“From There He Shall Come to Judge the Living and the Dead”

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Judges don’t merely declare what is good and evil, right and wrong; judges make right and redress evil. Judges mete out condemnation and vindication (1 Kgs. 8:32). Judges deliver from enemies, oppression, and injustice (think “the Book of Judges”). Judges rule, administering righteousness, love, and peace in relationships. As the source of all reality, God is “the Judge of all the earth” (Gen. 18:25). “He judges the world with righteousness” (Ps. 9:8). He does not merely judge actions, but the secrets of the heart and mind (Jer. 11:20; Rom. 2:16). His universal and good judgment is cause for rejoicing (Ps. 67:4; Ps. 98, esp. v. 9). We sought to be judges of God for ourselves, and acted as unjust judges, condemning his Son to death. He didn’t retaliate, but trusted that his Father’s ultimate judgment would be just (1 Pet. 2:23). Therefore God judged his Son to be faithful and true, and vindicated him in the resurrection. Our judgment now hinges on him.

God the Father has given all judgment to the Son (Jn. 5:22). He is “the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42; see also 2 Tim. 4:1). God has “fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man” (Acts 17:31, emphasis mine). Universal judgment has been given to a human being, whose judgment is just because he seeks not his own will, but his Father’s will (Isa. 11:3-4; Jn. 5:30). This man is Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the “eschaton man,” the one who is God’s judgment of humanity, in whom alone God will move forward with humanity into eternity. Jesus’ judgment is true, because he judges according to God’s nature, God’s reality, which is the ultimate truth. He is the Great High King who faithfully judges with righteousness and justice (Ps. 72:1-2), whose throne is established forever (Prov. 29:14). Christ’s judgment will not only remove his and our enemies; it will remove enmity itself from all the earth (Isa. 2:4). On the day of his return, all who ever lived—whether currently living or dead—will be made to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ, who will make all things right.

In a sense, Jesus has already spoken the final word of judgment to which we may respond (Jn. 12:48), and those who reject the Gospel judge themselves “unworthy of eternal life” (Acts 13:46). But there is freedom when we stop judging ourselves and acknowledge the Lord’s good and gracious judgment of us (1 Cor. 4:3-4). We wrongly grasped for judgment, but the gift of God is that Jesus will share even his own judgment with us (Lk. 22:29-30; 1 Cor. 6:2-3). As Paul wrote at the end of his life, “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).

What is your judgment of Jesus, the Word of God? Do you believe in his imminent return to judge the living and the dead? Why or why not? What do you assume the word, “judgment,” means? Is it the same way Jesus uses the word? Have your non-Christian friends heard about the promised judgment as a matter for their fear, or for their hope? How do you feel about Christ’s judgment penetrating to the secrets of your heart and mind? Is it really possible to rest and rejoice in the idea of Christ’s final judgment, to “love his appearing”? What difference, if any, does Christ’s future return make in your present life? How does God say it should affect your life, and what does that say about God? What might it mean that we will be given the place of judgment alongside Christ in the new world?

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