Background Considerations:

Judgement in the Bible includes: the trial presided over by the judge, the sentencing by the judge, as well as the meting out of justice. Often the ruler or king would be expected to double as a judge. Jesus himself appeared before a Roman governor, Pilate; and Paul before Felix. Whether the judgment was to be seen in a positive or negative light depended, of course, on which side one was on. For the oppressed the prospects of facing the judge offered hope. In Daniel 7 an oppressive and blasphemous power is finally brought to judgement in the heavenly court and the saints get the kingdom. Jesus spoke of a widow who kept the pressure on a judge to hear her case and give her legal protection (Luke 18:1-9). At first he was impervious to her appeals but in the end her persistence wore him down and he heard her case.

On the other hand Jesus promised that many religious miracle workers would seek to enter the kingdom of heaven only to be blocked by him because he didn’t know them (Matthew 5:21-24). As for the nations of the world-they will be appear before him when he returns as the King-Judge (Matthew 25:33-46) and divides them into two groups.

The notion of a pre-advent or investigative judgement taught by Seventh-day Adventists has undergone a shift in the last 20 years. Increasingly Adventists point to this judgement in terms of assurance. Texts like Zechariah 3:1-5 and Revelation 12:10 that speak of Satan as “accuser of the brethren” who points to the defects of God’s people fit within the concept of a pre-advent judgment that is less about informing God than responding to the accusations of Satan by pointing to the security that comes from trusting Christ.

Perhaps the most intriguing statement of Jesus about the judgement is found in John 5:24 where Jesus declares that the one who believes in him will not come into judgment (Greek: krisis), but has passed out of death into life. Earlier in vv. 22-23 Jesus declares that all judgment has been given into his hands. Most likely, the meaning of v. 24 is to be understood in the same way that 8:51-52 is to be understood-the assurance of the resurrection is so certain that Jesus can say that the believer will never face death. Likewise in v. 24, the positive outcome of the judgment is so certain, since Jesus is the judge, that the believer does not face the judgment of condemnation. This is supported by vv. 28-29 where Jesus contrasts those who did good deeds will be come forth to a resurrection of life, while those who did evil deeds will come forth to a resurrection of judgment. Here Jesus restricts the experience of judgment to those who will be condemned.

For Discussion:

  1. Daniel 7:9, 10 and Revelation 20:12-13 speak of a trial in the heavenly courts presided over by God and the opening of the books in which the records are kept. Why is there a need for a trial? Doesn’t God already know?
  2. The judgement simply reveals the truth about our relationship with Christ and our willingness to allow him to direct our lives and transform our hearts. Is it possible for us now to know what the outcome of the judgment? How can we avoid being the self-deceived who consider themselves followers of Jesus only to hear him say, “I never knew you-depart from me, you workers of iniquity”?

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