2 May 2021
The subject of God as the Judge is not something we like to talk about, even among believers. We prefer to talk about God as our helper, our friend, our Father, the One full of mercy and forgiveness. But the Bible also has much to say about the reality of God’s work as Judge. Some may even conclude that only the Old Testament focuses on judgement but the New Testament only concentrates on ‘grace’.
But divine judgement is not only confined to the Old Testament; in the New Testament, judgement falls on the Jews for rejecting Christ (Matt. 21:43; 1 Thess. 2:14); on Ananias and Sapphira, for lying to God (Acts 5), on Herod, for his pride (Acts 12:21), on Elymas, for his opposition to the gospel (Acts13:8), and on Christians at Corinth who were afflicted with illness for irreverence at the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:29-32).
In fact, the whole of the New Testament is overshadowed by the certainty of impending universal judgement, and the urgent need for sinners to get right with God when there is still time. The New Testament refers to the ‘day of judgement’, ‘the day of wrath’, ‘the wrath to come’ and proclaims Jesus not only as the divine Saviour but also the divine Judge (Jas. 5:9; 1 Peter 4:5; Acts 10:42).
Consider the characteristics of the Father and Jesus as the divine judge. As our creator, God owns us, and as our Owner, He has a right to dispose of us; He, therefore, has a right to make laws for us, and to reward us according to whether or not we keep and uphold them. In the final judgement, God will judge all people according to their works (Matt. 16:27; Rev. 20:11) – He does not show favouritism (Rom. 2:6-11).
This applies to Christians as well as non-Christians – all will receive according to their works. The Apostle Paul wrote, ‘For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad’ (2 Cor. 5:10).
God has resolved to be every person’s Judge, rewarding every person according to his works; God will see that each person sooner or later receives what he deserves – if not here, then hereafter. This fact is undeniable; there would be justice and indeed justice would be served. The character of God guarantees that all wrongs will be righted some day when HIs righteous judgement will be revealed (Rom. 2:5).
As the perfect moral Being, God cannot be indifferent to questions of right and wrong – He has committed Himself to judge the world. The reality of divine judgement should have a direct effect on our view of life. The doctrine of final judgement stresses man’s accountability and the certainty that justice will finally triumph over all the wrongs which are part and parcel of life here and now. Judgement protects the idea of the triumph of God and of good. It is unthinkable that the present conflict between good and evil should last throughout eternity.
Final judgement will be according to our works, our doings, our whole course of life. Our ‘doings’ can never merit an award, for they fall short of perfection (Rom. 3:23), but they provide an indication of what is in the heart. Jesus once said, ‘Men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned (Matt. 12:36). The words show what you are inside. Believers also need to take note: by our words and actions one can tell whether there was love to Christ, the love that springs from faith, in the heart (Matt. 25:34).
The gift of justification certainly shields believers from being condemned and banished from God’s presence as sinners (Rev. 20:11-15), but the gift of justification does not at all shield believers from being assessed as Christians, and from forfeiting good which others will enjoy if it turns out that as Christians, they have been slack, mischievous and destructive
The Apostle Paul warned: ‘If any man builds on this foundation (Christ) using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work shall be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss;; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames’ (1 Cor. 3:12-15). ‘Reward’ and ‘loss’ signify an enriched or impoverished relationship with God, though in what ways it is beyond our present knowledge.
Do not go away with the idea that because you are ‘believers’, you will be exempted from the judgement of God. If you appear as believers and are not born again – beware of the serious judgement you would face. You may fool others in the church and elsewhere, masquerading as Christians but God knows otherwise. If you are truly born again but you are slack, indifferent to the ways of God, lazy and indolent, taking things for granted, even murmuring and grumbling against God who has been so gracious, merciful and kind to you, then tremble at the prospect of appearing before His judgement seat.
Remember – you cannot hide from God; He sees your hearts whether the motivations are positive or tainted with self-life, negative desires and personal unhealthy ambitions. It would do us well not to forget that our God is not just gracious, merciful and loving – He is also the Judge and a God of wrath! Let us not ‘tinker’ with the almighty and majestic Creator who would certainly judge all men.
When the Bible presents God judging, it emphasises His omniscience and wisdom as the One who searches all hearts and knows all things and all facts – nothing is hidden from Him. Nothing can escape God; we can fool men, but we certainly cannot fool God, for He knows us as we really are. The Bible’s declaration of God’s work as judge is part of its witness to God’s character – it confirms His moral perfection, righteousness and justice, His wisdom, omniscience and omnipotence. God would render to persons what they deserved – rewarding good with good, and evil with evil. G