Good News: The Judgment
Preface: Central to the entire gospel is the concept of sacrifice. In the biblical languages, the words for “sacrifice” often depict the idea of drawing near to God and of bringing something to Him. God has always been calling for sacrifices, and He is still doing so today. Most importantly, God provided the ultimate sacrifice—that of Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.
“We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10, NIV).
“The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Dan. 7:10, NIV).
Four scenes are recorded in Daniel 7. In the first one, four great beasts came out of the sea. In the second one, a court of judgment appears, presided over by the Ancient of Days. The third presents the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven. And the last one describes the interpretation of the vision in which is emphasized that the judgment is resolved in favor of the saints of the Most High.
Daniel saw in this vision that a power will abuse and persecute God’s people. But time will come in which the divine court will vindicate them and condemn their oppressors. God’s judgment is, then, bad news for those who oppose God and good news for His children. In this world, evil frequently triumphs and the good loses. But time will come when this condition will be reversed. The divine judgment is the event during which God intervenes to establish justice. This justice means exaltation and vindication for His people.
So why do we fear the divine judgment? Two possible reasons exist: One, if you do not belong to God’s people, you have reason to fear the judgment, because for the enemies of God and His people, the judgment means terror. Two, it is possible that you may have misunderstood the divine judgment. Perhaps, as a child, you were taught that God conducts a strict investigation of our actions and our thoughts, and that one day they will be exposed before the court of heaven. Maybe you were told that the angels of God scrutinize every aspect of your life in order to register your bad behavior in the judgment books of heaven and that one day these angels will give witness to it all. This representation of God’s character and His judgment brings anxiety and insecurity to the heart of His children.
But Daniel teaches us that the divine judgment means something different. He wrote: “The saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever” (7:18, NIV). “Until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom” (verse 22, NIV). “Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him” (verse 27, NIV). Daniel must have longed for that judgment to come, for he knew what that it meant vindication for his people.
Our Lord had the same certainty when He said: “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. . . . And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:22–27, NIV). All who confess Jesus as Lord has the assurance of being forgiven. So firm this was to Him, that He offered it in the present time as an actual reality. Even though it awaits a final consummation, for those who believe in Him, it is steadfast. We will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, but all who believe in Him will be vindicated. What assurance this is for the Christian!
God would not be righteous if there were no judgment. If evil and unrighteousness were never condemned, He would not be a God of justice. But God would never be a God of love if the innocents were not vindicated, if His downtrodden children were not exalted. That is why “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10, NIV). Divine judgment is not something to be feared, but something to be longed for. To people who accept Christ as their Savior, it brings joy, not terror. The author of Hebrews expressed it this way: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16, NIV).
The main reason the children of God need not fear the judgment is that through Christ, they are part of the family of God. Therefore, they have been declared righteous because of what He has done for them. This belief is transformed into a powerful dynamic that brings confidence. They know beforehand what the verdict of the judgment will be. In the face of this reality they feel liberated from all condemnation. The apostle Paul had this assurance: “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? . . . Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Rom. 8:31–34, NIV). Therefore, the apostle concluded, we have nothing to fear, because nothing can separate us from God (verses 35–39).
1. Has there been any moment in your experience in which your feared the judgment?
2. If you were to stand before divine judgment today, how would you feel?