Outline XXI From your Bibles read Matthew 25:31–40; also Luke 12:47, 48.
THE FINAL JUDGMENT (Second Outline)
1. WHEN WIll IT OCCUR?
From the section which you have just read it is clear that the final judgment will take place immediately after Christ’s second coming and the resurrection of the dead: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory…all the nations shall be gathered be fore him…” See also II Thessalonians 1:7–10 and Revelation 20:11–14.
Article 37 of our Belgic Confession says beautifully:
“Finally, we believe, according to the Word of God, when the time appointed by the Lord (which is un known to all creatures) is come, and the number of the elect complete, that our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, corporally and visibly, as he ascended, with great glory and majesty, to declare himself Judge of the living and the dead, burning this old world with fire and flame to cleanse it. Then all men will person ally appear before this great Judge.” See also Matthew 24:36 and II Peter 3:9.
2. WHY MUST IT TAKE PLACE?
The objection is often heard, “The final judgment is entirely unnecessary and superfluous, for long before that time the reprobate will already know where they will spend eternity, and so will also the elect. Is it not true that when a person dies, his soul immediately enters heaven or hell? So, what possible purpose would a final judgment serve?”
However, this reasoning is faulty. Note the following facts which show that the final judgment, at the last day, is indeed necessary:
a. The survivors—that is, those individuals who will still be living on earth when Jesus returns—have not yet been assigned either to heaven or to hell. Hence they at least must still be judged.
b. But the final judgment is necessary not only for them but for every one; for the exact degree, or measure, of weal or woe which anyone will receive in soul and body throughout eternity has not yet been designated. Up to the moment of the final judgment all those who have died have been in heaven or hell with respect to their souls only.
c. The righteousness of God must be publicly displayed, that he may be glorified.
d. The righteousness of Christ and the honor of his people must be publicly vindicated. When the world in general last saw Jesus, he was hang ing on a cross, as if he were a criminal! This estimate—as if he were a malefactor condemned for his own personal crimes—must be reversed. All men must see him whom they have pierced. They must behold him in his glory…with his people “on his right hand.”
3. ACCORDING TO WHAT STANDARD WILL MEN BE JUDGED?
Entrance into or exclusion from the new heaven and earth will depend on whether one is clothed with the righteousness of Christ. Apart from Christ there is no salvation at any time (Acts 4:12; cf. John 3:16; 14:6; I Corinthians 3:11).
Nevertheless, there will be degrees of punishment and also degrees of glory. Note the expression “many stripes…few stripes,” in the pas sage which you just read (Luke 12:47, 48), and see also Daniel 12:3; I Corinthians 3:12–14; 15:41, 42.
The degree of glory or of punishment will depend on two considerations:
a. What amount of “light” (knowledge) has this person received? (Romans 2:12).
b. How has he used the light which he has received? (Luke 12:47, 48). Has he been faithful? And if so, in what measure? Has he been faith less? And if so, to what extent? This will be evident from his Works. Hence, we read that the dead will be judged “according to their works.”
Now, this is true in a two-fold sense, for these works will show both whether or not a person is a genuine believer in Christ, and also to what extent he has used or abused the light which he received (Revelation 20:13; then I Corinthians 3:12–14).
A. Questions Answered in the Outline
1. According to Scripture, w hen will the final judgment take place?
2. How does the Belgic Confession express itself with respect to this matter?
3. What objection has often been advanced against the idea of a final judgment?
4. How do you answer that objection?
5. According to what standard will men be judged?
B. Additional Questions
1. What makes Christ’s words of praise for those on his right hand so wonderful? I refer to the words In Matthew 25:35, 36. Hint: read them in the light of John 15:15 (last clause); I Corinthians 4:7; and Ephesians 2:10.
2. How is The Mystic Christ revealed in Matthew 25:40?
3. What characteristic of a really good work is indicated in verses 37–39?
4. In the light of this section from Matthew 25 (particularly verses 35 and 36), would you say that we Protestants are at times in danger of underestimating the value of good deeds?
5. How can we teach our children to be a blessing?
Outline XXII From your Bibles read Matthew 25:41–46.
THE FINAL JUDGMENT (Third Outline)
I. OF WHAT ELEMENTS WIll IT CONSIST?
It is, of course, impossible for us to determine the exact sequence in which all the elements that comprise the final judgment will occur. Scripture does not give us sufficient information to arrive at such a detailed, precise schedule of events. There are, however, several elements which are mentioned in the Bible as pertaining to the final judgment. It is possible that, in a general way, the order in which I shall mention. them will correspond to the actual sequence as it will unfold itself:
When all those who have ever lived will have been gathered before him, the Son of man will divide them into two groups, setting the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left (Matthew 25:31–33). Note that in Matthew 25:31–46 this is the very first fact that is mentioned. Here it should be borne in mind that God is omniscient. For God it is unnecessary to arrive, little by little, at any conclusion as to the inner condition of the heart that will characterize this or that individual. He has known it all along. Furthermore, are not the sheep those who are elected from eternity, and are not the goats the reprobate (also from eternity)? Besides, as was pointed out previously, by far the most of those who are gathered here before the throne of judgment have already been in heaven or in hell as to their soul! For these several reasons it will not be difficult for the Judge to divide the multitude at once, placing the sheep on the right, the goats on the left hand.
What has been said must not lead us to think, however, that the separation is arbitrary, so that, for example, it would be based solely upon the de cree from eternity, and not take into account also man’s actual life as it has been lived. On the contrary, the en tire life of each person, including even his inmost thoughts and motivations, \vill be “brought into judgment.” Thus the justice of the basic decision (“saved” or “damned”) will become clear. Also, thus the degree of glory or of punishment for each person will be judicially determined. See Mat thew 25:35–45; also Ecclesiastes 12:14; Luke 12:47, 48; Romans 2:16; and II Corinthians 5:10.
Every deed which a man has ever performed, every word he has ever spoken, every thought he has ever conceived, every ambition he has ever cherished, and every motive that has ever prompted him to action or to in action, will be laid bare, for himself and for all to see. In other words, “the books will be opened,” that is, the complete record of each person’s life, as this record exists in God’s omniscience and as it is dimly reflected in each man’s conscience, will now be made manifest (Daniel 7:10; Malachi 3:16; Luke 12: 3; I Corinthians 4:5; and Revelation 20:12).
It is not necessary to assume that this will take a long, long time. By way of illustration let us think of a landscape in autumn. If you had to describe it in detail, it would take a long time to do so, but by means of a comprehensive picture it can be flashed upon the mind in an instant.
The exact sentence affecting each person will be pronounced and the reason for it will be given. This is portrayed vividly in Matthew 25:34–46.
The sentence, whatever it may be in any given case, will be executed, carried out (Matthew 13:30).
Throughout the entire process the justice of God will become fully evident. The righteousness of Christ, of his cause, and of his people, will be made manifest. Even the damned will be obliged to admit it in their inmost beings, and God’s people will praise the Triune God for it (Revelation 15:3, 4; 19:2).
2. WHAT WILL BE THE OUTCOME?
Read it in Matthew 25:46. How ever, as to the nature of the final state in heaven and in hell, no information will be given in the Outlines for this present season (1957–1958). In other words, such a question as, “Just what is this life in heaven (or this death in hell) going to be?” will not be discussed now. Although this topic, too, can be considered under the heading of General Eschatology, yet, as I see it, it can just as well be placed under the heading of Individual Eschatology.
A. Questions Answered in the Outline
1. If several persons are tried before an earthly judge, the division into two groups guilty, not guilty – would take place at the conclusion of the trial. How is it, then, that when all men appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, the separation takes place at once?
2. Prove that men’s thoughts, words, deeds, etc., will be brought into judgment. Why is this necessary?
3. What is meant by the expression, “The books will be opened”?
4. How will the sentence be pronounced and carried out?
5. How will the justice of God be vindicated?
B. Additional Questions
1. Will the good angels be judged?
2. Will the sinful deeds which God’s people have committed be revealed in the final judgment? If your answer is “Yes,” will that not make the final iudgment a terrible ordeal even for believers?
3. If you cling to the opinion that the sins of God’s people will not be revealed in the final judgment, then how do you explain such pas sages as the following: Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 12:36; Romans 2:16; and I Corinthians 4:5?
4. Is there any Significance in the fact that, while in Matthew 25 the sinful deeds of believers are not mentioned, their good deeds are recounted?
5. What light does Revelation 14:14–20 shed on the final judgment?
From your Bibles read II Peter 3:13; Romans 8:18–22; and Isaiah 11:6–9.
THE NEW UNIVERSE
It would seem that when both heaven and earth will be momentarily depopulated – Christ and his angels, together with the souls of the re deemed descending from heaven; believers ascending from the earth to meet their Lord in the air; unbelievers being driven before Christ’s throne of judgment (in the air?) the universe will be subjected to a glorious process of transformation, so that out of the old “heaven and earth” a new “heaven and earth” will come forth. We read, “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them” (Revelation 20:11).
This process of transformation has four aspects:
1. THE GREAT CONFLAGRATION
The heavens that now are and the earth have been stored up for fire, so that by and by the heavens being on fire – divinely ignited! – will be dissolved and the elements will melt with fervent heat. From the entire universe (with the sole exception of hell) every stain of sin and every trace of the curse will be removed (II Peter 3:7, 11, 12).
2. THE GLORIOUS REJUVENATION
The fire will not do away with the universe. After the fire there will still be the same “heaven and earth,” but gloriously renewed, as explained in 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1–5:
“But according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his peoples, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God: and he. shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more: the first things are passed away. And he that sitteth on the throne said, Be hold, I make all things new. And he said, Write: for these things are faithful and true.” For an explanation of this section and of The New Jerusalem see More Than Conquerors, pp. 236–250; also my Three Lectures on the Book of Revelation, pp. 55–70.
Accordingly, not only shall we “go to heaven,” but heaven will, as it were, come down to us; that is, the conditions of perfection which obtain in heaven will be found through out God’s gloriously rejuvenated universe.
3. THE WONDERFUL SELF-REALIZATION
This organic realm will attain to complete self-expression or “liberty.” It is that thought which is beautifully expressed in Romans 8:18–22. In that passage the apostle tells us that at present the creation is subjected to “vanity.” Now this word “vanity” does not here mean “shallow pride” or “saucy airs.” It has no reference to ambitious display, as when we say, What a vain fellow this is!” It means futility, lack of effectiveness (cf. Ecclesiastes 12:8). It indicates that at present, as a result of man’s sin, Nature does not attain to self-realization: its potentialities are cribbed, cabined, and confined. It is subject to arrested development. Though it aspires, it is not able to achieve. It may be com pared to a very powerful man, a world-champion boxer or wrestler, who is chained in such a manner that he cannot make use of his tremendous physical prowess. Thus it is with the present universe, which lies under the curse. Plant disease decimates the crops, etc. What a glorious day it will be when all restraints which am due to sin will have been removed, and we shall see this wondeIful crea tion finally coming into its own, attaining unto “the glorious liberty of the children of God,” and no longer subject to futility.
4. THE PERFECT HARMONIZATION
At present Nature can be described as “raw in tooth and claw.” Peace and harmony are lacking in many respects. Various organisms seem to be work ing at cross purposes. It cannot be truly said that Nature is to any great extent man’s willing servant. Fear and dread rest heavily upon the various conflicting domains of this universe. There is warfare everywhere. But then all Nature, gloriously trans formed, will sing a symphony. There will be variation, to be sure, but a most delightful blending of sounds, colors, purposes, so that the total effect will be unity. And the prophecy of Isaiah 11:6–9 will reach its ultimate fulfillment. (We do not in any way deny that, according to .the context of the Isaiah passage, there is an anticipatory fulfillment in the present dispensation, ushered in by the coming of Christ into the flesh.)
It is this final harmony which is set forth in symbolic language (please note the qualification) in the words, “And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid…They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea.”
A. Questions Answered in the Outline
1. Name the four elements that are included in the great process of transformation.
2. What is meant by the· great conflagration?
3. By the glorious rejuvenation?
4. By the wonderful self·realization?
5. By the perfect harmonization?
B. Additional Questions
1. Does II Peter 3:10 prove that the universe will be destroyed by a U(ranium) bomb?
2. Do such passages as Romans 8:18–22 and Isaiah 11:6–9 imply that there will be plants and animals in the new world?
3. Prove that the Isaiah 11 passage has its anticipatory fulfillment in the present dispensation.
4. Does the ,catastrophic consummation of all things, as vividly described in 2 Peter 3:8–13, harmonize or clash with the idea of evolution? Does the introduction of evolution-ideas in the explanation of Genesis 1 prevent a person from arriving at a sound Eschatology? In other words, if a person is not sound in his doctrine of Creation, will he be sound in his doctrine of The last Things? Have any evolution-ideas entered our own circles? If so, what must we do about this situation?
5. How would you compare the universe as it existed before the fall with the universe as it is going to be after the great conflagration?
From your Bibles read Titus 2.
THE BLESSED HOPE
1. SUMMARY OF THE CHAPTER
Sanctification in mutual relation ships, with emphasis on the Christian family, is the theme of this chapter. Doctrine and life must agree. Hence Titus must urge aged men to be temperate, dignified, etc.; aged women to be reverent; young men to exercise self-control (Titus himself being their model); and slaves to be submissive in their deportment, pleasing in disposition, and of unquestionable depend ability. Moreover, he wants the older women to instruct the younger ones to love their husbands and their chil dren, to be self-controlled, chaste, domestic, kind, and submissive to their husbands. All these classes should be motivated by the desires that the delight, and glory, Word of God be honored, the sound doctrine adorned, and the enemy of the truth put to shame.
Not a single class or group must fail to come under the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit. Has not the grace of God appeared, bringing salvation to them all? This grace is:
a.. the Grant Penetrator, which invaded the realm of darkness and brought light—namely, the light of knowledge, holiness, joy, and peace (“salvation”);
b. the Wise Pedagogue, training us to crucify worldly passions and to live lives 9f Christian devotion;
c. the Effective Preparer, pointing to the realization of our blessed hope when our great God and Savior Christ Jesus returns in glory; and
d. the Thorough-going Purifier, in Christ redeeming us from all lawless ness, and transforming us into a people for God’s own possession, filled with a zest for noble deeds.
Titus must constantly talk about this glorious life of sanctification on the part of everybody. It should be presented to God as a thank-offering for his wonderful grace. Let Titus then see to it (by himself living that life) that no one slights him or his words.
2. MEANING OF THE P ASSAGE CONCERNING “THE BLESSED HOPE” (Titus 2:13)
The apostle tells us that, trained by God’s grace, we in the here and now should live lives of self-mastery and fairness and devotion “while we are waiting for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,”
Thus I have translated the passage in my commentary on I and II Timothy and Titus, which may be consulted for details of interpretation.
It is “the blessed hope” for which believers are waiting. This expression “the blessed hope” means “the realization of that hope.” By hope itself is meant earnest yearning, confident expectation, and patient waiting. This hope is called blessed because it imparts preparedness, bliss, happiness, delight, and glory.
Now, even the exercise of this hope is blessed, because of hope’s immovable foundation (I Timothy 1:1, 2; Hebrews 6:19), glorious Author (Romans 15:13), wonderful object (ever lasting life, salvation, glory, Titus 1:2; 3: 7), precious effects (endurance, I Thess. 1:3, boldness of speech, II Corinthians 3:12, purification of life, I John 3:3), and everlasting character (I Corinthians 13:13).
Then surely the realization of this hope will be blessed, indeedI Now the realization of this hope is “the appearing in glory” (or “of the glory”) of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus. As to this last phrase, the rendering in our Bibles (Authorized Version, text of American Standard Version) namely, “of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ,” is rather confusing. It does not clearly bring out the fact that Paul is here calling Jesus “God.” It must be stressed that the apostle is not talking about two persons but about one. He is saying that Christ Jesus is “our great God and Savior.” It is thus correctly rendered in the margin or footnote of the American Standard Version and in the text of the Revised Standard Version.
The apostle’s meaning, then, in the light of the entire context is this: our joyful expectation of the appearing in glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus effectively prepares us for the life with him. Now, how does it do this? First, because the Second Coming will be so altogether glorious that believers will not want to “miss out on” it, but will want “to be manifested with Christ in glory” (Colossians 3:4). Second, because this blissful expectation fills believers with gratitude, and gratitude produces preparedness by God’s grace. If some one has conferred a great benefit upon you, you will wish to have everything ready so that you can give him a hearty welcome. When we think of the way in which Christ, having renewed our souls, is going to renew our bodies so that they will be like his glorious body, how he will receive us when we go forth to meet him in the air, how he will vindicate us in the final judgment, how we shall dwell with him forever in a gloriously renewed universe; and when, in addition to all this, we reflect on the fact that we had deserved none of this glory but only everlasting damnation, then, indeed, we by his grace will prepare ourselves thoroughly to meet him at his coming!
A. Questions Answered in the Outline
1. How would you summarize this chapter (that is, Titus 2)?
2. In the present passage (Titus 2:13) does “hope” mean the exercise of hope or the realization of this hope?
3. Is Titus 2:13 a proof-text for the deity of Christ? Explain.
4. How does our joyful expectation of Christ prepare us for the life with him?
5. What is the meaning of “blessed” in the expression “the blessed hope”?
B. Additional Questions
1. Are you able to give a brief summary of the matters which have been discussed in this season’s Outlines, so that the program of the future, as revealed in Scripture, stands before you as a connected story? Try it.
2. When you await a visitor, you prepare everything for his coming: the guest-room, the program of activities, etc. Apply this to the manner in which we should await Christ’s coming.
3. When Paul insists so strongly on calling Jesus “our great God and Savior,” this was in reaction to what?
4. Does the believer’s hope end in man or in God? In other words, is the realization of this hope limited to the joy which we shall possess by and by, or does it also include the element of God’s glory and joy in our perfect salvation? Is the latter, perhaps, even the main idea?
5. What can be done to enliven and increase in our own hearts and the hearts of others that glorious waiting for “the blessed hope”?