Summary: What is "judgment" and how do the various judgments referenced in the Bible apply to us?
WONDERING ABOUT JUDGMENT?
John 8:12-18, 21-27, 42-47
We’ve all heard the quotation regarding death and taxes and the certainty of these things happening. This quote may be one of those statements that are true most of the time but there are exceptions. With the evolution of our society that is being fundamentally changed, we are seeing more people who pay no taxes but are net recipients of tax revenue that others pay. The other part of this so-called certainty – death – is one that Christians will avoid if they are caught up in the “rapture” of the church. So, we actually are not really certain even about death and taxes.
However, there is a truly inevitable appointment that every person has, either after death or the rapture, and that is the judgment. When we read about “judgment” in the Bible, we find a lot of instances where it is mentioned and sometimes it seems that the various statements are in conflict with each other. For example, in the giving of the Law in Exodus, we see that the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the children until the third or fourth generation. Then in Ezekiel we find the statement that “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son.” The apparent conflict arises from the differences in the judgments that are being considered. In the case of the Exodus account, the passage was dealing with God’s judgments in history or in the realm of “time” and in the Ezekiel passage the concern was with what we understand to be “eternal judgments” as mentioned in Hebrews 6:2.
While all judgments should be considered to be divine judgments, the judgments that happen in “time” are of at least two distinctions. The first is (for lack of a better description) related to “cause and effect” and the effects of the consequences of behavior (whether good or bad) can, indeed, be inter-generational. The second designation for judgments in “time” is the word “exemplary” which means that God may choose to make an example of someone or a group for the purpose of sending a “strong message” to those who would do the same things that triggered the specific exemplary judgment. The most obvious Old Testament example is that of Sodom and Gomorrah. The clearest New Testament example is that of Ananias and Sapphira. While all who practice the bad behavior of sexual perversion and hypocrisy are not immediately destroyed, the one-time examples show God’s strong displeasure and the eventual consequences that result from such sinful behavior.
In Jesus’ interactions with the Jews that John recorded in Chapter 8, we find the subject of judging and judgment being mentioned. As we explore these passages, we can find some additional truths concerning the subject of judgment.
Identify the True Judge – 8:12-18
12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” 13 So the Pharisees said to Him, “You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 “You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. 16 “But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. 17 “Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. 18 “I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.” John 8:12-18 (NASB95)
During the Feast of Tabernacles, torches were lit and placed on two candelabra in the women’s court of the temple (the treasury was located in that court area). These torches commemorated the pillar of fire that led the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings. Just as Jesus had used the ceremony involving water to invite anyone who was thirsty to come to Him and drink, He now used the ceremony of the torches to declare Himself to be the Light of the world. Apparently, these various torches provided the light needed to walk through the court area. Those who left that area would find themselves in the dark.
This contrast of light and darkness has implications regarding eternal judgment in that one of the criteria by which people will be judged is “according to light” or the measure of moral knowledge available to each person. In the setting there in Jerusalem, the Pharisees (in general) were the possessors of (or had available) the greatest amount of moral knowledge of anyone on earth at that time. The same thing could be said of our generation in our nation or in many other nations with Judeo-Christian heritages. We have available to us more moral knowledge than any other culture and yet we (as a nation) are making the same errors as those who are living in ignorance. Jesus specifically addressed this criterion in a later encounter with the Jews in John 9:41 following the healing of the man blind from birth. There He stated, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”