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.