“GOD hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained” –“Jesus Christ, the righteous.” “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” Acts 17:31; 1 John 2:1; John 5:22
A very vague and indefinite idea prevails in regard to the day of judgment. The view generally entertained is that Christ will come to earth, seated upon a great white throne, and that he will summon saint and sinner in rank and file before him to be judged, amidst great convulsions of nature –earthquakes, opening graves, rending rocks and falling mountains; that the trembling sinners will be brought from the depths of everlasting woe to hear their sins rehearsed, only to be again returned to an eternal and merciless doom; and that the saints will be brought from heaven to witness the misery and despair of the condemned, to hear again the decision in their own cases, and to return. According to the prevailing theory, all receive their sentence and reward at death; and this, which by way of distinction is commonly called the general judgment, is merely a repetition of that first judgment, but for no conceivable purpose, since they claim that a decision which is final and unalterable is rendered at death.
The entire time supposed to be assigned to this stupendous work of judging billions is a twenty-four hour day. A discourse recently delivered to a Brooklyn congregation voiced the general view on this subject. It affected to give a detailed account of the work of the Day of Judgment, representing it as completed within the limits of a single literal day.
This is a very crude conception, and is entirely out of harmony with the inspired Word. It is drawn from a too literal interpretation of our Lord’s parable of the sheep and the goats. (Matt. 25:31-46) It illustrates the absurdity of attempting to force a literal interpretation upon figurative language. A parable is never an exact statement, but merely an illustration of a truth by something which is in many respects like it. If this parable were a literal statement of the manner in which the judgment will be conducted, it would apply to literal sheep and goats, just as it reads, and not to mankind at all. Let us now look at a more Scriptural as well as a more reasonable view of the work and the result of the great Judgment Day which God hath appointed, with which reasonable and Scriptural conclusions all parables and figures should and do agree.
The term judgment signifies more than simply the rendering of a verdict. It includes the idea of a trial, as well as a decision based upon that trial. And this is true not only of the English word judgment, but also of the Greek word which it translates.
The term day, both in the Scriptures and in common usage, though most frequently used to represent a period of twelve or twenty-four hours, really signifies any definite or special period of time. Thus, for instance, we speak of Noah’s day, Luther’s day, Washington’s day; and thus in the Bible the entire time of creation is called a day, where we read of “the day that Jehovah God made the earth and the heavens” (Gen. 2:4)–a long, definite period. Then we read of “the day of temptation in the wilderness”–forty years (Heb. 3:8,9); “the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2); also the “day of vengeance,” “day of wrath” and “day of trouble”–terms applied to a period of forty years in the close of the Jewish age, and to a similar period of trouble in the end of the Gospel age. Then again we read of the “day of Christ,” the “day of judgment,” and “his day”–terms applicable to the Millennial age, in which Messiah will reign over, rule and judge the world in righteousness, granting trial as well as rendering sentence. And of that period it is written: He shall judge the world in righteousness, and in his day shall show who is that blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords. (Acts 17:31; 1 Tim. 6:15) Why any should suppose this day of judgment to be of but twelve or twenty-four hours, while recognizing the wider meaning of the word day in other similar cases, is beyond comprehension, except upon the supposition that they have been influenced by tradition, without proper evidence or investigation.
Those who will carefully consult a complete concordance of the Bible with reference to the Day of Judgment, and note the kind and amount of work to be accomplished within that period, will soon see the absurdity of the common view, and the necessity for giving to the term day its wider significance.
While the Scriptures speak of a great judgment or trial day yet future, and show that the masses of mankind are to have their complete trial and final sentence in that day, they also teach that there have been other judgment days, during which certain elect classes have been on trial.
The first great judgment [trial and sentence] was at the beginning, in Eden, when the whole human race, as represented in its head, Adam, stood on trial before God. The result of that trial was the verdict–Guilty, disobedient, unworthy of life; and the penalty inflicted was death–“Dying thou shalt die.” (Gen. 2:17, margin) And so “In Adam all die.” That trial time in Eden was the world’s first judgment day, and the decision of the Judge (Jehovah) has ever since been enforced.
“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness.” It may be seen in every funeral procession. Every tomb is a witness to it. It is felt in every ache and pain we experience–all of which are results of the first trial and sentence–the righteous sentence of God, that we are unworthy of life and the blessings originally provided for man when obedient and in God’s likeness. But mankind are to be recovered from the sentence of that first trial by the one sacrifice for all, which the great Redeemer provides. All are to be rescued from the grave and from the sentence of death–destruction–which in view of this redemption is no longer to be considered death in the full, everlasting sense of the word, but rather a temporary sleep; because in the Millennial morning all will be awakened by the Life-giver who redeemed all.
Only the Church of believers in Christ are yet in any sense released or “escaped” from this original sentence and penalty; and their escape is not yet actual, but only so reckoned by faith. “We are saved by hope” only. Our actual release from this death penalty (incurred in Adam and escaped from by getting into Christ) will not be fully experienced until the resurrection morning, when we shall be satisfied to awake in our Redeemer’s likeness. But the fact that we who have come to a knowledge of God’s gracious plan in Christ “have escaped the corruption that is [still] on the world,” so far from proving that others will have no future hope of escape, proves rather the contrary of this; for we are first-fruits unto God of his creatures. Our escape from death in Adam to life in Christ is but a foretaste of the deliverance of whosoever wills to be delivered from the bondage of corruption [death] to the liberty of life proper to all whom God shall recognize as sons. All who will may be delivered from death to life, regardless of the distinctions of nature God has provided for his sons on different planes of being. The Gospel age is the trial-day for life or death to those called to the divine nature.
But God has appointed a day, in which he will judge the world. How can this be? Has God changed his mind? Has he concluded that his decision in the trial of the first man and the general sentence were unjust, too severe, that he now concludes to judge the world individually? No; were such the case, we should have no better guarantee of a just decision in the future trial than in the past. It is not that God considers his decision in the first judgment unjust, but that he has provided a redemption from the penalty of the first judgment, in order that he may grant another judgment (trial) under more favorable conditions to the entire race–all having then had experience with sin and its results. God has not changed one iota from his original purpose, which he formed before the world began. He distinctly informs us that he changes not, and that he will by no means clear the guilty. He will exact the full penalty which he justly pronounced. And that full penalty has been provided by the Redeemer or substitute whom God himself provided–Jesus Christ, who, “by the grace [favor] of God, tasted death for every man.” Our Lord having provided a ransom for Adam’s race, with his own life, can justly give a new offer of life to them all. This offer to the Church is under the Covenant of sacrifice (Psa. 50:5; Rom. 12:1): to the world it will be under the New Covenant. Rom. 14:9; Heb. 10:16; Jer. 31:31
We are further informed that when God gives the world this individual trial, it will be under Christ as Judge, whom Jehovah will thus honor because of his obedience even unto death for our redemption. God has highly exalted him, even to the divine nature, that he may be a Prince and a Savior (Acts 5:31), that he may be able to recover from death and grant judgment to all whom he purchased with his own precious blood. God has committed all judgment unto the Son, and has given him all power in heaven and in earth. John 5:22
It is, then, the highly exalted, glorified Christ, who so loved the world as to give his life as its ransom-price, who is to be the Judge of the world in its promised future trial. And it is Jehovah himself who has appointed him to that office, for that very purpose. Since such are the plain declarations of the Scriptures, there is nothing to dread, but on the contrary there is great cause for rejoicing on the part of all, in looking forward to the Judgment Day. The character of the Judge is a sufficient guarantee that the judgment will be just and merciful, and with due consideration for the infirmities of all, until the willing and obedient are brought back to the original perfection lost in Eden.” (A137-142)
Continued with next post.