THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
“Because he hath appointed a day, in the 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 the 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 delivered some time back 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 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; the thing said is never the thing meant, 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 krisis from which it is translated.
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 the Lord 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 many years in the close of the Jewish Age, and to another 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 will judge the world in righteousness,” and in His day He “shall show, who is the 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: “Thou shalt surely die [Hebrew: “Dying thou shalt die”].” (Gen. 2:17, margin) And so “in Adam all die.” (1 Cor. 15:22) That trial time in Eden was the world’s first judgment day, and the decision of the Judge (the Lord God) has ever since been enforced.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” (Rom. 1:18) 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 will 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 true Church, the elect 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 reckoned by faith. “We are saved by hope” only. (Rom. 8:24) The 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 the Elect of Christ shall be satisfied to awake in the Redeemer’s likeness. But the fact that those who have come to a knowledge of God’s gracious plan in Christ, “having escaped the corruption that is [still] in the world” (2 Pet. 1:4), so far from proving that others will have no future hope of escape, proves rather the contrary of this; for the Elect are first-fruits unto God of His creatures. Escape from death in Adam to life in Christ is but a foretaste of the deliverance of whosoever will 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. (Acts 17:31) 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. (Titus 1:2) He distinctly informs us 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, should taste death for every man.” (Heb. 2:9) 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 elect Church is under the Covenant of sacrifice; to the world, under the New Covenant. (Psa. 50:5; Rom. 12:1, 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 God 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 God 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.
A judge in ancient times was one who executed justice and relieved the oppressed. Note, for instance, how, when under oppression by their enemies because of transgression against God, Israel was time and again released and blessed by the raising up of Judges. Thus, we read, “And when the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer . . . Othniel . . . And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war . . . and his hand prevailed . . . And the land had rest forty years.” (Judges 3:9-11) So, though the world has long been under the power and oppression of the adversary, Satan, yet shortly He who paid for the sins of all with His own precious blood will take His great power and reign. He will deliver and judge those whom He so loved as to redeem.
With this conclusion all the prophetic declarations agree. It is written: “With righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.” (Psa. 98:9) This coming judgment will be on exactly the same principles as the first. The same law of obedience will be presented, with the same reward of life, and the same penalty of death. And as the first trial had a beginning, progressed, and culminated with a sentence, so also will the second; and the sentence will be life to the righteous, and death to the unrighteous. The second trial will be more favorable than the first, because of the experience gained under the results of the first trial. Experience is indeed the best teacher.
Unlike the first trial, the second trial will be one in which every man will stand the test for himself alone, and not for another. None will then die because of Adam’s sin, or because of inherited imperfections. “In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own inquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.” (Jer. 31:29,30) “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (Ezek. 18:4) And it will be true of the world then, as it is of the Church now, that a man will not be judged according to that which he hath not, but according to that which he hath. (2 Cor. 8:12)
Under the reign of Christ, mankind will be gradually educated, trained and disciplined until they reach perfection. And when they have reached perfection, perfect harmony with God will be required, and any who then fall short of perfect obedience will be cut off, being judged unworthy of life. The sin, which brought death to the race through Adam, was simply one disobedient act; but by that act he manifested that he had fallen from his perfection. God had a right to demand perfect obedience of him, since he was created perfect; and He will demand the same of all men when the great work of restoring them is complete. None will be permitted to have everlasting life who then in the slightest degree fall short of perfection. To fall short of perfection, then, will be to sin willfully against full light and perfect ability.
Any who sin willfully, against full light and ability, will perish in the Second Death. And should anyone, during that Age of trial, under its full blaze of light, spurn the offered favors, and make no progress toward perfection for a hundred years, he will be reckoned unworthy of life and will be “cut off,” though at a hundred years he would be in the period of comparative childhood. Thus it is written of that day: “As a lad shall one die a hundred years old; and as a sinner shall be accursed he who dieth at a hundred years old.” (Isa. 65:20 – Leeser) Thus all must have at least one hundred years of trial; and, if not so obstinate as to refuse to make progress, their trial will continue throughout the Millennium, reaching a culmination only at its close.
The conclusion of the world’s coming judgment is clearly shown in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-46), in Rev. 20:15, 21:8 and in 1 Cor. 15:25. These and other Scriptures show that at its close the two classes will have been completely separated – the obedient and the disobedient; those in harmony with the letter and the spirit of God’s law, and those out of harmony with it. They enter into everlasting life, and the others are remanded to death – extinction (“second death”), the same sentence as in the first judgment, from which they had been reckonedly released by Christ who secured the right to release them by the giving of their ransom – by His death. This will be their second death. No ransom will be given for them, and there will be no release or resurrection for them, their sin being a willful, individual sin against full light and opportunity under a favorable, individual trial.
We do not wish to be understood as ignoring the present responsibility of the world, which every man has, according to the measure of light enjoyed, whether it be much or little, whether it be the light of nature or of revelation. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good,” and “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Prov. 15:3; Eccl. 12:14) The good and the evil deeds of the present time will receive a just recompense of reward either now or hereafter. “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.” (1 Tim. 5:24) No others than those God favors with special enlightenment have as yet sufficient light to incur the final penalty, the Second Death. We here merely broach the subject of the world’s present accountability, leaving the particulars for subsequent consideration.
A period of about six thousand years intervenes between the world’s first and second judgment days, and during this long period God has been selecting special classes from among men, and specially trying, disciplining and training them to be his honored instruments during the period or day of the world’s judgment.
Two classes are respectively designated by Paul (Heb. 3:5,6) as the house of sons and the house of servants, the former composed of those overcomers tried and found faithful during the Christian dispensation, and the latter being composed of the faithful overcomers of the preceding dispensations. (Hebrews, Chapter 11) These special selections in no sense interfere with the judgment or trial promised to the world of mankind in the Age to follow this Gospel dispensation. Those who successfully pass the trial for these special classes will not come into judgment with the world, but will enter upon their reward when the world is coming into judgment. They will be God’s agents in blessing of the world – in giving to men the instruction and training necessary for their final testing and judgment. “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” (1 Cor. 6:2)
These specially selected classes, like the rest of mankind, were once under the Adamic condemnation, but became sharers by faith in the benefits of Christ’s death. After being first justified by faith in God’s promises, and having then fulfilled the subsequent conditions of their respective callings, they are accounted worthy of high exaltation to stations of honor and authority.
The trial or judgment of these classes has been much more severe than the trial of the world will be in its judgment day, because these have had to withstand Satan, the prince of this world, with all his wiles and ensnarements; while in the world’s judgment day Christ will be reigning, and Satan will be bound, that he may not deceive the nations. (Rev. 20:3) These have suffered persecution for righteousness’ sake, while then men will be rewarded for righteousness, and punished only for unrighteousness. These have had great stumbling blocks and snares in the way, which will be removed when the world is placed on trial. (Isa. 35) But though the trial of these special classes has been much more severe than the trial of the world will be, the rewards are correspondingly greater.
Under the sophistries of the great deceiver, Satan, both the world and the Church nominal have been robbed of the blessed assurances of the coming time of righteous judgment. They know that the Bible tells of a coming judgment day, but they regard it with only fear and dread; and because of this fear, there is to them no more unwelcome tidings than that the Day of the Lord is at hand. They put it far away from them, and do not wish to hear it even mentioned. They have no idea of the blessings in store for the world under that glorious reign of Him whom God hath appointed to judge the world in righteousness. Among the greatest of the blinding influences which Satan has devised to keep men in ignorance of the Truth regarding the Judgment Day have been the errors which have crept into the creeds and hymn books of the various religious sects. Many have come to esteem these errors as of paramount importance to the Word of God.
How differently did the prophets and apostles regard that promised Day of Judgment! Note the exultant prophetic utterance of David (1 Chron. 16:31-34). He says:
“Let the heavens be glad,
And let the earth rejoice:
And let men say among the nations,
The Lord reigneth.
Let the sea roar,
And the fulness thereof:
Let the fields rejoice,
And all that is therein.
Then shall the trees of the wood sing out
At the presence of the Lord,
Because he cometh
To judge the earth.
O give thanks unto the Lord;
For he is good;
For his mercy endureth for ever.”
The Apostle also points to the same day, assuring us that it will be a glorious and desirable day, and that for it the whole creation is groaning and travailing in pain together – waiting for the great Judge to deliver and to bless the world, as well as to glorify the Church. (Rom. 8:21,22)
In John 5:28-30, a precious promise for the world of a coming judgment-trial for life everlasting is, by a mistranslation, turned into a fearful imprecation. According to the Greek, they that have done evil – that have failed of Divine approval – will come forth unto resurrection (raising up to perfection) by judgments, “stripes,” disciplines. See the Revised Version. The Greek word here, properly translated as “judgment,” is krisis, which simply means a trial time.
KNOWLEDGE SHALL INCREASE
In Daniel 12:4 it is prophesied that in the “time of the end” knowledge shall be increased. And so it is in this our day. But many conclude that this means a greater increase of brain capacity, and hence designate it as the “Brain Age.” Going back four thousand years to about Abraham’s time, we find the Great Pyramid of Egypt – an object of wonder and amazement to the most learned scientists of today. Its construction is in exact accord with the most advanced attainments of this “Brain Age” in the sciences of Mathematics and Astronomy. So striking and clear are its teachings that some of the foremost astronomers of the world have unhesitatingly pronounced it to be of Divine origin. When we reflect that Euclid reasoned out our geometric system of mathematics many centuries before Christ, and with very little outside help, certainly we are forced to conclude that his mentality was at least as good as that of the best thinkers of our time. If, then, we have proved that the mental capacity of today is no greater than that of past Ages, but probably less, how shall we account for the increase of general knowledge, modern inventions, etc.?
We trust we shall be able to show this reasonably and in harmony with Scripture. The inventions and discoveries which are now proving so valuable, and which are considered proof that this is the “Brain Age,” are really very modern – nearly all have come within the past century and a half, and the pace of these developments has only accelerated in recent years. If these are evidences of increased brain power, the “Brain Age” must be only beginning, and the logical deduction is that another century will witness every form of miracle as an everyday occurrence; and at the same ratio of increase, where would it eventuate?
But let us look again: Are all men inventors? How very few there are whose inventions are really useful and practical, compared with the number who appreciate and use an invention when put into their hand! Nor do we speak disparagingly of that very useful and highly esteemed class of public servants when we say that only a small number of inventors are individuals of great brainpower. Some of the most brilliant individuals in the world, and the deepest reasoners, are not mechanical inventors. And some inventors are intellectually so unexceptional that all wonder how they ever stumbled into the discoveries they made. The great principles (electricity, steam power, etc.), worked out over many years and applied and improved upon time and again by many different people, were often discovered apparently by the merest accident, without the exercise of great brain power, and comparatively unsought.
From a human standpoint we can account for modern inventions thus: The invention of printing, in A. D. 1440, may be considered the starting point. With the printing of books came records of the thoughts and discoveries of thinkers and observers, which, without this invention, would never have been known to their successors. With books came a more general education and finally, common schools. Schools and colleges do not increase human capacity, but they do make mental exercise more general, and hence help to develop the capacity already possessed. And we also suggest that modern increase in knowledge looked at from purely human standpoint, teaches, not an increase in average brain capacity, but a sharpened perception from natural causes – with a few of the better intellects making good use of the accumulated discoveries of the past. For example, it would have been impossible for man to travel to the moon without the aid of computers.
To some it may appear strange that God did not so arrange that the present inventions and blessings should sooner have come to man to alleviate the curse. It should be remembered, however, that God’s plan has been to give mankind a full appreciation of the curse, in order that when the blessing comes upon all, they may forever have decided sin to be unprofitable. Furthermore, God foresaw and has foretold what the world does not yet realize, namely, that His choicest blessings would lead to and be productive of great evils if bestowed upon those whose hearts are not in accord with the righteous laws of the universe.
It needs no argument that an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop. As a case in point, the land of Canaan was a land “flowing with milk and honey”; and the easy life there had allowed the inhabitants to indulge themselves to the full in various vices. Thus, most of them had become badly afflicted with social diseases; and it was really a blessing to themselves and the world in general when God ordered the Jews to annihilate them.
First: So long as mankind is in the present fallen or depraved condition, without stringent laws and penalties and a government strong enough to enforce them, the selfish propensities will hold more or less sway over all. And with the unequal individual capacities of men considered, it cannot possibly happen otherwise than that the result of the invention of labor-saving machinery must, after the flurry and stimulus occasioned by the manufacture of machinery, tend to make the rich richer, and the poor poorer. The manifest tendency is toward monopoly and self-aggrandizement, which places the advantage directly in the hands of those whose capacity and natural advantages are already the most favorable.
Secondly: If it were possible to legislate so as to divide the present wealth and its daily increase evenly among all classes, which is not possible, still, without human perfection or a supernatural Government to regulate human affairs, the results would be even more injurious than the present condition. If the advantages of labor-saving machinery and all modern appliances were evenly divided, the result would before long be a great decrease of hours of labor and a great increase of leisure. Idleness is a most injurious thing to fallen beings. Had it not been for the necessity of labor and sweat of face, the deterioration of our race would have been much more rapid than it has been. Idleness is the mother of vice; and mental, moral and physical degradation are sure to follow. Hence the wisdom and goodness of God in withholding these blessings until due time (the “time of the end”) for their introduction as a preparation for the Millennial reign of blessing.
Under the control of the supernatural Government of the Kingdom of God, not only will all blessings be equitably divided among men, but the leisure will be so ordered and directed by the same supernatural Government that its results will produce virtue and tend upward toward perfection, mental, moral and physical. The present multiplication of inventions and other blessings of increasing knowledge is permitted in this “day of preparation” to come about in so natural a way that men flatter themselves that it is because this is the “Brain Age”; but it will be permitted in great measure to work out in a manner very much to the disappointment, no doubt, of these wise philosophers. It is the very increase of these blessings that is already beginning to bring upon the world the “Time of Trouble” which will be such as never has been since there was a nation.
The prophet Daniel, as quoted above, links together the increase of knowledge and the “Time of Trouble.” The knowledge causes the trouble, because of the depravity of the race. The increase of knowledge has not only given the world wonderful labor-saving machinery and conveniences, but it has also led to an increase of medical skill whereby thousands of lives are prolonged, and it has so enlightened mankind that human butchery – war – is becoming less popular, and thus, too, other thousands are spared to multiply still further the race, which is increasing more rapidly today, perhaps, than at any other period of history – in spite of the great loss of life in the wars of the past century.
Thus, while mankind is multiplying rapidly, the necessity for labor is decreasing correspondingly; and the “Brain Age” philosophers have a problem before them to provide for the employment and sustenance of this large and rapidly increasing class whose services, for the most part supplanted by machinery, can be dispensed with, but whose necessities and wants know no bounds. The solution of this problem, these philosophers must ultimately admit, is beyond their brain capacity. Large numbers are presently the “hard-core” unemployed, who are constantly pressing for larger and larger doles.
Selfishness will continue to control the wealthy, who hold the power and advantage, and will blind them to common sense as well as to justice; while a similar selfishness, combined with the instinct of self-preservation and an increased knowledge of their rights, will nerve some and inflame others of the poorer classes, and the result of these blessings will, for a time, prove terrible – a “Time of Trouble,” truly such as was not since there was a nation – and this, because man in a depraved condition cannot properly use these blessings unguided and uncontrolled. Not until the millennial reign shall have re-written the law of God in the restored human heart will men be capable of using full liberty without injury or danger.
The Day of Trouble will end in due time, when He who spoke to the raging Sea of Galilee will likewise with authority, command the raging sea of human passion, saying, “Peace! Be still” When the Prince of Peace shall “stand up” in authority, a great calm will be the result. Then the raging and clashing elements shall recognize the authority of God’s Anointed One – “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together;” (Isa. 40:5) and in the reign of the Christ thus begun all the families of the earth will be blessed.
This presentation is mainly borrowed from “The Divine Plan of the Ages,” and it is strikingly more evidently true now than when that book was written in 1881. Some who claim to adhere to these teachings have sadly departed therefrom. The Jehovah’s Witnesses now teach that all those living who do not accept them and their teachings will be eternally lost – that is, if they don’t accept them before Armageddon.
When Christ’s righteous reign begins, no one will be deceived by evil men and seducers. All will come to an accurate knowledge of the Truth (1 Tim. 2:4-6) – a far cry from the condition of today!
Another group now claims that individuals of the Restitution class may presently come in and walk a “narrow way” during the reign of sin and evil, and their reward will be higher honors in the Restitution class. One of the rewards for faithfully enduring the hardships of a “narrow way” is a “better resurrection,” but, they say, this class will not receive that reward! This is a departure from the Truth also. God’s Justice would not permit anyone to endure the hardships of a “narrow way” without giving them a compensating reward – a reward above general Restitution blessings.
“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.” (Psa. 25:14) Thanks be to God, that while general knowledge has been increased, He has also arranged that His faithful children need not be “unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:8) and in the appreciation of the Divine Plan.
Epiphany Bible Students Association
P.O. Box 2246, Kernersville, NC 27285-2246
Please go to http://epiphanybiblestudents.com/other to read the following papers:
· Where Are the Dead?
· What Is the Soul?
· The Resurrection of the Dead
· Two Distinct Salvations
· God’s Great Sabbath Day
· The Great Reformer
· The Permission of Evil
· The Day of Judgment
· God’s Standard
Printed copies will also be mailed free upon request.