THE WAY to the victory of God and Christ would not be fully considered, if we overlooked the judgments which occur in it. A careful search of the Scriptures will show that they are not endless, but preparatory, wholesome means of leading every creature into a correct attitude toward God and His Christ. Judging belongs in the sphere and authority of the Son, delegated to Him by the Father. Our Lord declared, "Neither is the Father judging anyone, but has given all judging to the Son, that all may be honoring the Son, according as they are honoring the Father" (John 5:22,23). Here it is clearly declared what God's object is.
The judgments ascend by a variety of steps until they have reached and fulfilled their purpose. To begin with, they may harden the hearts of those enduring them. That is evident in the Unveiling of Jesus Christ. But in the long run they are like a fire that consumes all dross. A few passages will show this (Isa.1:27; 4:4; Prov.20:30)
Zion with judgment shall be ransomed,
And her captives in righteousness return.
Should Jehovah wash off the filth of the daughters of Zion,
And the blood of Jerusalem be expelling from within it,
By the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit consuming.
Welts an injury are scouring with evil,
And blows the chambers of the belly.
The book of Hebrews expresses the same truth figuratively: The land "bringing forth thorns and star-thistles...is disqualified and near a curse, whose consummation is burning" (Heb.6:8). Such a piece of ground must be judged by fire. Only the unwholesome fruit burns. The cleansed land, however, is ready to be used again by the owner.
A noteworthy advance in the path of judgment is taught in Isa.26:10:
Being shown favor is the wicked one,
He fails to learn righteousness.
In a land of correctness is he committing iniquity,
And fails to see the pride of Jehovah.
This chapter begins with "In that day..." That is, the day of Jehovah, the coming kingdom, in which He will shepherd the nations with an iron club. Then they will be just and obedient for fear of discipline. But that is by no means the ideal.
The judgments help to bring about the knowledge of God. Repeatedly the prophet Ezekiel says of the sons of Israel, after Jehovah had dealt with them in judgment: "And they will know that I am Jehovah" (6:14; 7:27; 12:16, etc.) In Hosea 2:19,20 we find judgment associated with righteousness, goodness, kindness and compassion, bringing the knowledge of Jehovah among the people. The judgments also operate to produce an internal change, "that all may be honoring the Son, according as they are honoring the Father" (John 5:23). See also Zeph.3:8,9.
That, at the consummation, those judged by Christ become His submissive worshipers, is not only shown by divine utterances, but by examples which live before our eyes. A convincing proof that God can transform His most stubborn enemy into an adoring worshiper, is King Nebuchadnezzar. In spite of very friendly and impressive warnings which he received from God, but which brought about only a temporary repentance (Dan.2 and 3), his heart was exalted anew, and his spirit was overpoweringly arrogant (Dan.5:20). Now God ordained a judgment of seven seasons over him, until he learned that the Supreme is in authority in the kingdom of mortals (Dan.4:32). At the close of this fearful infliction, in place of his self-adulation (4:30) he lauded and honored the Supreme, Who is able to abase all who walk in pride (4:34-37).
By the golden image which he set up in the Dura valley (Dan.3:1-) he made himself a type of the second wild beast of the end time (Rev.13:14,15). For this way the judgment of Nebuchadnezzar reaches out to cover that much greater adversary of God and shows how Christ will win even this one, for this judgment is also limited in time, for the eons of the eons (Rev.20:10), and the Scriptures speak of a conclusion and consummations of the eons (Heb.9:26; 1 Cor.10:11).
A very valuable and profound insight into the judgments of Christ is given us in the story of Joseph and his brothers, who were a type of Christ and His people. Joseph executed a carefully considered judgment by using his power, united with wisdom and love. First he put them in ward for three days (Gen.42:17) to give them a taste of his might. By this wise educational method his brothers were convinced of their offense (Gen.42:18-22). When he came to reveal to them his love, then those who had so shamefully sold him became his truest and staunchest subjects. This type will be fulfilled when Christ, after the severest judgments upon the people of Israel, comes down to the mount of Olives (Zech.14:4; Matt.24:30; Rev.1:7), reveals Himself to them, and those who are left of the tribes of the land will grieve over Him, when they look upon Him whom they treated so shamefully. Then from Zion He will sway in the midst of His enemies (Psa.110:2).
These few examples of the Son's judgments point forward to the last great judgment and its final effect when every tongue will acclaim Christ as Lord, to the glory of God, the Father (Phil.2:9). This wonderful passage must not be so construed as if the mercy and love of Christ were exhausted and an endless revenge and hate had taken their place. This would make it appear as if the love of God which is dispensed through Christ had largely returned to Him without having accomplished that for which He had sent it, and now Christ must take steps to forcefully control the innumerable company of the stubborn. He would be like the conqueror of a people who imagines he can win the hearts of the vanquished with a single exhibition of clemency. But, as soon as he sees that this will not succeed, goes into reverse by forcing the conquered people to endure unbearable penalties. In the Original, this passage does not speak of a forced confession of all, but of their voluntary acclamation, to the glory of God as Father. Every father would be sorely offended if we thought his paternal duty consisted only in the use of force.
How it would eclipse God's glory, if we superficially acknowledge that He will be All in all, yet insist that the innumerable masses which are forced by His might, bend their knees before Him only because they must! An earthly monarch who is at war with another will not put up with any prediction that he will be defeated. That is punished because it induces discouragement. A leading statesman, who was brought to trial because he had deceived the people by issuing false reports of victories, defended himself with the clever claim, "No fighter predicts his defeat." But our Lord, Jesus Christ, must bear with many of His own who persist in saying that He damns the great majority of the creatures committed to His care with everlasting punishment, and will never be able to bring them back to His Father.
By word of mouth and by the written and printed page, they produce the "proof" that God's love will never be victorious. Those who bear witness against this Christ-dishonoring doctrine are branded as false teachers. It is the general opinion that Christ is the Conqueror over all like the head of a country who also has authority over the inmates of the prisons. But by no means does it right matters to shut up Satan and his followers safely in the orthodox "hell." When the wrecker of a train with a lot of passenger coaches is caught and safely held behind lock and key, so that he won't repeat his crime, that does not repair all the damage by any means. The victims, the maimed, the pain, and the loss leave behind a great deal of indignation at such a shameful deed. But that is nothing at all in comparison with the deception of Satan, who would have filled a whole hell with eternally damned souls. Either these would continue in everlasting enmity to God, or, ground down by the terrible punishment, would cry for mercy without intermission.
If, in describing the effect of the divine plan of salvation, we turn the result of the greatest event in history into Eternal Damnation, this is only one side, the fate of the unbelievers. If we seek for the appropriate term in relation to God's purpose and love, we would be compelled to say, Divine Disaster and Defeat. And above the reign of His Christ we would have to put the heading, Incompetence. Hardly any believer would dare to describe God's consummation with such terms. But those who testify to eternal damnation and champion it, practically pass such a judgment upon it. They should give it more careful consideration.
Today, however, the proclamation of final victory is again heard clearly in the ecclesia. High waves the banner of Christ, the Conqueror, with the inscription, All is created in Him and is headed up in Him! In the Scriptures and in the eyes of God this has never vanished, only from the creeds of the ecclesia. Clouds of the apostasy which began soon after Paul's time, yes, even while he was still alive, united with the gloomy mists which arose from the swamp of the dark ages, have dimmed the glorious outcome of Christ's eonian work. But today more and more begin to see that such a consummation is impossible. To be sure, many of the saints still cling to eternal damnation, but, in many spots in the battle line, the opposition to the truth has started a confused retreat, and only the manly courage is lacking to confess that this teaching is false.
Many believe in a vague "restitution," yet do not dare to confess it. But today the ecclesia of Christ needs heralds of His all-embracing triumph who are not afraid to champion this great truth, for just in this dark day, when Satan is about to stage one of his greatest strokes, we must hold aloft the torch of the glorious achievements of God and His Anointed. Christ is given to the ecclesia as the Head over all (Eph.1:22), and as such we must proclaim Him. When a servant of God objected to the teaching of another who was making this known, on the ground that the saints were not ripe for this truth, he gave the pointed reply: How shall the ecclesia ever acknowledge Christ as Head of all, if He is never presented as such?
We have already seen from the Hebrew Scriptures that the judgments of Christ are altogether guided by His love, and force is only used in accord with it. To be sure, it may be that those enduring the heaviest judgments get the impression for a while that they are eternally damned, and there may be times when they are forced to their knees. However, how will it be when God reveals to His enemies that He once carried them in His heart and transplanted them into Christ, and that, at that time, they were the objects of love of both Father and Son, and that it was this love that called them into existence? How will it be with them when their eyes, which were blind during their lifetime, are opened to see, not only their condition without God, but their salvation through Christ? How they, the erstwhile stubborn, will shudder when they look down into the abyss of their sin, and perceive, with indignation and revulsion, how shamelessly they were deceived and treated by Satan! What will happen when they see what Christ has done for them when still enemies, and that He, because of His everlasting love for them, descended to the cross of shame and gave His life to save theirs. There have been cases where criminals with a hardened heart simply collapsed at the sight of their mother. So much greater as God's love in Christ is than mother love, so much stronger also is its power to overcome. And this love will yet bring all to collapse, for no one will be able to withstand it forever. It will conquer all opposers and lay them at the feet of Christ. God, Who made all hearts, knows perfectly well where, when, and by what means to work to accomplish this, in order to break down their opposition.
Now the beginning of His success lies in the judgment through which the stubborn must go. At the resurrection which takes place at the end of the thousand years' reign of Christ, the judgment of unbelievers will correct their false views and commence the course which will lead them back to God. Sight will convict where faith did not suffice. As, at the conclusion of this eon, Christ will have willing people in Israel, after they have passed through the judgments of the end time, so God will have a willing creation at the consummation of all the eons. The judgments are limited time periods, adapted to reach this goal. The power, however, which accomplishes the transformation of the stubborn into willing, submissive creatures, is found alone in the death and resurrection of Christ.
Just how this radical change in man's deepest being takes place is known only to God. Paul himself speaks of it. After mentioning this revolutionary transformation in the briefest fashion, "God locks up all together in stubbornness, that He should be merciful to all," and sees in this the compassion which swallows up all judgment, and attains such a success, his heart overflows in the transcendent pean of praise, "O the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How inscrutable are His judgments, and untraceable His ways!" (Rom.11:32,33). If we perceive only endless judgments without any object except to torment the unbeliever in safe custody, that would practically deny that they are inscrutable and untraceable. Such a message would leave the heart cold and empty. In contrast, how precious is faith in the triumph of God's love! Today it still bears delicious fruit, in drawing us into a deeply thankful adoration and continuous acclamation of God, to the praise of the glory of His grace.