Concerning the Judgment

How does trinitarian theology address the idea of the Judgment? How does it understand verses like Daniel 12:2, which says, "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt."  If all, in Jesus, are included and forgiven, why this prophecy about some receiving "everlasting contempt"?

And what about the similar statement in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9: “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.”

These and other passages of Scripture speak of the Judgment that occurs when Jesus is “revealed” (sometimes referred to as the Second Coming or Jesus’ “return in glory”). At that time, all humans will see clearly who Jesus is and thus who they are in union with Jesus. And this “revealing” presents them with a choice—will they say “yes” to their inclusion in Christ, or will they say “no”?

Their decision neither creates nor destroys their union/inclusion, but it does determine their attitude toward it—whether they will accept God’s love for them and enter the joy of the Lord, or continue in alienation and frustration (and thus in shame and everlasting contempt and destruction). The destruction is a self-destruction as they refuse the purpose for which they have been made, and the redemption that has already been given to them.

In the Judgment, everyone will face Jesus, the Judge who died for all, and they will have to decide whether they will trust him. Those who trust their Savior take part in the joy of the life that God has given them in Christ. Those who reject him continue in their hostility and the hell that goes with it


Ted Johnston said…
Thanks for your comment Erkki. I'm glad this blog is helping you understand and embrace the love, grace and faithfulness of our Triune God.

You raise important questions about understanding the testimony of the Old Testament (and Revelation). Is that testimony consistent with what we learn about God through the revelation of the person and work of Jesus?

The wonderful good news is that Scripture testifies that there is but one God, who is forever Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This one God, in creating the cosmos, and in relating to humanity is of one mind, plan and purpose: to bring humankind into eternal communion with himself.

The Old Testament shows how this Redeemer God works out his plan through creation of the cosmos, including humankind - including the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and the nation of Israel.

Throughout the scriptural testimony to all of this, it is emphasized that God remains faithful to who he is: the God of all compassion, grace, patience, love and faithfulness. This God, in his divine freedom, chooses, in his grace, to extends to humankind freedom to relate to (or refuse to relate to) him (see Ex. 34:6-7).

Though humankind chooses to relate to God in obstinacy and self-will, God never stops being who he is in himself. He chooses to love and redeem humanity despite its rebellion and sin. In his love, he allows humankind opportunity to go its own way - but uses its sin to continually work with humankind - leading it toward his ultimate will. That will is seen with clarity when the LORD God of Israel becomes human (we call this the "incarnation"), taking upon himself our fully humanity (with all its proclivity toward sin and rebellion against God). Then through his incarnate life, death, resurrection and ascension, he bends our humanity back to God, thus healing it.

This incarnate God is the God-man Jesus Christ. In in his pre-incarnate state, he is the God of the Old Testament who created us, who walked with the Patriarchs and then with the nation of Israel - despite all the rebellion and sin. In short, the God of the Old Testament (and of Revelation) is none other than the one who becomes human for us and with us in the person of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, as one trinitarian theologian has said, we view the history of the Patriarchs and of Israel, as what God did in his patience, love and grace to "prepare the womb" of his incarnation for the salvation of all humankind.

This organizing truth, is how we must read the entirety of Scripture, including the Old Testament and the book of Revelation. All these scriptures, rightly understood, proclaim who this Redeeming God truly is, and what he truly does through his covenant with humanity to save humanity.

Are there times when we struggle to understand what God is doing (or perhaps allowing) in certain passages (including the OT and Revelation)? Certainly, for God's dealings with humankind are often not open in their details to our understanding. Moreover, his time frame is different, at times, than ours. He sees "the end from the beginning." Throughout, he will be who he is for us - he will always work (often mysteriously) to accomplish his gracious plan for us. Yet in all of this, he always (in his freedom to do so), extend to us real freedom to make our choices.

And so Scripture is God's story, that enfolds ours. Because it's the story of a real relationship, it's often circuitous, messy, and sometimes downright unimaginable! But we know the God of this story, and we know the outcome. And in that knowledge, we rest, and through the "lens" of that knowledge, we read all of Scripture.

In the months ahead I'll address some of these "difficult" Scriptures - ones that may seem, at first, to speak of another God than the one we know in Jesus Christ. Stay tuned.
Anonymous said…
Yes, please address the "difficult" Scriptures. There are many of them, and their misuse can cause many problems. For instance,

2 Corinthians 5:10--For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. (NLT)

Many preachers like to use (usually out of context) a verse like this one to scare people with the idea that a judgment is coming wherein everyone will give account to God for how well they lived their lives. These preachers do this with the often blatant assertion that, "Since you don't live the God pleasing life, you better work harder at getting your life together." Well, this type of prodding just troubles, even terrifies, people about their status with God and leaves them open to all sorts of manipulation and abuse from those who supposedly speak for God.

However, the truth of the matter is that, if we have walked into the faith of Jesus, we have nothing to worry about. In fact, we have been given God's assurance that all is well with our status with Him both now and when the judgment arrives. Furthermore, this assurance comes through Jesus Christ and His redemptive work for us and in us--past, present, and future. Therefore, even when it comes to the judgment issue, we can have great confidence that all is well. As Paul in context says,

2 Corinthians 5:6-9--So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. (NLT)

As for the good or evil we have done, our own works just earn us an evil rating, while the works of Jesus quite understandably give us a good rating. So we just rest (our "doing" assignment) in Jesus, and let Him be the pleasing agent both now and forever. It is as the writer of Hebrews says:

Hebrews 13:20-21--Now may the God of peace—who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen. (NLT)

However, the 2 Corinthians 5:10 verse is but one of many that can trouble people. I look forward to what is coming in this blog.

All the best!

J. Richard Parker
Ted Johnston said…
Erkki, your questions and comments are much appreciated, and certainly not taken as argumentative. The goal of this blog is to unpack a Trinitarian understanding of Scripture, and of all of life. To do that, we must ask and seek to answer some penetrating, challenging questions. Thanks for sharing in that process!
Anonymous said…
Richard, difficult scriptures are only "difficult" to help us realize that nobody has a corner on the truth, not even those who like to label their theology as trinitarian, as if everyone else's point of view is not.
Anonymous said…
The actions of God in history are not fully explained to us, but if we suspect him to be loving, we can follow a trail of clues he has left for us. God is the judge of humanity, but he is also our Father. Any judgment he produces will come from his heart. God isn’t ruled by his laws; his actions spring from who he is. When we think of holiness and justice, we tend to think of legality, but we may soon place words like joy, compassion, enthusiasm, laughter, selflessness, passion, and hopefulness in the definition.

It seems to me, that this life has been intended, for the most part, to show all of humanity the results of living away from home. Freedom from our Creator is proving to be worth very little. Would you join me in admitting this existence, for many, looks a lot like hell? The results of our experimenting are often so hideous that God must step in to limit the suffering.

12As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 14But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Gen.15:12-16)

Could it be that God used genocide to limit the pain his Amorite children were experiencing? Had he ever acted that way before?

5The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7So the Lord said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” 8But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Gen.6:5-8)

Was God’s heart “filled with pain” because his laws were being broken, or because real people were living in despicable conditions, without love, respect, or hope?

4After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. 5It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deut.9:4-5)
Anonymous said…
I agree with you that God's judgment, holiness, wrath and justice must be understood as expressions of his essential nature, which is love. Therefore understanding how he has acted in history (including the examples you cite) must be understood in that context, not in some other.