The Final Judgment

The Final Judgment

The culmination of the gospel and the event toward which all other events have pointed is the second coming of Jesus. Of this event the New Testament writers spoke over three hundred times. Coincident with this event is the deliverance and vindication of the people of God.

To this event Abraham and the other patriarchs looked, for we read of them: “For he [Abraham] looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. . . . These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. . . . But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city.” Hebrews 11:10, 13–16

In viewing this scene, John sees the bride of Christ dressed in white. “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” Revelation 19:8. We know that this bride is the church, or saints of God. (See 2 Corinthians 11:2) It has been Satan’s great lie that salvation consists in our passive acceptance of the salvation Christ wrought out by His life and sacrifice, that all that is necessary for us to do is to accept the work He has done at Calvary. Here, however, we see that the white robe worn by the saints is the robe of their righteousness. “Let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.” 1 John 3:7

The saints do not just give lip service to the fact that God’s law is holy and just and good (see Romans 7 :12), but they exemplify that law in their lives. (See Revelation 14:12) Through faith in Jesus they have become partakers of the divine nature and so escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. (See 2 Peter 1:4) They have been cleansed from all sin, all defects of character.

To many, the passing of time without the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus to return is a source of perplexity; but the seventh verse of Revelation 19 tells us, at least in part, the reason for the apparent delay in His return. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.” The delay has been because the church of Christ is not prepared to meet Him.

Our character is revealed by the things that we do, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts. The little incidents of everyday life that so often pass without our notice are the things that shape character. Every event of life is great either for good or for evil. The channels of thought and action are worn deep and broad by repetition. The longer a given course of conduct is pursued, the greater the probability of continuing the same course throughout the life.

Character Determines Destiny

The character we cultivate, the attitudes we assume today, are fixing our destiny for time and eternity. The choices we make and the deeds that result are all faithfully chronicled in the books of record. It is there known whether our characters are after the order of obedience, or of lawlessness which originated as rebellion in heaven. We are deciding today by our attitudes and character development whether we will be found wearing the white robe of righteousness or will be lost when Jesus returns.

Indecision soon becomes decision in the wrong direction. Many will fail of entering in because they failed to make determined efforts to overcome their defects of character. Many, while expecting at some future time to overcome the problems in their lives, are deciding for eternal loss.

Jesus came the first time as the Saviour of mankind. He brought to the world words of life (see John 6:63), that by receiving them man might obtain salvation. Jesus did warn, however, that those who refused to receive these words would be judged by them. “And if any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” John 12:47-48. When Jesus comes the second time, it is not as a Saviour but as a Judge. “And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” Revelation 22:12

When Jesus returns, all of the righteous dead are resurrected and with the living righteous are taken to meet Jesus in the air. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17) The secret to being a part of this resurrection is overcoming; for those only who have overcome by the power that Jesus has made available to us are found written in the book of life, and only those whose names are found written in the Lamb’s book of life have a part in this resurrection. “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.” Revelation 3:5

At Jesus’ appearing, the righteous rejoice at the sight. (See Isaiah 25:9) The wicked, terrified and seeking to flee from His presence (see Revelation 6:16), are slain by the brightness of His appearing. (See Revelation 19:21) It is at this time that Satan is bound for one thousand years, following which he will once again be loosed for a little while. (See Revelation 20:1–3)

No Future Opportunity To Change

Many have become confused and expect a future opportunity to make a decision for salvation at a time when Satan is to be bound; but we can plainly see that Satan is not bound until the time that Jesus returns, at which time the righteous are taken to heaven and the wicked are destroyed.

The binding of Satan is the confinement of circumstances. We have all heard the expression “my hands are tied.” We understand this to mean that the person is speaking of the fact that because of circumstances beyond his control, he is prevented from doing that which he would otherwise choose to do. In this situation, Satan is confined to this earth. The wicked are dead, the righteous are removed, and after six thousand years of intense activity, this fallen angel is forced to contemplate his impending judgment. Isaiah also speaks of this time. “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms.” “But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet. Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.” Isaiah 14:15–16, 19–20

The expression “bottomless pit” is the Greek word abyssos and is the equivalent of the Hebrew term tehom, meaning deep. This is the word used in Genesis 1:2 to describe the chaotic condition of the earth in the beginning before God began His work of creation—without form and void. Jeremiah and Isaiah both give us a description of the earth at this time. “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled.” “Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. . . . The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.” Jeremiah 4:23–25; Isaiah 24:1, 3

While the judgment began with the preaching of the gospel (see Revelation 14:6-7), it is still not ended; for we read that judgment is now given to the saints. (See Revelation 20:4) Paul tells us that the saints will judge not only the earth but angels. (See 1 Corinthians 6:2–3)

In every trial there are two phases of judgment. There is first the investigative judgment. At this time, the evidence is adduced and a decision made as to whether guilt exists or not. If it is determined that the accused party is innocent, his trial is then ended with an acquittal. Paul speaks of this to Timothy. “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 Timothy 5:24–25

Some men, by the confession and forsaking of sin, have sent their sins beforehand to judgment; but whether or not we send them ahead, they cannot be hidden. Those sins which have not gone beforehand to judgment will remain to condemn us in the last day.

The investigative judgment must have been completed before Jesus comes, as the decision has already been made as to who are the saved and who are the lost. There can, therefore, be only one judgment left to take place. In every trial, when the guilt of the defendant has been determined, there is a date set for sentencing. During this period of time, the evidence that has been produced in the trial is evaluated and the sentence determined. It is this phase that the righteous participate in.

The Second Resurrection

Just as there was a resurrection of life at Jesus’ second coming, there is yet one more resurrection to be experienced—the resurrection of damnation. (See John 5:29) The lost, those who were not taken to heaven at the first resurrection, come forth at the end of the thousand years. (See Revelation 20:5) At this time, Satan is released for a little while and immediately begins again his work of deception. “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. . . . And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” Revelation 20:5, 7–9

Determined to the end in their hatred of righteousness, the wicked under Satan’s leadership determine to take the Holy City. Arrested in carrying out their purposes, they then suffer the executive judgment determined against them in the final phase of the judgment. Fire comes down, removing from the universe the last traces of rebellion.

“The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutes” atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.” The Great Controversy, 678

◄List of Tracts