The Six Foundation Doctrines - Hebrews 6:1-2
Bible Study Series Part 6: Eternal Judgement
Notes prepared by Pastor Bob Beverley
To listen to Pastor Bob presenting this Bible study click here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).
The resurrection of Christians (born of water and the Spirit and walking in the Lord) at the return of Christ, and the resurrection of everyone else (except Enoch and Elijah who have been translated already) 1000 years later, is clear, but the terms and consequences of judgment are complicated and sometimes controversial. These notes are a logical, scripturally based understanding consistent with the righteous God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The topic of eternal judgment, the sixth foundation doctrine, is divided into three sections:
God the judge of all - the office of judge in the Old and New Testaments, and four principles of divine judgment.
God's judgment in history - examples in the Old and New Testaments
Three stages of eternal judgment - the judgment seat of Christ, which is for true Christians at the first resurrection; the judgment of Israel and the gentiles, both before and at the first resurrection and continuing through the millennium; and the final judgment - the second resurrection and afterwards.
1. God the Judge of all
Firstly, we must understand God's right and responsibility to judge his creation, and particularly man whom he made in his image. The title for God, 'the Judge of all' is given in Hebrews 12:22-29 'but you are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God . and to God the Judge of all'. These verses are a remarkable description of where the Christian has come to, as compared to the experience of Israel under the leadership of Moses in the wilderness.
As well as coming to God the Judge of All there are three other groups named - an innumerable company of angels (who kept their first estate); the church of the firstborn (saints of the new covenant - born of water and the Spirit); and just men made perfect (Old Testament 'saints'). It describes coming unto the city of the living God. Three parts of God are also named - the Judge of all; Jesus, mediator of the new covenant and the only one able to reconcile lost sinful man to a righteous Holy God; and the blood of Jesus (referred to in verse 24 as 'speaking better things than that of Abel').
Note the wonderful differences between the shed blood of Abel and the shed blood of Jesus:
Abel's blood was shed by a murderer without his consent; it was sprinkled on the earth; and it cried out to God for vengeance against the sinner. But the blood of Jesus was freely given with his consent; it was sprinkled on the earth AND on the mercy seat in heaven AND on the heart of the Christian; and his blood pleads for mercy and forgiveness for the sinner.
Verse 25 warns us to 'refuse not him who speaks . from heaven' and verse 29 that 'our God is a consuming fire'.
Judgment is followed by consequences!
The Office and Authority of 'Judge'
For Old Testament references to the office and authority of 'Judge', see Genesis 18:25 'shall not the judge of all the earth do right?
'; Judges 11:2 'the Lord the Judge'
, Psalm 58:11 'he is a God that judges'
and Isaiah 33:22 'for the Lord is our judge'
Mankind is expected to respect and fear the righteous judgment of God, but the truest and most perfect expression of God's eternal nature is NOT in judgment but in grace, NOT in wrath but in mercy.
In Isaiah 28:21
we read 'the Lord shall rise up . he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work, and bring to pass his act, his strange act'.
Wrath is strange or alien to God's nature but it is the only possible response to the unholy and unthankful nature of man.
There is a specific sequence of transference of responsibility for judgment in the New Testament. Firstly, It makes it clear that judgment belongs to God the Father 'the Father judges according to every man's work'
)', but he has committed judgment to the Son - 'the Father judges no man . commits all judgment to the Son' (John 5:22 & 23
), and '. has given him authority to execute judgment also'
). Because honour is due to the holder of the office of Judge, God requires man to give the same honour to Jesus as to himself, AND because Jesus is also the Son of Man, he can bring true judgment out of his own experience.
And now Jesus has transferred final authority to the Word of God. In John 12:47,48
Jesus says 'if any man hear my words and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world . the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day'.
Note Psalm 119:160
'thy word is true from the beginning and every one of thy righteous judgments endures for ever'. All the unchanging principles of God's judgment are in his word.
ALL JUDGMENT, WHETHER IT IS DESCRIBED AS BEING BY GOD OR JESUS, IS ACCORDING TO THE WORD OF GOD WHICH IS JESUS HIMSELF, AND THE WORDS THAT HE HAS SPOKEN ARE IN ACCORDANCE WITH GOD'S WILL.
The Four Principles of God's Judgment
1. According to truth:
Read Romans 2: 1, 2
'according to truth' (see also John 17:17
'thy Word is truth');
2. According to deeds
: Romans 2:6
'according to his deeds' (see also 1 Peter 1:17
'according to every man's work' and Revelation 20:12
'according to their works'). Deeds include the deep thoughts and motives of the heart. See Romans 2:16
'judge the secrets of men', 1 Corinthians 4:
5 'make manifest the counsels of the hearts' and Hebrews 4:12,13
'a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart'.
3. Without respect of persons
: Romans 2:11
says that there is 'no respect of persons with God'. Therefore God will not be influenced by those things that can affect the judgment of man (1Samuel 16:7
'the Lord looks on the heart').
4. It is righteous according to individual circumstances:
The Bible makes it clear that each person will be judged according to the measure of moral knowledge and understanding available to him (Romans 2:12
). In the Old Testament Israel was judged according to the law that God had given through Moses, but the gentiles (everyone else) would be judged against the general revelation of God to the whole human race through the creation. An understanding of right and wrong has been given to every human being (read Romans 2:13-16
says that because of the mighty works of God that were witnessed there, judgment upon the Israel cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum will be more severe than upon the gentile cities Tyre, Sidon and even Sodom.
2. God's Judgment in History
There are two distinct and separate stages of God's judgment of the human race - God's judgment in history and God's judgment in eternity (Hebrews 6:2).
Exodus 20:4-6 'visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children of the third and fourth generation'
; Jeremiah 32:18 'the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them.'
Here we see that there is an immediate and continuing consequence in the lives of people and their families and there is an extension for the individual into eternity as well.
Read Ezekiel 18:20 - 24: 'the soul that sins shall die' and 'in the sin that he has sinned, in them shall he die'
. So that is the condition of the soul when passing from time into eternity. See also John 8:21 'you shall die in your sins, where I go, you cannot come
', and Ecclesiastes 11:3 'in the place where the tree falls, there it shall be'
The destiny of each soul is settled by the condition in which it dies, but this does not necessarily mean that it will never be reconciled to God.
Other examples of God's judgment in history:
Some judgments are immediate and some extend through history.
2 Peter 2:6
: Sodom and Gomorrah - an example (or pattern) for 'those that live ungodly';
: 'Sodom - pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness. and did not strengthen the hand of the poor and needy' (surely a strong warning to our generation);
- Ananias and Sapphira who were religious hypocrites, covetous of wealth, not trusting God and lying to the holy Ghost (there was an immediate judgment of death);
An example of individual mercy in the midst of judgment is the story of how Rahab was saved from the destruction of Jericho in Joshua 6.
An example of future judgment is in Leviticus 26:14-45 and 27:36,37
- God's warning of judgments to come on Israel, but nevertheless he says his mercy will never be fully withdrawn from them.
Also see 1Timothy 5:24,25
'some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment: and some men they follow after'.
3. Three Stages of Eternal Judgment
There are three main successive scenarios for eternal judgment, and Paul, in 1Corinthians 10:32, mentions the three biblical groupings for most of the human race - the church of God (Christians), the Jews (Israel in part) and the gentiles. The remaining ten tribes of Israel are not separately mentioned in this verse.
1. The Judgment of Christians before the Judgment Seat of Christ
2. Part A: The Judgment of Israel, Part B: The Judgment of the Gentiles
3. Final Judgment
Each of these scenarios is dealt with in the following discussion.
First scenario: The Judgment Seat of Christ
2Corinthians 5:10 'for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ'
- for true Christians, (the church) of every race and every nation, born of water and the Spirit, this will happen at the first resurrection immediately following the return of Christ.
We know that true Christians, alive or in the grave, will be raised to meet Jesus in the air in the first resurrection at his return, and that those in that resurrection have therefore been judged righteous. Nevertheless they will 'all appear before the judgment seat of Christ'.
1 Peter 4:17, 18
'judgment must begin at the house of God';
'we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ..everyone shall give account of himself to God';
2 Corinthians 5:10
: 'we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ'.
THE JUDGMENT OF CHRISTIANS WILL NOT BE ONE OF CONDEMNATION
Read John 3:18
'he that believes on him is not condemned';
: 'he that hears my word and believes on him that sent me has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation';
'there is .no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus'.
So the Christian will have to give account to God (Romans 14:12
), but he will not need to be judged for the sins he has committed if he continues to believe and follow 1John1:5-9
. 'but if we walk in the light . the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanses us from all sin .if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'.
A Christian can not be judged in respect of righteousness because his righteousness is that of Christ imputed to him by the Holy Ghost on the basis of his faith (2 Corinthians 5:21 'for he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him'
THE JUDGMENT OF CHRISTIANS WILL BE FOR REWARDS
The scriptures in 1Corinthians 3:11-15
are about the quality of what we build on the foundation of Christ (gold, silver etc) not the quantity (hay, wood, stubble). It is not a judgment of salvation but of work.
What is the nature of the fire that will burn up what is useless? The vision of Christ given to John in Revelation 1:14, 15
, which says 'his eyes were as a flame of fire', gives us some understanding. As each of us stands before him those eyes will burn into every thought, every action, and all that is insincere and valueless. The rubbish in our works will be consumed and only that which is true and of enduring value will survive 'purified by fire'. It is also reasonable to understand that in his life the Christian may suffer the fire of persecution that will burn up much of the rubbish and purify the gold and silver prior to the resurrection.
SO WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPLES OF JUDGMENT FOR CHRISTIAN SERVICE?
They are given in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30
and the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27
). In both cases two servants worked with what they had been given to bring profit for their master while the third servant did nothing with it, with fearful results.
'cut him asunder and appoint his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth'
; Luke 19:36
'from him that has not, even that he has shall be taken away from him'
, and Luke 12:36-48
is similar - 'the lord of that servant will come. and will cut him in sunder and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers'.
Because the judgment of Christians is for reward and not condemnation this appears to mean that some will not be in the first resurrection and will wait till judgment at the second resurrection, but will not necessarily be apart from God forever.
'knows what to do and does it not it is sin'; and James 2:26
'faith without works is dead'
So if a Christian's faith is empty, worthless, insincere, and he professes faith in Christ without ever seeking to serve him then he is a hypocrite. If he continues in that state then he may be cast into outer darkness, at least until the second resurrection.
See also the parables of the wheat and the tares and the fishing dragnet referring to the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 13.36-50
. The Kingdom of Heaven is probably not the whole world but all those that profess to be Christian (whether they are or not).
Seeking to understand and clarify, we have:
- The harvest is at the end of the world
- Angels shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and them which do iniquity and cast them into the furnace of fire - weeping and gnashing of teeth.
- Then shall the righteous shine forth
So if the unrighteous are cast into fire, when does this happen, and is it final (for eternity)? Such a judgment does not take place until the second resurrection and we must be careful not to presume what the final judgment of God will be on any individual.
The sequence appears to be:
- are not in the first resurrection
- are in 'hell' (place of rest)
- will be raised for judgment in the second resurrection
- hypocrites and false Christians who are 'together' with true Christians in the world will be judged harshly because of greater revelation. (see the principle in Romans 2:5-16)
Second scenario (part A): The Judgment of Israel
This takes place before the first resurrection and continuing through the millennium (the thousand years when Jesus rules and reigns).
Matthew 19:28: 'In the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of his glory, you also shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel';
Jeremiah 30:3-9; 'I will bring again from their captivity my people Israel and Judah . to return to the land I gave to their fathers . the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it . David their king whom I will raise up unto them'
In this discussion it must be remembered that All Israel consists of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin described as Judah in the bible and known as the Jews and the other ten tribes described as Israel in the bible. With respect to judgment I am distinguishing between "Israel', the Jews, and All Israel, the twelve tribes. 'Israel,' the Jews, are descendants of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin wherever they are in the world and as represented by the nation called Israel. They are part only of ALL Israel which includes the descendents of all the other ten tribes who are scattered throughout the earth and who are the holders of a national promise represented by the Throne of David continuing in Britain. These people do not call themselves Jews and are generally nominal Christians.
Jeremiah 30:3-9 gives us the order of events for God's judgment on 'Israel'.
- God will bring 'Israel' back to their own land - this has happened.
- There will be a time of national peril and distress - this continues to happen.
- Eventually God will intervene against the 'strangers' - Gentile persecutors, and will save 'Israel' from them. Yet to happen.
- The national kingdom of Israel (ALL Israel) will be restored upon the throne of David with Jesus on the throne in Jerusalem.
This is a frightening judgment on 'Israel' with world wide consequences. See Zechariah 12:2,3 and 14:1-4; Ezekiel 20:33-38; Zechariah 13:9.
Zechariah 12:9,10 and 13:6 'they shall look upon me whom they have pierced...and one shall say unto him. What are these wounds in thine hands? Then shall he answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.'
These are amazing scriptures telling us that the Jews will finally realize who it was they put on the cross over 2000 years before!
These ones that are left of 'Israel' will be brought into a new covenant through Jesus Christ which will be in part under the law again, (it will not include animal sacrifice for example). It will not be the Holy Spirit salvation covenant of the church.
Romans 11:25, 26: '.that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved . the Deliverer . shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob (Israel)'
Some descendents of Jacob are being saved (born of water and of the Spirit) in the gospel age, but for the remainder the word 'saved' cannot mean Holy Spirit salvation AFTER Jesus has returned. Therefore it is describing a process during the millennium when the twelve tribes, National Israel, will again become the example nation in Palestine under Jesus' rule, culminating in the 'marriage feast of the Lamb' with the fully repentant and restored Israel wedded to Jesus Christ at the opening of the 'ages of the ages' which follows the millennium. No doubt some Jews will remain rebellious and will be judged after the second resurrection.
During this time, through the millennium, when Jesus has returned, the saints (the church) will be ruling with Jesus. Some of the scriptures that describe this position and responsibility are:
Matthew 25:21, 23 'ruler over many things'
Luke 19:17, 19 'ruler over ten cities and five cities'
Matthew 19:28 the apostles 'judging the twelve tribes of Israel'
Revelation 5:9, 10 'made us unto our God kings and priests'
Revelation 20:4-6 'lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years'
Second scenario (part B): The Judgment of the Gentiles
This is the judgment of all people who are not true Christians. They are of every nation or "faith", and they may be unbelievers or rebellious Jews or believers in another god or failed/hypocritical Christians.
This takes place at the first resurrection and continues through the millennium.
Matthew 25:31-46 'the Son of man shall come in his glory . then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory . before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats'.
Matthew 25:31-46 'the Son of man . then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all nations (peoples) and he shall separate them one from another . then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my father inherit the kingdom prepared for you . then shall he say also unto them on the left hand Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels ..and these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal'
All these are people who are not in the first resurrection. Some commentators suggest that when Jesus refers to his 'brethren' in verse 40 he is referring to Jews only. I believe this is too narrow a view and that because he is the Son of Man he is referring to the way people have treated their fellow human beings whoever and wherever they are.
Therefore it seems likely that this judging starts after the first resurrection and continues during the millennium in order to include those people who are living during that time, and is finally completed at the judgment after the second resurrection.
Third scenario: Final Judgment
Those judged here are all the remaining dead resurrected in the second resurrection at the end of the millennium.
This takes place at the second resurrection and afterwards.
Revelation 20:11,12 'and I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works'.
Revelation 20:10-15: The devil, the beast and the false prophet are in the lake of fire to be tormented day and night for ever and ever. God is on the great white throne and the dead, small and great stand before God to be judged according to their works. That means according to what they have done with what they know. Death and hell are cast into the lake of fire and whoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
Now there are some scriptures that raise interesting questions about what happens after this final judgment. For example:
Colossians 1:20: '. by him to reconcile all things to himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven'
1 Corinthians 15:24-28 '. the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death . that God may be all in all'
Philippians 2:10, 11 '. that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth .'
Romans 14:11 '. as I live says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me and every tongue shall confess to God'
It is not fruitful to speculate about the 'why' and 'how' and 'when' implied in these scriptures, but rather we must make sure we are in the first resurrection and have confidence that God is, and will be, righteous in all his judgments.
Revelation 22:11,12 'He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And behold I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.'