Biblical Doctrine, Plainly Stated

By William S. Plumer, 1875


I. The doctrine of the judgment is very old. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, foretold it as clearly as any later prophet: "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him." Jude 14, 15.

II. David speaks of the judgment in Psalm 1:5. But Asaph gives a full and clear account of it in the fiftieth Psalm. There he speaks of the grandeur of the event, of the Judge, of the persons to be judged, of the principles on which the judgment shall be conducted, and of the results of such judgment.

III. Our blessed Lord is still more clear and minute in the account he gives us of this great event in Matt. 25:31-46: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

In this passage these things are notable:

1. Men have seen Christ in his shame and suffering. In the judgment they shall see him in his glory. Ver. 31.

2. On that day he shall be attended by all the holy angels. Ver. 31.

3. Christ shall sit as a judge upon a throne. Once he stood, a poor, abused prisoner, at the bar of a weak creature, Pontius Pilate. It is very different now. Ver. 31. Compare John 5:22; Acts 17:31.

4. There never was such an assemblage of men as shall take place at the judgment. It shall consist of all nations. Ver. 32. Compare Romans 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10.

5. The last day will be a day of great and final separations. The sheep and goats will no longer herd together. Ver. 32, 33.

6. In the trial of saints, great prominence will be given to their deeds of love to Christ and his people. Ver. 35, 36.

7: It will then appear that real kindness to Christ's poor was as much esteemed by the Lord as if it had been shown to him in person. Ver. 40.

8. There is no more just ground of condemnation than lack of love to Christ. Ver. 42, 43. Compare 1 Cor. 16:22.

9. When his people suffer, Christ makes common cause with them. Their insults are his insults. Ver. 45.

10. The last day shall surprise all the saints. Ver. 37-39. It will no less surprise the wicked. Ver. 44. The righteous know that they deserve nothing good, and when great blessings come, they freely admit they are not worthy of them. On the other hand, the wicked, in their self-righteousness, think they deserve well at the hand of their Maker. We often hear them say as much.

11. The saints will be well off at last. Nothing can harm them. All good things are theirs. Ver. 34.

12. Woe to the wicked; it shall be ill with him. He shall depart accursed. Ver. 41.

13. The consequences of the judgment, both to saints and sinners, shall be lasting, most lasting, everlasting. Ver. 46. Compare Dan. 12:2.

IV. One event of history is, and is declared to be, a figure of the last judgment. It is the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, when there was great tribulation, such as never was before, nor since, nor ever shall be to the end of the world. If one would know something of the horrors of the last day, let him read Matthew 24 and Josephus' account of the destruction of the holy city.

V. The time of the judgment will be the end of the world, immediately following the resurrection. Matt. 13:39. The last transaction ever witnessed by earth will be the doom of the wicked.

VI. Some have asked, How long will the judgment last? It is called a day, the day, that day, the great day, the last day; but the term day does not necessarily fix a definite period of time. In speaking of God's long-suffering towards sinners, Peter says, "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." 2 Pet. 3:8. From this some have inferred that the judgment will last a thousand years. But the words hardly warrant such an inference. It is enough for us to know that the judgment will not end until God's justice is fully displayed, and until he has brought forth the righteousness of his people as the light and their judgment as the noonday.

VII. The MATTERS judged of in the last day will be:

1. Men's thoughts. "The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord." Proverbs 15:26. "The thought of foolishness is sin." Proverbs 24:9. Then indeed shall the thoughts of many hearts be revealed. Wicked thoughts are Christ's great enemies. They ought to be exposed. There is nothing hid that shall not be known. Matt. 10:26; Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17; 12:2.

2. Men will be judged for their words, good and bad. The Bible is explicit: "By your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned." Matt. 12:37. Yes, "every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." Matt. 12:36.

3. Men shall be judged by and for their acts, both open and secret. "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment: and some men they follow after. Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand: and they that are otherwise cannot be hid." 1 Tim. 5:24, 25. It must be so. It cannot be otherwise; for "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Heb. 4:13. God "will render to every man according to his deeds." Romans 2:6. This has always been the doctrine of God's prophets. Compare Psalm 28:4; Isaiah 59:18. If men receive the fruit of their own doings they have none to blame but themselves.

VIII. On the last day "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." 2 Pet.3:10. God shall fold up the heavens as a vesture, and they shall be changed. Heb. 1:12. No more place shall be found for any of the magnificent structures or cities of earth. Rev. 20:11.

IX. "Seeing that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?" 2 Pet. 3:12. Oh that we all may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.