Vol 121, No. 09
A reader requested that we explain how it is possible to confine a disembodied spirit to either Paradise or Torment at physical death, but that soul will still have to appear in a final, public judgment.
This question attracts widespread attention and involves some basics of saving faith, so we thought it good to devote this month’s editorial to some things mentioned in Holy Writ about present and future judgment.
The judgment of God on human motive and behavior is continuous. Every mortal motive and action is judged at the very moment it is indulged. The startling, infinite wisdom and power of the Mighty Maker of heaven and earth enable him constantly to look into the corridors of every human mind and to take note of every human work.
A staggering thought, but the attributes of God are limitless. The God with whom we have to do has no restrictions on his exhaustless power except for self limitations and things that would be inconsistent. Otherwise, he is no better than Hindu idols or the big-bellied images of Buddha. When we say, “God,” we say “immensurable.”
The eye of deity runs to and fro upon the earth and he sees every thought and deed. Furthermore, he judges every deliberation and endeavor at the precise moment it is entertained. This staggering concept is expressed in the song we used to sing: “There’s an All Seeing Eye Watching You” (Rev. 4:6-8).
Some were offended by the thought of the big-eye of God tracking desire and performance and objected to the sentiment of the song and it has fallen into disrepute. How sad! The song expresses a sound biblical idea.
If we keep ever in mind that God knows and evaluates our thoughts and deeds, then our conduct will improve mightily — which it doubtless needs to do.
Jehovah “judgeth the peoples” (Job 36:31). “There is a God that judgeth in the earth” (Ps. 58:11). “My sayings” hath one that “judgeth him” (John 12:48). “He that judgeth me is the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:4). The Father “without respect of persons judgeth according to each man’s work” (1 Pet. 1:17).
The word judgeth, as you know, is present tense, which means an ongoing action. It is happening right now. So, God immediately judges every thought you think, every deed you do. Furthermore, the Mighty Hand of God writes motives and performance in a heaven register.
Think about that!
God looks not only at the action but also at the motive that prompts the action and judges and records it.
How solemn that makes every passing moment. How seriously we must regard every thought and deed.
“There’s an All Seeing Eye Watching You”
When you die, based on your earthly behavior, you are assigned to be comforted in Abraham’s bosom, or to being tormented in flames of fire. The case of the rich man and Lazarus, as reported by Jesus in Luke 16:19-31, makes it clear that at the moment of physical death the spirit of every man is judged. A decision is made as to his eternal destiny.
There is a great gulf fixed and a disembodied spirit may not pass from one estate to another. If he is on the side of torment, that cannot be changed; if on the side of comfort, that cannot be changed.
Death fixes the eternal destiny of every spirit.
But wait a minute … have we not been saying that “there is a God that judgeth in the earth.” The person as already been judged. He was judged while he lived. Now that he is dead, he is judged? Two judgments. One in life and the other at death.
Is that fair?
Unless you want to sit in judgment on God, it is fair to have at least two judgments — in life, and at death.
There is also to be a final judgment. When Jesus comes to earth the final time, sometimes called the second coming, all the nations will be gathered before him to be judged (Matt. 25:31-46). He will separate all the people who have ever lived upon the earth on the right hand and on the left hand. The saved — the sheep — are set upon his hand, and the lost — the goats are placed on his left hand. After the separation — the judgment — the Master will say to them on his right hand, “Come, ye blessed of my father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the earth.” And to those on the left hand he shall say, “Depart from me ye cursed into the fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
The ultimate judgment is two-fold. There is first a separation (judgment), and then there is a judgment.
Is it fair?
Is it double jeopardy?
The answer is “yes, it is fair seeing that God does it;” and yes, it is double — maybe even triple — jeopardy. If God chooses to do that way, who are we to complain.
“Ye turn things upside down! Shall the potter be esteemed as clay; that the thing made should say of him that made it, He made me not; or the thing formed say of him that formed it, He hath no understanding?” (Isa. 29:16).
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