“Is God alive?” is a question we hear raised from time to time by the cynical or perplexed observers of current affairs in the world today. For if there is a living God, they contend, why does He not intervene in judgment to redress the wrongs, and inflict punishment on the evil men who perpetrate such bestial atrocities against their fellowmen? The Scriptural answer is, that we are presently in the day of grace, when God in His long–suffering mercy is holding back His divine wrath and fiercesome judgment. Were He, indeed, to execute judgment today, who among us would escape?
But the gospel era – the day of grace – will soon come to its close, and then God’s attitude to men and matters here on earth will undergo a complete change. We can be sure of this, that judgments are coming and, as these form an important segment of Scripture revelation, we should be clear in our minds concerning the nature and extent of the impending judgments, even if it be only to spur us on to redouble our efforts to persuade men to meet the Son as Saviour in the day of God’s wondrous grace.
In the religious world there is a mistaken idea that a general judgment will follow a general resurrection, when the utmost rim of time is reached. An examination of God’s Word, however, will show this to be quite wrong Broadly speaking, there are three different judgments alluded to in the Bible. These are:
(1) The Judgment of Believers at the judgment seat of Christ.
(2) The Judgment of the Living, i.e., “the quick”, Acts 10. 42, spoken of by Peter during his address in the house of Cornelius.
(3) The Judgment of the Dead, after the second resurrection and the dissolution of the present heavens and earth, Rev. 20. 11–15.
Thus, every human being who has ever lived in this world from the beginning of the race until the end of time, will have to stand before the One into whose hand all judgment has been committed. Man was created a moral and responsible being, accountable to a Creator–God who made him. All humans must be manifested before Christ who, as Son of man. is the appointed Judge, John 5. 27. Let us be certain, though, that this manifestation will not take place all at the same time, nor will the issues involved be identical.
Two classes of people are specifically mentioned in Scripture. Rom. 2.9–10.
(a) Those who have done good (i.e.. believers who, by the Holy Spirit, have performed what is good).
(b) Those who have done evil (i.e., the ungodly, who have no works to produce which could be regarded by God as good, for “there is none that doeth good, .no, not one – not even one”, Rom. 3. 12).
Then, again, the coming judgments will fall into two distinct categories:
(1) The sessional judgments. That is to say, the judgments which will be directed from the judicial throne in heaven, and from the kingly throne on earth (the throne of Christ’s glory).
The “seal”, “trumpet” and “vial” judgments upon the living, Rev. 6–10 and 16, during the last “week” of Daniel’s prophesy, are included among the sessional judgments The separation of the “sheep” from the “goats”, Matt. 25. 31–46, will also be sessional and discriminatory in character.
(2) The warrior judgments. The other form of judgment to be executed upon living men will be the warrior judgments, when Christ as the invincible Warrior King will intervene personally in human affairs to smash the gathered confederacies of military might at Armageddon, Rev. 19. 11–21.
The public appearing of Christ at the second stage of His second coming will be accompanied by the warrior judgments. and will mark the day of the vengeance of God referred to in Isaiah 61. 2. but significantly omitted in the Lord’s reading of this Old Testament passage in the synagogue at Nazareth, Luke 4 16–20.
But it is especially
The Judgment of the Living Nations which we wish to consider in the context of this article, an event which will take place at the end of the last “week” of Gentile world–domination. We must ensure, first of all, that we avoid a common error of today, of confounding the judgment of the great white throne with the judgment of the throne of Christ’s glory. The contrasts between the two are considerable.
(a) As to the Period – the throne of glory is set up at the commencement of the millennium, but the great white throne appears after the end of the millennium.
(b) As to the Place – the glory throne will be established on earth, but the white throne will be suspended in space. Matt 25. 31; Rev. 20. 11.
(c) As to the Persons – it is the living who appear before the throne of glory, but the resurrected dead will be arraigned before the great white throne, Matt. 25. 32; Rev. 20. 12.
(d) As to the Principles which will determine the respective judgments: at the throne of glory the criterion will bethe treatment of Christ’s Jewish brethren, but at the great white throne the deciding factor will be the absence of the names in the book of life of those who stand before that throne, Rev. 20. 15.
(e) As to the Pronouncements. The “sheep” before the throne of His glory will hear the welcome pronouncement to enter into blessing; and the “goats” will hear the grim verdict of eternal punishment. In regard to the great white throne, all who stand before it and whose names are not in the book of life, will be consigned to the lake of fire forever.
The destruction of earth’s armies at Armageddon will be brought about by Christ, the great Warrior King, who is depicted in Revelation 19 as riding forth to battle from the highest heaven, mounted upon a white charger, with a sword of judgment proceeding out of His mouth, and followed by His regal train of equestrian saints, also riding on white horses (We ourselves, amazingly, are destined to form a part of that royal mounted retinue!).
Then, after the total destruction of the military strength of the nations by the blinding lightning of warrior judgment, Matt. 24. 27, the civilian population of the Gentiles will come under review. Christ’s own throne of glory will be set up in Palestine, and the “living” will be judged by Him as Son of man, prior to the ushering in of His mediatorial kingdom. The time–pointers in Matthew 25. 31 are instructive, “when …. then”. At present Christ, the ascended and exalted Man, sits on His Father’s throne in heaven. Then He will occupy His own throne on earth. (Clearly, an earthly scene and a future event are described in Matthew 25. 31–46, for there are no nations in heaven, and moreover, Christ has never yet occupied His own throne).
Here, in Matthew 25, He is seen as “King of nations” (the proper rendering of Rev. 15. 3). and before this King of kings, the august Potentate, shall be gathered all nations. Living individuals only are assembled before this throne – no dead are judged at this stage The judgment meted out from the throne of glory is of a discriminatory nature, involving the separation of those represented by the “sheep” from those signified by the “goats”. Who are the sheep then? They are the righteous individuals among the Gentile nations, who are found on the earth after the holocaust of Armageddon, and at the time of the enthronement of the Son of man as King of all the earth. The goats are the ungodly Gentiles of the same period.
The third company indicated in the passage in Matthew 25. 40, 45, are termed by the King “my brethren”. They are the Lord’s Jewish brethren, the faithful remnant of Israel, who during the great tribulation preach the gospel of the kingdom to every nation on the earth. And it is the personal attitude of the living Gentiles to those Jewish preachers which will be the test applied at the judgment of this throne, for the Lord associates Himself in a very intimate way with the godly remnant, His messengers of the kingdom–gospel during the time of “Jacob’s trouble”.
The kindness shown by the sheep towards the Lord’s brethren would suggest a work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, and a response on their part to the terms of the gospel of the kingdom proclaimed by the Jewish preachers. Conversely, the unsympathetic attitude of the goats to Christ’s brethren at this time determines their ultimate destiny. “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”, a verdict which spells eternal separation from God and all that is good and blessed.
So, the righteous Gentiles, including the multitude of palm–bearing Gentiles of Revelation 7. 9, are to inherit along with the Lord’s brethren after the flesh, the joys, peace and blessings of Christ’s millennial kingdom.
(In conclusion, we reflect upon the wondrous fact that our blessings, as Christians, are even greater than those for which the righteous tribulation Gentiles are destined. Theirs are earthly in character; ours transcendentally heavenly! What a highly privileged people we are!).
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