Editor’s Page, January/February 2013 Issue – David R. Pharr

[Acts] connects the evangelistic example and gospel teaching of the Savior to the daily practice of every saint…While every book of the Bible contains a portion of God’s blueprint for the church, Acts is the detailed diagram that connects various parts of the scheme – the saving of men’s souls through the spread of the gospel.

Don Iverson, Commentary on Acts

Does the Bible teach that there will be an actual Judgment Day?

Paul declared that all men are commanded to repent, “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:30f).  Jesus often spoke of a “day of judgment.”  Various texts speak of the final Judgment as “that day.”  The day of judgment will be at the “last day” (Jn. 12:48).  This will be when Christ comes “in his glory, and all his holy angels with him.”  His coming for judgment will be his coming with his angels to take vengeance against those that “know not God, and obey not the gospel” (2 Thess. 1:7ff), which is at the same time that he comes “to be glorified in his saints” (2 Thess. 1:9).

Will every person, the saved and the unsaved, come before Christ in the Judgment?

The Bible is clear that there will be a final day of judgment in which we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10).  Before King Jesus will be gathered all nations (Matt. 25:31f), including all the dead, small and great (Rev. 20:11f).  The day has been appointed (Acts 17:31), and our being there is as certain as death (Heb. 9:27).  Everyone, the living and the dead, will be there to answer for their deeds (1 Pet. 4:5).  In the words of Paul, this will be “in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Rom. 2:16; cf. 2 Tim. 4:1).

Does this mean that one’s final destiny will not be determined until the day of Judgment?

It is a mistake to conceive of the judgment as for the purpose of determining guilt or innocence.  The judgment will not be a trial in which cases must be argued before a verdict can be determined.  It is only in this life that men and women have opportunity to change their status before the Judge.  “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment.”  One’s status will be according to “the things done in his body, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10), “according to their works” (Rev. 20:12).  People may protest their guilt (Matt. 25:37ff) and argue their own merits (Matt. 7:22f), but God has a definite and perfect record.

Salvation is by grace, not merit (Eph. 2:8f).  We can know we are saved in faithfulness to the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-2).  John wrote that we can “know that we know him” by keeping his commandments (1 John 2:3).  We cannot know that our obedience is perfect, but we can know whether we are walking in the light and whether we confess our sin (1 John 1:7, 9).  We cannot know that we will never fall, but we can know whether we are keeping God’s commandments (1 John 1:3; Phil. 2:12).

If no one’s status cannot be changed at the judgment, what is the purpose of the day of Judgment?

The day of judgment will not be an occasion for convincing the Judge, but it will be the occasion for convincing sinners.  “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 14f, emphasis added).  There will be exoneration, vindication, of the justice of God.  Even the condemned will have to acknowledge that the Judge of all the earth is right (cf. Gen. 18:25).  Some in their sin might now argue, “God wouldn’t condemn me for what I’m doing,” but in that day all unrighteousness has its reward (2 Pet. 2:13).

Numerous passages show it equally certain that there will be a gracious reward for the righteous.  “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…” (Matt. 25:34).  “And whatsoever ye, do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.  But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons” (Col. 3:24ff).

The fairness of divine justice is forcefully defined in Romans 2:6-11, which tells that God “will render to every man according to his deeds:  To them who by patient continuance in well doing see for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God.”

Some say there will be several different judgment days with different classes of people judged on different occasions.  Is this true?

Not only do we have Jesus saying “all nations” would be before him (Matt. 25:31), we also find several occasions when he indicated that people living during the time of his ministry would be at the judgment with people who had lived centuries before them.  Tyre and Sidon had been destroyed around three centuries before, but they would be at the judgment with Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matt. 11:21).  Other texts show Sodom (about 2,000 B.C.) in judgment with Capernaum (Matt. 11:23f); people who heard Jonah (about 850 B.C.) in judgment with Jesus’ generation (Matt. 12:41); and the Queen of the South (around 1,000 B.C.) in judgment with the people of Jesus’ day.  After citing these points Roy H. Lanier, Sr. made the following observation:

“Surely no one will argue that these individuals, or these people of these particular cities of those generations will be in that judgment with generation or particular people to whom Jesus talked, but that no other individuals or cities of those generations will be in that judgment.  We have found five generations of five different nations, scattered over a period of nearly two thousand years, who are to be in the judgment, ‘in the day of judgment,’ together.  Who can show with any show of reason that all the nations from Sodom to Jesus will not be in that same judgment?  But if all the nations and generations from Sodom to Jesus will be in the judgment, ‘in the day of judgment,’ will not all nations of all times be in that judgment?  And if all nations of all times are in that judgment, that will include the nations living at the time of the coming of Jesus.  So we are forced to conclude that Jesus included all nations of all times when He said [‘Before him would be gathered all nations.’]”  (Twenty Years of the Problem Page, p. 99).

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