Confessing Our Faith In the Culture – Chapter 34

Of the Last Judgment – Part 2

A. Questions Answered

  1. What about passages like:
    1. Romans 2:14-16; 1 Corinthians 4:5Romans 2:14-16 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

      1 Corinthians 4:5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

    2. Luke 12:2-3Luke 12:2-3 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
    3. Matthew 12:33-37Matthew 12:33-37 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
    4. Ecclesiastes 12:14Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
  2. Considerations
    1. context
      1. Motives, not deeds, will be revealed.
      2. Romans 2 is primarily directed at the unregenerate, those who in some measure follow the innate sense of right and wrong all humans have because of the imago dei. What is explicitly stated is that God will render judgment and in so doing reveal his perfect justice.
      3. 1 Corinthians 4 also explicitly states God’s disclosure of motive or purpose, not deeds. He will do so in his bestowal of commendation – it is right motives flowing out of a right nature that lead to right deeds and resulting in promised eternal reward. Interestingly, Paul issues a warning to the Corinthian church immediately following this in verse 6 to “not go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another”.
    2. parallel passage: e.g., Luke 12:2-3/Matthew 10:26-27Matthew 10:26-27 “Therefore, don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered, and nothing hidden that won’t be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. What you hear in a whisper, proclaim on the housetops.
      1. What appears to be a parallel passage in Matthew 10 has in view the bold proclamation of the Gospel in the face of persecution, not the final judgment.
      2. The context in both passages deals with fear of man vs. fear of God and Jesus instruction is plain – fear God rather than man; do not let the Pharisees intimidate you into being silent.
      3. Immediately preceding in Luke 12 is a warning against Pharisaical hypocrisy; the general principle is that deception or hypocrisy will eventually be uncovered – the truth will come out, often in this life. The passage may be referring to the final judgment, but the context does not require it. In any event, troublesome and somewhat unclear passages must be interpreted in light of explicit passages elsewhere in Scripture.
    3. additional teaching
      1. no condemnation John 3:18, 5:24; Romans 8:1John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

        John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment [condemnation], but has passed from death to life.

        Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

        1. For there to be no condemnation of the believer, there must be a basis on which God could reach that verdict.
        2. God cannot “wink” at sin; he has both condemned it and declared the punishment for it – death.
        3. For God to be God, he must follow through – punish sin that he has condemned either in the one who committed it or in another.
        4. For God to justly punish another individual, they must be viewed judicially as guilty and the one for whom they are substituting can and must be viewed as innocent. Hence, the doctrine of double imputation and substitutionary atonement.
      2. sins removed Micah 7:18-19; Psalm 103:11-12; Romans 11:27 Micah 7:18-19 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

        Psalm 103:11-12 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

        Romans 11:27 and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.

      3. sins forgotten Isaiah 43:25; Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 10:17-18; Hebrews 8:12Isaiah 43:25 “I, I am he who blots out [wipe out, erase, obliterate, exterminate] your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

        Jeremiah 31:34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

        Hebrews 10:17-18 then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

        Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.

      4. unrighteousness cleansed Psalm 32:5; Ezekiel 36:33; 1 John 1:9 Ezekiel 36:33 Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt.

        1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

        1. In order for us not to experience condemnation, we must be viewed by God as “not guilty”.
        2. God has promised to remove our sins from us, obliterating them and casting them into the sea; in the process he has promised not to recall them to mind any more. He has further promised to remove the lingering effects of sinfulness and clean us up.
        3. Whatever comes up in the judgment, whatever is meant by passages like those in Section A.1, must be understood in light of these explicit promises of God.
        4. If our sinful deeds and thoughts are made public at the judgment, they cannot serve to condemn us but must serve in some way to justify our “commendation from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5) and result in his being “glorified in his saints and admired among all those who believe” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

B. Principles Applied

  1. It satisfies the “need” for justice Habakkuk 1:1-4; Revelation 6:9-11; Revelation 19:1-8 Paul in Romans 2:14-15 makes it plain that all mankind have at least the basics of God’s law imprinted in their very nature. On that basis, all mankind have an innate sense of right and wrong, thus the ruler against which to discern when injustice is present. Humans seem to have a built-in need to see that justice is served and cannot rest until it occurs. God’s final judgment provides the forum for ultimate satisfaction against wrongs committed.
  2. It enables us to forgive 1 Peter 2:22-23; Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60God has reserved final judgment for himself which means we can more easily forgive those who have wronged us. Both Jesus and Stephen knew that in the end God would make it come out right, either by converting the sinner or justly condemning him to his appointed place of punishment (Acts 1:25). We don’t need to be concerned with getting revenge since ultimately every wrong will be paid for by Christ or the individual.
  3. It provides a motive for righteous living Matthew 6:20; Luke 19:11-27; 1 Corinthians 3:9-15The Bible speaks often of degrees of reward for the believer (see note below) based at least in part on how he has handled knowledge and responsibilities in this life. That our deeds will be considered for that purpose should incite us to faithfulness and good works.

    The nagging fear of a final accounting that is present in the unbeliever serves to restrain them from total licentiousness and evil. As a minimum, this would have been Paul’s motive in referring to the final judgment before the philosophers at the Areopagus (Acts 17:31) and (obliquely) in his defense before Felix (Acts 24:21) and Agrippa (Acts 26:6).

  4. It provides a motive for evangelism Acts 17:30-31; Luke 24:46-47; Luke 16:27-28Consideration of the facts – there is a judgment, an afterlife, a connection between this life and the next – should motivate us to faithfully spread the Gospel. The proclamation of the Gospel is the usual means by which God brings about conversion and repentance, ultimately deliverance from condemnation and the unspeakable horrors of hell.

Note: Dan. 12:2; Matt. 6:10, 20-21; 19:21; Luke 6:22-23; 12:18-21, 32, 42-48; 14:13-14; 1 Cor. 3:8; 9:18; 13:3; 15:19, 29-32, 58; Gal. 6:9-10; Eph. 6:7-8; Phil. 4:17; Col. 3:23-24; 1 Tim. 6:18; Heb. 10:34, 35; 11:10, 14-16, 26, 35; 1 Peter 1:4; 2 John 8; Rev. 11:18; 22:12; cf. also Matt. 5:46; 6:2-6, 16-18, 24; Luke 6:35.

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