God's Four Great Judgments

 •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 8
IT will greatly help to the understanding of dispensational truth to be clear as to the above subject.
They are as follows—
1. The Judgment of Sin at the Cross.
3. The Judgment of the Living Nations (Matt. 25:31-4631When 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: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:31‑46)).
The first took place at the cross, the other three are still future.
The second will affect believers only, and will take place after the Lord comes for His people, and before He comes with His people to set up His millennial kingdom.
The third will affect the nations, when evangelized by the Jewish missionaries, whom God will use to preach the Gospel of the kingdom after the Church of God has been caught up. It will be the session of judgment that will decide who, of those alive upon the earth, are to go into the kingdom of heaven in display, that is the millennial kingdom.
The fourth will affect the wicked dead, when raised at the second resurrection. It will take place in eternity—the resurrection, one of God's last acts in time—this judgment, His first recorded act in eternity.
Let us take each judgment in detail.
The Judgment of Sin at the Cross.
Here we have the affecting thought of the spotless Son of God suffering in His own Person the awful penalty of sin; so that believers can say of Him, that He “was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:2525Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. (Romans 4:25)). To grasp how fully God has been glorified and the need of the sinner met is of the greatest importance. Without it none can have solid peace with God.
Writing to the Corinthian believers, the Apostle Paul says, “We must all appear [be manifested, JND] 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” (2 Cor. 5:1010For 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. (2 Corinthians 5:10)). The above passage may appear to some of our readers to contradict a passage with which they have been familiar since their conversion. We refer to John 5:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation [judgment, JND]; but is passed from death unto life.”
Is His word to go for nothing? Cannot we rest upon what He has said?
Then how are we to reconcile the two passages?
The answer is very simple. At the cross the person of our blessed Savior came under the judgment of God in order that OUR persons, as believers, should never come into judgment. Carefully note that the word translated “condemnation” in John 5:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24) should be rightly rendered “judgment.” A man brought up for judgment might be condemned or not, as the result of his being proved guilty or not; but John 5:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24) teaches that we shall never come up even for judgment, so definite and complete is the clearance wrought out at the cross, measured alone by the position of Christ in glory.
The whole point lies in the answer, Who or what comes under judgment according to 2 Corinthians5? Not “who” but “what,” is the reply; not our persons, but our deeds are to be judged or manifested.
An illustration will help. We step into the assize court one day. We note its solemn setting—the judge upon the bench, the jurymen in their panel, the counsel in their seats, the policemen at the doors, and above all the prisoner in the dock. It is a serious murder case, and the judge is summing up. How eagerly the poor prisoner listens. How tense his attention. He knows full well what is at stake—his person. If he is condemned he knows it means the gallows, death, and a felon's grave. We all understand the seriousness of an assize court under such circumstances.
A little later we find ourselves in a very different spot —a flower show. The exhibits are there and the exhibitors. Presently the judges are announced. Does their arrival produce in the breasts of the exhibitors the same feeling as the sight of the judge produced in the heart of the murderer? Certainly not. The flower-show judges have not come to judge persons, but works—not to judge exhibitors, but exhibits—not to administer punishments, but awards.
So with the judgment-seat of Christ. When it takes place our bodies, if we have fallen “asleep in Jesus,” shall have been summoned by the mighty voice of the Son of God from the slumber of the tomb; or, if alive upon the earth, caught up, having been changed into the likeness of Christ's own body of glory (see Phil. 3:20,2120For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:20‑21)), to be with Him in the Father's house, the fruit of the travail of His soul, presented to Himself as His glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing (see Eph. 5:2727That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27)). Can there be any question as to our persons when, raised and changed by His mighty power, we are with Him, and like Him, and already in glory? Assuredly not!
But our deeds shall come up for judgment. One of two things shall happen as they are reviewed—we shall either be rewarded or suffer loss. The following passage helps to the understanding of this: “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Cor. 3:11-1511For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 14If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11‑15)).
Note six things: —
1. The foundation.
2. Building good materials thereon.
3. Reward.
4. Building bad materials thereon.
5. Loss.
6. The individual saved “yet so as by fire.”
The Foundation.—This is Jesus Christ. Only true believers will appear before the judgment-seat of Christ as given in 2 Cor. 5
And if the consequences of the judgment-seat of Christ for the true believer are so solemn, where his works shall be manifested and judged in view of rewards, what must be the consequence of the judgment be for the unbeliever, where his person is to be judged? There can be nothing more solemn.
So the Apostle, with his soul filled with the awe of this, says, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:1111Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. (2 Corinthians 5:11)); not only as to unbelievers in the preaching of the Gospel, but as to believers by presenting the solemn truth as to the judgment-seat of Christ.
Not for one moment would we make light of the consequences of the judgment-seat even for the believer. In our illustration of the flower show all the exhibits are more or less praiseworthy, the super-excellent winning the prizes, but at the judgment-seat of Christ all the deeds of the believer—good and bad—shall be manifested. How inexpressibly solemn! To suffer loss is to lose for eternity. To gain, to gain for eternity.
Finally, the Apostle presents the love of Christ as the constraining power. The death of Christ imposes upon those, who owe all their blessing to it, the obligation of no longer living unto themselves, but UNTO HIM who died for them and rose again.
Building Thereon.—Acceptable deeds, begotten and energized by the Holy Spirit of God, are likened to gold, silver, precious stones—materials that can stand the test of the fire. Such deeds will receive reward.
But if deeds are unacceptable, the product of the flesh, however subtle and outwardly good they may appear to be, they are likened to wood, hay, stubble—materials that cannot stand the test of the fire. Loss will be experienced —loss of time, loss of trouble, loss of the Lord's sweet approval, loss of reward—which might have been gain had the deeds been acceptable.
The Individual Saved.—An extreme case is stated, that of a man whose works are all to be burned up, yet it states clearly that he shall be saved “yet so as by fire.” He gets clear by the fire of judgment consuming all that was wrong in his life. It is the precious blood of Christ alone that puts away our sin before the eye of God, but self-judgment cars us from them in our own conscience and practice. the solemn light of the judgment seat of Christ affect us daily in our lives, and influence our conduct continually.
The Rewards.—These are not for heaven, but for the kingdom of heaven; not for the Father's house, but for earth. In short, rewards determine the believer's position in the millennial kingdom of Christ, and have nothing to do with his, place in heaven. That is solely the result of the finished work of Christ.
But more of this in detail later on.
The Judgment of the Living Nations (Matt. 25:31-4631When 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: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:31‑46)).
After the rapture of the Church, God will again take up the Jew for blessing. By means of the activities of His grace on the one hand in reaching the Jew for blessing, and through the agency of the Jew presenting the Gospel of the kingdom for the acceptance of the Gentile, and permitting on the other hand His purifying judgments to afflict the world, God will prepare the world for the glorious advent of Christ to rule as Messiah over His ancient people and over the nations as the Son of Man.
No longer will the Gospel of the grace of God go forth. That Gospel, rejected by Christendom, will cease to be preached after the Church has been caught up at the second coming of Christ. The Gospel of the kingdom—that which was preached by our Lord and His apostles while He was upon this earth—will again be preached among all nations by the instrumentality of Jews reached and blessed in a special way to be His messengers. Just as John the Baptist was the forerunner of Christ when He first came, so these Jewish converts may be likened to His forerunners in a general and secondary sense at His second coming.
The result of this evangelization will be seen in the account of the judgment of the living nations in Matthew 25:31-4631When 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: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:31‑46).
Those who receive the Gospel of the kingdom will form the “sheep” class, who shall stand on the right hand of the Judge and go into life eternal, that is, enter into the millennial Kingdom of Christ.
Those who reject the Gospel of the kingdom will form the “goat” class, who shall stand on the left hand of the Judge and go into everlasting punishment. This will take place at the close of all the tribulations that shall sweep over the earth in their purifying work, and be preparatory to the Lord setting up His millennial kingdom. So we read: “The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:41-4341The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 13:41‑43)).
This presents us with God's last session of judgment. It will affect the wicked dead—all those who have part in the second resurrection. The first resurrection finds all those who are Christ's raised, and this will take place a thousand years at least before the wicked dead are raised. The wicked dead will be raised after the little space of time when Satan, loosed from the bottomless pit, shall have made his last final attack on God's people at Jerusalem, the beloved city. The great white throne will be set up after the earth and heaven shall have fled away from the face of Him who sits upon the throne.
The Seer beholds in vision the awe-inspiring sight of the dead, small and great, standing before God—the books opened and the dead judged accordingly.
The result is solemn in the extreme: “And death and hell [hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Death is the condition of bodies apart from souls.
Hades is the condition of souls apart from bodies.
When dissolution takes place the body is in the condition of death; the soul in the condition of hades.
In resurrection death will deliver up the custody of bodies, and hades the custody of souls, and bodies and souls reunited are looked on as death and hades personified. It is in this way that the wicked dead raised and judged shall be cast into the lake of fire.
Death is not a place, but a condition.
Hades is not a place, but a condition.
But as death, a condition, demands a place for the body, the grave generally speaking; so hades, a condition, demands a place—for the believer “with Christ in paradise,” for the unbeliever a place of torment as set forth in Luke 16:19-3119There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (Luke 16:19‑31).
The second death is not annihilation. Death never means annihilation. The first death does not mean annihilation—the soul survives and the body will be raised. The second death does not mean annihilation, but an eternal living death. In short, eternal punishment means eternal punishing. Solemn thought, yet Scripture clearly teaches it, and it is our wisdom to bow to Scripture and not raise in question God's justice. His ways are perfect and right.