Miscellaneous Question 2

As we wade through all six of Boston’s “Miscellaneous Questions”  we will find a common driving force behind them.  He seems to be putting to rest any doubt about how we as sinners are to view our sins and the effects of sin, as it relates to our security in Christ.  With the second question we will explore, “Whether or not all sins past, present, and to come, are pardoned together and at once?”

Dividing the question into two, we can get closer to the root issue.  First, are all sins past, present, and future actually pardoned upon first believing on Christ?  Or, are only past sins actually pardoned and present and future sins only virtually pardoned?

I suppose that in the early 18th century, when Boston posed the question, the notion of virtual reality was a bit obscure.  The idea of tinkering with future events in another space and time would have earned you a trip to the town square and possibly a starring role in the burning at the stake.  However, the consideration of future reality and how God not only knew of future events, but also ordained them coming to pass, was the common belief of the Church.

For the most part, our experience of virtual reality, comes through the use of video games.  From a remote control we sit in the comfort of our present reality and control the actions of some character to achieve an outcome that is consistent with winning a contest virtually.  However, your victory or defeat is only virtual, in that you really did not physically exist in the other reality.  For the sake of avoiding any misconception here, I in no way am advocating the notion that God is controlling the future like a video game.  The doctrine of predestination has been slaughtered by the modern church in using a similar analogy to explain away this historical Christian doctrine.  God does not look into the future, like some video game,  and see what you will do, and then decide to include you among the chosen from a past reality.  Your destiny was prescribed for you by the eternal counsel of HIS will.  I will not even begin to explain this doctrine in a way that will prove its validity.  That is merely a part of faith.  Quoting Boston, “If we did not too much measure God’s ways by man’s ways, perhaps there would be less difficulty in this matter.”

Steering the ship back on course, let us consider whether your sins are virtually or actually forgiven, even before you commit them.  Though the answer is simple, the path to the simplicity of it will depend on the axiom from which you begin.  What is for certain is that God, in his infinite wisdom, has provided a way to reconcile an answer.

Boston, using a scripturally based and logical argument, supports the idea that your sins have only to be pardoned once.  All the sin of God’s adopted children from all eternity past, present, and future, were virtually laid on Christ at the cross.  To satisfy the law, one man, Jesus, paid the penalty for that sin, and virtually earned the pardon of all believers past, present, and future.  None of the elect of God would ever be actually condemned.  However, it is not until the souls of believers are united with Christ through faith that they receive actual pardon.  One pardon is for all sins.

The prophet Isaiah is told by God, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for my sake.  And I will not remember your sins.”(Is. 43:25)   In order to “not remember” something you would have to have been at first aware of something.  Here God promises to purposely erase from his recollection the sins of his people.  He does not forget, but rather chooses not to apply them to our account or to not recount them.  If God is omniscient, all knowing, then he does not have to experience your sin to pardon it.

When theologians began to organize the doctrines taught in scripture, the  Ordo Salutis was conceived to provide a progressive sequence to the process of salvation.  At the heart of this sequential order was the doctrine of Justification.  Basically this legal term is defined as a one time pardoning of sin.  Before one can pass to the next phase, adoption, there must be a declaration of pardon.  God admits no one into his family who is still liable to the punishment for a crime.  That includes future crime.  Justification is a perfect, instantaneous, inclusive and permanent act of God.  Therefore, anyone who says that future sins require another pardoning is calling God a liar.  If future sins require a re-pardoning, then there would also be a requirement of a re-adoption.  God does not have need for “do overs.”

The concept of salvation by faith in Christ’s bearing our sins and the penalty of death, is nothing new to you.  From the earliest exposure to the faith we are made aware of the passion of Christ, the foundation of our faith.  Often, however, many believers get little farther in their understanding.  It is necessary for strengthening and conditioning to better understand the many facets of your faith.  Faith is not believing in the events of Christ, but rather a participating in Christ.  Our union with him makes us participants.  Working out these doctrines is a way of participating in the mind of Christ.

Imputation is a term that is rarely used by Christians today, but cannot be accurately replaced in our modern vernacular. Though imputation is a doctrine within itself, Boston would like us to consider it for our purposes in exploring the pardon of sin.  Imputation means to credit something to another’s account.  To see how imputation applies to justification we must first put away the misuse of another term.  We often say we are justified by faith or saved by faith.  Well, those are both legitimate truths if we use them properly. However, to be more specific we are justified and saved by Christ’s imputed righteousness.  Faith is not the action verb that many use it for.  Christ’s work on the cross, credited to our account, justifies and saves us.  Faith is the conduit through which flows our union with Christ.  Perhaps we would be safer in saying that we are justified and saved through faith.  This of course is what Paul teaches when he says, ” For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is a gift of God.”(Ephesians 2:8)  Our faith in this imputed righteousness of Christ does not originate with us. God gives us our faith.   Righteousness being the full obedience to the law of God.  Once this righteousness is in our account we can never lose it. Christ is now our representative head.  We are permanently pardoned because of our representation by him at the throne of God.  We are represented also because of our marriage to him, as the husband represents the wife.  We don’t think in these ways anymore about marriage.  Biblical marriage is permanent and representative.  The husband cannot divorce the wife nor vice versa.  The husband is responsible for the wife regardless of her actions.  Even his name is imputed to her.  Once we are married to Christ we take on his name and are sheltered by him.  His righteousness is ours and nothing we can do will change that,  though we are rebellious and unsubmissive.

In Boston’s next question we will continue this theme of where pardon falls in our justification and the necessity of repentance.  Though there may seem to be a bit of redundancy in the arguments for the answers to the questions, I cannot stress enough the importance of them.  Satan has set up false religious doctrines that he purposes to use against us.  Satan, the father of lies, wants to weaken your resolve and confidence in the word of God by setting up stumbling blocks, such as the reordering of the Ordo Salutis.  That is, where pardon falls in relation to repentance.  Therefore Boston uses every means available to him to properly align our thinking.  Boston, if he were here today, would echo the words of Paul, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is; his good, pleasing and perfect will.”(Rom. 12:2)

 

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Miscellaneous Question 1

Boston’s first question to himself was, “Whether or not the sins of believers, while unrepented of, make them liable to eternal punishment?”  To understand the question we must be clear on some of its terms.  If you remember in the introduction of this series,  I spoke of the axiom or starting place of a belief.  A proper answer to the question also depends on our axiom.

Repentance, as it is used in scripture, signifies a turning away from something and a turning to something else.  The Latin origin of the word has to do with a sense of guilt or sorrow.  However its biblical usage is an imperative action.  Most often repentance is used in both the Old and New Testaments to command a departure from worshiping other gods to a following of the true God.  Most common to us however is a forsaking of sin and that is where Boston focuses the question.  Unrepented of sin is a continuing in the lack of conformity to or transgression of God’s law.

The second term we must agree on is “eternal punishment.”  Although it may seem obvious to most that here Boston is referring to the punishment reserved for those who are condemned to Hell, we must also be able to agree that there is the very real notion of temporal punishment in this life. Temporal punishment is God’s fatherly act of shepherding his children, as a parent levies a penalty for disobedience upon a child out of love and a desire for its own well being. There is a sector of the church that does not believe in God’s corrective discipline in this life.  That in some way God removes himself from the daily oversight of man.  If man is left to follow his own will, God will sit back and wait for him to come around and correct his own errors.  By some basic reasoning man will see the “light,” come to his senses, and determine that following after Christ is the best alternative.  Then, after he sets his mind to follow a new path, he will endeavor to be holy.  If this is your belief, then your axiom will not allow you to answer this question correctly.  For a reliance upon a self initiated repentance, by definition, makes each sin a charge liable to eternal punishment.

Basically what Boston is asking is, if after you have been saved, can your unconfessed and remaining sinful behavior cause you to lose your salvation?  I suspect that most of you would answer a definitive “no.”  However, there may be some of you that, either now or at some point in your life, have doubted your own security in Christ based upon the sin that still abides within you.  You may say that of course no one is perfect, and I know that there is still some of the old man inside of me.  Then we start to categorize sin like the Roman Catholic into what are minor and major sins.  My guess is that you have, at some point, felt the need to reconsider the effectiveness of your faith.

I hope that by making my next statement I don’t turn any of you away, but I do intend to startle some of you.  If you have been following my posts you are aware that I write from a reformed theological perspective.  If you are not familiar with this doctrinal position you are in the majority today, and what I am about to say will run contrary to mainline church practices, but bare with me.  I despise the practice of having children say the “sinners prayer.”  This practice includes the motivating of a group of captivated children by some emotionally charged speaker, to make a “decision for Christ,” and to in the form of a prayer “give their lives” to Christ.  I won’t get into the doctrinal issues here that we don’t make decisions for Christ, and our lives aren’t ours to give.  Rather I will comment on how the practice has caused me, and others I know, excruciating and  agonizing doubt.  As a child I “gave my life to Christ” several times.  When I, after an episode of sin, determined that my prayer was not accepted, or I said the wrong thing , or must not have done it right,  or this magical procedure didn’t work the first time, I would call for a “do over.”

I promise I am not trying to make light of the practice. Rather I am calling  attention to the seriousness of the effect.  The misunderstanding of God’s Justice system and how our salvation is brought about, totally disrupts the ability to have any assurance of faith.  If my lack of repentance is an indication of condemnation then there is no security to be had.

The best example in scripture to explain liability is David.  After committing sins of adultery and murder for hire, was David liable to eternal punishment?  Hypothetically, if David had not been made aware of his sins by Nathan, would he have gone to Hell?  Or did David, simply by feeling sorrow for his sin and not killing and not having extramarital affairs anymore meet the requirement for biblical repentance and thus avoid the liability to eternal punishment? Or was David not saved before he committed these sins?  Or did David temporarily lose his salvation and have to have a “do over” by repentance? The short answer to all these questions is no.  The long answer is that David did deserve eternal punishment for his sins, but he in no way was liable to eternal punishment.  The punishment had already been arranged for another to bare God’s wrath in David’s stead.  David’s awareness of, sorrow for, and turning from his sin did nothing to relieve his liability because he could not be liable.  David had already been declared just by the Judge prior to committing the sins, because he had been united to Christ.  David did not have to do a “do over” to be right with God.  Christ’s atonement for sin was sufficient for David’s sin as well as all those of the rest of God’s children.

I see too often, especially from the pulpit and from parents, there is a hesitancy to teach what the scriptures say about repentance.  The only notion that many believers have about repentance is that of “stopping of sinning.”  We rely too much on ourselves and not on God when we give attention to the term.  As a parent, I was remiss in failing to teach my children early on what biblical repentance was.  This was a twofold problem in that first I did not understand the concept myself, and secondly I was afraid that if I told my children that sin would continue to plague them I might be giving license to sin.  I believe some of the problems stem from the left over practices of Roman Catholicism that hold the penalties of sin and the punishment of Hell over the heads of the congregation.  Repentance and confession of sin are seen as a work to relieve liability.  Absolution from sin is made effective only after sins are confessed and penance paid.  As mentioned earlier, the notion of venial and mortal sin, sins that can either hinder or destroy God’s grace,  play a role in even our Protestant understanding of Grace.  I can almost guarantee that some of you, if not now, at some point, have held the belief that if sin is not confessed, it is not forgiven.  This is a result of our natural tendency to try to make ourselves right with God and earn our salvation.  Biblical Christianity teaches that God has done all the work and nothing is dependent upon us.  Even though faith is required, even it is a gift of God, lest anyone should boast.  If we are required to repent of every sin as a component of our salvation, then we are saved by our works not by God’s Grace.  This works righteousness, my friends, though it may seem subtle, is what scripture is really calling us to repent of.  Turning from faith in ourselves, our good religious work, to faith in Christ’s good religious work is what true repentance is.  If we believe that our salvation depends on our works and God’s grace, then we are still idol worshipers.  We may as well have statues of our own likenesses to bow down to.

The other side of coin is that repentance is necessary and commanded by God.  Repentance is a result of God’s working in us by the Word and Spirit.  Turning from particular sins is required by God, but the purpose for this repentance is meant for our good and God’s glory. In a continuing on with Boston’s line of thinking, I will deal more with repentance and the need for it in the next post.

Miscellaneous Questions: Introduction

While Pastor of a small parish church in Simprin, Scotland,  Thomas Boston answered six questions for himself.  When we have a question about religion, typically we would ask a pastor or teacher for an answer.  Today we can even search the internet and get a plethora of opinion.  However, generally we will not spend much time on the matter because we tend to trust our own understanding to already held beliefs.  We sometimes wish to keep our faith simple, protected from the possibility that one question could bring about more questions.  Other times, we stick our heads in the sand and say, “This is what I have always believed and that is all I need to know.”  However,  what Boston does by posing these questions should be an example to us all.  We must always ask ourselves, “What makes our belief correct?”  We are told to have a childlike faith, but that does not mean to follow blindly.  Children do not follow blindly.  My kids asked the question “Why” constantly.  Childlike faith is trusting that the asking of questions will lead to a stronger faith.  As we grow in our Christian faith, our questions should become more complex.  If they are not, we are stagnant.

When Boston posed these six questions to himself, I am certain that he already had the answers.  He had been asked these questions many times by his congregation, been taught the answers in seminary training, and had asked the very same questions himself as a young Christian.  In 220 pages of volume six of his “Complete Works,” is found the answers to his questions.  This extraordinary work was done for his own benefit.  He never attempted to publish the work but only to codify the argument for his personal foundation of faith.  The work was discovered in his home by his son and published for our benefit many years later.

Within the next several posts, I will try to condense these 220 pages into an appetizer portion, and give a definitive answer to the question.  These questions may seem simple on the surface, but doctrinally they are complex.  You all probably have your own answers already and may not wish to revisit the question.  I understand perfectly how long held beliefs can be locked away and walled off so that nothing can attack our safe place.  But what if your belief is wrong?  The concept of a spherical earth was heresy to 15th century flat earth believers.  Why you believe anything is based on your perception.  Your perception is a result of the angle in which you perceive from.  If the way in which Boston answers the question differs from what you believe, it is because where you are looking from is different.  You have different axioms.  The way in which you arrive at a conclusion of any matter is by logical progression. If “this” is true then “that” must be true also.  Right?  Not always.  The place where you start your logical argument from is the axiom.  If your axiom is wrong then your conclusion will also be wrong.  This applies particularly to these six questions we will look at.

I challenge you to explore these next few posts beyond what I write.  I have benefitted personally from the expansion of these topics.  When I first read the questions, I thought that I already knew the answers.  Take the question and first answer it for yourself.  Even if you can only answer with a yes or no or maybe.  Then look at the arguments that I provide and I will guarantee you will have more questions when you are done.  Don’t stop there.  Get your questions answered.

Eternal State: Hell

Does your pastor give a benediction at the end of your worship service?  Usually he lifts his hands up and pronounces a blessing upon the congregation.  My church uses the regulative principle of worship.  The order of the service goes through phases that build upon one another and results in a crescendo, the benediction and the singing of praise to God.  The benediction is the last act of the minister, because Christ’s last act on earth was a blessing of his disciples.  “He lifted up his hands and blessed his disciples.” (Like 24:50)  Boston points out that Christ will give one last benediction when he blesses the church and we enter into our inherited Kingdom of Heaven.   However, this worship service will end with a malediction, a pronouncement of a curse, to the remaining congregation.  “Then he will say to those on his left, depart form me, you cursed ones, into everlasting fire , prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt. 25:41)

As noted before , Boston makes a direct correlation between the state which one is found at the second coming and the eternal state.  There is no intermediate state in which second chances will be given.  In order for a second chance there must be a first, and God is not a god of chance.

The doctrine of hell is foreshadowed in the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden.  Throughout the entirety of scripture the threatenings and warnings of Hell are described in word pictures, from which we interpret  a literal place through figurative examples.  As with Heaven, we can only imagine what Hell is like.  As believers, we do not contemplate Hell as often as Heaven, for we have no affiliation there.  However, as all scripture is good to explore, its implications should assist us in our appreciation of God.

The punishment of Hell is twofold.  From Christ’s pronouncement of doom on the lost we see first that Hell is a separation from the benefits if God.  When Christ says, “depart from me” we tend to overlook this imperative and look to the “eternal fire” and the “devil and his angels” part.  The notion that the King of Glory will exile the unbeliever and remove from him his protection and temporal blessing, is the foremost punishment of all.  In this life even the condemned experience God’s love.  How God can love and hate at the same time is impossible for us to reconcile.  Though God hates the wicked everyday, he still causes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on them.  Though corrupt, the unregenerate are not allowed to be as corrupt as they could be.  Though confined, evil will not be restrained and no temporal comforts will be allowed in Hell.  God also uses the most dreadful physical torture that man can imagine, eternal fire, to describe  the torments of hell.   Those who were condemned before, the devil and his angels, will be made the eternal company of those who are resigned to this place.

What we know for sure is that Hell is the antithesis of Heaven, and those who reside there are of the opposite nature.  The goodness and reward of Heaven must be equal to the evil and punishment of Hell.  Punishment must fit the dignity of the one offended.

In eternity man will retain his human qualities.  Those qualities will resemble their fellow countrymen.  God’s children will exude goodness and mercy.  Satan’s children will be evil and cruel like him.  Whatever likeness of God that man now possesses will be erased in Hell.  Part of the delusion that fallen man is under, is the notion that there is good in everyone.  At the judgement, this will be evidenced when men will come and tell of their good deeds done on earth.  God will reveal to them that even their good works were worth nothing, because they were done outside of Christ.  How shocking this will have to be to those who, on earth, depended on their own goodness to merit reward.  Oh the weeping and gnashing of teeth when it is discovered that they lived the lie told to them by their father, the father of lies.  God is merciful to the regenerate when he slowly reveals our iniquities and unworthiness.  For to have his displeasure made known instantaneously, would surely destroy us.

The fears of Hell and the promises of Heaven have led many to do terrible acts in the name of God.  Pastors have bound the consciences of their flock by preaching avoidance of  Hell by righteous living.  Enticements of Heaven have been offered as bait to lure men into a false belief in works righteous.  Often the Christian religion looks little different than Islam, Mormonism, and Jehovah’s Witness.  Followers are motivated out of fear of punishment or promise of reward.  The doctrines of Heaven and Hell should only be relative parts of our whole faith.

For those under the state of grace, your eternity has already begun.  Being the recipients of God’s grace, by the work of his Word and Spirit, should provoke us to respond differently than the world, to the belief in a literal Hell.  We should certainly not discount Hell, but we should praise God for his mercy in sparing us its threat.  Careful consideration should be given to this topic when conversing with the lost.  Never should we make light of this real and impending doom.  The lost do not know how perilously close they tread to the edge of this kingdom of horrors.  Only by the light of the Spirit may they see their way clear to avoid it.  The fear of hell will not drive men to Christ.  It is the love of Christ that will draw them to himself.

Eternal State: Kingdom of Heaven

The general judgement of man will be a criminal proceeding which will include a sentencing phase.  Also unique to the proceeding will be the civil element of reward for pain and suffering, and the probate element of granting of entitlement to inheritance.  For the criminal element, the acquitted has his penalty satisfied by a scapegoat. The scapegoat, who is Christ, is rewarded for his obedient pain and suffering, and the acquitted are granted their entitled inheritance. Christ, who is the judge and king, also has authority as the word of God to make the audible proclamation, “Come, you blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”(Matt 25:34) Our imaginations can run wild when we try to picture what this ushering in will be like.

God has revealed little about Heaven, primarily because the supernatural aspect of heaven cannot even be processed by our earthly minds.  We literally cannot imagine Heavenly things.  Paul confirms this when he counsels, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him,”(1Cor. 2:9) a quote from Isaiah. Paul goes on in the same verse, “but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.” This does not mean that God has given some special revelation to certain people about Heaven. What he is intending is that a regenerated mind and soul can believe in what God has revealed already and an unregenerate spirit cannot believe.  Understanding this fact, what is it God has revealed about heaven. The visions and dreams that were had by those whom God did reveal heaven too nearly killed them.  God knows that our minds cannot tolerate the glory of his presence.  Therefore, he reserves the specific details for himself until, in our resurrected condition, we have the power to endure them.  That is why it is counterproductive to God’s providence to speculate beyond scripture. At the same time, we are instructed to think on these heavenly things, because that is where Christ is.  A very Godly and zealous man of God once recommended a book to me that was entirely written to explain what heaven would look like, where it is and other details.  Although, his intentions were good, I declined his offer for one simple reason. There could be nothing in the book that the author could “reveal” about heaven that could glorify God and be for my good that God has not already revealed.

There are aspects of Heaven that God has seen fit for us to know. Its location is not one of these.  Where heaven is has probably been debated since the garden.  Humans are limited by time and space and the concept of alternate dimensions falls often in the category of science fiction.  Literalists of scripture often try to put Heaven in a specific geographical location on the planet we know now.  Others estimate that Heaven will simply be a renewal of the earth.  Regardless of your position, all God has confirmed is that it will be a better place.

God speaks of mansions or dwellings.  We should be careful when we visualize these habitats, because what man requires for comfortable protection from the elements and what is outside will be quite different in a perfect world.  Our houses are constructed to keep in and keep out. What need will we have for keeping anything out? (ex. heat, cold, criminals, unwanted guests) What need would we have of keeping anything in? (ex. heat, cold, horded items, the errant toddler or teenager) There will be no need for individuality in style, no one to impress, and we could go on and on.

There will be no need for church buildings and ornate sanctuaries for worship.  We fail to recognize how God desires to be worshipped when we still place so much emphasis on buildings.  Remember, God allowed the Jewish temple to be destroyed.  The temple was only a shadow of Heaven where Christ dwells.  There is no need now for a rebuilding of a temple, whether for worship now, nor for a second coming, nor will there be one in heaven.  Only because of convenience, do we need a building now.  God will fill Heaven and it will serve as the gathering place eternally.  There will be no restriction on the time and length of worship services. Our attention span will be unlimited and our distractions will be removed.  In a sense, every day will be Sunday.  In fact, the concept of day and night will be erased because time will not exist.

Do you see why God tells us so little about Heaven?  We can’t even process what he has told us.  We have to take all the good things we know about this world and try to magnify them infinitely to even begin to imagine what Heaven will be.

The inhabitants of Heaven will be the society of the saints, the church, from all of history. From Adam to Abraham to the apostles and martyrs, all will be there. The heavenly creatures, whatever they are, will be our co-inhabitants.  This will be a perfectly happy civilization.  Complete unity of purpose will allow for fellowship beyond our dreams.  We currently are unable to have sinless fellowship.  Sometimes going to a church gathering can be daunting.  There is always some issue that causes division.  Sinful judgment and gossip can be disguised as prayer chains.  Bible studies turn into political complaint sessions.  Core groups turn into change the church movements.  People get mad and leave to go to other churches or stay home and start their own.  Not so with this heavenly church.

Most importantly, Christ will be there in all his glory.  We will see him as he is.  However, we probably will have to take a moment to grasp that he will not look anything like what we have in our minds now.  When we make likenesses of Jesus, we are creating images of God.  The pictures we have all been exposed to in Sunday school material,  stickers on cars, even bearded men hanging on crosses in churchyards, are what we are warned against in the second commandment.  These images force us to visibly worship a figment of our imagination.  We are to worship the glorified Christ, and we are not to do so with visible images because no man has ever seen him.  We are hard pressed to think of Jesus without seeing in our mind’s eye one of the images that we have been polluted by.  No, we will only recognize him by the glory that surrounds him there.  We will no longer require the filter to protect us from his glory and holiness.  His sinless perfection will no longer offend us.  Have you ever been offended by someone’s righteousness?   Has someone else’s zeal for evangelism or apparent goodness ever made you the least bit put off by them?  That is just a small example of how Christ’s holiness would affect us now.  Our own sin makes it impossible to look at Christ now for our consciences would kill us.  We will be able to see him in Heaven without the need for a conscience, for we will be like him, that is Holy.

 

I suppose this is enough for you to chew on.  This topic of Heaven as an eternal state is meant for us to look forward to.   Earthly existence and its faulty perception should make us yearn for the consummation of our eternal state.  Boston ends his treatise on the Eternal State with the terrors of Hell.  For the believer, we should be confident that this terror is not meant for us. However there is the need for us to occasionally think about it to increase or zeal for evangelism.

 

Eternal State: The General Judgement

Are any judges your friend?  I have a friend who is a Summary Court Magistrate, the kind that tries traffic offenses.  If ever I was ticketed for speeding, or, according to my wife, going to slow, I would most likely call him and ask for help with my case.  However, if my crime were more egregious, I probably would hope he never found out.

All man will one day go before a judge.  This judge will either be your friend or your enemy.  He will not be neutral.  Prior knowledge of all your crimes and all your good deeds will give this judge perfect insight into your case.  He will be prejudiced toward you which may be to your benefit or your deficit.  The verdict and the sentence will be predetermined in eternity past, and will be carried out into eternity future.  You will not need an attorney, because only certain ones of you will be granted an advocate, and he has already filed  all motions on your behalf.  Your only hope of acquittal is that the judge is your friend.  In this life, we might call that a travesty of justice, but only in this Holy Tribunal does true justice exist.

As we discussed from Boston’s “Eternal State: Death,” the inevitability of passing from physical life to death should make us consider our current state of nature.  Boston now points out that a final judgement of all man is part of the eternal state.  In this life we have all experienced death.  Whether it be someone close to us or only an acquaintance, we have a concept of it.  However, justice is something we rarely see in perfection.  Most often we see the wicked exalted and the godly oppressed.  Piety or religious devotion wins little approval from man.  Even our most just and righteous act is tainted by sin.  As I have mentioned before, there is an element of my writing these posts to you that is righteous.  However that righteousness is minimized by a desire that you approve or think positively of my work. Only a portion of my character can be righteous.  Similarly, only a portion of our character can be just.  We have a convoluted sense of what we or others deserve.  With God, he is always perfectly just because justice is consistent with his character.

Christ, being the Lord and King over all creation, has the responsibility to judge.  His death was necessary to atone for our sins, and his resurrection was necessary for his Lordship.  Paul explains, “For this very reason, Christ died and returns to life, so that he might be the Lord of both the living and the dead.”(Rom. 14:9)  God’s attribute of justice is directly linked to his orderliness.  God is a god of order.  Remember when we looked at the state of corruption and the state of grace, we saw how regeneration was a recovering of order.  God is currently putting all things back in order and the final judgement is the culmination of that process.  It is a requirement of this order that wickedness be punished and goodness be rewarded.  Christ’s goodness earns us the reward, as the wickedness of his adopted siblings, that would be us again, was punished by his death.  Though the sin of all man is punished temporally in this life, the sins of the lost will be punished ultimately after this final judgement.

As with other mysteries of scripture, we have limited information to form a true picture of what this tribunal will be like.  Like the resurrection, the judgement will come as a complete surprise to some.  Many will stand before the judge in the company of the most vile and notorious of wicked men.  Instantly they will realize the false assurance they lived with was vain.  As when the floods came and the drowning began, all hope will be lost. John and Daniel had visions and dreams which describe the scene in word pictures for us to contemplate the glory and power of the event.  What we know for sure is that in some fashion the elect and the non-elect will be separated, adjudicated, and sentenced.  The elect of God will be passed to the bar of judgement where they will participate in the damnation of the reprobate.  Their previous compassion for the lost will be swallowed up in the joy of the Judge’s glory.

As for where and when this event will occur is not for our speculation.  Good and necessary inferences from the scripture tells us that God forbids our inquiry.  Godly men for centuries have sinned against God and man by trying to predict this event based upon signs of the times they lived in.  I had a friend who was visiting me when I was in college.  His parents were  convinced that the judgement would come that weekend and he would be found, not with his church, but with me.  They feared his soul would be lost.  This was all because some “church scholar” had predicted the coming of the Lord, based upon a correlation of events that were similar to some prophecy in scripture.  Christ said “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons.” The place is also irrelevant.  We attempt to tie God’s hands when we try to use worldly places and events to set the stage for his coming.  We try to say he can’t come now because of some political or geographic inconsistency.  It will not matter.  Every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Christ is Lord, and I am sure I will not notice nor care where I am kneeling and confessing.

Rather than worrying ourselves over matters that should be left to God’s decretive will, we should spend our time considering the reason he told us about it in the first place.  For the believer, the final judgement is for God’s Glory and our good.  The comfort we should have from the future judgement is because the matter is settled and the stage is set.  For the lost it is a terror.  The book of Revelation has been seen by many within the church and without as an account of a terrible and fearsome story of the future of the world.  For the believer, we should not read it from such a negative perspective.  This is the greatest story of a hero who, because of his love for his family, and the honor of his name, wins the day, and defeats evil.  The greatest part about the story is, we already know how it ends.