The Final Sequence: Part 5

The Lord Christ is the Judge of the Living and the Dead

 One of the biblical phrases that should be very common to all true Christians is that the Lord is the Judge of the Living and the Dead. When we hear this phrase, the automatic response tends to be something like, “Yes, of course He is the Judge!”, but we tend not to grasp the full import of the phrase.

The exact phrase is found in these texts:

Act 10.42
And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.

2 Tim 4.1
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:

1 Pet 4.5
but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

I wait until the final chapter in this series, The Final Sequence, before applying this fact with its full meaning. But, here, I wish to introduce a detail of these verses that, I believe, is frequently overlooked: the question of when is it that He is the judge of the living and the dead?

Let’s consider the context of each of these texts.

The first text (Act 10.42) is a portion of Peter’s sermon to the centurion Cornelius and his family. Peter told his Gentile audience unequivocally that the Lord Christ is the One whom the Father appointed as the Judge of the living and the dead. There is, however, no indication in the text that the Lord Christ had actually judged anyone up to that point in time, or that He was currently doing so.

In the second text (2 Tim 4.1), the time of the judgment is correlated to the appearance of the Lord Christ: “by His appearing and kingdom”. The Apostle Paul unambiguously places the time of that judgment in the future (since the Lord has not yet appeared to establish His earthly kingdom). The original here is quite informative:

τοῦ μέλλοντος κρίνειν ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς
the one who is about to judge [the] living and [the] dead

The Apostle Paul is very clear: the Lord Christ is about to judge”not, “has judged”—as shown by the present active participle of μέλλω. It should be obvious that if someone is in the state of “about to do something” (present participle), it must also be true that that person is not yet doing whatever it is that is in view.

[μέλλω: G3195: to be about to; to be at the point of doing something]

The third text (1 Pet 4.5) presents the same idea as that in 2 Tim 4: the Lord “is ready to judge”not, “is now judging”. Again, note the original:

τῷ ἑτοίμως ἔχοντι κρῖναι
“[to the One] having readiness to judge”, or
“[to the One] to be ready having to judge” (which is very clumsy but applies the adverb to the verb)

[Note: κρῖναι is an aorist active infinitive and functions as the purpose/result of the action to be taken by the One to whom the account must be made. The three-word phrase before the infinitive κρῖναι is a bit tricky to bring into English, since ἑτοίμως (ready, to be ready) is an adverb describing the action of the present active participle ἔχοντι (having).

The phrase therefore describes a characteristic of the One to whom the account must be made: Of what ‘type’ or ‘nature’ is He, or how should He be identified? He is the One “having readiness to judge” or “to be ready to judge”.]

The Judge is ready to judge, but the judgment spoken of here has not yet occurred; it is still future.

There is still more corroboration in our Bibles:

Joh 5.21-23
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

Joh 5.26-29
For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.

Acts 17.30-31
Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

When the Scripture declares that the Lord is the Judge of the Living and the Dead, it speaks of a judgment that is scheduled to take place, but that has not taken place yet. The Lord, speaking in John 5 tells us that there are those who “will hear” and “will come forth”; both verbs are future indicative.

The Apostle Paul likewise speaks of the Lord Christ who “will judge” the world in Act 17 [NASB]. The original construction is essentially identical to 2 Tim 4:

καθότι ἔστησεν ἡμέραν ἐν ᾗ μέλλει κρίνειν τὴν οἰκουμένην
just as He set a day in which He is about to judge the inhabited earth

How and why the future time aspect of these passages is significant will be detailed in the summary chapter of this series, The Sequence of the Lord’s Judgments of Mankind.

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