I was driving home from work a few weeks ago and, while listening to the radio, a young man had called in. He was going to law school and relaying, in subdued frustration, how the climate he found himself in daily in that academic and worldly environment, had filled him with a tension—a tension for believers like him and us– to stand firm in his faith and godly convictions while being attacked from society on several sides; many times mocked, trivialized or even ignored.
Yet I think there is also an even stronger or more pervasive tension that arises from within believers in their calling to live (think, speak and act) in love, kindness, truth and grace towards others despite these types of situations and attitudes. Others will be judged by the Lord Jesus Christ one day, and what a fearful day of reckoning that will be. The world tends to imagine for itself a Jesus who does not exist. This is part of what the Bible means by the term “false Christs.” Everyone in this world, but not of it, wishes to remember only selective attributes of our Savior, but not the whole. In this way, they only wish to get as close to Him as they are comfortable with and so deceive themselves. They have heard of the kind, gentle, meek and peaceable Son of G-d. They forget or don’t wish to know that He is a just G-d dealing with a sinful and rebellious people, and that the attributes expressed in His rebukes (towards Peter, towards the Pharisees) and admonitions (to the woman caught in the act of adultery, the man in John 5:14 who was blind because of sin) and that came with a message that would not bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34) are every bit as much parts of His righteous character.
As Christians who love and worship our Messiah and await His coming—not with trembling or indifference—but with expectation and the full assurance of hope, we are very familiar with these titles of Jesus Christ: “Prince of peace,” “Lord of lords,” and “King of kings.” While these well-known designations are quite apt for our Savior, the thought came to me (and I am quite sure it was Him who put it there!), “Why isn’t He ever referred to as “Judge of judges”? Is He a judge? What does the Word of G-d say?
Acts 17:31 says, “Because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.” 2 Timothy 4:1 reads, “I charge you in the presence of G-d and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead…” And John 5:22-23 speaks more pointedly, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father.” We read in the Old Testament that Israel has a period where there were no kings, but instead G-d appointed judges (Judges 4:4, 17:6, 21:25). Even as the Lord Jesus Christ is Lord of all the earthly lords (masters, owners, sirs) and King over all earthly kings (royalty, authority, governors, emperors), He is Judge of all judges!!! Hallelujah for the Christian who the Judge has already set free, and what doom for those who dismiss or disbelieve the pardon.
Now what does this mean for the unbeliever/Gentile/unsaved/non-Christian? Since the wages of sin is death, which is eternal separation from G-d (Since He Himself is Life), those who have rejected the free gift of Christ’s voluntary and substitutionary death (in their place) on the cross and by His blood will undergo, first, judgment from the very One who enabled their salvation. This is known as the “Judgment Seat of Christ” or the “Bema Seat Judgment.” Here, the only just and evidentiary sentence is eternal death and the lake of fire (Hebrews 10:27-31).
For the Christian, we have what is known as the “Great White Throne Judgment.” This, among other places, is briefly described in Revelation 20:11-15 which refers to the Book of Life; this same wonderful Book is earlier mentioned in Exodus 32:33 where G-d says to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot out of My Book.” This is a horrible expectation since all who have ever lived have also sinned. This same thought came to the disciples in Mark 10:26 when they asked, “Who then can be saved?” (Written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.) Jesus responded, “With man it is impossible, but not with G-d. For all things are possible with G-d.” What does this mean? What is it only G-d can do? Isaiah 53 says of G-d’s plan to rescue mankind from the grips of sin by the Judge Himself fulfilling the sentence that is due the accused and the guilty (verses 1-6, 10):
“Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.
He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken. Smitten by G-d, and afflicted. But He was wounded for OUR transgressions; He was crushed for OUR iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought US peace, and with His stripes WE are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all…yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him.”
This Judge decided that His love expressed through mercy (which we do not at all deserve!) was better than simply judgment. Why, since we are all guilty? Because judgment is based solely on facts, evidence and testimony; and He is a just Judge. But because He created us for fellowship and worship, there is an overt implication of relationship in His purposes. He handed down the due verdict of “guilty,” but He paid the price in our place! Who but Him would do that? No one! Will you take advantage of this gift? He laid down His life for all of us. We need to lay down our lives for Him and His purposes in exchange. Praise be to His name! He alone is glorious and worthy of all our love and devotion.