By William S. Plumer, 1867
"Come, let us shout joyfully to the Lord, shout
CHRIST ON THE JUDGMENT-SEAT
"For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." Ecclesiastes 12:14
The fourth and last step in Christ's exaltation is yet future. It consists in his coming to judge the world. "He has set a day on which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by the Man He has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead." Acts 17:31
No man knows that he will ever see the sun rise or set again; but it is certain that everyone shall see the Son of man coming to judgment, and witness the solemn transactions of the last day.
Conscience anticipates a solemn reckoning. She says it will be right and fair to have a final settlement of all things. The resurrection of Christ from the dead gave assurance of a judgment-day. Acts 17:31. It is in itself proper that God should show to the whole universe that in all things he has done right. This can fitly be done in the assizes of an assembled world. The doctrine of a day of judgment was not a secret to any of the prophets. Enoch foretold it as clearly as any apostle. The author of the first psalm says: "The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment;" and the author of the fiftieth psalm gives a full account of its solemn grandeur, and of the principles on which its awards shall be made. Solomon says: "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil." Eccl. 12:14. Time would fail us to show how often and clearly Christ himself, and Paul, and James, and Peter, and John speak of such a day. This solemn subject now claims attention.
I. God has appointed a DAY in the which he will judge the world.Respecting this day several things are noticeable.
1. To God it is a certain and fixed day.He has appointed it. Acts 17:31. Nothing can hasten it; nothing can retard it. The purpose of God concerning it is fixed, unalterable.
2. To all creatures it is an unknown day."Of that day and hour knows no man; no, not the angels of heaven." It is clear from the teachings of Scripture, that God designed that no conjecture should be formed by any generation of men respecting the precise time of the judgment. Twice is it said, that it will come as a thief in the night. 1 Thess, 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10. Compare Matt. 24:36, 42, 44; Luke 21:35, 36.
3. The day of judgment will be THE great day.So inspired men often call it. It will be the greatest day in the annals of the universe. It is the day for which all other days were made. There will be more done that day than was done perhaps for thousands of days, or even years, of former times. This day is so well known to inspired men, that they call it the day, that day—as preeminent over all others.
4. It will be the day of the Lord.2 Peter 3:10. Christ will then appear in his glory. On that day men will not question his divinity, or his humanity, or his authority. Then he will be crowned Lord of all. It will be exclusively his day.
5. It will be the LAST day.It is so called by Christ himself, John 6:39, 40. After it, time will be no more—it will cease to exist. Duration will no more be measured by seconds, minutes, days, months, years, centuries, cycles; but all will be boundless, shoreless, fathomless, unmeasured eternity!
6. It will probably be a long day—how long we are not informed, but long enough to answer all the purposes for which it was appointed, displaying God's justice, vindicating the right, condemning the wrong.
7. It will be a very bright day.Other days had their dawn, their twilight, and their clouds; but this day will begin, continue, and end in ineffable effulgence. They had their light from the sun; but this will have its light from the brightness of Immanuel.
8. It will be a day of unusual sounds."The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God." The heavens shall pass away with a great noise. To these shall be added the shouts of the redeemed and the wailings of the impenitent.
9. It will be a day of wonderful clearing up of the character of the innocent.God will then bring forth their righteousness as the light and their judgment as the noonday. The slandered will that day have the sting of calumny forever removed; the persecuted will no longer clank their chains; those who were persecuted, will no more fear the minions and myrmidons of cruelty.
10. It will be a day of astounding exposures.Villany will be covered up no more. Every disguise will be taken away. There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Indeed, there never was anything kept secret, but that it should come abroad. Luke 12:2; Mark 4:22. "The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them." 1 Tim. 5:24.
11. It will be a day of especial grandeur."Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above and to the earth, that he may judge his people." For majesty and glory, for sublimity and grandeur, the pomp of all other days shall, in comparison with this, be as nothing. If Felix trembled when Paul merely reasoned of judgment, how will sinners tremble when Christ shall come to judgment?
12. From first to last it shall be a day of miracles."All the wonders ever exhibited before will be nothing to the wonders of this day. Indeed, all that is natural will end on this day, and everything will be miraculous."
13. It will be a day of intense excitement.There will be no listless spectators of those scenes. Every faculty of the intellect and of emotion will be aroused to the highest possible exercise. Men may sleep under sermons concerning the judgment, but they will not be dull when they go to judgment!
14. It will also be a day of separation.The precious and the vile, the wheat and the tares, the sheep and the goats, saints and sinners, shall no longer mingle together. The separations of this day will be final. The righteous and the wicked shall part that day to meet no more.
15. It will be a day of decision.The tribunal of Christ is the court of last resort. Causes and destinies will be inquired into no more. Saved that day, saved forever. Lost that day, lost forever. Holy that day, holy forever. Filthy that day, filthy forever.
16. It will be a day of triumph.Christ and his people will fill the heavens with their peals of exultation. At his ascension from Olivet the Redeemer went up with a shout. Psalm 47:5. He shall come to judgment with a shout. 1 Thess. 4:16. His return to heaven will be with vehement notes of triumph still louder. When the Israelites brought the ark of the covenant into their camp they shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. But when all the elect shall receive their welcome plaudit, their shout shall fill the heavens with its thunder.
17. It shall be a day of despair to all the unregenerate.The last hope will be gone from fallen angels and incorrigible men. Everywhere sinners will be crying to the rocks and the mountains: "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb!" Was ever despair more dreadful than this?
18. This will be a day full of surprise.Not only will it come unexpectedly, but its awards will fill saints and sinners with astonishment. So Christ teaches at length in Matthew 25th. The wicked will be amazed that they are lost, and how they are lost. They will be especially surprised that God sets no value on their self-righteousness. The sons of God will receive more honor than they ever asked or thought of. The sons of Belial will receive more wrath than they ever feared. Christians will marvel why they are saved. Sinners will wonder why they are not saved. Each class of people will cry, "Lord, when saw we you a hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison?" Many will be saved and more perhaps be lost, contrary to the judgments formed of them by their neighbors. But more will be saved and more will be lost contrary to the opinions they had formed of themselves.
"That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the godly, throwing the wicked into the fire. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 13:49-50
II. The Bible says on that day God will judge the WORLD.In the Greek Testament are three words rendered world. One of these signifies duration past, present, or future, but often with a limit. It is the word used by our Savior when he speaks of "this world," of "that world," of "the end of the world," and of "the world to come." In this way of using it, it is equivalent to age. In the plural it often signifies eternity. It is never used to teach whom God will judge.
A second word, rendered world, is of frequent occurrence. It is found in Acts 17:24: "God that made the world and all things therein." Here it evidently means the universe; so also in many other cases. Often it means the earth, and then its inhabitants. It is often used in connection with the judgment. In Romans 3:6 it is said: "God shall judge the world."
But in Acts 17:31, "He has appointed a day in the which he will judge the world," yet another word is used for world. In Luke 21:26 it is rendered the earth; in all other cases, the world. In Luke 2:1, it is put for the Roman empire, because that embraced most of the known world. But commonly it means the habitable earth. It occurs fifteen times, and, with the exception already noticed, is uniformly rendered the world, as when Jesus says, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations." Matt. 24:14.
The Scriptures declare that all men shall be judged. The Lord "shall judge the earth," "shall judge the ends of the earth," "shall judge the people," shall judge "all nations," "shall judge those who are without," "shall judge his people," "shall judge the righteous and the wicked," "shall judge the living and the dead."
Other Scriptures say that angels shall be then judged. Christ shall bring all his holy angels with him. Matt. 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26. They shall be the reapers on this great harvest-day. See also 2 Pet. 2:4.
It seems to be intimated that all angels, fallen and unfallen, all men, saints and sinners, great and small, living and dead, shall be judged. All rational creatures shall makeup the assembly. The servant and his master, the prisoner at the bar and the judge who sat on his trial, the assassin and the assassinated, the seducer and his victim, the invader and the invaded, the hireling and his oppressor, the king and his subjects, the fool and the wise man, the persecutor and the persecuted, the apostate, the hypocrite, the child of God and the child of the devil, the angels that stood and the angels that fell, shall all be there. No rational creature shall be so mighty, no mortal shall be so lowly—as to elude the eye or the sentence of him who shall sit upon the throne of judgment.
What a massive multitude will this be, when prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, saints of all ages, when sinners, liars, infidels, blasphemers, moralists, and murderers, shall all be there; when the sea and the dry land shall give up their dead, when the third heaven shall pour forth its glorious legions, when death and hell shall deliver up the dead who are in them, when all who lived before the flood, all that have lived since the flood, and all that shall have lived to the end of time shall stand before God. This will be the first and the last assembly, in which may be found every person that God ever made.
III. This great assembly shall be judged in RIGHTEOUSNESS.
. No injustice shall be done. Even the condemned will have nothing to allege against the equity of their doom. Every mouth will be stopped! The evidence will be full, the record complete. For "the BOOKS shall be opened."
1. The volume of NATURE.It shows forth the eternal power and godhead of the Most High. Its lessons are taught everywhere. "There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard." So that all men are "without excuse." Psalm 19:3; Romans 1:20.
2. There is the book of PROVIDENCE.How many disregard all its lessons! They despise the riches of God's goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering. They never think that his goodness should lead them to repentance; but their hard and impenitent heart treasures up to themselves wrath against the day of wrath. Romans 2:4, 5.
3. There, too, will be the book of CONSCIENCE.On it is written the work of the law. Now this volume may be closed. There it will show its faithful records.
4. Then, too, will be opened the book of holy SCRIPTURE.Christ says that even infidels, who refused to believe God's word, shall be judged by it. "He who rejects me and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." John 12:48. Willful ignorance is no excuse. Willful rejection of the Bible enhances men's condemnation.
5. Then, too, will be opened the book of REMEMBRANCE.Its record will be full, minute, infallible. When it is opened every sinner will say, "Innumerable evils have compassed me about. My iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head: therefore my heart fails me."
Thus will be revealed all forms and degrees of sin; open sin, which proclaims its guilt on earth; secret sin, which no man could prove, or without uncharitableness suspect, Romans 2:16; sins of commission, which were acted out; and sins of omission, which in every case will make a formidable array. The fig-tree was cursed because it had no fruit. Indeed, in his solemn account of the judgment, in Matthew 25, Jesus Christ mentions no sins but those of omission. The life of man consists in thoughts, emotions, words, and deeds. For all these he shall give account.
(1.) Thoughts."The thought of foolishness is sin." Proverbs 24:9. God destroyed the old world because the imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was evil, and that continually. Gen. 6:5. It is an alarming charge against the wicked that "God is not in all his thoughts." Psalm 10:4. "The thoughts of the righteous are right." Proverbs 12:5. "The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord." Proverbs 15:26. All good thoughts and all evil thoughts shall be judged.
(2.) Emotions.Malice, lust, covetousness, envy, sinful anger, hatred, inordinate affection on the one hand; and love, hope, joy, peace, gentleness, patience on the other; all good emotions and all sinful emotions shall be judged.
(3.) Words.Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. "For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned." Matt. 12:36, 37. Not a word, good or bad, shall be passed over. "Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in an ear in private rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops!" Luke 12:3. All vain, false, unchaste, impudent, provoking, profane, blasphemous speeches; and all pure, pious, loving, wise, right words—shall alike and properly be noticed and judged.
(4.) Deeds.All our good deeds shall be reported before the Judge. And he will not wipe out our good deeds that we have done. Neh. 13:14. To the ungodly Jehovah will "Repay them according to what they have done—according to the evil of their deeds. Repay them according to the work of their hands; give them back what they deserve." Psalm 28:4. "According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay." Isaiah 59:18. He says: "I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the works of their own hands." The matter, the manner, the motive of every act, good and bad—will be judged.
(5.) As no man has a good thought, or feeling, or speaks a good word, or does a good deed—but by divine grace; and as in this life sin cleaves to all men so as to mar their best performances; and as all the wicked do nothing but sin; if there was no other book besides these to be opened, all must perish. But there is another. It isthe BOOK OF LIFE of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Rev. 13:8. In the other books was nothing found that could save any man. But this contains the names of all those who shall have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. According to this book all who believe in Christ shall be justified. They shall receive a rich, free, gratuitous salvation. But "whoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire!" Rev. 20:15.
IV. The JUDGE will be the Lord Jesus Christ, called in Scripture, the man whom God has ordained to that work: "For the Father judges no man; but has committed all judgment unto the Son." John 5:22. "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ." 2 Cor. 5:10. Christ shall come not only in the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, but in his glorified human nature; God has given him authority to judge, because he is the Son of man. John 5:27. Christ the Lord will be the righteous Judge. Others shall approve the sentences he shall pronounce, and in this sense saints are said to judge angels. 1 Cor. 6:3. But in the full sense shall Christ alone "judge the living and the dead." 2 Tim. 4:1.
How altered the state and appearance of the Savior will be from what it was when he walked and wept on earth, and especially when he hung upon the cross, or lay in the sepulcher of Joseph. His coming shall be visible to all: "Every eye shall see him, and they also who pierced him." Rev. 1:7. Even those born blind shall see him. Christ will come visibly, and be seen as a man. We shall behold him in human form. So he himself declared more than once: "You shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven." Matt. 24:3.0; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62. So testified the angels at his ascension: "This same Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven." Acts 1:11. But Jesus ascended visibly; so will he descend visibly. He ascended in human nature entire; he shall descend in human nature entire. He shall come with great power and glory! Mark. 13:26.
At his presence nature shall dissolve. The elements shall melt with intense heat. 2 Pet. 3:10. Great signs and terror shall witness his coming. "The stars of heaven fell to the earth as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a high wind; the sky separated like a scroll being rolled up; and every mountain and island was moved from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the nobles, the military commanders, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains." Revelation 6:13-15
The sentence passed by the Judge will be solemn and irrevocable. That of the righteous will be: "Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!" That of the wicked will be: "Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!" In both cases the sentence will be at once executed. Matt. 25:34, 41.
1. Let us not be much troubled by the apparent confusion we now witness in human affairs.Here vanity often rides in splendor—while piety is clothed in rags; folly rolls in chariots—while wisdom lies in chains; brutality wields unlimited power over decency and piety; and oppression puts its iron heel on all that godly men love. But the last day will set all things right! Eccl. 2:14-17; 5:8.
2. What a mighty argument is the day of judgment for a holy life.So Peter says: "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him." 2 Peter 3:10-14.
3. Nothing but uprightness and consistency will stand the test of the last day, and be followed by glory and honor: "Do you really think—anyone of you who judges those who do such things, yet do the same—that you will escape God’s judgment?" Romans 2:3.
4. In his address to the people of Athens, Paul uses this subject as an argument to repentance: "God . . . commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that Man whom he has ordained." The call to repentance thus given is solemn and full of authority. It is a command from God. It is urgent. The judgment is coming. The Judge stands at the door. The time is short. There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, nor repentance in the grave, where you go.
Some say, God has not made us to punish us. But if they die in their sins, they will find that "He who made them will not have mercy on them, and he who formed them will show them no favor." Isaiah 27:11. O drunkard, how would you look and feel if called to go raving and reeling into the presence of your Maker and your Judge? No drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor. 6:10. And you shameless profligate, unless you speedily repent, you will be forever given over to appetites and passions which will sink you to the lowest hell. I pray you to repent. And you profane man, who mingles your Maker's name with your ribaldry, your passions, or your lies; beware lest you become one of those "that cannot cease from sin, . . . to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever." Oh repent while you may. You abuser of holy time, if you sin a little longer, you will be in a state where you would give ten thousand worlds for another Sabbath in a gospel church. You foul-mouthed man, with your present love of sin you can never sing, Hosanna to the Son of David.
When, on his trial, Latimer heard the pen of the notary running behind the curtain—he was very careful what he said. Take heed what you speak. The recording angel is about. Your words will meet you at God's bar. Are you an apostate? "If any man draw back," says God, "my soul shall have no pleasure in him." Tertullian says: "The apostate seems to put Christ and Satan both in the balance, and having weighed the service of each, prefers that of the devil, and proclaims him master." Surely you must repent: "God will make his sword drunk in the blood of apostates." Finally, are you an unbeliever, perhaps moral, serious, kind to the poor, well-behaved in the house of God—yet without living faith in Jesus? Repent, and believe the gospel, else it had been good for you if you had not been born! Let every sinner cry for mercy. Let him cry mightily—O Son of David, have mercy on me!