Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Judgment Must Begins...and Ends, Lesson No. 2

The Judgment must Begin…End

The Lesson Study Guide says

“This week, while realizing our inherent limitations, we're going to be as objective as we can as we look at what the Bible says about judgment. Let's forget for the moment about 1844, the pre-Advent judgment, Ellen White, Hiram Edson in the cornfield, etc. Instead, let's just let the Bible speak for itself on this important topic.”

What does the Judgment mean to the Christian? To answer that question one has to decide which judgment is being talked about. At the end of a courtroom trial the judge presents a ruling, often in civil cases that judgment may come as a sum of money to either the defendant or the plaintiff. That is a judgment. That is the concept most often given in the New Testament. Some call it the judgment for rewards.

(Rev 22:12 NIV) "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. (Rev 22:13 NIV) I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. (Rev 22:14 NIV) "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.

In the symbolic language of Revelation the reward for what a person does comes not from how good their works were but from their acceptance of the cleansing gift of God. This is also reflected in the concept of being written in the book. The Bible does not mention any book recording sins, only the Book of Life in the New Testament and the Book of Remembrance in the Old Testament. (Phil 4:3 NIV) Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

(Rev 20:12 NRSV) And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books. (Rev 20:15 NRSV) and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

The Lesson Study asks what is the Gospel?

“But if it's good news, it's good news about what? It's the good news that Jesus died as our Substitute (1 Pet. 2:24)

Did Jesus die as our Substitute, doubtful, certainly not presented that way in the New Testament. Certainly 1 Peter does not say Jesus is our substitute.

(1 Pet 2:24 NIV) He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Pet 2:25 NIV) For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

What is sin that it can be transferred from one person to another. It is an attitude, the rebellion and selfishness which separates us from our God. There is no reason to transfer our sinful attitude to Jesus. He suffered the results of men’s sin mentally and physical when He came to this earth and was rejected and tortured and killed by His own creation. His wounds do not heal us, we are not healed because Jesus was beaten bloody, God heals us, we are drawn back to God by the kindness demonstrated by the selfless love of God shown clearly through Jesus Christ who even after being physically tortured and while dying on the Cross proclaimed “forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing”. Seeing the love, forgiveness and acceptance of God brings us back to God. We die to our old man, the attitude which was hostile toward God and return, reconciled back to God. With the resurrection we see that sin does not win, that even death can be conquered by our God.

The Good News is who God is and His love and desire to be reconciled back to us.

The Lesson Study says;

that at the Cross He paid the penalty for our sins (Isa. 53:6);

Once again the guide does not offer any Good News. If Jesus paid my penalty for sin now I owe Him, Jesus, transfer of debt does not help me. Nor does it help me if God is the kind of God who demands that because someone sins someone must pay the penalty. Yet in the view of some, a God who punishes the innocent and frees the guilty is viewed as superior to a God who forgives and heals. Then again how is it that the concept that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins which cannot even be found in the New Testament be the Gospel. Why must something be asserted from a foreshadowing statement in the Old Testament when the entire New Testament is focused upon Jesus Christ. Clearly the New Testament knows nothing of Jesus paying a penalty for our sins.

The Lesson Study:

that through faith in Him we stand perfect in God now because we are covered with perfect righteousness (Rom. 3:22); and that because of what He has done for us, we have the promise of eternal life (1 John 5:11, 12).

Yet again the lesson pretends that the Good News is found in the being covered by perfect righteousness as if God does not see who we are. The Good News is not that we are hiding from God behind the robe of Jesus. Jesus is God we don’t need to hide from God He loves us and wants us to be with Him. The Good News is that we can accept the wonderful gift of eternal life God graciously offers.

(Rom 3:21 NIV) But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. (Rom 3:22 NIV) This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,

(Rom 3:23 NIV) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Rom 3:24 NIV) and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Again the redemption is not from God’s penalty, the redemption is from our own attitude which is the sin that separates us from God. The righteousness of God and the faith in Jesus Christ is the same, there is no difference. The restored relationship with God is the righteousness granted freely by the grace of God.

Lesson Study ;

“So, the good news is that we have eternal life, as opposed to—what?”

As opposed to what? As opposed to this hopeless life and death that we see all around us. If there was no gift of eternal life when we die that would be it…the end. Don’t become confused by church tradition God has no need to punish you because you sin. Because we all sin and we all die unless we accept the gift of Life God offers. God offers the chance to choose life. To reject God and reject life is its own punishment that is what the weeping and gnashing of teeth symbolize in the Bible the condemnation of our own actions. Yes God grants us the knowledge of what our choices were. But that is not a punishment from God. He does not raise the dead to life again to punish them for their sin. The love that is revealed in Christ does not teach such a God. The Bible teaches eternal destruction after the resurrection of the wicked but if they were never raised they would still be described as eternally destroyed. So even the resurrection of the wicked fits in with the love of God far more then the concept of God’s damnation of the wicked. Yes Vengeance is God’s but then what is the point of vengeance, a little more pain before dying is that the kind of God we serve? Will that help the healed believer or the tortured wicked before his death?

What one thinks of the gospel is important to every aspect of what judgment is. The question one should ask is do I have a real understanding of the kind of person God is or have I created a God out of other traditions then the Gospel that Christ demonstrated.


Ryan Bell said...

My conviction has been growing for some time that conservative Christians (not just Adventists) have drawn an equal sign (=) between the gospel and a particular theory of atonement. Then we argue about which theory of the atonement is the "right" one. Funny thing, Jesus is the one who announces the good news and he never equates it with a theory of the atonement. Aside from the passage in Mark about being a ransom for many, Jesus doesn't deal with atonement theology at all. Paul uses a variety of metaphors.

What is lost in all of this is the central focus of Jesus' teaching which was that something decisive had happened in His person; namely that the hopes of Israel were being fulfilled. Messiah is here and the God's loving reign over all creation was now breaking in. Judgment, in this context, means God is finally putting the world to rights (to borrow a phrase from NT Wright). Judgment for God's people is good news - Messiah has come to settle the score. For those who are enemies of God it is ultimately bad news.

Sherman Haywood Cox II said...


I think that you hit the nail on the head...many Christians define the gospel solely in terms that have to do with an individual's salvation and thus with atonement theories...

However the Gospel is good news for more than just me as an individual wanting is good news for the community that Christ comes to is good news for the very creation that groaneth...