The doctrine of "judgment" pervades the whole Bible. God is constantly presented in the majesty of Judge. He calls the world to account. No man or nation can escape His judgment.
Judgment belongs to God.—Deut. 1:17, NIV.
All His ways are judgment.—Deut. 32:4.
The Lord loveth judgment.—Ps. 37:28 (cf. Isa. 61:8).
Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne.—Ps. 97:2.
The principal Hebrew word for the verb to judge is shaphat. The principal noun for judgment is mishpat. The root idea of shaphat is to rule or judge in the sense of rendering a verdict. "The noun mishpat means the judgment which is given by the shopet (judge), whence the word can mean justice, ordinance, legal right, and so forth."1The principal Greek word for the verb to judge is krino. The principal nouns for judgment are krisis and krima. Krisis can mean the process which discriminates, separates and sieves. It can also mean verdict or sentence. Krima often has the force of a condemnatory judgment, even the act of punishing. But we should be cautious about making an arbitrary distinction between krisis and krima. Krisis can also carry the concept of condemnation (John 5:24).
John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Krisis is frequently used synonymously with krima.2 The connection between judging and sieving or sifting is often pointed out by linguists. Leon Morris says: "Yahweh's judgment is a process which sifts men. It separates the righteous from the wicked and thus makes the 'remnant' to appear."3 "The Latin cribrum, 'a sieve', comes from the same root as the Greek word for judgment."4
Absalom sat in the gate and coveted the office of judgment, which meant that he aspired to take his father's throne (2 Sam. 15:4). When Solomon was enthroned as king, he prayed for wisdom to judge.
"Who made you ruler and judge over us?"—Ex. 2:14, NIV.
Make us a king to judge us.—1 Sam. 8:5.
Our king may judge us.—1 Sam. 8:20.
The ideal king who judges rightly is embodied in the Messianic Son of David (Ps. 72, 101; cf. Isa. 11:1-5).
"So give Your servant a discerning heart to govern Your people and to distinguish between right and wrong."—1 Kings 3:9, NIV.
When a king sits on his throne to judge, he winnows out all evil with his eyes. —Prov. 20:8, NIV.
Judgment is the prerogative of the king. To reign is to judge. The king of Israel was the judge of Israel. This is a basic concept in the biblical doctrine of judgment. The New Testament does not abandon it but carries it forward.
The Lord is our Judge;... the Lord is our King. —Isa. 33:22, NIV.
To judge, therefore, is not only legal but regal. A person does not judge and then become king. He becomes king and then judges. Judgment is a kingly function. God's right to judge Israel and the nations proceeds from the fact that He is King. "Judgment is, in fact, one of the aspects of the Kingdom of God. "5
"You . . . will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes."—Matt. 19:28, NIV.
"He will sit on His throne in heavenly glory.... He will separate the people . . . as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats."—Matt. 25:31, 32, NIV.
"I confer on you a kingdom.... You may... sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes."—Luke 22:29, 30, NIV.
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge.—Rev. 20:4, NIV.
"I will punish [judge] the nation they serve as slaves."—Gen. 15:14, NIV (cf. KJV).
O our God, wilt Thou not judge them [the enemies]?—2 Chron. 20:12.
When he shall be judged, let him be condemned.—Ps. 109:7.
The Lord enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of His people. —Isa. 3:14, NIV.
According to their deserts will I judge them.—Ezek. 7:27.
I will praise You, O Lord.... You have sat on Your throne, judging righteously. You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever....
The Lord reigns forever; He has established His throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; He will govern the peoples with justice. —Ps. 9:1, 4, 5, 7, 8, NIV.
I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.—Ezek. 34:16 KJV.
"I will sit to judge [punish] all the nations." —Joel 3:12, NIV.
You have appointed them to execute judgment; ... to punish [Israel]. —Hab. 1:12, NIV.
And I will come near to you to judgment [punish]; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.—Mal. 3:5 KJV.
In Psalm 103:3-6 judgment is equated with forgiveness and deliverance from oppression.
"God has vindicated [judged] me."—Gen. 30:6, NIV (cf. KJV).
The Lord will judge His people and have compassion on His servants. —Deut. 32:36, NIV.
"Uphold their cause. And forgive Your people."—1 Kings 8:49, 50, NIV.
Rise to my defense! ... Vindicate [judge] me in Your righteousness. —Ps. 35:23, 24, NIV (cf. KJV).
Vindicate [judge] me, O God, and plead my cause. —Ps. 43:1, NIV (cf. KJV).
He will judge your people in righteousness.... He will defend the afflicted... and save the children of the needy; He will crush the oppressor.—Ps. 72:2, 4, NIV.
... when you, O God, rose up to judge, to save all the afflicted. —Ps. 76:9, NIV.
Zion will be redeemed with justice [judgment]. —Isa. 1:27, NIV (cf. KJV).
Throughout the book of Judges, the judges are Israel's deliverers and saviours who annihilate their enemies and bring Israel rest.
In the Bible to judge is inseparable from the concept of the covenant. When two persons enter into a covenant they have rights and duties with respect to each other. They are just in so far as they observe the obligations imposed by the covenant. To judge is, above all, to act in such a way as to maintain the covenant. In the heroic epoch the Judges, such as Gideon, Samson, etc., were leaders who arose to deliver the people at critical hours in their history. Like all leaders, they administer justice, but they are judges, because they deliver the people and restore them to a normal situation. The king also is a judge who, as such, administers justice and resolves the disputes which the people bring before him. Several times the kings of Judah are spoken of as administering justice (2 Sam. 15:4; 1 Kings 3), but their role is that of judging the people, that is to say, keeping each in his right place within the covenant, upholding the covenant by coming to the help of the weak and driving out the oppressor. The ideal and perfect king of Isa. 11 is described as administering this kind of justice (Isa. 11:3-5; cf. Isa. 61).6
G. Pidoux maintains that "to judge is, above all, to act in such a way as to maintain the covenant."7 Leon Morris says, "Thus one and the same verb may mean 'to punish' or 'to deliver'."8
The Bible is not a collection of abstract ideas about God and truth. It is a record of the great acts of God. The worship of Israel and the confession of her faith consisted essentially in recounting the great acts of God (Deut. 6:20-24; 26:5-9; Judges 5:11; Ps. 66:1-6; 78; 105; 106; 145). God reveals Himself, not by giving abstract propositions about Himself, but by His concrete acts in history. God reveals Himself by His mighty deeds.
The great works of the Lord which are constantly celebrated in the Bible are His deeds of judgment.
All His ways are judgment.—Deut. 32:4.
... a God of judgment.—Isa. 30:18.
Whether He destroys the world by a flood, rescues Israel from Egypt, sends His people to Babylon or brings them out, all of God's acts are represented as acts of judgment. Thus God says, "'I will lay My hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out My divisions, My people the Israelites"' (Ex. 7:4, NIV). In Exodus 6:5, 6 God also links covenant and His historical acts: "'I have remembered My covenant.... "I will.., redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment""' (NIV).
In view of the fact that the relationship between Yahweh and Israel is conceived under the form of a covenant, judgment for Israel means salvation, victory, deliverance, due to the intervention of Yahweh in virtue of His duties as the God of the covenant, together with their corollary, the punishment of those who are outside the covenant, Israel's non-Jewish enemies. This is the meaning of the acts of justice or judgments of Yahweh which the Bible interprets as victories in Judg. 5:11 and Mic. 6:15. They are victories for Israel, defeats for their enemies. On every occasion when God acts on behalf of His people He judges them, that is to say, He helps them, leads them, and saves them. The history of Israel consists of a succession of these judgments: the judgment of the world by the flood (Gen. 6:5), the judgment upon Sodom (Gen. 18:20) and on Egypt (Exod. 7:4). It will be noticed that here judgment signifies punishment because Egypt was not Israel. The judgments of Yahweh on His people are always conceived as acquittals, since judgment is deliverance and victory (Deut. 32:36; Isa. 30:18; Jer. 30:11; Ps. 135:4), with its corollary of the punishments of non-Israelites (Ps. 7:7; 9:4; 110:6).
In the Psalms the allusions to God as judge and to His judgments are numerous. He is celebrated as the judge of all the earth, He who judges its ends, that is to say, its limits, He who judges the world with justice (1 Sam. 2:10; Ps. 9:9; 96:13; .82:8; cf. Gen. 18:25). It may be inferred that the celebration of God and His judgments occupied an important place in worship, as also did the expectation of the judgment of Yahweh. It is certain that at the great festivals of the Temple in Jerusalem Yahweh was celebrated as the judge par excellence.9
There is a very important link between the words judgment and righteousness. These words are often associated. In fact, they can sometimes be used interchangeably. Judgment is not just an exercise of might. "There is a strong flavour of 'right' about the word."10 Abraham asked, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25). The judgments of the Lord are always "righteous judgments" (Ps. 119:160).
He [the Lord] loveth righteousness and judgment.—Ps. 33:5.
Judge me... according to Thy righteousness.—Ps. 35:24.
He shall judge the world with righteousness.—Ps. 96:13.
Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne.—Ps. 97:2.
When God judges, therefore, He not only decides the right, but He carries out the right. This is not a detached, abstract judgment. As Leon Morris indicates, it is different from our Western concept of the cold neutrality of an impartial judge. It is dynamic action, involvement, passion for the right.
The dynamic character of the word must be stressed. It is not an intellectual activity carried out in academic detachment. It is not an exercise in balancing evidence. It is an activity of discrimination and vindication. He who does mishpat seeks out the wrongdoer to punish him, and the righteous to vindicate his cause.11
This is a very important point because it shows us that God's judgment
is not a mere trial but includes action.
This leads us to a definition of the biblical word righteousness. Righteousness is God's acting in judgment to carry out His covenantal purposes. When God reveals His righteousness, He reveals His acts of judgment.
Throughout the Old Testament there is a recurring pattern of divine activity. Events like Creation, the Flood, the Exodus and the Babylonian exile and restoration present us with a recapitulating history of events. As Israel remembered and celebrated how God had acted in her past, she believed that God would again act in the future for her deliverance. For instance, the judgments which fell on the antediluvians and on Sodom and Egypt pictured the judgments that would fall on Assyria and Babylon. Isaiah used the Exodus as a model to describe Israel's coming deliverance from Babylon at the end of the seventy years and, more importantly, to describe that deliverance of all deliverances by the Messiah at the end of the seventy times seven years of Daniel 9. For the Old Testament saints, therefore, the past acts of God become the picture of the future. They are even a pledge of the future. The Flood, the destruction of Sodom, the Exodus and the theophany at Sinai are all used to mirror the coming day of judgment. Israel was nourished by the faith that God would recapitulate His great acts in one final act of judgment at the end of the age. In this the enemies of God would be destroyed and His people delivered.
But the emphasis where Yahweh and judgment are concerned is on the future. In a clear majority of the places where the verb shaphat occurs the reference directly or indirectly is to the Lord's judgment. And in most cases the reference is future. While some of these refer to temporal judgments like the exile the conclusion is inescapable that to the men of the Old Testament the most significant thing about judgment was the eschatological judgment of the Lord. For the present the wicked may appear to triumph. Injustice and inequality may abound. Evil men may flourish like the bay tree. But this is only because, in the exercise of His sovereign Will, Yahweh allows it. At the end time He will put forth His mighty arm and judge. Sometimes the thought emphasized is that He will judge His people (Ezk. vii. 8), or even a section of His people (xxxiv. 20). But more usually there is the thought of a general assize (definition: a judicial investigation) of the nations. 'For he cometh; for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth' (Ps. xcvi. 13). The frequency of examples of this future use of the concept taken with the comparative fewness of the examples where Yahweh is said actually to have judged men shows that the Hebrews discerned the Lord's judgment not so much in what He has done as in what He will do. It is the expression of faith, rather than of sight.12
It is not surprising that from these hopes, which were supported and nourished by the worship, there was born the idea of an ultimate victory of the divine judge, of the triumph of His judgments, of a final judgment or last judgment. This development was encouraged also by the notion which the Israelites had of time, conceived as a line with a beginning and an ending.13
The Old Testament saint looked forward to his final judgment with joy and eager anticipation. The psalmist breaks forth into unrestrained gladness when he says:
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; they will sing before the Lord, for He comes, He comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His truth. —Ps. 96:11-13, NIV.
Daniel 7 is one of the great Old Testament descriptions of the final assize (definition: a judicial inquest followed by rendering of the verdict)
at the last day. The background is characteristic of the Old Testament. The beasts and "little horn," which waged war on the saints, could not help but remind the men of the Old Testament of Pharaoh, Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar and, later of course, Antiochus Epiphanes. But their hope was in the judgment, which means doom for the foes of the covenant and deliverance for its friends. So Daniel said that in this final judgment "'the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire"' (Dan. 7:11, NIV). Then the saints were delivered and the kingdom given to them.
We have often failed to read Daniel 7 in its context and to interpret what it really says, especially in the light of the entire Old Testament feeling about the final judgment. Daniel 7 is typical of all apocalyptic literature which dwells on the final judgment that will vanquish Israel's foes and bring deliverance to God's people. The picture is always painted in black and white. There are no gray areas between the enemies of God and the people of God. We must not let the expression "the books were opened" (Dan. 7:10) mislead us. The emphasis in Daniel 7 is not the trial of the saints but the judgment on the beast and a judgment for the saints. The saints do not stand in jeopardy. The judgment is what they pray for and hope for with eager anticipation. While it may not be desirable to eliminate all suggestion of an "investigation" of the people of God, this is certainly not the essential emphasis of the context or the feeling of apocalyptic literature.
Nor does Daniel 7 really teach that God will "investigate" the saints in a celestial trial and then punish and overthrow the wicked "horn." Just as God overthrew (judged) Pharaoh and Babylon and at the same time released His people from oppression, so God will dynamically judge the beast and deliver the kingdom to His people. Some of our traditional interpretations of Daniel 7 tend to import concepts that are neither part of nor demanded by the context.
Another prophetic feature appears in the eighth century B.C. Prophets like Amos and Isaiah found Israel hardened by a popular hope of divine judgment which would mean light and salvation for them but defeat and ruin for their enemies. The prophets reformed this popular hope by introducing a stern moral element. They warned unrepentant Israel that the day of the Lord was to be a day of "darkness, not light" (Amos 5:18, NIV). They would not escape because they were the elect people. Rather, they would be punished more severely. The day of God would be a day of destruction upon all sinners, including those in Israel. No one in Israel or the "nations" would escape the judgment of God on "the great and dreadful day" (Joel 3:2; 2:31, NIV).
From this background of Israel's also passing through the fires of judgment, the Old Testament idea of "the remnant" appears. They would be the righteous few who would survive the coming judgment and be the new Israel (Isa. 6:13; 10:22; Amos 5:15).
The Old Testament prophets point forward to an Anointed One—the Messiah—who would be the instrument of God's judgment. Noah, Moses and Cyrus were elected as instruments of God's judgments at different stages of salvation history, and they are used as types of the coming Messiah.
The Messianic passages show that God's eschatological judgment will be embodied in a person. Snaith points out that the word judgment was not an abstract concept divorced from the person of God.14 God embodies judgment in such a way that His judgment becomes a synonym for the word of God (see Ps. 119). How fitting that John should call the Messiah, who embodies God's last-day judgment, the Word of God! (John 1:1). The prophets announced God's judgments and spoke His word, but in the Messiah we confront God's final judgment, His final word (Heb. 1:1, 2).
Of course, if the Messiah is to embody God's final judgment, He must also embody God's rule. The Old Testament announces to Israel, "Your King comes" (Zech. 9:9, NIV). He is described as a ruler (Isa. 11:1-5), one who sits at God's right hand (Ps. 110:1, 5). He not only embodies the kingdom of God, but the covenant of God (Isa. 42:6).
Psalms 2 and 110 show the affinity between the Messiah's rulership and His work of judgment.
The Lord says to my Lord: "Sit at My right hand."...
Rule in the midst of Your enemies.... He will judge the nations. —Ps. 110:1, 2, 5, NIV.
As executor of the covenant, the Messiah will deliver the poor and needy (Ps. 72:1-4; Isa. 11:1-5; 42:1-4; 51:4; 59:16-21; 61:1-3; 63:4) and will destroy the enemies of God.
"You will rule them with an iron scepter; You will dash them to pieces like pottery." —Ps. 2:9, NIV.
He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead. —Ps. 110:6, NIV.
Sometimes deliverance and doom are brought together.
With righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. —Isa. 11:4, NIV.
This coming King, therefore, would embody God's final judgment. Men would be delivered or doomed on the basis of their relationship to Him. He would cleanse the temple (Mal. 3:1-3) and inaugurate the new age of God. All this the Royal Person would have a right to do on behalf of God's people since He Himself would bear God's judgment on account of their sins (Isa. 53).
Judgment in the New Testament
The distinctive features of Old Testament judgment are carried forward into the New. There are two striking features of the New Testament emphasis:
1. In the New Testament, eschatology (the last things) is concentrated in a person. Christ Himself is the long-promised Messiah. As Ruler (Micah 5:2) and Judge, He is sent by God as the new Moses to deliver Israel. Just as Israel said to Moses, "'Who made you ruler and judge over us?"' (Ex. 2:14, NIV), so the Jews refused their King and Judge. But He was the embodiment of the kingdom (rule) of God and the judgment of God. "Judgment is, in fact, one of the aspects of the Kingdom of God."15 All men are to be judged by Christ, and that judgment will be based on their attitude to Him.
2. The New Testament does not lessen the Old Testament impression that there will be a future final day of judgment. Rather, it deepens the impression. The reality and seriousness of the future judgment pervade the teachings of Jesus. Nearly half of His parables concern the final judgment. Paul's thought is also dominated by the expectation of the day of wrath and righteous judgment of God (Rom. 2:5).
But the New Testament differs from the Old Testament in showing that the future kingdom has already broken into history in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The New Testament everywhere announces the fulfillment of what was promised in the Old Testament. "'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing'" (Luke 4:2 1, NIV; cf. Matt. 5:17; Mark 1:15; Acts 13:32, 33).
With the arrival of Christ, the King is in the midst of His people (Zeph. 3:15). Since He is the embodiment of the kingdom of God, He announces: "'The kingdom of God has arrived"' (Mark 1:15, Phillips). "'The kingdom of God has come to you"' (Luke 11:20, NIV). "'The kingdom of God is among you' " (Luke 17:21, NIV, margin). This was so because the King was among His people.
We have already established the unity of the office of ruler and judge. So we can say that when Christ arrived, the Judge was in the midst of His people. Jesus not only announced that He would exercise the prerogatives of the judge at the last day, but that He was already present to exercise His prerogative of judgment. "'He [God] has given Him [Christ] authority to judge because He is the Son of Man"' (John 5:27, NIV).
The works of Christ were the works of a judge. On one hand, He preached the gospel to the poor, raised the dead, released men from their sins and healed the sick. This was in fulfillment of Scripture:
With righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth. —Isa. 11:4, NIV.
"He will bring justice to the nations. . A bruised reed He will not break." —Isa. 42:1, 3, NIV.
... good news to the poor. ... bind up the brokenhearted, ... freedom for the captives and release for the prisoners. —Isa. 61:1, NIV.
His work of forgiving sins is especially a manifestation of the work of a judge. In view of Jesus' message of future judgment, forgiveness is urgent. Before the great assize presented by Jesus, man is absolutely without merit. But Jesus is not merely another prophet who preaches about the coming judgment or about God's mercy. He is the Judge, and in the present time He offers acquittal to those who confess that they are destitute of merit and who put their trust in Him. His word of forgiveness is a word of final authority because it is the word of the Judge. He brings divine forgiveness to earth now (Mark 2:5, 10).
The Pharisees understood what Jesus was doing. They said it was blasphemy for Him to forgive sins, because only God the Judge could do this. They knew that Jesus was exercising the office of liberating men before God's judgment seat. This present, freeing activity of the Son of Man, who embodies the judgment of God, is the thrilling power of Christ's gospel. Life is hopeless and intolerable without the words of Jesus, "Your sins are forgiven."
On the other hand, the office of the Ruler and Judge is to sift and separate His people. To judge is to sift.
The Lord.., shall suddenly come to His temple.... And who shall stand when He appeareth?—Mal. 3:1, 2 (cf. John 2:13-17).
"His winnowing fork is in His hand."—Matt. 3:12, NIV.
Christ's act of purging the temple was the act of a judge.
We have seen that judgment may mean deliverance or doom. So it was in the ministry of Christ. He opened blind eyes and blinded open eyes. He forgave some and hardened others. Jesus said, "'For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind"' (John 9:39, NIV). In their reaction to Christ, judgment was already passing upon men.
From the perspective of the Old Testament, the end time, with God's judgment of the world as its central concern, is seen as a single event. But when we come to the New Testament, we see that the end time is not a single event. In proclaiming the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises in Christ, the New Testament proclaims that the end-time events have already been inaugurated; yet it still points forward to a future consummation. From the perspective of the New Testament the end-time events unfold in three dimensions—the cross, Pentecost and the Parousia.
The Christ Event—Eschatological. The death and resurrection of Christ was an eschatological (last day) event which inaugurated the end times:
1. It was the fulfillment of the promises in the Old Testament which begin with the eschatological expression, "In that day... "(Isa. 11:10; 26:1; Amos 9:11; Zeph. 3:14-17; Zech. 13:1).
2. It is declared to be an end-time event.
But when the time had fully come... .—Gal. 4:4, NIV.
In these last [eschaton] days He [God] has spoken to us by His Son.—Heb. 1:2, NIV.
He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.—Heb. 9:26, NIV.
He . . . was revealed in these last [eschaton] times for your sake.—1 Peter 1:20, NIV.
3. It inaugurated the special period of time called "the last days"—the period between the resurrection and the Parousia:
"'In the last [eschatais] days... I will pour out My Spirit."' —Acts 2:17, NIV.
... on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.—1 Cor. 10:11, NIV.
This is the last hour; and.., many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.—1 John 2:18, NIV.
4. Many texts speak of Christ's Parousia being "at hand" and coming soon (Rom. 13:11, 12; 1 Cor. 7:29; Phil. 4:5; Heb. 10:37; 1 Peter 4:7; Rev. 1:1, 3).
The New Testament itself is clear that had the early church done its work and preached the Gospel to all the world, the end could have come in that generation. See the S.D.A. COMMENTARY'S discussion on Revelation 1. Thus the many references to "this generation" in Christ's discourses.16
Had the church been faithful, the task of spreading the Gospel would have been completed in the first century and Christ would have returned.17
The end began with the coming of Jesus.... The early Christian writings also see their own present as the last time, demonstrated on the one hand by the outpouring of the Spirit (Ac. 2:17 ... ) and on the other by evil times, by scoffers, by the coming of Antichrist etc. (2 Tm.3:1; Jn.5:3...; 2 Pt.3:3... ; Jd.18...; 1 Jn.2:18...).At the same time, there is also expectation of the coming last day.18
The presence and power of the Spirit are a token that the last days have arrived, but the duration of the last days does not affect their character as the last days.19
The Christ Event—Judgment of the World. At the center of biblical eschatology is God's judgment of the world. If the Christ event was an end-time event, it was the inauguration of God's judgment of the world. This is established by the following evidence:
1. God is "the God of judgment" (Mal. 2:17). "All His Ways are judgment" (Deut. 32:4). We have seen that the great acts of God in the Old Testament—the Flood, the Exodus, the captivity and the fall of Babylon—were all acts of God's judgment. More than this, they were typological. They pointed away to the act of all acts in the death and resurrection of Christ. If the Christ event was the great act of God, it was an act of judgment.
2. This act of God in Christ is presented by Paul in Romans in the context of a great arraignment of Jew and Gentile to the judgment bar of God. All are guilty before the Judge. Then God reveals His "righteousness" (Rom. 1:17; 3:21, 25). We have seen that God's righteousness is His act of judgment. Christ is publicly set forth as our mercy seat or place of atonement (Rom 3:25). God's judgment on sin falls on Him. The cross of Christ is the visible, historical manifestation of the wrath of God.
This is the horror of the judgment: God is silent. . . . A Hell, deeper and hotter than anything one might imagine from myths and fairy stories about places of torment, has opened its maw, devoured God's Son, and become all-victorious.20
3. Hebrews presents the death of Christ in the context of the proceedings of the Day of Atonement (Heb. 1:3; 2:17; 9; 10). He is shown to be sacrifice, High Priest and mercy seat. The whole Day of Atonement was fulfilled at Calvary. According to Hebrews, this was Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement was a day of judgment.21
4. Calvary was accompanied by the same eschatological signs of the judgment day as the theophany at Mt. Sinai.
5. Specific texts also indicate that the Christ event was the inauguration of God's judgment of the world:
"Now is the time for judgment on this world."—John 12:31, NIV.
God did [this] by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned [judged] sin in sinful man.—Rom. 8:3, NIV.
One died for all, and therefore all died.—2 Cor. 5:14, NIV.
As man is destined . . . to face judgment, so Christ. . . .—Heb. 9:27, 28, NIV.
Death is God's judgment on sin, and Christ bore that judgment (Isa.
53). The terms of the covenant must be executed. Christ bore our curse
The Christ Event—Punishment and Salvation of Mankind. God's judgment means both punishment and salvation:22
1. Christ's death was God's judgment of punishment upon the race:
In Christ's death God has sat in judgment, has judged sin, and in this way he has caused his eschatological judgment to be revealed in the present time....
Christ's death was the demonstration of the judging and justifying judgment of God in the eschatological sense of the word because the old aeon and the old man were judged in him, and justification unto life and the new creation came to light in him as the second Adam.23
2. In the resurrection God raised Jesus from the dead and in Him restored humanity to favor at His own right hand (Rom. 4:25; Eph. 2:1-6). This was God's judgment of pardon for the race, a righteous judgment because it was based on the full satisfaction that Christ gave to the divine law on our behalf.
Just as Christ's death was a demonstration of God's righteous judgment on the sin of the world, visited on him as the means of propitiation, so his resurrection was the demonstration and proof of the acquitting righteousness of God.24
3. The infinite greatness of God's merciful judgment toward us is revealed in the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ to the right hand of God. We must remember that humanity was represented in Christ's exaltation so that all the favors shown Him were shown to humanity. The ascension scene is not set before us to teach us the exaltation of the divinity of Christ, because that was always exalted. It is to teach us the exaltation of our humanity in Christ.
In the death and resurrection of Christ we see the amazing contrast between man's estimate of Christ (and himself) and God's estimate of Christ (and humanity). Christ was presented to Israel as their King. They refused Him and had Him crucified. In putting this value on their real Representative, they put the same value on themselves. Now let us see the value which God placed on humanity in the resurrection of Christ:
Lift up your heads, O you gates;... that the King of glory may come in.... He is the King of glory. —Ps. 24:7, 10, NIV [Ascension Psalm].
"Sit at My right hand." —Ps. 110:1, NIV. [This is the Old Testament scripture most frequently quoted in the New Testament.]
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me."—Matt. 28:18, NIV.
"Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?"—Luke 24:26, NIV.
"The Father.., has entrusted all judgment to the Son.... He has given Him authority to judge because He is the Son of Man [an allusion to Daniel 7:13]."—John 5:22, 27, NIV.
"Father, the time has come. Glorify Your Son.... You granted Him authority over all people."—John 17:1, 2, NIV.
"God has raised this Jesus to life.... [Being] exalted to the right hand of God.... [Ps. 110:1 quoted.] ... God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified [notice the contrast], both Lord and Christ."—Acts 2:32-36, NIV.
For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.... For He "has put everything under His feet."—1 Core 15:25, 27, NIV.
He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church.—Eph. 1:20-22, NIV.
... who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him.—1 Peter 3:22, NIV.
... the Ruler of the kings of the earth.—Rev. 1:5, NIV.
Someone "like a Son of Man" [Dan. 7:13]....
"I hold the keys of death and Hades."—Rev. 1:13, 18, NIV.
"'He will rule them with an iron scepter...'
just as I have received authority from My Father."—Rev. 2:27, NIV.
"I overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."—Rev. 3:21, NIV.
... in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll.... He came and took the scroll from the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.—Rev. 5:1, 7, NIY. [The race is given into the hands of Christ.]
"Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His 'Christ." —Rev. 12:10, NIV.
4. John Calvin explains that the expression, "right hand of the Father," means that Christ has been given
the tasks of ruling and governing.... [He] was invested with lordship over heaven and earth, and solemnly entered into possession of the government committed to him.... He... entered into possession once for all.... It makes no difference that in the book of The Acts, Stephen declares that he saw him standing [Acts 7:55]. For here it is a question, not of the disposition of his body, but of the majesty of his authority. Thus "to sit" means nothing else than to preside at the heavenly judgment seat.25
But the same thing, viz., that for Christ, too, the resurrection meant his investiture with power in accordance with Daniel 7, is even more clearly expressed in the resurrection statement, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." This is a clear reference to the prophecy in Daniel 7:14, not only as to the fact but in the words themselves.... The phrase, "I have been given" (aorist: edothe!), indicates the change that had come about since his earthly mode of existence as the Messiah. His status and glory are now in accordance with what is said in Daniel 7 about the Son of Man to whom, also, "there was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom," when he came to the Ancient of days with the clouds of heaven.26
F. F. Bruce gives an excellent presentation of the Old Testament promises that the Son of David would sit on David's throne and rule the house of Israel. Bruce shows their fulfillment in Christ:
Again, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Jesus is viewed as the One to whom Yahweh in Psalm 110 says not only "Sit at my right hand" (so that the throne of David is now absorbed in the heavenly throne of glory and grace) but also "You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek". David, by his conquest of Jerusalem, became heir to Melchizedek's royal priesthood, but it is in the ascension and heavenly session of Jesus Christ that the fullness of this heritage is realized.27
In Jesus the promise is confirmed, the covenant is renewed, the prophecies are fulfilled, the law is vindicated, salvation is brought near, sacred history has reached its climax, the perfect sacrifice has been offered and accepted, the great priest over the household of God has taken his seat at God's right hand, the Prophet like Moses has been raised up, the Son of David reigns, the kingdom of God has been inaugurated, the Son of Man has received dominion from the Ancient of Days, the Servant of the Lord, having been smitten to death for his people's transgression and borne the sin of many, has accomplished the divine purpose, has seen light after the travail of his soul and is now exalted and extolled and made very high.28
In light of the overwhelming evidence that Christ is already glorified, enthroned, reigning, ruler of the kings of the earth, entered into His glory and sitting on the Father's throne, is the old distinction between "kingdom [throne] of grace" and "kingdom [throne] of glory" adequate? If it limits the present sovereignty of Christ and the glory of His reign, it is contrary to the New Testament. While Zechariah 6:13 says that "He will be a priest on His throne" (NIV), we must not conclude that this is only a priestly throne. Christ is not an Aaronic priest but a priest after the order of Melchizedek—that is, He has the dual role of King and Priest (Lord and Christ). So His throne is both a royal (Davidic) throne and a priestly throne. Because it is priestly, it is a
"throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16). In His reign He deigns to be gracious to poor sinners who flee to Him for refuge.
We must not have an Old Testament mentality that still waits for the King to reign. The gospel declares to Zion, "'Your God reigns!'" (Isa. 52:7, NIV; cf. Ps. 97, 99, 145). It is not now a matter of waiting for Christ to gain sovereignty over the world. He has gained the sovereignty, and everything in heaven and earth is already "under His feet," "in submission to Him." We wait only for the evil powers to come to the realization of reality so that they will give up the struggle and become His "footstool." Then the reign of Christ, which has already been inaugurated, will be consummated.
The difference between the reign of the ''now'' and the reign of the "not yet" is that Christ's present reign is invisible to this world (although not inactive), but at the consummation it will become visible (Matt. 25:31).
Even Revelation 11:15-17 does not refer to the commencement of the reign at the last trump, for the voices sing:
"The kingdom of the world has become [Greek aorist: literally, "became," indicating a once-and-for-all past action whose results are going on] the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ."...
"You have taken [perfect tense: literally, "you took and are taking"] Your great power and have begun [Greek aorist: past action] to reign." —Rev. 11:15, 17, NIV (cf. Ps. 97:1; 99:1).
Thus, the song of Revelation 11 is a song of praise, for Christ's reign
has brought the great consummation.
It is not biblically correct to say that Christ will become King after finishing His work of judgment. He could not judge unless He was already enthroned as a King. But the session at the right hand of God means that He is both Ruler and Judge. "'The Father.., has entrusted all judgment to the Son'" (John 5:22, NIV). Christ is Lord! Just as at His ascension He took the throne and began to reign, so He began to judge. Judgment is one of the key ideas in the book of Revelation. Indeed, it is a book of judgment. Christ is presented as Ruler/Judge of both the church and the nation. In the last judgment His reign will be consummated. That is to say, the last judgment is the last act of His reign.
In Revelation 1-3 Christ is presented as the Ruler/Judge of the churches: He is the Danielic Son of Man, who holds the keys of David and of hell and death. In judgment He removes the candlestick if the church does not repent. He searches hearts and minds (Rev. 2:23), comes as a thief (Rev. 3:3) and confesses His people before His Father (Rev. 3:5). Thus, the first three chapters of Revelation are full of the imagery of an active Judge.
In Revelation 4 and 5 Christ takes the scroll from the Father. The parallels between this vision and Daniel 7 are obvious. Apostate churches and persecuting powers are both visited with judgments as Christ directs the battle from the throne. All history bears the marks of Christ, the Ruler/Judge. The great events of unfolding history are to be seen as the expression of His judgment, leading to the final judgment.
Summary. The death and resurrection of Christ were the inauguration of God's judgment of the world. In Christ's death God judged men's sin. In His resurrection God installed the Son of Man on His throne as Ruler and Judge. Christ's eschatological reign was thereby inaugurated.
B. Judgment in the Pentecost Event
1. The exalted (ruling / judging) Christ poured out His Spirit at Pentecost. His Spirit is His Representative to conduct His work on earth. The New Testament presents this outpouring of the Spirit as an eschatological event, the sign of the inauguration of the last days (Acts 2:17). Thus, Pentecost opens before us the second dimension of God's judgment of the world.
The following scriptures show the connection between the Spirit and judgment:
... a Spirit of judgment and a Spirit of fire.—Isa. 4:4, NIV.
"He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand."—Matt. 3:11, 12, NIV.
He will reprove the world.., of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.—John 16:8, 11.
. . .tongues of fire that separated. —Acts 2:3, NIV
The Holy Spirit is called the Paraclete (Advocate) and Witness (John 14:26; 15:26; Acts 5:32). The Old Testament background term is go 'el— one who pleads a person's case in a court of law.
2. The Spirit comes clothed in Christ's gospel (1 Peter 1:12). It is by coming to men in the gospel that He brings men to judgment.
Pentecost (the gospel) occupies the time between the cross and the Parousia. Both the past and the future are brought to men in the gospel.
a. The gospel is the proclamation of Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:17; 2:2; 15:1-3). It is more than a recounting of a past historical event. By the power of the Spirit, Calvary is made present to men (Gal. 3:1) as it is to God (Rev. 5:6). If Calvary was the judgment of the world, then, when the Spirit sets Calvary before them, men are confronted with the awful reality of judgment day. The Spirit sets before men the two-sided reality of judgment—the doom of the unrepentant sinner and the blessedness of the repentant sinner. By their response to the cross men are judged.29
b. The gospel not only brings the past judgment—Calvary—but the future judgment. In the gospel the final judgment is mysteriously present, for the Scripture is clear that all the blessings of the day of God— justification, eternal life and inheritance—are offered us in the gospel to be accepted by faith (Heb. 11:1). And when the gospel places a man before the cross, the dread and doom of the final judgment are also present.
The terrors of the past and future aspects of judgment are veiled in the "foolishness of preaching" because God foresees the weakness of the flesh and wants to come to man in His judgment of pardon and deliverance. But the final judgment day will only confirm the verdict pronounced in man's response to the gospel.
3. John gives the clearest witness to present judgment:
"Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict [Greek, krisis, meaning the decision of the judgment]: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil."—John 3:18, 19, NIV.
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."—John 5:24, NLV.
"For judgment I have come into this world."—John 9:39, NIV. This insight into present judgment is also a prominent feature in John's "Revelation of Jesus Christ." In Revelation 1-3 he shows that the Son of Man is the Ruler / Judge active in judging the churches, rebuking sins and removing the candlestick of those who do not repent. In every case the judgment is based on the churches' relation to Him—whether they have left their first love, are lukewarm, etc. The gospel, announcing that "'the hour of His judgment has come"' (Rev. 14:6, 7, NIV), is entirely in harmony with John's realized eschatology. This is, of course, a message for the last days, and the apostles saw themselves already in the last days.
While the Synoptics uniformly show that eternal life is to be gained at the resurrection of the last day, John shows that eternal life is present to those who embrace the gospel. "Eternal life" literally means "the life of the age to come." It is clearly an eschatological gift. This is another proof that the last days have arrived. The Judaism of John's time believed that the judgment of the last day would decide who would receive eternal life. The principle that a person must be judged before receiving eternal life is both valid and scriptural. In teaching that believers already have eternal life (John 3:16; 5:24; 1 John 5:11), John indicates that they have been judged.
4. Now we turn to the testimony of Paul. Paul's gospel is most fully expounded in Romans. Here his thought is dominated by the expectation of the day of wrath and righteous judgment of God. How we can find a righteousness to stand in the judgment of God is the great issue that Paul thrusts before us (Rom. 2).
The gospel according to Paul is explained in terms of justification by faith. In Paul justification is not only a forensic word, but an eschatological word. It is the acquitting verdict of the day of judgment (Rom. 2:13; cf. Matt. 12:36, 37). To be justified means to be judged and found righteous at God's judgment seat in the present through faith alone.
Justification is the pronouncement of the Righteous Judge that the sinner is acquitted from all guilt of sin. As such, it is essentially eschatological; i.e., it belongs to the eschatological day of judgment. This is indicated in several passages in Paul. 'Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn?' (Ro 8:33). Here the sinner is seen standing in God's presence at the last judgment. The verdict has been passed; it is acquittal. Who then can controvert the Judge and bring a verdict of condemnation? When we read that it is not the hearers of the Law but the doers of the Law who will be justified (Ro 2:13), we are referred to the day of judgment. The hope of righteousness (Gal 5:5) is the hope of acquittal in the eschatological judgment. The eschatological character of justification is even more clear in a saying of Jesus: 'I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned' (Mt 12:36, 37). The opposite of justification is condemnation, an unfavourable decision of the Judge.
Thus far, the concept of justification differs little from the doctrine of the final judgment in contemporary Judaism. However, Paul asserts that by virtue of the death of Christ, men of faith have already been justified. 'They are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith' (Ro 3:24f.). In the death of Christ, the eschatological judgment has already in essence taken place. The man of faith has in Christ appeared before the righteous Judge and by virtue of the death of Christ has been acquitted from all guilt of sin. The eschatological judgment, which belongs to the age to come, has reached back to the Cross of Christ, and the man of faith is living in the new age so far as his relationship to God is concerned. The last judgment for him is passed. This is not to say that Paul has relinquished the expectation of an eschatological judgment; even men of faith must appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Co 5:10, I Co 3:13-15). But so far as their relationship to God is concerned involving their guilt as sinners, judgment has been passed; they are absolved. 'There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus' (Ro 8:1). God has acquitted them; no one can condemn.30
If the last days had not yet arrived for the apostles, then being
justified to life eternal in the sense in which they present it would be out
of place. Present justification means present judgment.
5. Peter also testifies to a present judgment: "For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17, NIV).
6. In its testimony Hebrews shares the eschatological feeling of the rest of the New Testament. With the coming of Christ the end times have arrived (Heb. 1:1, 2; 9:26). The Day of Atonement is said to find its fulfillment in the Christ event. The Day of Atonement sacrifice has been offered. The entrance of the High Priest into the heavenly sanctuary is contrasted with Aaron's entrance into the most holy place once a year.
|But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.—Heb. 9:7, NIV.||He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. —Heb. 9:12, NIV.|
Furthermore, God's original plan was that the kingdom of grace and glory should not be far removed from each other. The Old Testament prophecies always link the two proclaiming "the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow" in the one prophecy. Thus the New Testament references to the "end of the world" having come with Christ's first advent. See Heb. 9:26; 1:2. Had the church been faithful, the task of spreading the Gospel would have been completed in the first century and Christ would have returned. (See S.D.A. Commentary introduction and notes on Rev. 1). Thus the day of Atonement type including the offering of the sacrifice, its presentation, and its final application of judgment would have quickly transpired each upon the other, and there would have been nothing remarkable in the application made by Paul in Hebrews of this significant Old Testament ceremonial.32
The present is itself already an eschatological, final time of decision, because in this present the man Jesus has appeared; each man is compelled to a refusal or recognition of him, and by it he determines beforehand for himself his judgment at the Last Judgment.33
C. Judgment in the Parousia Event
The New Testament also looks forward to a future consummation— to the day of final judgment. When Jesus and the apostles spoke of this final judgment, they always associated it with the Parousia—the second advent of Jesus Christ. If there was to be a future pre-advent judgment, the apostles said nothing about it. They were looking expectantly toward a great cataclysmic event, but it was the day of the lord and the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ. That is ,where the final judgment takes place for the church and the world, for the dead and the living.
1. Jesus taught that the final judgment was at the Parousia. He declared, "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord' " (Matt. 7:22, NIV). This is clearly the end of the world. In a number of His parables Jesus portrayed the day of judgment at the end of the world.
"The harvest is the end of the age....
"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. . . . There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."—Matt. 13:39, 40, 42, NIV.
"This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace."—Matt. 13:49, 50, NIV.
The parable of the wedding banquet depicts the great eschatological supper (Matt. 22:1-14). The word "wedding" means "wedding banquet." If some wish to apply the parable allegorically—which is a doubtful use of parable—the wedding banquet is not within history. This parable teaches the importance of preparedness for the last judgment through such expressions as "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 22:11-14; cf. Luke 13:25).
In Matthew 24 Christ relates a number of little parables depicting the division of the world into two classes at His coming. He fixes the attention on the Parousia, not on a pre-Parousia event (Matt. 24:40-51).
In the parable of the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) the "wedding" is properly the "wedding banquet" (Matt. 25:10, NIV). The wedding is not pre-advent. The knocking on the door corresponds to Matthew 7:21, 22. Jesus is still talking about His Parousia. Again, the lesson is preparedness for His sudden coming. It does not concern the nature of last-day events.
In the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) the master calls his servants to account upon his return. The same parable account in Luke 19:11-27 reads: " 'He...— returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it' " It is clear that the final judgment at the Parousia is in view.
2. The apostles also taught that the final judgment is at the Parousia.
The doers of the law shall be justified ... in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospeL—Rom. 2:13, 16 (cf. Acts 17:31; James 2:10-12; 2 Peter 3:7, 10; 1 John 2:28; 4:17).
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man s work—1 Cor. 3:11-13, NIV.
It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.—1 Cor. 4:4, 5, NIV.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.—2 Cor. 5:10, NIV.
... Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom... .—2 Tim. 4:1, NIV.
Let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.... "The Lord will judge His people.."
"He who is coming will come and will not delay." —Heb. 10:25, 30, 37, NIV (cf. Matt. 10:15; 12:36, 37; Luke 19:11-27).
But they will have to give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.—1 Peter 4:5, NIV.
"The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding Your servants the prophets." —Rev. 11:18, NIV.
3. The final judgment will be according to works. Works will not justify on the day of judgment any more than they justify now. They only testify to the genuineness of the disciple's faith. The way we treat others will prove whether we live by divine mercy. A truly forgiven man will be a forgiving man.
The present judgment is not apparent to the world (1 John 3:2). So there is need of a final judgment to manifest the people of God. This final judgment must be public, for the judgment of the world is public.
The apostles proclaimed a three-dimensional unfolding of the end
and a three-dimensional judgment. When they wrote of the future judgment, they always had the judgment at the Parousia in view.
If we today are going to proclaim a pre-advent judgment (beginning in 1844), we must either proclaim something not established by the words of the apostles or restore the apostolic gospel to its historical, legal and eschatological setting.
The arguments sometimes used in the past to establish a pre-advent investigative judgment not only impose too much on the apocalyptic book of Daniel, but are without adequate New Testament confirmation. These arguments have thrust on people the burden of attempting to prove a clumsy, immature understanding of Daniel without linguistic or exegetical support. What we preach about the pre-advent judgment must be supported by the plain words of the New Testament apostles and not just by recourse to questionable use of typologies, analogies and apocalyptic symbols. The New Testament must be allowed to interpret the Old Testament, and the clear didactic teaching of the New Testament must interpret the symbolic portions of the Old Testament. Too often we have tried to do the reverse.
We do not wish to diminish the conviction of anyone that he lives in the hour of the judgment. The gospel can be appreciated only by one who feels himself confronted with the judgment of God. But instead of living by detailed and unprovable speculations about the hidden proceedings of heaven's court, we should know that justification by faith is the verdict of that judgment. And the earthly manifestation of that judgment is the test of the apostolic gospel. He who lays hold of the apostolic gospel has been judged and possesses eternal life. He can be sure of this if he only continues in the faith. If disciples from all nations are not to stumble, we must not go beyond the plain declaration of the Bible.
We need to look at Daniel 7 and 8 in the light of the New Testament and to interpret these prophecies in the light of the apostolic affirmations. The New Testament, for example, abounds in allusions to Daniel 7—the judgment and the Son of Man. The judgment scene of Daniel 7 must apply to events connected with both comings of Christ. Christ's proclamation of the kingdom at hand, all judgment given to the Son, and all power in heaven and earth given to Him is a commentary on Daniel 7. The 1260 days, which end in judgment and Christ's victory over the evil powers, found their inaugural fulfillment in Christ's three and one-half year ministry, at the end of which came the judgment of the world in the person of Christ the divine Substitute at calvary.34 The cross was a picture of the end of the age—there was the dark day, the great earthquake, the love of many waxing cold. The resurrected Christ unsealed the Old Testament, including Daniel, to His disciples. This unsealing took place at the end of the 1260 days and the ushering in of that period called the "last days."
But the marks of Christ are repeated in the history of the church. The 1260 days were reinterpreted by John the Revelator and applied (symbolically) to the history of the evangelical Christian church and the rise of the "false prophet", the papacy. The parallels between these two movements of history are striking.
If we could ask the apostles the meaning of Daniel 7 and 8, they would point to the events of their day. When James cited Amos 9:11 concerning the rebuilding of David's tabernacle, he might just as well have used Daniel 8:14. The apostles interpreted the Old Testament for their day, and the Adventists of the nineteenth century reinterpreted it for their day. The recurring pattern of salvation history makes this possible. The prophecies fulfilled in the apostolic age are again to be fulfilled in our day.35
We must remember that all the law and prophets had to meet their fulfillment in Christ. Otherwise Jesus is not the Messiah. He fulfills the entire Old Testament. He is the end of history because God has achieved His goal of history and His goal for humanity in Christ.
There are a number of salutary features in traditional Adventism's preaching of the judgment:
1. Adventism's message of a final judgment according to works arose at a time when Protestantism had emptied the final judgment of much of its meaning. This is a biblical emphasis. It is a needed corrective to antinomianism.
2. The Adventist concept of a pre-advent judgment implies that we only appear before the judgment in the Person of our Representative rather than in our own person. Thus, our cases are decided by the intercession of our Representative. This is a great gospel truth that we dare not relinquish.36
3. Though embellished with some nineteenth-century Adventist apocalypticisms, the concept of the investigative judgment has served a very useful pedagogic function. It has led souls to sense their need of finding the One and Only Righteousness that can appear before God in judgment. No one can know what the apostle Paul means by justification until he sees himself before the judgment. Then he may learn what it means to be justified and to have the verdict of the eschatological judgment in the now by faith. If we see that we are now in God's judgment hour, and if day by day we grasp by faith the verdict of the judgment in God's free justification and forgiveness, what more can we have and what more do we need to know about the judgment?
If we faithfully proclaim everything the New Testament apostles proclaimed about the judgment, have we not done all that it is our duty to do? Or do we yet pretend we have more light than that final revelation of the Christian gospel given in the era of the Christ event? The apostolic gospel is not only "the greater light." It is a great simplifier. Some of the traditional Adventist explanations of Daniel 8:14 have tended to be so clumsy that most have abandoned the attempt to explain this passage from the Bible. We must now take the sharper sword of the apostolic gospel to understand Daniel 8:14.