The Final Sequence: Part 2

The Certainty of Judgment

The Lord has shown throughout history His sovereign and righteous authority, readiness and willingness to judge the disobedience of His creation beginning with Adam and Eve, who were ejected from the Garden. Centuries later, the Lord destroyed the earth with a flood that killed every air-breathing creature—human, animal, and insect—except for those protected within the refuge of the Ark. The record of the OT is the record of God entering into a covenant with His chosen people Israel during the time of Moses, a covenant which they broke countless times and for which disobedience they suffered greatly. The Northern Kingdom was ultimately conquered and assimilated by the Assyrians (~722 BC); the Southern Kingdom was taken captive into Babylon by the Chaldeans (~586 BC)—after repeated warnings by many, many prophets throughout multiple centuries.

The Lord Christ came to His people (as promised in numerous OT passages) and began His public ministry (~27 AD), only to be brutally maligned, betrayed and murdered (~30 AD). After a “divinely-significant” period of 40 years (during which time the grace of the gospel increased dramatically throughout the Gentile world), a still nearly completely disobedient Israel was destroyed by the Roman Empire (~70 AD). They remained in dispersion until only a relatively short time ago, when in 1948 they once again became a globally recognized nation. They are, however, still a nation which does not acknowledge the Lord Christ who came to them nearly two millennia ago; from that perspective, they differ little from OT Israel as a disobedience people.

[While it is not my purpose here to detail the events that lay ahead for Israel, the Bible is very clear that many, many judgments still await them until that time when they (actually, a remnant of the current nation) repent of their characteristic disobedience and are turned by means of a divinely-granted new heart to confess as Lord their One Lord Christ, their Messiah. (Jer 31; Zec 12; Rom 11)]

The record of both OT and NT prophecy is that a time of accounting and judgment still awaits all mankind.

The characteristic of the Lord’s justice is seen in a pair of closely related, but distinct, ways.

The first way is the consistent expression by the Lord’s people throughout the Bible that divine justice is assumed, expected and assured because of God’s unchanging nature. Here is an early example from Abraham after the Lord informed him that He was going to judge Sodom and its neighboring cities (Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim):

Gen 18.23-25
Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?”

Ancient King David had the same perspective:

Psa 58.10-11
The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; He will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. And men will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth!”

There is a group of four Psalms, 96 through 99, which speak of the Lord’s righteous rule on earth, for which rule He is to be greatly exalted and worshipped.

[I like to refer to these as the Millennial Psalms, since they can be fulfilled only during that time when the Lord Christ has returned and rules earth “with a rod of iron”. (Rev 2.27; 12.5; 19.15)]

Psa 96.12-13
Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord, for He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His faithfulness.

Psa 97.1-2
The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many islands be glad. Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.

Psa 98.8-9
Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity.

Psa 99.3-4
Let them praise Your great and awesome name; Holy is He. The strength of the King loves justice; You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.

There are many, many other references to the justice of God in the OT; here are but two of them:

Psa 94.1-3,22-23
O Lord, God of vengeance, God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth, render recompense to the proud. How long shall the wicked, O Lord, how long shall the wicked exult? … But the Lord has been my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge. He has brought back their wickedness upon them and will destroy them in their evil; the Lord our God will destroy them.

Isa 3.8-11
For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their actions are against the Lord, to rebel against His glorious presence. The expression of their faces bears witness against them, and they display their sin like Sodom; they do not even conceal it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves. Say to the righteous that it will go well with them, for they will eat the fruit of their actions. Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, for what he deserves will be done to him.

Similar expressions are found throughout the NT as well. You’ll find confidence and hope for

  • God’s justice (both to reward the just and to punish the wicked);
  • assumptions based on the fact of His justice and coming judgments;
  • the active and prominent teaching that God is just and can be expected to act justly both now and in the future:

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.

Act 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.”

Rom 2.4-8
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.

Rom 2.14-16
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

Rom 3.5-6
But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.) May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world?

2 The 1.3-10
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.

Heb 4.12-13
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

[The last phrase is very interesting in the original:

καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν κτίσις ἀφανὴς ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ, πάντα δὲ γυμνὰ καὶ τετραχηλισμένα τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς αὐτοῦ, πρὸς ὃν ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος.

The “all things are open” appears to continue the present tense thought of “[not] hidden” from the first half of the verse, while the “laid bare” is a perfect passive participle: “all things have been laid bare”. The “laying bare” is the current, durative state of all deeds of all mankind throughout all time; hence, that is why are things are “open”. They have always been open.

The very end of the verse contains yet another very interesting phrase:

πρὸς ὃν ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος

Literally, the phrase is “our word/reckoning [is] before that One”. Several other modern translations do a better job here than the NASB’s “with whom we have to do” by the more direct “to whom we must give an account” (ESV, HCSB, NIV). That phraseology is much closer to the original and much clearerHebMat.]

Heb 10.26-31
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

2 Pet 2.4,9
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; … then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority.

Jde 1.6
And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day,

The second way the Lord’s justice in and through judgment is seen is through His own, explicit declarations in combination with the direct historical account of His actions. Here are but a few:

Gen 6.5-7,13
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” … Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.”

Deu 19.24-25
Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven, and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

Deu 29.23
All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive, and no grass grows in it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.

Deu 32.34-35
Is it not laid up in store with Me, sealed up in My treasuries? Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in due time their foot will slip; for the day of their calamity is near, and the impending things are hastening upon them.

Psa 50.22
Now consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver.

 Isa 48.22
There is no peace for the wicked,” says the Lord.

Isa 57.20-21
But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

Mat 8.11-12
I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Mat 10.5-15
These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them … Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.

Mat 12.36-37
But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Mat 25.41-46
Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Luk 19.27
But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence
.

Luk 13.27-29
and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers.’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out. And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.

Joh 3.18
He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Joh 5.22,26-27
For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son … 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.

Act 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.”

Rev 14.9-11
Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

Rev 19.20
And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.

Rev 20.13-15
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.  Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Rev 21.7-8
He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

Rev 22.14-15
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

There can be no doubt: the Almighty, the One who spoke all things into existence and gives “to all life, breath and all things” (Act 17.25), is also the One before whom all will stand to give an account. And, more to the point, He is the One who has the power to punish disobedience.

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