wonderful? See this also in the light of John 15:5 (last part), 1 Corinthians 4:7 and Ephesians 2:10.

4.In view of Matthew 25:31 - 40, do you think that Protestants in general and Reformed people in particular, have the right understanding of good works? What can we do to improve in this?

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