What the Bible says about
Judgment as Process
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The subject of judging often seems very difficult to grasp. Some use the term "judge" in a generalized way, making assertions such as, "We shouldn't judge one another." Is this true? If we took this to an extreme, we could make no evaluation of whether a person's conduct is acceptable to God, society, or ourselves. Such a totally non-judgmental atmosphere would generate such tolerance that it would be hazardous to life and limb. Nothing would be called into question. Nothing would be wrong.
God never intended any such thing when Jesus said, "Judge not that you be not judged." Again, if taken to an extreme, a person's example, whether good or bad, would have no power to influence behavior in others. Before determining whether we want to imitate or reject how another person acts, we must evaluate—judge—his conduct.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Judgment, Tolerance, and Correction
Jesus tells us that the bad fish are thrown into the fire. John the Baptist says this in a slightly different way in Matthew 3:12: "[Jesus] will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." This principle appears somewhat differently in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46): Christ is Judge, and He sets the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left. He judges that the sheep can enter eternal life, while the goats receive the destructive judgment of fire.
Although a final judgment is coming for the world, the church is now under God's judgment (I Peter 4:17; Revelation 11:1-2). Not only is the sentence coming, but our conduct and growth are also currently being judged - Christ is evaluating whether we meet His high standards. Ultimately, everyone is judged the same way, according to the same standard, by the same criteria. The "bad fish" among us are not ours to judge, but Jesus, the righteous Judge, has promised to judge with equity (Psalm 98:9).
Matthew 13:50 says they are thrown "into the furnace of fire." A similar thing occurs in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares: At the end of the age, the tares will be gathered and thrown into the furnace (verses 30, 41-42). The emphasis in the Parable of the Tares is on the wicked and their evil works and their subsequent judgment. However, in the Parable of the Dragnet, instead of highlighting the wickedness, Jesus focuses on the process of judgment, not necessarily on condemning evildoers. Some people are condemned for doing wicked things, but others are saved and rewarded for doing the good works assigned to them. God's calling is first impartial, and then His judgment is absolutely fair. The wicked will get only what they deserve.
God's "catch" is the church, a chosen cross-section of the entire world; He casts a wide net. However, once those He calls accept Jesus Christ, God does show Himself partial to the "good fish" - those who love Him, obey Him, serve others, grow, and produce spiritual fruit. In the process of salvation, God judges whether we are good, useable fish or substandard fish fit only for the fire. He judges us according to how we measure up against His standard of righteousness, "the perfect man, . . . the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). God throws His net into the world and drags us in, and if we are unwilling to comply with His holy standard, our eternal judgment will be to be discarded in the fire.
Presently, the church's function is not judicial but declarative. On the one hand, the church is responsible to warn sinners of the dire consequences of sin and of the time of God's judgment coming upon all humanity. On the other hand, we are to witness of God's way of life, as well as to proclaim Christ's return and the establishment of God's wonderful, benevolent government here on earth. That is good news!
Martin G. Collins
The Parables of Matthew 13 (Part Eight): The Parable of the Dragnet
We tend to think of judgment as the eternal judgment and the sorting of sheep to the right and goats to the left at the return of Jesus Christ. While this ultimately comes into play, we first need to examine some elements of judgment in the "here and now" rather than the "there and then." For the converted Christian, judgment is now on the house of God (I Peter 4:17).
As used in Matthew 23:23 as a weighty matter, "judgment" is from the Greek word krisis, meaning "decision for or against" and suggesting a tribunal or formal judgment. It implies "justice." Justice has several meanings, the first of which is "impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or assignment of deserved punishment or reward." More simply, when a conflict arises among people, justice is administering what is just - "factual, reasonable, faithful, morally upright, good, fair, righteous, impartial, and legally correct."
The Pharisees took one element of that definition - the "legally correct" part - and based their relationships with others on it, conveniently deleting fairness, impartiality, reasonableness, etc. from their thinking. Christ wanted them to be legally correct, for it is part of proper decision-making, but there is more to it than that!
The Weightier Matters (Part 1): Introduction
An honest evaluation of what Jesus teaches will show that He gives very few rules, if any, for keeping the Sabbath (or for that matter, for anything). There is a reason for that. For one thing, the rules were already laid down in the Old Testament. Also what He came to do was to magnify the spiritual application of that law, that is, teach and expound the spirit of the law, the intention for the law.
There is hardly a law that He paid more attention to than the Sabbath, magnifying its use. There are at least seven different occasions in the four Gospels in which the Sabbath is the issue, when Jesus magnified its use for us. Every one of them has a theme of redemption in it.
What He teaches us are principles for applying the rules that have already been given in the Old Testament. For some of us, that is kind of disconcerting. We would like to have something like a bus or an airline timetable to take us through life in which every possible avenue is detailed as to exactly how we should go, where we should do something, when we should do it in every possible situation that might arise.
God allowed the Jews to try that. They eventually came up with 1,521 rules concerning the Sabbath, which they felt would cover every situation that one might possibly get into. What God is showing us through Jesus Christ is that this is unnecessary. In short, it does not work, or God would have done it. A person is not free when he is bound to those kinds of regulations.
Living in the twentieth century is not quite the same as living in the first or second centuries. Besides, that approach does negative things to a person's character; it produces an extremely narrow, intolerant, and critical casuist. What Christ did in giving us principles is that He gave us things that will last unalterable to the end of time and allow us to be free. They allow a person not always to do exactly the same thing each time. Every situation has to be judged on its own merit.
What does God want to do with our lives? What is He trying to form? He is creating in us an ability—an expertise—to judge. We are going to be kings and priests (Revelation 5:10). What does a king do? A king judges in civil matters, things that pertain to the community. What does a priest do? A priest also judges, but he judges in things spiritual. God is teaching us how to judge.
How we use the Sabbath is an integral part of His training program, and so He has purposely left out all kinds of details. But what He did through Jesus is magnify things so that we can see the intent. What we are seeing is that the intent for the Sabbath is to free. It is to liberate. It is not to bind people with rules.
There is a risk involved in what God is doing. In one sense, it puts a person at very grave risk. Blundering, foolish, and self-centered as we are, there is a grave danger of taking our liberty and turning it into license to do virtually anything we want. Or, on the other hand, to take our liberty and do as the Jews did, becoming so restrictive that we turn the Sabbath into bondage.
But God has to do that! If we are going to become judges, trained in the purpose that He wants, He has to allow us this liberty to make the judgments. So it is a risk that must be taken if a person is going to grow in judgment and character, so one will be prepared to be a king and a priest, knowing when to act and when not to act. God offers to us His Holy Spirit to give us counsel and to guide. But we must apply the principles in the circumstances of our lives.
In no case did Jesus give any indication of doing away with the Sabbath. Always the examples show Him magnifying the Sabbath's intent by doing an act of freeing someone.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 3)
Jesus explains in John 5:25-29 that there is more than one resurrection. To understand the resurrections, it is important to discern the meaning of the word krisis, variously translated "judgment" or "condemnation" (verses 22, 27, 29-30). According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary by Spiros Zodhiates, krisis generally means "separation," "decision," "division," "turn of affairs," and "judgment." The Companion Bible defines it as "a separating, a judgment, especially of judicial proceedings." Notice that it does not necessarily indicate the end of an affair.
A very clear similarity exists between the Greek krisis and the English "crisis." Crisis means "a turning point for better or worse" in the progress of an affair or a series of events. It is not necessarily the end, but a critical juncture, and the affair continues on. In this sense, krisis indicates a turn of affairs, a turning point, in a person's life. It may be the end, but, then again, it may be a time when his life takes a considerable turn for the better! Maybe God has, for the first time, revealed Himself and His purpose to him so he may be judged.
In the biblical sense, judgment can imply a period during which a process is ongoing. The decision, or sentence, comes at the end of the judgment. I Peter 4:17 shows this pattern in relation to the church. "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?"
Here the word translated "judgment" is from the Greek krima. According to Zodhiates, this word derives from the same root as krisis, but in this case, it indicates the act of judging, that is, a process including the final decision or sentence. The Bible uses this word only in reference to future reward and punishment.
Again we have indications of an active process, not merely a final decision. The active process includes both what the Judge is doing (observing, evaluating; Psalm 11:4) as well what the judged are doing. A judgment cannot be made without both aspects. In I Peter 4:17, God is judging "the house of God" and "those who do not obey the gospel" within the framework of how they live their lives.
Peter says, "The time has come for judgment to begin," implying that judgment did not officially start until Christ founded the church. Now that it has begun, all mankind will eventually be included within God's judgment. The pattern for judgment is therefore being established in the church.
When we see the overall picture of God's purpose, we can better understand what occurs in a Christian's life. God calls and grants repentance. We are baptized, receive the Holy Spirit, and are put into the church, where we begin to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ until we come to the measure of the stature of His fullness. During this period of sanctification, God puts us through trials, and we overcome, producing the fruits of His Spirit. Sanctification prepares us for God's Kingdom and determines our reward.
Paul helps us understand this in Romans 5:1-5:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character;and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which was given to us.
All of this requires time. It is not God's purpose merely to save us, but to bring us to His image so that we will be prepared for His Kingdom. Our God is a Creator. He is reproducing Himself in us. Like a wise parent, He is judging, evaluating what is best for our development, then putting us through the next step in that ongoing process until we inherit His Kingdom. This is a true understanding of a major portion of the doctrine of eternal judgment (Hebrews 6:2).
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Final Harvest
1 Corinthians 2:13-15
True wisdom is the result of human reason coupled with revelation. Yet, even true wisdom will result only if a person believes what God says. Only then does a person have the opportunity to see God. He is hidden from those who put their faith in human wisdom.
Natural in this context does not mean "evil." It simply refers to one whose horizons are bounded by the things of natural life, by "the around and the about." Such a person is not equipped to discern the activities of God. But a person with the Holy Spirit can examine God's activities and make judgments based on them. Therefore, in his process of judgment, God comes into the picture. When the Spirit of God comes into a person's life, the basis of his judgment should change! This occurs, not because the person is any "greater" or "better," but because the Spirit of God equips him to see and to use godly wisdom. Now he can judge all things from God's perspective. This indeed is our responsibility!
Because God has called us, we should see God so clearly and know His greatness so intimately that we can live in the expectation that something great can happen at any moment to those who are receptive. The God who raised up Jesus is equal to any occasion—any possibility! Is anything too hard for Him? Certainly not! He throws that challenge out to man—to those who truly see Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Do You See God? (Part Two)
Revelation 7:1-8 describes the 144,000, then verse 9 begins with "after these things." This is simply a time marker in John's vision, not in prophetic time. It means afterward, later, John saw an innumerable multitude. The Greek does not say that the events of Revelation 7:9-17 immediately follow or that they are part ofthe preceding information—only that John received this information after the previous information. Perhaps it could follow right after, but the Greek does not require it.
John says "no one could number" this multitude (verse 9). Why? Notice that this multitude is comprised "of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues."That would seem to be a great many people! The context indicates a large number, not just an indeterminate one.
John sees these people "standing before the throne and before the Lamb"—not with Him on the throne ruling, but before the throne in judgment. Remember, judgment occurs over a period of time. The firstfruits have already been judged and have risen at Christ's return, so this multitude has to be people in a different group who are judged later.
Revelation 3:21, written directly to Laodicea, says God grants overcomers the reward of sitting with Him on His throne! Thus, they have qualified to be in the first resurrection, having been judged to be worthy now (I Peter 4:17). We have already seen that whether we die in Christ or are still alive, we are "changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet" (I Corinthians 15:51-52) as firstfruits. None of those in the first resurrection will stand "before the throne" for judgment when He returns, for we are currently under judgment, which God will complete and reward us at His Son's return (Revelation 11:18).
This multitude, then, cannot be in the first resurrection! In the process of judgment, they have donned white robes, a growth in spirituality that takes considerable time.
The Innumerable Multitude
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