Summary: A talk which explores the biblical theme of judgment
The prospect of STANDING before God on judgment day is one of those Bible ideas that gets lots of bad press:
We either laugh it away (slide)
Or think of those failed predictions (slide)
Or the images are so horrible we push them to one side (slide)
The Word of God brings us BACK to out senses. WHY is final judgment necessary? WHEN will it happen? WHY will it happen? WHAT’S the purpose of judgment? These are some of the questions for us today. Then over the next few weeks we’ll be looking at the OUTCOME of judgment which is either heaven or hell.
The Bible affirms that there will be a great and final JUDGMENT for believers and unbelievers. At this time each one of us will STAND before the judgment seat of Christ and hear the ANNOUCEMENT of our eternal destiny. It is most vividly described in John’s vision in Revelation—Rev 20:11–15:
‘Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done’.
It’s a grand and solemn picture—the GREAT white throne—the DEAD rising—BOOKS opened—DEEDS exposed—JUDGMENT executed. As one commentator says, this is ‘the consummate judgment, to which all previous judgments pointed and which is the climax of them all’ (G.K. Beale, Revelation).
We ought NOT be surprised that there is a final judgment because the THEME of judgment runs throughout the Bible. You may already know that it BEGINS with the rebellion of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3.
When God made the world he LOOKED upon it and declared that it was ‘it was very good’ (Gen 1:31). It was good because it reflected the INTENTIONS of its Maker. The psalmist excitedly says, ‘The heavens declare the glory of the God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands’ (Ps 19:1).
As Westerners we treat CREATION as rather inert and lifeless. But the Hebrew mind is far more BUOYANT and much more poetic. Creation is ALIVE and designed to sing the praises of God. (To which all the gardeners say, ‘Amen’). Ps 96:11, ‘Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, [and all that is in it]; let the fields be jubilant, [and everything in them]. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy’.
God gave Adam and Eve the TASK of looking after the garden. They are to WORK and care for the garden. Under their leadership, creation will continue to REFLECT the glory of God. It’s a fantastic plan. Men and women in God’s image: ENJOYING relationship with God, enjoying relationship with one ANOTHER, and ENJOYING relationship with the world around them.
The rebellion of Adam and Eve turns HARMONY into turmoil. The young, energetic couple with the WORLD at their feet snatch at divinity. They want the WISDOM that belongs to God. And when they eat from the tree and their EYES are opened—it’s a rather PITIFUL scene—with their new found wisdom the ONLY new thing they see is their own nakedness.
Accountability rules. The LORD searches for Adam, who fesses up and says, “I was afraid, I was naked, I hid from you. Don’t blame me, Lord, the woman was your idea’ (Gen 3:10, 12). The LORD catches up with Eve who says, ‘Don’t blame me, Lord, the serpent deceived me’ (Gen 3:13). So the LORD says to the serpent, ‘Cursed are you’; the LORD says to the woman, ‘You will have pain in childbirth and pain in marriage’; the LORD says to the man, ‘Cursed is the ground because of you, your work will NO longer be pleasant, you will return to the ground from which you came’.
Now blessing and curse stand side by side. As humanity MULTIPLIES itself through the generations, it takes with it the CURSE of sin. A progress report is given in Gen 6:5, in the time of Noah, ‘The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time’ (Gen 6:5). This prompts the FLOOD (Gen 6 to 8), the tower of BABEL (Genesis 12), the judgments upon SODOM and Gomorrah (Gen 19).
We cannot IMAGINE how much sin grieves God! Broken and strained relationships are the very OPPOSITE to the relationships between the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Church should be a place where relationships reach their CRESCENDO. The picture of church in Acts 2 is the prescription for all churches, ‘They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all people’ (Acts 2:46–47).