1. The Principles Of Judgment
1.1. The Purpose Of Judgment
The judgment seat of Christ is not a means by which the Father
and Son gather information about us, consider it and then give a
verdict. It will be for our benefit. Our behaviour is constantly
analyzed by them and 'judged'. The idea of sitting upon a judgment
seat or giving judgment doesn't necessarily involve the idea of
weighing up evidence. To 'judge' can mean simply to pronounce the
final verdict, which the judge has long since known; not to weigh
up evidence (consider Mt. 7:2; Jn. 3:18; 5:22; 7:24,51; 8:15,16,26;
16:11; 18:31; Acts 7:7; 23:3; 24:6 Gk.; Rom. 2:12; 3:7; 1 Cor. 11:31;
2 Thess. 2:12; Heb. 10:30; 13:4; 1 Pet. 4:6; James 5:10,22).
‘Judge’ = to pronounce the
not weigh up evidence
“He that believeth on him is not condemned [judged]” (Jn. 3:18)
“Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what
he doeth?” (Jn. 7:51)
“Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore
said unto him, It is not lawful for us to out any man to death”
“If we should judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Cor.
“That they all might be damned [judged] who believed not the
truth” (2 Thess. 2:12).
Pilate sitting on judgment seat = to pronounce verdict (Jn. 19:13)
“The Lord standeth to judge the people” (Is. 3:13) = to pronounce
“I will call...the kingdoms of the north [Babylon]...and they
shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of
Jerusalem...and I will utter my judgments against them touching
all their wickedness” (Jer. 1:15,16).
All these passages are impressive evidence that 'the judgment seat'
isn't the weighing up of evidence which we may tend to think of
it as. Pilate sat on the judgment seat not to weigh up evidence
but to pronounce the verdict (Jn. 19:13). Herod sat on the judgment
seat in order to make "an oration" to the people, supposedly on
God's behalf (Acts 12:21 RVmg.). It wasn't to weigh up any evidence-
it was to make a statement. And thus it will be in the final judgment.
Also, "judge" is often used in the sense of 'to condemn'- not to
just consider evidence (e.g. Mt. 7:2; Rom. 3:7; 2 Thess. 2:17).
The trial of our faith is going on now; the judgment will simply
formally reveal the verdict which is now being arrived at. The Father
judges now "according to every man's work" (1 Pet. 1:17), as He
did in OT times: "Thou renderest to every man according to his work"
(Ps. 62:12). Yet when His Son returns, He will give every man "according
as his work shall be" (Rev. 22:12). It couldn't be clearer: the
judgment is going on now, and the Lord Jesus returns to give us
the reward which has been 'judged' appropriate for us. With this
background, Peter drives home the almost inevitable practical lesson:
"...[therefore] pass the time of your sojourning here in fear".
Now Yahweh's eyes judge and examine the righteous,
as He sits enthroned; and He will, at the future day of judgment,
rain sulphur upon the head of the wicked and chase them away with
His brining wind (Ps. 11:4-6 RV- reference to the Angel of the Lord
chasing the rejected away?). The "end" of the rejected is to be
later "burnt" (Heb. 6:8), as if rejection occurs in the mind of
God now, but will articulate the punishment later, at the judgment.
"He that loveth his life loseth it" (Jn. 12:25 RV)- we are right
now losing our lives if we love ourselves. The final judgment is
likened to a winnowing process. But right now, according to Ps.
139:3 RVmg., God winnows our path [our daily living], all day ("my
path") and every evening (at my "lying down"). "The Lord sat as
king [in judgment] at the Flood. Yea, the Lord sitteth King for
ever" (Ps. 29:10 RV); He is just as much sitting in judgment now
as He was at the flood, which is a well known type of the judgment
Jeremiah's ministry began with God describing how Babylon would
set her thrones of judgment near Jerusalem, and then God would utter
His Judgments against His people (Jer. 1:15,16). These thrones and
this judgment seat scenario wasn't for the obtaining or weighing
of evidence; it was for the pronouncement of verdict. "The Lord
standeth to judge the people" (Is. 3:13) alludes to the judge standing
up at the end and pronouncing the conclusion. God's 'judgment' of
His people here didn't involve a gathering and weighing up of evidence.
And so with us. That 'judgment' in the sense of the weighing up
of evidence is going on right now. The Lord returns and will
sit on the judgment seat to give the final, unalterable summing
up of His judgment of us, and to pronounce the final verdict in
the light of this. One of the themes of the book of Job is that
God is not passive to the human condition and human behaviour, as
Job thought. "The cause is before him, and thou waitest for him"
to express His judgment of the case (Job 35:14 RV). He is judging
our cases right now; they are before Him. And we wait the Lord's
return to pronounce the verdict.
The king (Jesus) makes a reckoning with His servants right now,
and it is for us to be influenced by the gracious accounting He
shows towards us, and then in this life reflect an appropriate grace
to our brother (Mt. 18:23 RV). The reckoning is going on right now,
indeed in a sense it occurred on the cross. Right now, God is ashamed
or not ashamed of us, according to our separation from the spirit
of this world (Heb. 11:16); and yet His not being ashamed of us
will also be apparent at the final judgment. We have our judgment
now, from His point of view.
The judgment seat which there will be is in fact only a bringing
to earth of the judgment seat which even now is going on in Heaven.
Consider Mt. 10:32: "Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I
also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven". What does
this speak about? Surely of the Lord's speaking to the Father in
Heaven right now, in this life. But compare the parallel Lk. 12:8:
"Everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man also will
acknowledge before the angels of God; but he who denies me before
men will be denied before the angels of God". Of what does this
speak? Surely of the last judgment [note the reference to the "Son
of man", a term usually used about judgment to come; and denial
before the angels surely equates with the "I never knew you" of
the final judgment]. The events of the last day, with the Lord confessing
or denying us before the Father and the Angels, are actually going
on this very day.
The judgment seat will be for our benefit and for the glorification
and vindication of God's Name / character. Whenever God condemns
a person or a system, it is for the articulation of His Name- and
not merely an expression of anger from an all powerful God. Thus
"The Lord is known [revealed] by the judgment which He executes"
(Ps. 9:16). The vision of Kingdom glory was “according to the…vision
which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw [Ezekiel twice
stresses this feature!] when I came to destroy the city” (Ez. 43:3).
The same essential glory of God is revealed in both condemnation
and salvation. It’s been pointed out that “In Hebrew, ‘to judge’
and ‘to help’ are parallel ideas” (1).
We see it in Is. 1:17, where to ‘judge the fatherless’ means to
help and save him. There He will reveal the hidden things of darkness
(the human heart), and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts
(1 Cor. 4:5). Of course He knows these anyway; but He will make
them manifest to us. The judgment seat is for our benefit,
not God's- He knows our lives and spiritual position already. The
day of judgment is to purify us (Mal. 3:2)- not ultimately, for
that has been done by the Lord's blood and our lives of faithful
acceptance of this. But the fire of judgment reveals the dross of
our lives to us and in this sense purges us of those sins.
Without the judgment, we would drift into the Kingdom with no real
appreciation of our own sinfulness or the height of God's grace.
The judgment will declare God's glory, His triumph over every secret
sin of His people. The heathen will be judged "that the nations
may know themselves to be but men" (Ps. 9:20)- self knowledge is
the aim, not extraction of information so that God can make a decision.
And it was the same with Israel: "Judge the bloody city... (i.e.)
shew her all her abominations" (Ez. 22:2). The Hebrew word translated
'carry away captive' means also to denude, to reveal, uncover. Israel
were revealed for what they were by being carried away into captivity
(Ez. 16:37; Hos. 2:10; 2 Kings 17:6,11,23,33). And yet morally they
uncovered themselves, they revealed their own shame (Is. 57:8; Ez.
16:36; 23:10); God didn't inflict anything on them which they had
not in principle inflicted on themselves during their lives. To
a certain degree, the acceptance or rejection which will be shown
to us in the day of judgment can be visited on us in this life,
in accordance with our actions. Thus the Lord Jesus appears as the
judge of the seven ecclesias in Rev. 1:14, the description of him
there being very similar to that in Dan. 7 and 10, where he is portrayed
as the judge at the second coming. Asaph knew that God now judges,
and therefore asks God to arise and judge openly in the earth according
to those judgments (Ps. 82:1,8).
Having spoken of the coming of judgment, Ecc. 3:18 RV comments:
"It is because of the sons of men, that God might manifest them
[i.e. to themselves], and that they might see that they themselves
are beasts". The purpose of the judgment is for us, to teach us
the gripping truth of the mortality of man. This theory we know,
as doctrine. But only in the chilling reality of the judgment will
we know it in reality. Again and again I repeat: the judgment
seat is for our benefit. "For he [God] needeth not further to consider
a man; that he should go before God in judgment" (Job 34:23 RV).
Yet man will go before God in judgment- but for our benefit. Another
doctrine which the judgment seat will teach us in practice is the
humanity of Jesus. God "gave him authority to execute judgment,
because he is a son of man" (Jn. 5:27 RVmg.). His humanity is His
ability to judge us. We will then realize the extent to which He
succeeded in every point where we realize we failed, despite being
strapped with our same nature. And thus we will respect Him yet
the more for His perfection of character, and for the wonder of
the salvation that is thereby in Him.
All this may be the explanation of the otherwise enigmatic Ps.
94:15: “Judgment shall return to righteousness: and all the upright
in heart shall follow it”. The end result of God’s judgments is
righteousness, both exhibited by Him in the nature of the judgments,
and also in the reformed lives of those who respond to meditation
upon those judgments.
The Faithful Learn By The Condemnation Of The Wicked
The very existence of “the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction”
is in order to “make known the riches of his glory upon the vessels
of mercy” (Rom. 9:22,23 RV). After the experience of Divine judgment,
"ye shall be comforted concerning the evil that I have brought upon
Jerusalem"; and yet these are exactly the words used to describe
how God will be 'comforted' after the judgments (Ez. 5:13; 14:22).
We will come to share God's perspective through our experience of
the judgment process. It will teach us to be like Him, to see things
from His viewpoint. As a result of it, the struggles we have over
"why…?" so many things happened will be resolved. The purpose of
the judgment is not only to convict us of our sinfulness, but also
to make us appreciate our own righteousness for what it was and
is. The faithful almost argue back with the Lord when He points
out to them their righteous acts; they were done within a spirit
of service that simply didn't see them as He does.
1 Tim. 5:24,25 likewise implies a 'going through' of the good and
bad works of men, with the added implication that it is done in
the presence of others. Thus they will "see his shame" (Rev. 16:15).
“All that behold” the unfinished spiritual building of the wicked
“will mock him” (Lk. 14:29); and the accepted will praise each other
for their humility in taking the lowest seat in ecclesial life (Lk.
14:10). The rejected will awake to "the reproach and abhorrence
of the age" (Dan. 12:2 Dr. Thomas' translation)- as if they will
be reproached by some. "When the wicked are cut off, [the righteous]
shall see it" (Ps. 37:34). The 12 disciples will judge the tribes
of Israel (Mt. 19:28). At judgment day, the children of the Jews
who criticized Jesus would judge them- "they shall be your judges"
rather than Jesus Himself (Lk. 11:19). "The wise shall inherit glory;
but shame shall be the promotion of fools" (Prov. 3:35) is looking
ahead to the judgment. But "shame" must be in the eyes of someone;
therefore the rejection of the wicked will be in the eyes of those
who once knew them in the ecclesia. The men of Nineveh will
condemn first century Israel (Mt. 12:41); the folly of the rejected
will be made manifest unto all men (2 Tim. 3:9). This is not so
as to simply humiliate the rejected. It is so that the faithful
learn something too. This was all foreshadowed in the way
that Israel experienced their judgments in the sight of the nations,
so that God's principles would be taught even to the Gentile world
(Ez. 5:8,15). Indeed, the idea of God executing judgment on His
people in the sight of others is quite common (e.g. Ez. 5:8;
16:41). But we can learn the principles of God's judgments right
now, from His word.
The public nature of the judgment experience is hinted at throughout
the Lord's parables. The other guests at the Lord's table will see
the man who took the highest place in the ecclesia taking now the
lowest place- he has "shame" before their eyes, and likewise
the believer who took the lowest place in this life will have praise
for that humility from the other guests, as the Lord exalts him
or her higher (Lk. 14:9,10). In this context the Lord proceeded
to warn His followers not to be like the man who sets out to build
a tower, but can't complete it- and therefore he has shame from
those who behold it (Lk. 14:29). This is just another way of saying
the same thing. There will be believers who grandly showed themselves
to their brethren to be building something which actually they couldn't
complete; and they will have shame before their brethren when the
day of judgment reveals who they really are. All this, of course,
has massive practical implications. If all will be ultimately revealed
before our brethren in the last day, why try to act before them
as someone we're not?
This is all the same theme as we find expressed in Prov. 26:26:
“Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed
before the whole congregation” or ecclesia- at the day of judgment,
when our innermost motives and feelings behind our smarmy words
will be revealed to every one of our watching brethren. There is
in this ‘media is the message’ world a great emphasis upon nice-speak.
Say it nicely, that’s the main thing, and don’t let your bad feelings
against someone show. Keep them in your heart, but don’t speak them
or write them. But it’s the basic feelings we need to control- and
then the expression of them won’t be an issue. And it is those basic
feelings behind all our spoken and written words which will be revealed
to the whole ecclesia in the last day.
The Purpose Of Judgment (1)
- To reveal to us the hidden things of darkness [the human
heart] and make manifest to us the counsels of the hearts
(1 Cor. 4:5)
- To purify us, to reveal the dross of our hearts to us (Mal.
- The nations judged “that the nations may know themselves to
be but men” (Ps. 9:20)
- “Judge the bloody city...(i.e.) shew her all her abominations”
- ‘Carry away captive’ = ‘to denude, reveal, uncover’ (Ez. 16:37;
2 Kings 17:6,11), as men reveal themselves now (Is. 57:8): “Thou
hast discovered thyself to another than me...thou hast
enlarged thy bed”.
- Folly of the rejected made manifest to all men (2 Tim. 3:9);
faithful see the shame of the rejected (Rev. 16:15).
- Israel’s judgments executed “in the sight of the nations...so
it shall be an instruction unto the nations round about”
- Through His judgments men knew Him as Yahweh (Ez. 25:11; 28:22;
- “All nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments
are made manifest” (Rev. 15:4)
God's judgments are in all the earth right now (Ps. 105:7). God
judged nations in order that men might know Him as Yahweh
(e.g. Ez. 25:11; 28:22; 30:19). Yahweh is exalted in His judging
of men (Is. 5:16). His judgments make His Name / character manifest.
"Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy Name?...all nations
shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made
manifest" (Rev. 15:4). A number of OT passages (e.g. Is. 25:3)
hint that a remnant of Israel's Arab enemies will actually repent
and accept Yahweh's Truth- after their experience of His
judgments (this is expanded upon in The Last Days). The manifestation
of His judgments is for the benefit of humans, that they may come
to know God and appreciate their own sinfulness. When God finally
arises in judgment, "all men shall fear, and shall declare the work
of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing" (Ps. 64:9).
God is to be feared and worshipped because of the hour of His judgment
(Rev. 14:7); "when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants
of the world will learn righteousness" (Is. 26:9); for "the Lord
is known by the judgment which he executeth" (Ps. 9:16). Israel's
condemnation was to be "an instruction" unto the surrounding nations
(Ez. 5:14,15). And Israel herself will know that "I am the LORD"
in their final condemnation, as Ezekiel so often prophesied. This
clearly associates God's judgment with a learning process. "When
the scorner is punished, the simple is made wise" (Prov. 21:11).
Thus the nations are intended to learn from the experience of Israel’s
condemnation (Hos. 2:10). The repentance of Egypt will be because
"the Lord shall smite Egypt...and they shall return to the Lord"
(Is. 19:18-22). "Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people" (Dt. 32:43)
is quoted in the NT (Rom. 15:10) concerning Gentile response to
the Gospel. But they will rejoice and respond because of
God's terrifying judgment of His enemies outlined in the context
(Dt. 32:41-44). In some way, the harder side of God attracts, in
that men see in truth that He is God and they but men. His rod and
staff of correction are our comforts (Ps. 23:4). Israel will finally
realize that God’s judgments upon them have brought them to know
Him: “They shall know that I am the Lord, in that I caused them
to go into captivity” (Ez. 39:28 RV). It's rather like how
the idea of conditional salvation, and that not for everybody but
a tiny minority, I find both hard to accept and yet the very thing
that clinches the actual reality of 'the truth' we hold. Josiah's
zealous reforms started with reading "the book of the covenant"
(2 Kings 23:2), probably the list of curses which were to come for
disobedience (2 Kings 22:19 = Lev. 26:31,32). And this book
was in some way a joy and rejoicing to Jeremiah (Jer. 15:16). In
this sense Paul used the terror of possible condemnation to persuade
men (2 Cor. 5:11). And when those that had already believed (Acts
19:18 Gk.) saw how the condemned sons of Sceva fled away from the
spirit of Jesus naked and wounded, in anticipation of the final
judgment, they ceased being secret believers and came out openly
with their confessions of unworthiness and need for salvation. In
the light of that foretaste of judgment to come, they realized that
nothing else mattered. The image of them fleeing naked definitely
alludes to Am. 2:16: "The most courageous men of might shall flee
naked in that day, Says the Lord" (NKJV).
The message that the Lord will "burn with unquenchable fire" those
who reject Him is described as Jesus preaching "good tidings unto
the people" (Lk. 3:18 RV). Likewise the stark teaching about the
mortality of man in Is. 40 is quoted in 1 Pet. as being the Gospel.
The harder side of God is in fact the good news for those who reflect
deeply upon the essential message and nature of the Almighty. In
Jer. 26:2, Jeremiah is warned to “diminish not a word, if so be…”
Israel may repent. His temptation of course was to water down the
message which he had to deliver. But only the harder, more demanding
side of God might elicit response in them. By making the message
less demanding, it wouldn’t have any chance of eliciting a response.
The Purpose Of Judgment (2)
- When God arises in judgment “all men shall fear and shall declare
the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing”
(Ps. 64:9) cp. Ananias & Saphira.
- “When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the
world will learn righteousness” Is. 26:9). Harder side of God
- After judgment “Then shall the Kingdom...be likened
unto ten virgins” (Mt. 25:1)
- Rejected see themselves thrust out of the Kingdom, see themselves
from outside themselves, as they really are (Lk. 13:28).
- Evil servant “cut asunder”, hypocrisy revealed to all (Mt.
Judgment: The Articulation Of God's Name
God's Name is essentially His character. He is His character.
In all He creates and destroys, in all He shows of Himself to man,
this character is revealed, magnified and glorified. Lk. 17:30 says
that at the last day, the Son of man will be “revealed”; and yet
the other references to the Son of man being revealed refer to the
way He is even now revealed to His true followers by the Father
(Mt. 11:27; 16:17 etc.). At the second coming, the real nature of
God’s Son, the essence of His character, will be revealed to all.
At the very time that the Wicked One will be revealed, so will the
Son of God (2 Thess. 2:8). In the way God judges man, His character
is again glorified and revealed; for in the way He judges, His essential
characteristics are revealed. It is therefore possible to see anticipations
of the day of future judgment in how God has judged in the past-
thus incidents like Adam and Cain's rejection, the Babylonian and
Roman invasions and the subsequent condemnation of God's people,
the flood... all these are prototypes of the future judgment. Take,
for example, the prophecy of Obadiah against Edom. It is full of
language elsewhere used about the judgment seat. Edom's judgments
for hating their brother were a living out of God's judgment principles
as they will again be articulated at the last day. Or take Nahum
1 concerning Nineveh. The day of God's vengeance on "those mine
enemies" (cp. Lk. 19:27), the begging for acquittal refused, the
presence of God, fire, being judged along with apostate Israel (1:5),
inability to stand before God's presence, the fury of God, darkness,
fleeing and being pursued by God... the elements of the last day
judgment were all to be seen in Nineveh's condemnation. The Lord's
miracles likewise showed forth God's judgment principles; in them
He shewed judgment to the Gentiles, and sent forth God's judgments
(Mt. 12:18-20 quotes Is. 42:1-3 concerning how the Lord will do
this at the events of the second coming).
There are also examples, both Biblically and in our own experience,
of where some men reap what they sow in this life (e.g. Jud. 1:7:
"as I have done, so God hath requited me"). And yet there are examples
galore, much lamented by men like Job and David, of where the wicked
prosper, and the righteous have to be comforted that their day of
judgment is yet future, and yet will surely come. David asks God
to openly show His judgments now , so that men will glorify
Him as they will in the end (Ps. 58:11). David understood that God
will arise in judgment, but He can arise and judge
our cause now (Ps. 7:6; 35:23,24). In some cases, He
does judge now. He has judged and condemned in the past (e.g. 2
Pet. 2:6). And David, in his humanity, asked for God to work like
this. As to why God sometimes shows His judgment now, and
yet generally reserves the revelation of His judgments to the last
day is a deep issue. And yet one response could be that this is
in order to teach us what the future judgment will be like, and
the basis upon which it will be conducted.
In the end, sin doesn’t defeat God. His Name will be glorified
in the condemnation of the wicked just as it will be in the acceptance
of the righteous. The Lord Jesus spoke of how we as shoots on the
vine tree are either ‘cut off’ or ‘trimmed / purged’ to be more
fruitful (Jn. 15:2). There is a paranomasia here in the Greek text
[i.e. a play on similar sounding verbs]- airein and kathairein.
The point being that the purging process works through condemning
oneself now; by going through the realization of our condemnation
now, we are thereby purged so that we avoid condemnation at the
day of judgment. This is a theme to which we shall often return
in this study.
For Our Learning
So what is the purpose of the judgment? My sense is that it is
for our benefit, not the Lord's, although an obsession with the
figure of judgment may imply the opposite. In one parable, the Lord
Jesus taught that before the actual judgment, the righteous
will tell the Lord how many pounds the pound they were given has
gained. In another, the Lord's picture was of the faithful after
the judgment had been pronounced, questioning with the Lord as to
whether they really had done what He had said. We get the picture
of an initial account from us, the Lord's judgment, and then
a discussion with us after the verdict has been pronounced.
This of itself indicates that we are not to see the judgment merely
as a method for dividing up the rewards and sorting out the punishments.
It's aim is to glorify God through our response to the realizations
which we are then driven to. The faithful and all their works are
foreknown. From God's perspective there seems no reason why the
faithful cannot be immediately transferred to immortality at the
Lord's coming. They are, after all, seen by Him as being in Christ,
who has risen again and received immortality. But how little appreciation
of God's grace, what small self-knowledge would we have if this
were the case. A few years of what we considered suffering, scratching
around on the surface of our natures, almost spoilt by the constant
care of our loving Father, then death, and then the next we know
we are in the eternal glory of the Kingdom. The judgment seat will
surely be a vital part of our spiritual education and preparation
for receiving God's nature. There is a possibility that this is
behind the record of the stones for the temple being “made ready
when it was brought away”, or prepared on the journey, so that they
could be slotted in to the temple plan without need for further
change (1 Kings 6:7 RV and Hebrew). Likewise Moses' speeches as
transcripted in Deuteronomy prepared Israel for entrance to Canaan
by reminding them of their weaknesses. And if we consider why the
Kingdom will start with the Millennium, surely the answer must be
that it is for our benefit, a preparation for us to enter
the fully established Kingdom. Some of the mortals of the last generation
will be given the opportunity to be the mortal inhabitants of the
Millennium, whilst millions of others in previous generations have
lived and died without hope. It seems one of the reasons why
they will be there is for our benefit.
Immediately after the judgment, we are told, "the Kingdom...will
be likened unto ten virgins..." (Mt. 25:1 and context), the implication
being that then we will perceive the truths contained in
that parable; only then will we fully appreciate the result of watchfulness
and keeping oil in the lamps. The rejected will see themselves thrust
out of the Kingdom (Lk. 13:28); as if somehow they see themselves
from outside of themselves. What spirituality they thought they
had they will see as it were taken away from them (Lk. 8:18 AV mg.).
This will be the result of the judgment process. They will be convinced
by the judgment process of all the ungodly deeds which they had
not previously been convicted of, e.g. their hard words against
their brethren (Jude 15). 1 Cor. 11:32 may also be a reference to
the educative effect of judgment: "When we are judged, we are chastened
of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world". The
world's condemnation will be at the second coming; the judgment
and chastening to which Paul refers must therefore be that of the
last day. However, in the context he is making the point that our
self-examination at the memorial meeting and our response to the
chastening hand of God in our present life is in fact a foretaste
of that final judgment experience.
Then we will realize our sinfulness, then we will behold the greatness
of God's grace and the supremacy of Christ's victory. Then we will
realize how small our understanding was, how little of God we knew,
and how great is the reward we are being given, how out of proportion
it is to our present experience and responsibilities. We almost
get the feeling that the servants thought they had done well when
they presented the pounds they had gained as a result of how they
had used the pound given them. The pound (mina) given was equivalent
to at most $1000 (2005). Yet the reward was way out of proportion,
both to what had been given, and to what they had achieved with
it: ten cities! The Master's words almost seem to be a gentle rebuke:
"Because thou hast been faithful in a very little , have
thou authority over ten cities" (Lk. 19:17); "thou hast been
faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many
things" (Mt. 25:23). The "Truth" we have now (and it is that) is
"a very little...a few things". We mustn't see it as an end in itself.
Yet because of our humanity, our limited vision, the way we are
locked up in our petty paradigms, we tend to think that the Kingdom
will be rather similar to our present experience of "the Truth".
Yet the Lord emphasizes, at least twice, that what we have now is
pathetically limited compared to the infinitely greater spiritual
vision of the Kingdom. We (personally) will then be made ruler over
all that Christ has (Mt. 24:47; the "many things" of Mt.
25:23); and in him are hid all the riches of spiritual wisdom
But judgment day is not only for our personal education and humbling.
It is for the enlightenment of us all as a community, in that there
is fair evidence that in some sense the process of judgment will
be public, and all the believers will see the true characteristics
of those with whom they fellowshipped in this life. Thus the unworthy
will be revealed as being without a wedding garment, and the faithful
will see him (for the first time) as walking naked and in shame
(Mt. 22:11; Rev. 16:15). The evil servant will be "cut asunder"
(Mt. 24:51), i.e. his hypocrisy will be openly revealed for the
first time (remember, he was an ecclesial elder in mortal life,
according to the parable). What we have spoken in the Lord's ear
will be revealed by him openly ("from the housetops") at the judgment
(Lk. 12:3). When the righteous receive their inheritance (i.e. at
the judgment), then the fool will be held up to shame (Prov. 3:35
Time and again, Israel were told that through the judgments of
punishment they would receive, they would come to know God in truth
(e.g. Ez. 25:7. Their own shame was made to appear before their
own face by the judgment process (Jer. 13:26 RV). But it is possible
for us to come to that knowledge now through a correct response
to the word. If only in our self examination now we would "judge
(i.e. condemn) ourselves, we would not be judged (condemned)" at
the judgment seat (1 Cor. 11:34). The mental effort and organization
of time which this requires must surely be worthwhile in the light
of this promise.
(1) Kohler, Ludwig, Hebrew
Man (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1956), p.157.