"THE crack of doom and the Judgment Day" is a phrase that casts a somber shadow over the hearts of many of God's dear saints, destroying their peace and filling their lives with a fearful dread day and night. Of all the perverted doctrines of the Scriptures taught and believed in Christendom, I doubt if there is any so wide of the truth of God as that concerning the "judgment." The corrupted idea from man's natural religion is, that at some future time the crack of doom and the end of the world will arrive, when there will be one general and final assize of all before the bar of God, where each one will have a trial, and the good will be rewarded and transported to Elysian fields of bliss, and the bad condemned to endless suffering in platonic regions of the damned! God's just judgment, which is over all His works, linked with mercy, faith and love (Matt.23:23; Luke 11:42), is degraded to the sordid level of a police court where the criminal is sentenced to the penalty of the law. O the odious violence men commit on Holy Writ and God's character by their venerable traditions!
In beginning this study, let me say distinctly and unequivocally, that the sacred Scriptures teach no such thing as a "general" resurrection and judgment. It is the outgrowth of superficial teaching, with more knowledge and reverence for traditions than for God's word.
The Scriptures, rightly divided and uninterpolated, teach many judgments. In the scope of this study we wish to set forth five, one of which is past, the others future. They may be named as follows: (1) The Judgment of the Cross, (2) The Dais of Christ, (3) The Judgment of the House of God, (4) The Glory Throne Judgment, and (5) The Great White Throne Judgment. Each of these judgments differs from the others in five particulars, viz., as to Time, Place, Subjects, Basis of Judgment, and Result. We shall now present a study of the first four.
I. THE JUDGMENT OF THE CROSS
- Time: About A. D. 33
- Place: Golgotha
- Subjects: Mankind
- Basis of Judgment: Christ's death
- Results: Justification and Conciliation
This judgment is past, and the Scriptures reveal that the saints shall not come into judgment at the great white throne, with the dead, great and small. For them Christ on the cruel cross settled the sin question to a finality. But the problem is, to get man away from his natural religion and its consequences long enough to find his solace in the deliverance which God wrought in Christ on Golgotha.
Remember that the decree to Adam was "The day you eat thereof, to die, you are dying" (Gen.2:17). This law of Jehovah God was transgressed by Adam, and Paul describes its effect upon the world of mankind, saying:
"Therefore, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin death, and thus death came through into all mankind, on which all sinned" (Rom.5:12).
Here we have plain language that through Adam's lawlessness, sin entered into the world of mankind and through sin death. Death is sin's penalty, decreed upon Adam in the garden. Death came through into all mankind. Yet God is recommending His love to us, seeing that when we are still sinners, Christ died for our sakes (Rom.5:8,9).
But do we really appreciate the significance of Christ dying for our sakes--what it involved and what it procured? First, it involved God's condemnation of sin in the flesh:
"For at the law's impotence (in which it was infirm through the flesh), God, when sending His own Son in the likeness of sin's flesh and concerning sin, condemns sin in the flesh, that the just requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who are not walking in accord with flesh, but in accord with spirit" (Rom.8:3,4).
Second, it vindicated God's justice and made conciliation for the slanderous offense against His character. God, out of His vast love, took His only begotten Son and made Him the Sin-offering, whereby sin was adjudicated, past, present, and future, with life's justifying for all mankind, and He made peace by the blood of His cross for reconciling the universe unto Him. Let us give study to what is written concerning this teaching:
"Yet we are observing Jesus, having been made some whit inferior to messengers (because of the suffering of death), wreathed with glory and honor, so that He should, by the grace of God, be tasting death for the sake of all" (Heb.2:9).
"For the One knowing no sin, He makes sin for our sakes that we should be becoming God's righteousness in Him" (2 Cor.5:21).
"Who, being the Effulgence of His glory and Emblem of His assumption, as well as carrying on the universe by His powerful declaration, making a cleansing of sins, is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the heights" (Heb.1:3).
"Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus it is through one just award also for all mankind for life's justifying. For even as through the disobedience of the one man the many were constituted sinners, thus through the obedience also of the One the many shall be constituted just" (Rom.5:18,19).
"Who [Christ] was given up because of our offenses, and was roused because of our justification" (Rom.4:25).
"Being justified gratuitously by His grace, through the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus (Whom God purposed for a Propitiatory, through faith in His blood,...toward the display of His righteousness in the current era, for Him to be just and a Justifier of the one who is of the faith of Jesus" (Rom.3: 24- 26).
"Yet all is of God, Who conciliates us to Himself through Christ, and is giving us the dispensation of the conciliation, how that, in Christ, God was conciliating the world to Himself, not reckoning their offenses to them" (2 Cor.5:18,19).
"For if, being enemies, we were conciliated to God through the death of His Son, much rather, being conciliated, we shall be saved in His life" (Rom.5:10).
"...seeing that the entire complement delights to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile the universe to Him (making peace through the blood of His cross) through Him, whether on the earth or in the heavens" (Col.1:20).
This grand array of Scriptures places before our hearts the wonderful transaction on Golgotha, where God accursed the Sinless One for our sakes, and through the merit of that one just act, gives life's justifying to all mankind, at the same time making peace through the blood of His cross for reconciling the universe to Himself. The work of Christ on the cross was God's condemnation of sin in the flesh, the vindication of His justice, and the basis for the reconciliation of the universe. And we press the fact that, when mankind stand before Him for adjudication, it will not be concerning sin. The sin question was settled to a finality on the cross, and having made a cleansing of sins, He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the heights (Heb.1: 3). Remember, that all will come before Him for adjudication at some time or other, but when and wherever their lot may be found, either as believers, unbelievers, or without any revealed knowledge of God, the adjudication will be based upon their works, acts or deeds which they have put into practice through the body, whether they be good or bad, and not concerning the question of sin. This is an important distinction which the Scriptures make, that has been distorted in the minds of the saints to the point where the sacrifice of Christ is nothing more than a farce. But with the array of Scripture cited, revealing how that God made Christ to be sin for our sakes, when we were still sinners, and roused Him for our justification, is it reasonable to think that we are to be brought into judgment again to answer for sins? No! A thousand times no! May He grant us the grace to believe that Christ, as the Sin-bearer, fully paid the sin debt once for all, by the travail of His soul in the accursed sufferings of those dread hours, while He hung on the cross. He satisfied God and vindicated His justice, and opened the flood-gates of everlasting peace for the reconciliation of the universe.
This leads us to the consideration of the second judgment.
II. THE DAIS OF CHRIST
- Time: After the Saints are assembled with Christ
- Place: In front of the Dais of Christ in Heaven
- Subjects: The Ecclesia which is the Body of Christ
- Basis of Judgment: Their Acts--Deportment and Service
- Result: Award and Loss
We have seen that adjudication was made for sin in Christ on the cross. Nevertheless, the Scriptures teach a "judgment seat" of Christ, yet future, in front of which all the saints of the ecclesia which is the body of Christ must appear, after they are raptured away to the meeting in the air. Paul brings it before us in these words:
"For all of us must appear in front of the dais of Christ that each should be requited for that which he puts into practice through the body, whether it is good or bad" (2 Cor.5:10).
Some teach this to be the one great general judgment, but a discriminating consideration of what is written here in the context reveals that only the saints who are members of the body of Christ, clothed with the building of God, a house not made with hands, eonian in the heavens (2 Cor.5:1), like unto the body glorious of our Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 3:21), will be there. That this is truth, should be evident to all who will give study to the context:
"We are aware . . . we have a building . . . we are groaning . . . not that we want to be stripped, but to be dressed, that the mortal may be swallowed up of life . . . for we are walking by faith . . . we are ambitious . . . to be well pleasing to Him, For all of us must appear in front of the dais of Christ that each should be requited for that which he puts into practice through the body, whether it is good or bad" (2 Cor.5:1-10).
The pronouns "we" and "us" occur about twenty-five times in this context, and in every instance they refer to believers in Christ Jesus, thus limiting the adjudication to saints only. Moreover, we insist that this is not a judgment in the sense of a trial to see whether the judged are innocent (saved) or guilty (lost). It is a special award for that which has been put into practice through the body, whether it is good or bad.
Much misunderstanding seems to arise over the word rendered "judgment." To speak of judgment, we immediately call to mind the order of a police court! But the word translated "judgment-seat" in our common, or King James Version here, and "dais" in the CONCORDANT VERSION, is literally beema, and is very significant. It suggests nothing, in itself, of a tribunal such as Pilate's judgment seat (Matt.27:19) or Caesar's (Acts 25:10). It has reference to the raised platform from which the rules of the games were enforced, and to which the contestants came to receive their awards. We, who are in Christ Jesus, are absolutely absolved from all condemnation (katakrima, DOWN-JUDGment, Rom.8:1), but we are eligible to an award for meritorious living and service.
It is astonishing how little thought is given to the subject of self-adjudication today. A true heart realization of our relationship to Christ as Lord and all that it involves would correct much of the loose living, loss of consideration and true brotherly affection so appalling among the saints. Often we are asked the question: Will there be any degrees or planes of glory in heaven? Such questions call for serious answers, and it is of little profit to express opinions, but of the utmost wisdom and prudence to believe God's word. As to our salvation and position in Christ, over and over again we are assured that all have the same high place and privilege--there is "not Jew nor Greek, not slave nor free, not male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal.3:27,28). However, in the Lord, the physical distinctions are all recognized and our requital at the dais of Christ will be for our deportment and service and in accord therewith. All who give themselves in full obedience to the will of God from the soul, slaving with singleness of heart unto the Lord Christ, and not to men, will be requited for whatever good each one may do, and he who injures will be requited for that which he injures, and there is no partiality. For confirmation of this teaching, we find it written:
"Slaves, be obeying your masters as to flesh, with fear and trembling, in the singleness of your heart, as to Christ, not with eye-slavery, as man pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the soul, slaving with good humor, as to the Lord and not to men, having perceived that, whatever good each one may do, for this he will be requited by the Lord, whether slave or free" (Eph.6:5-8).
"Slaves, in all things be obeying your masters according to the flesh, not with eye-slavery as man pleasers, but with singleness of heart, fearing the Lord. All whatever you may be doing, be working from the soul, as to the Lord and not to men, being aware that you will be getting the compensation of the enjoyment of an allotment from the Lord: you are slaving for the Lord Christ. For he who is injuring shall be requited for that which he injures and there is no partiality" (Col.3:22-25).
". . . For all of us must appear in front of the dais of Christ, that each one should be requited for that which he puts into practice through the body, whether it is good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:1-10).
If eonian distinctions are not made here for deportment and service, language is meaningless! Furthermore, why does Paul admonish that "we are ambitious to be well pleasing to Him?" Because of the realization that each one shall be requited, receive, get back, or be repaid, whatever they have put into practice through the body, whether it is good or bad, and bear it away for their eonian glory or loss. Many are going to be requited for that which they have put into practice through the body here, which they never dreamed of facing again, and carry it away for their loss and regret for the oncoming eons. We need no interpretation of these Scriptures. Simply a heart recognition and realization of them and the serious reality which they press upon us, that we may give diligence in all our social relations, that everything may be done out of unfeigned love and grace with singleness of heart unto our Lord Christ and not to men, knowing that each one shall be requited for that which he puts into practice through the body, whether it is good or bad, and there is no partiality.
ENDURANCE IN SERVICE
It seems almost impossible to express the seriousness attached to the admonition of endurance in service. Paul in the Philippian epistle sets Timothy before us as one "genuinely solicitous" for that which concerns Christ Jesus; also Epaphroditus, who endured in the service of the Lord, even to the risking of his soul to fill up the want of ministration of the saints to Paul (Phil.2:20,21,29,30). And we are told by Paul himself how he endured all because of those who are chosen, that they, also, may happen upon the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eonian glory (2 Tim.2:10), who then presents what is necessary to have the eonian glory with the salvation.
Faithful is the saying: "For if we died together, we shall be living together also: if we are enduring, we shall be reigning together also; if we are disowning Him, He also will be disowning us; if we are unfaithful, He is remaining faithful--He cannot disown self" (2 Tim.2:11-13).
This faithful saying shows that our salvation and life and all that come's with it flows from His immutable grace, and depends solely on His faithfulness, but for endurance in service, there will be a recognized place of authority in His celestial realms--the right to reign together with Him. If we disown Him, we cannot expect Him to gives us a public place of power in the celestial kingdom. However, this does not infringe in the least degree on our salvation or life or anything which is ours by His grace.
FAITHFULNESS IN TEACHING
There will also be awards for those who serve the saints in dispensing the word of truth, or the evangel. Paul solemnly lays this on the hearts of all who teach, in these words:
"According to the grace of God which is granted to me, as a wise foreman I lay a foundation, yet another is building on it. Yet let each one beware how he is building. For other foundation can no one lay beside that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone is building on this foundation gold and silver, precious stones, wood, grass, straw, each one's work will become apparent, for the day will make it evident, seeing that it is revealed by fire. And the fire will be testing the work of each one--what kind it is. If anyone's work which he builds on it shall remain, he will get wages. If anyone's work shall burn up, he will forfeit it, yet he shall be saved, yet thus, as through fire (1 Cor.3:10-15).
Paul laid the foundation in Corinth. Apollos and others were building on it. The gold and silver, precious stones, wood, grass, and straw represent the character of their teachings with which they sought to build up and edify the ecclesia. It is not a question of quantity but quality. Wood, grass, and straw will easily make an imposing pile, but they will not abide in that day when the fire will be testing each one's work--what kind it is. Doubtless, the gold stands for that which is divine, silver for redemption, and the precious stones for those gems of grace which adorn them, especially the "secrets" of which Paul was hinting and later revealed; while the wood, grass, and straw represent philosophy and empty seduction, in accord with human traditions and base additions to the truth, which today almost cover up the great verities of divine revelation.
Let all take this to heart: It will be better to have a little after the fire than much before it. How earnestly sincere we should be in having God's word in its purity, and being genuinely scrupulous as to what we teach, that we may build right material, so it will stand the test of the fire in that day.
III. THE JUDGMENT OF THE HOUSE OF GOD
- Time: The Coming Indignation
- Place: Asia Minor and Palestine
- Subjects: The House of God-the Jewish Ecclesias
- Basis of Judgment: Christ as King and Priest
- Result: A remnant receives Him as Messiah
While the body church is at the dais of Christ in heaven, the judgments of the book of Revelation will be opened for the purpose of enforcing the right of Christ to be Potentate and Priest of all the earth. This judgment must begin from the house of God (1 Peter 4:17), and, as Prophet, we find Christ presenting His claims first among the synagogues of His own people Israel, in the messages to the seven ecclesias of the Revelation (chapters two and three) which will be located in the various places designated in Asia Minor.
Others, though scattered among all nations, even today, are gathering back to Palestine, unconverted, where they will be caused to "pass under the rod" (Ezek.20:34-38). They will be cast into God's "melting pot" (Ezek.22:19-22), and pass through the experience spoken of by Jeremiah and Daniel as the "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer 30:4-7; Dan.12:1). Christ, in His closing declaration among them on earth, called it "the great tribulation" or "affliction," and He and Zechariah connect it with His return (Matt 24:21-31; Zech.14:1-11).
Under the awful reign of the Desolator they will be hated by all the nations, persecuted and slain unmercifully (Matt.24:9- 13). The result of these terrible afflictions will be that the Jews, out of their misery, will call upon the Lord (Zech.12:10). Christ will return, standing in that day on the Mount of Olives facing Jerusalem on the east (Zech.14:3), and they will look upon Him Whom they "pierced" (Zech.12:10), and say: "Blessed is He Who is coming in the name of the Lord" (Luke 13:35), and the new nation (Isa.66:7,8) will be given the sovereignty of the kingdom under all the heavens for the eon (Dan.7:27).
IV. THE GLORY THRONE JUDGMENT
- Time: The Revelation of Christ in Power and Much glory
- Place: The Throne of His Glory on the Earth in the Valley of Jehoshaphat
- Subjects: The Living Nations (Gentiles)
- Basis of Judgment: Their Treatment of Christ's Brethren, the Jews, during the Coming Indignation
- Result: Some Nations "Saved," others "Chastened"
Almost every preacher who attempts a sermon on the "judgment," takes his text from Matthew 25:31-46 and expounds it as the "final judgment" in which he arraigns all humanity (the living and the resurrected dead) before the One sitting on the throne, to hear their destiny declared unto them! Our International Sunday School literature makes this awful blunder every time they attempt an exposition on the subject, leading thousands on thousands of God's saints astray from the revealed truth. How this "judgment" can be confused with the "Great White Throne Judgment" of Revelation 20:11-15 (if teachers would only read the two accounts, to say nothing of studying them), presents a bewildering problem. Let us make a simple comparison:
THE GLORY THRONE
THE GREAT WHITE THRONE
|1. At Revelation of Christ ||One thousand years later |
|2. On the earth (Joel 3:2) ||Heaven and earth gone |
|3. Living nations judged ||The dead |
|4. No resurrection ||All resurrected |
|5. Three classes: "sheep," |
"kids" and "brethren"
|One class: the dead |
|6. No books mentioned ||Books opened: book of life opened |
This comparison reveals facts which make it impossible for these judgments to be identical. One is on this earth, and the other takes place after the heavens and the earth have fled, and the two are separated by a period of time of more than a thousand years!
Another witness against their identity is the Greek word ethnos, translated here in Matthew 25, "nations." It occurs 164 times in the Greek Scriptures, and is translated in our common version 93 times "gentiles," 64 times "nation" or "nations," 5 times "heathen," and 2 times "people." But never, in any instance, is it applied to either the dead or resurrected. In the face of this fact, verified by the internal evidence of the Scriptures themselves, surely we will not be guilty of uniting these two judgments again.
All this comes about by trying to make the Glory Throne Judgment of "nations" a judgment of individuals. The "sheep" represent one class of nations and the "goats" or "kids" another class, while the "brethren" represent the Jews, Christ's own brethren according to the flesh.
If we will let the Scriptures speak to us as they are written, all will be clear:
"Now immediately after the affliction of those days . . . they shall be viewing the Son of Mankind coming on the clouds of heaven with power and much glory" (Matt.24:29,30).
This is His glorious epiphany, or Revelation, from heaven when every eye shall be viewing Him (Matt.24:27; Rev.1:7; 19:11- 21), whenever He may be coming to be glorified in His saints and to be marveled at in all who believe (seeing that our testimony to you was believed) in that day...(2 Thess.1:6-10). It is then that these words of our Lord Jesus will find fulfillment:
"Now, whenever the Son of Mankind may be coming in His glory, and all the holy messengers with Him, then He shall be seated on the throne of His glory, and in front of Him shall be assembled all nations, and He shall be severing then from one another even as a shepherd is severing the sheep from the kids" (Matt.25:31, 32).
So far as the record goes (and nothing else is admissible here), the personnel of this judgment consists of the "Judge and His retinue" (Matt.25:31), "the nations" (Matt.25:32; Joel 3:2, 3), and His "brethren" (Matt.25:40). These, no more and no less. If any resurrected people are there, they have to be forced into the text, for they are not given by the spirit.
This judgment of the nations is sounded again and again in the Hebrew Scriptures from Isaiah to Malachi. Familiarity with these accounts and their relation to Israel and the Millennial kingdom, should keep all from making it a final judgment. In Joel 3:1-21, we are given a very terse setting of this judgment scene:
"For behold! in those days and in that era,
In which I turn back the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,
I gather together all the nations also,
And cause them to descend into the vale of Jehoshaphat,
And I am judged with them there
As to My people and My allotment, Israel,
Whom they disperse among the nations.
* * * * *
`Mobilize and come, all nations around,
There cause Thy mighty ones to settle, Jehovah!
The nations are arousing and ascending to the vale of Jehoshaphat [Jehovah-JUDGE]
For there I an sitting to judge all the nations from around."
It is evident that all this refers to the nations who will be living on the earth in that day when Christ returns to establish His kingdom of glory on the earth. It has nothing whatever to do with the church or the wicked dead.
Christ will sever the nations from one another as a shepherd is severing the sheep from the kids, putting the sheep nations on His right and the kids on the left. Apparently these nations are made up largely of uncivilized peoples of the earth in that day, as they seem to know nothing of Christ. The sheep nations will be adjudged "just" for having befriended His brethren according to the flesh, showing them kindness, protection and assistance while suffering the awful affliction under the Desolator, and will be passed into the millennial kingdom and blessed with all the abundance of soulish blessings of that era, subservient to Israel. The nations who gave no consideration to the suffering and distress of His brethren during this awful affliction, will be sent away into eonian chastening (Matt.25:46).
This passage of Scripture is usually appealed to when proving eternal life for the righteous and everlasting punishment for the wicked--heaven and hell. But neither heaven nor hell, eternal life nor everlasting punishment are in view in the passage!
Another objection is usually raised concerning the eonian life given to the sheep nations, that this will be salvation by "good works;" and we readily agree that such is the case here, for faith seems not to enter into it in any way. The cause for such an objection however, is failure to apprehend that during God's eonian administrations He uses various methods of fitting mankind for fellowship with Himself. It should be remembered that the church which is the body of Christ, is graced with a salvation more transcendently glorious than all others, and at the time of this judgment scene, is already enjoying the bliss of their allotment among the celestials in heaven. The eonian salvation that becomes the portion of the nations in this judgment in no way compares with the allotment of glory lavished on the church (Eph. 2).
THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT
- Time: During the Re-creation of the Heavens and Earth by Fire.
- Place: Before the Great White Throne.
- Subjects: The Rest of the Dead and Sinning Messengers.
- Basis of Judgment: In accord with their Acts.
- Result: Judgment and Destruction (2 Peter 3:7).
THIS judgment of the Great White Throne must be distinctly separated from other judgments in God's Eonian Purpose, as we have recounted in Chapter XVI, and the Scriptures relating to each carefully discriminated. The spirit has clearly differentiated these judgments, but human traditions have united them, slandering the character of the God of love by making Him a fiend, without mercy or justice. Apparently all who read concerning this judgment think of it as a black throne rather than the Great White Throne, where justice, mercy, and love will prevail (Matt.23:23; Luke 11:42). Only a pitiless logic devoid of the love of God will insist that this judgment will consist in dealing out affliction and distress, pains, and miseries without due deserts. May the God of love grant us the grace to consider the subject in accord with sanity and soberness of the truth apart from tradition.
THE TIME OF THIS JUDGMENT
The Scriptures are clear and explicit in revealing the time of this judgment in relation to other events in God's eonian administrations. Immediately after the close of the thousand years' reign and the destruction of the rebellious host of the nations under Satan, the Great White Throne and He Who is sitting upon it appears, from Whose face earth and heaven flee, and no place is found for them (Rev.20:7-11). Peter relates the judgment to the same events, saying:
"Yet the heavens now, and the earth, by the same word, are stored with fire, being kept for the day of the judgment and destruction of irreverent men. . . . "Now the day of the Lord will be arriving as a thief, in which the heavens shall be passing by with a booming noise, yet the elements will be dissolved by combustion, and the earth and the works in it will be discovered" (2 Peter 3:7-10).
This portion of study relative to the re-creation of the new heavens and earth must await Chapter XX. Here, we merely quote the Scripture to show that the Great White Throne Judgment takes place while the new creation is being effected. And it will be well to hold in mind that this day of judgment is not to be thought of as a day of twenty-four hours, but will involve a period of time sufficient for God to justly adjudicate all wrongs.
THE PLACE OF JUDGMENT
We are definitely told that the place of judgment is before the throne. Then comes the question: Where will the throne be located? In our being and thinking we are so inherently terrestrial that it seems almost impossible for us to conceive of being transported into the realms of space away from the earth. But a consideration of the spirit's description of a judgment throne in the earlier chapters of the Unveiling might be helpful. There we read:
"After these things I perceived, and lo! a door has been opened in heaven, and lo! the first sound which I hear, is as of a trumpet talking with me, saying, `Ascend here! and I shall be showing you what must be occurring after these things.' "Now immediately I came to be in spirit, and lo! a throne, located in heaven, and on the throne One sitting. And He Who is sitting is, to sight, like a jasper stone and a carnelian. And a rainbow surrounding the throne is, to sight, like an emerald.
"And out of the throne are issuing lightnings and voices and thunders. And seven torches of fire are burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. And before the throne it is as a glassy sea, like crystal. "And I perceived, and I hear a sound as of many messengers round the throne and the animals and the elders, and their number was ten thousands of ten thousands and thousands of thousands (Rev.4:1-3,5,6; 5:11).
Evidently this description presents the august judgment throne visioned by Daniel "like a fiery flame" (Dan.7:9), and viewed by Ezekiel "like sapphire" (Ezek.1:26). Majestic, as it is, it lacks the greatness of the judgment throne we are now studying. The spirit of God emphasizes two features of this throne not mentioned of the others--its size and color. The many thrones described before it were related to the living. But this throne, must, of necessity, be greater than all of them, when we consider the vastness of its jurisdiction. Just think for a moment of the innumerable multitudes throughout the centuries, past, and future, returned in death to the soil of the ground and in the sea, awaiting the voice of the One Who sits upon the Great White Throne! Its greatness must truly be prodigious to embrace within its jurisdiction the immense host of dead, who will stand before it for adjudication. With the earth and heaven gone, the universal greatness of the throne will so unquestionably manifest God's power and glory to all who stand there, that every iota of doubt and unbelief will be completely banished forever.
Now with reference to the place of judgment, our corrupted idea of all punishment being in a "hell," has led us astray from what the Scriptures reveal concerning this judgment of the Great White Throne. There we read:
"And I perceived the dead, great and small, standing before the throne. And scrolls were opened, and another scroll was opened, which relates to life. And the dead were judged by that which is written in the scrolls, in accord with their acts" (Rev.20:12).
This Scripture reveals that judgment will take place before the throne in the presence of Him Who will never be unjust or vindictive, or punish simply to gloat over the agonies and miseries of His creatures.
THE SUBJECTS OF THIS JUDGMENT
We now have before us for study a thought, relative to this judgment, which certainly calls for our careful discrimination, that we may be sure of not bringing into it those whom God has not ordained to be there, or leave out those whom He has seen it to be wise to have there. Some see in it all mankind, good and bad, righteous and unrighteous, believers and unbelievers. But, as we have already learned, the Scriptures have no place for one general resurrection and judgment. On the contrary, many judgments are recorded, of which the Great White Throne is the last. Hence it is of the utmost importance to discriminate between those adjudicated in the various judgments.
In the first place, we are to discriminate between vivification and resurrection. Readers of the UNSEARCHABLE RICHES magazine have been blessed with Brother Knoch's expositions on this subject. In the January number of 1927, his paper entitled "Raise, Rouse, Vivify" clearly sets before us the teaching of God's word on the subject. In the Scriptures, "raise" has to do with the body, "rouse" with the soul, and "vivify" (quicken) with the spirit, in reference to their return from dissolution in death. Vivify or "make alive" always has special reference to the return of the spirit from death, giving life beyond the reach of death by conferring incorruption or immortality. On the other hand, "raise" or "resurrection" has particular reference to the body, but not, of course, apart from the soul and spirit. But the important distinction we want to remember here is, that there can be, and have been, "resurrections" from the dead, apart from vivification or "quickening" beyond the power of death. Take, for examples, the widow of Nain's son, Lazarus, and others, during our Lord's and the apostles' ministry, who were resurrected to life, but were not vivified, and, of course, died again. Now in contrast with this, Christ is the Firstborn of "vivification," "Who alone has immortality" (1 Tim.6:16). With these thoughts in mind, give study to the accompanying chart. There we have graphically illustrated the three "vivifications" and the three "resurrections" of the Scriptures. Of the "vivifications," Christ is "the Firstfruit" (1 Cor.15:23), thereupon, "they who are Christ's at His presence" (1 Cor.15:23, 24), thereafter, "the consummation" (1 Cor.15:24).
Of the "resurrections," the first group embraces all the saints constituting the "church which is the body of Christ," called and sealed with the holy spirit of promise through the evangel of which Paul became the dispenser, from his severance in Acts thirteen till the presence of the Lord for their assembling with Him at the meeting in the air. All in this resurrection, will, of course, be "vivified," and possess life beyond the power of death. The next group "resurrected" will include all those who become enjoyers of the allotment of righteousness which is in accord with faith from Adam to the "first," or "former," resurrection of Revelation 20:6, marking the beginning of the millennial reign. All in this resurrection will be "vivified," for we are expressly told that those who have part in this resurrection, "over these the second death has no jurisdiction" (Rev.20:6). They will possess life beyond the reach of death. The third group "resurrected" will be the "rest of the dead who live not until the thousand years may be finished" (Rev.20:5). It is set in contrast with the "first," or "former," resurrection at the beginning of the thousand years' reign. It does not include "vivification," and all who come forth in this great assize, will be subjects of the jurisdiction of the second death. It includes mankind in general, great and small, from Cain unto the Great White Throne, the vast majority of whom were outside of any written revelation, covenants, promises, and choosings of God preparatory to the great secret of His will--the administration of the complement of the eras (Eph.1:10), the last eon.
THE BASIS OF JUDGMENT
The Scriptures reveal that all adjudication at the Great White Throne will proceed in accord with their acts. The just Judge will, of course, take into consideration the mental and physical equipment of each one, the opportunity afforded by the circumstances which surrounded them, and the eon and administration in which they lived. Some will be judged for the irreverence and injustice committed against their knowledge of God, through His invisible attributes descried from the creation of the world, being apprehended through His achievements, as well as His imperceptible power and divinity, for them to be defenseless (Rom.1:18-23). Others will be judged by the theophanies of Christ, the ministry of Messengers, the Law, the Incarnation, the holy spirit, the Evangel of the Grace of God, the Conciliation, the Coming Indignation, and the Reign of Messiah ben David.
And I perceived the dead, great and small, standing before the throne. And scrolls were opened, and another scroll was opened, which relates to life. And the dead were judged by that which is written in the scrolls, in accord with their acts.
And the sea gives up the dead in it, and death and the unseen give up the dead in them. And they were condemned, each in accord with their acts (Rev.20:12,13).
In Romans we have the basis of this judgment marked out so clearly that no one need go astray if we do not read into it demands of which the just Judge does not speak. There it is written:
"Yet, in accord with your hardness and unrepentant heart you are hoarding for yourself indignation in the day of indignation and revelation of the just judgment of God, Who will be paying each one in accord with his acts" (Rom.2:5,6).
This Scripture, considered in its context, we repeat, speaks of mankind in general, the vast majority of whom are outside of any written revelation. God will be paying each one in accord with the personal and social deeds of wickedness among each other, as well as their irreverent offenses toward Him. The judgment will be in keeping with the knowledge of God which they possess during the time and circumstances under which they have lived, whether they followed out the instinct of their conscience for good acts or gave themselves over to the corrupt and lustful practices of the world. Amidst the great slough of corrupt humanity, given over to a disqualified mind, to do that which is not befitting, we have the expressed declarations of Scripture that there were some inspired by better motives who did not participate in the great catalogue of sin and evil, who will receive recognition for their good acts in this judgment. Let us note the account of the Ninevites, repenting at the proclamation of Jonah in contrast with the "wicked generation" in our Lord's day, who gave no heed to His proclamation. Christ said of them:
"Ninevite men will be standing up in judgment with this generation and they will be condemning it, seeing that they repent at the proclamation of Jonah, and lo! more than Jonah is here!" (Luke 11:32).
Then, again, there is the account of the queen of the south, who fitted out a train of camels and traveled possibly a thousand miles to learn the wisdom of Solomon, and our Lord said of her:
"The queen of the south will be roused in the judgment with the men of this generation, and will be condemning them, seeing that she came out from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and lo! more than Solomon is here!" (Luke 11:31).
These Scriptures unmistakably speak of recognition being accorded in the day of judgment to those, who out of the instinct of their hearts, have displayed the action of the law in their good acts. Of these Paul says:
"For whenever they of the nations, having no law, may be doing by instinct what the law demands, these, having no law, are a law to themselves, who are displaying the action of the law written in their hearts, their conscience joining its witness, and their reasonings between one another accusing or defending them, in the day when God will be judging the hidden things of humanity, according to my evangel, through Jesus Christ" (Rom.2:14-16).
This assures every one of a just adjudication in accord with his acts.
RESULT OF THE JUDGMENT
The result will be judgment and condemnation in accord with their acts. A severe wage is held forth to all who have wantonly participated in the acts of evil and injustice, as it is written:
"Yet to those of faction, and stubborn, indeed, as to the truth yet persuaded to injustice, indignation and fury, affliction and distress, on every human soul which is effecting evil" (Rom.2:8, 9).
"And the sea gives up the dead in it, and death and the unseen give up the dead in them. And they were condemned each in accord with their acts" (Rev.20:13).
It is here that all the irreverence and injustice of men will receive just adjudication and all wrongs will be made right. After justice has been fully meted out to each one, being outside of the realm of faith, the second death will have jurisdiction over them (Rev.2:11; 20:6).
"This is the second death--the lake of fire. And if anyone was not found written in the scroll of life, he was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev.20:14,15).
"Yet the timid, and unbelievers, and the abominable, and murderers and paramours, and enchanters and idolators, and all the false-- their part is in the lake burning with fire and sulphur, which is the second death" (Rev.21:8).
The lake of fire, as will be shown in our next chapter, is not a place of conscious suffering for humanity, but is the second death. Neither is it any part of the judgment of the Great White Throne. The adjudicating discipline of the irreverent and evil doers will be administered by the just Judge before the throne.