Doctrine of Christ
This subject is the same as any subject in the Bible, in that it requires some rightly dividing, if we are to properly understanding of it. Because we have a tendency to equate the word judgment with punishment, when Paul says, "Eternal judgment," our minds hear "eternal punishment." As a result, we tend to miss the fact that many who come before the throne of Godís judgment will be judged worthy of eternal life and other exceeding great rewards. Punishment and damnation will be meted out, but that is by no means all that is implied here. Therefore we must first deal somewhat with the title of the subject.
The judgment to which Paul refers is more clearly understood by his statement in 2 Cor. 5:10. "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
Likewise, the word eternal is somewhat misleading. It should be understood more in the sense in which it is used in Jude 6 and 7. He said, the angels that fell with Lucifer are "reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." Sodom and Gomorrah also suffered "the vengeance of eternal fire." That fire is apparently not still burning.
Jonah said in Jonah 2:6, "The earth with her bars was about me for ever." The reader must hear the words "until the resurrection." This doctrine, indeed, concerns what I sometimes call "the Age of Judgment." The age of judgment begins with the judgment of The Church during the two periods of its operation, both in the first century A.D., and in this "last time." It ends with The Judgment of the Great Day. (Jude 6; 1 Pet. 4:17)
There are four major phases of the Age of Judgment. They are: 1) The Judgment of The Elect, 2) The Judgment of The Other Saints, 3) The Judgment of The Nations, and 4) The Judgment of The Great Day. God will not judge the nations until He has judged the believers. That judgment partly involves a period of persecution. 1 Pet. 4:1, shows that the persecution will serve, partly to purify the righteous, "He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin." Jesus said, in Luke 11:49-51, that it would also serve to justify God in pouring out His wrath upon the ungodly.
The Judgment of The Elect
In 1 Pet. 4:17, the Apostle Peter announced the beginning of judgment among The Elect in his day. Indeed, very harsh judgment was executed upon two members of The Church, Ananias and Sapphira, who laid an unholy offering upon that holy altar of twelve Apostles. In Heb. 13:10, God told us that there was an altar in that New Testament temple, and Exod. 20:25 and 1 Kings 18:31-32, show the New Testament altar to be the twelve apostles. (Exod. 29:37; Acts 4:34 through Acts 5:11 and 1 Pet. 2:5)
Other Christians knew that such harsh punishment was associated with Peter and that Church, and they would not join that organization. As it is written, "Of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both men and women." (Acts 5:11-14)
God's immediate judgement of the elect is also seen in 1 Cor. 11:20-31. Paul told us that many members of the body had become sick, and many had died, because they ate and drank the Passover (Actually the Lordís Supper) unworthily, "not discerning the Lordís body." However, he countered with the words, "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged."
The apostle Paul also showed the distinction between the Judgment of The Elect and that of other Christians, from the standpoint of the authority which Jesus gave them when He left.
(Mark 13:34) The Elect have the authority, and the responsibility, to pass judgment about who may, or may not, be part of their work and reward. (John 20:23; Matt. 18:15-20) No mortal man can possibly determine whose name is written in the Book of Life, or the Book of Life of The Lamb. Therefore, we know that God is speaking about whoeverís name shall be entered in, or blotted out of, the Book of The Holy City. (Rev. 22:19; Heb. 12:22-24)
We see, therefore, that the judgment of Godís Church, as concerns bringing it to perfection, is given to the members themselves. This is fact is shown in 1 Cor. 5. He told them not to eat the Passover with a member who was known to be unworthy, because of some sin of the flesh. He instructed them to turn that wicked person out of The Church, so that the "Spirit of The Church" might be saved. (Eph. 4:4; Rev. 1:20; Rev. 2:1-5) He said, "With such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do ye not judge them that are within? But them that are without, God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person." (1 Cor. 5:12,13; Matt. 18:15-20) However, he cautions us that the authority to judge bears with it the requirement that the people who execute that judgment must be blameless, "having in readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled." (1 Cor. 10:6)
The works of the flesh are to the body of Christ what a terminal illness is to the human body. The Church was the "new man," of Eph. 2:14-15, and, as such, could die, if something contrary to its spirit was allowed to remain in it. The words of Prov. 20:27 and James 2:26 apply to this "new man" the same as they do the us humans.
When The Church is in existence, the authority to bind and loose is inherent in it at all times, but God seems to execute immediate punishments only during certain predestined periods of time. As in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, The Church fulfilled the prophetic intent of the feast of unleavened bread. During its first seven years The Church was without leaven. During that time, or shortly thereafter, the leaven of covetousness cost Ananias and Sapphira their lives. (Exod. 12:14,15) They inherited the curse of Heb. 6:1-8, Lev. 15:31, and 1 Cor. 3:16,17.
Not only were severe punishments meted out, but specific rewards were promised to some. For example, in Matt. 19:28, Jesus told His twelve apostles exactly what their rewards will be during His rulership of the world for a thousand years. He told them, "Ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit upon the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
When Jesus comes, the saints will judge the world. Therefore, The Elect must be judged before He comes. (1 Cor. 6:2; Rev. 2:26,27) We are now approaching the second fulfillment of the feast of unleavened bread; at which time God will conclude the judgment of The Elect. (2 Chron. 30:20-27) At that time it shall be determined who shall sit upon those other twelve thrones which are foreshadowed in Rev. 4:4.
The Bride the Lamb's Wife must now awake from her sleep, and conclude the judgment of The Elect, so our Lord can come for His glorious church. (Isa. 52:1,2; Eph. 5:14,25-32)
The Judgment of The Other Saints
Once The Elect have been judged, God will then begin to judge the other believers. In Matt. 22:2-10. They are the bad and good guests at the marriage of the king's son. They are the "ten virgins, wise and foolish," of Matt. 25:1-13. They are a multitude "both of men and women," as in Acts 5:1-14. They are the "great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues," who "stood before the throne, and before The Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands." (Rev. 7:9; John 12:12,13)
Their judgment is partially expressed by Jesus in Luke 12:32-48. He said, "That servant, which knew his lordís will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." I believe that the persecution during the time of the prophecy of the two witnesses, in Rev. 11, relates to that judgment.
The Judgment of The Nations
God said unto Jesus in the second Psalm, "Ask of Me, and I shall give thee the heathen (Gentiles) for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." (Psa. 2:8-9)
The world hated Jesus and killed Him, "But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool." (Heb. 10:12,13; Psa. 110:1)
"Enoch also, the seventh from Adam prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." (Jude 14-15)
This judging of the nations is prophesied of in Dan. 7:9-12, and again in Matt. 25:31-46. Before we consider these passages we need to understand the words of Jesus in John 5:22,23. "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father."
Also, in Dan. 4:25, we see that "The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will." Apparently it is Jesus who shall "sit," and not the Father. The earth has always been under Godís control, else how could He give it to Jesus.
Now hear Dan. 7:9-12. "I beheld till the thrones were cast down (set), and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. The judgment was set and the books were opened. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts (the first three nations mentioned in the chapter), they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time."
Jesus further enlightens us in Matt. 25:31-41. "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another." To some of those nations, Jesus shall say, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." To other nations He shall say, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."
That these are nations, and not individuals, is evident from their replies. Some said, When did we ever do anything for you? A Christian would never ask such a question. No, the ones on the right hand are not Christians, but rather, nations which have treated Christians well.
Those on His right hand continue for a time, but eventually Jesus and those with Him, some of whom are mentioned in Rev. 2:26,27 and Rev. 20:1-4, shall conquer the whole world and establish new national boundaries dictated by Deut. 32:8. There shall then be twelve nations on earth, and Jesus shall sit, the King of Kings. "Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet." (1 Cor. 15:24,25)
The Judgment Of The Great Day
"The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." (Jude 6)
There is a revelation hidden in the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, the eighth day of which is called "the great day." (John 7:2,37; Lev. 23:34-36) The seventh day (millennium) is "The Lord's Day," but the Feast of Tabernacles reveals the eighth millennium as "The Great Day." At that time Jesus will judge the rest of mankind. He will resurrect all of the dead who did not arise in the first resurrection, He will then judge them, as well as Satan and the angels which fell with him. (Rev. 20:5-15) At that time some of those, who had part in the first resurrection and the change, shall sit, together with Jesus, and experience the words of Paul, who said, "know ye not that we shall judge angels?" (1 Cor. 6:3)
When Jesus accomplishes the first resurrection, rewards will be given to the saints. At that time, Jesus will convey the reward, which He mentioned in Matt. 8:11, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, as well as some others. He will reward the elect, living and dead, as well as the other believers which are "alive and remain" unto his coming. At that time the twelve Jewish Apostles shall become the Priests of the Earth (Matt 19:28), and the twelve Gentile Apostles shall become the kings of the earth (Isa. 60:10), and so forth. (1 Cor. 6:2; 1 Tim. 4:7-8 and 2 Pet. 1:11)
At the end of the seventh millennium, at the Judgment of The Great Day, Jesus will conclude His mission of "judgment upon all." The remainder of all of the people who have ever lived shall stand before Godís great throne of judgment and give account of themselves, and be judged of their words and deeds in this life. (Jude 1-15) Then God shall "render to every man according to his deeds."
"The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." (John 5:28-29) This latter resurrection will occur some time after the seventh millennium has ended. For God said, "The rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. When the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations, to gather them together to battle." (Rev. 20:5-8) Satan obviously cannot accomplish that in a few days.
Once carnal man shall have proven his proclivity to follow after evil, this last time, and Satan shall have finished his work, Jesus will execute the final judgment. For after living under the auspices of Jesusí righteous and benevolent rule, the world shall again choose the wicked one, and justify Godís wrath upon them.
In that resurrection, those whose names are written in The Book of Life, shall inherit life. At that time, "as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law. In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ." (Rom. 2:8-16)
The Apostle John "saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which was The Book of Life. And whosoever was not found written in The Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:12,15)
Then shall be fulfilled that saying, "The day of the Lord will come, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." (2 Pet. 3:10-13)