Revelation 20 brings us to the ultimate consequence of our belief in God. We have the judgment at the great white throne.
Rev 20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
Every one of us deserves to be judged by our works. That intuitively make sense. There are consequences to actions, and some of those have eternal repercussions. We all deserve eternal separation from God. If God is perfect, then we, as people who are not perfect, would not generally have access to God. After all, how can something imperfect enter into the presence of someone who is perfect?
Jesus Christ did that. Through his sacrifice, we are able to be saved. We’re justified by our faith.
Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
That is where we see the difference at play here. We are not saved by our own works. In fact, being judged by our works alone leads to disastrous results.
Rev 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
We need to be written in that book of life. We are saved through faith. It is so important to understand this concept. It is not enough to be a good person because I know many good people, but all of them have done things that are wrong. No one is perfect, and without the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, we are told that works are not enough. We’re also told that we are going to be judged by our works. It is not as if God has changed the criteria from the time that Paul wrote Ephesians. It is impossible to have enough works, then we need something else are we are not going to see heaven. Faith is still what matters.
As we enter Revelation 15, we see seven angels fly out with seven final plagues. What is fascinating, and we have seen before in Revelation, is that before the judgment is laid out, there is a worship service.
Rev 15:3 And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.
Rev 15:4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
I know we have talked about this before, but let’s think about this idea that everyone is going to worship God when His judgments are made manifest. That seems somewhat counterintuitive. After all, I don’t know very many people that are thrilled about being judged. You would think that they would be mad at God.
This passage also does not seem to limit this worship to those who believe in God. It hasn’t happened yet because it is speaking in the future tense. Ultimately however, every knee is going to acknowledge the deity of the one and only God. As a result, it seems to me that this is rather confusing.
If God is everything He says He is, then God is just. If God is just by definition, then it seems to me that He cannot do anything that is unjust. If He is not capable of doing anything unjust by definition because it is not consistent with His character, then if the Christian God is real, He has to be just. This might sound like circular logic to some people, and I freely admit that for the purposes of this post, I am not providing a full apologetic defense for the reality of the Christian God. I think you can make that defense, but that is for a different post.
My main point is that we live in a world today that is yearning for justice. People want to see wrongs made right. It is not hard to see that. Therefore, maybe that is why every knee will bow even when they are faced with the judgment of God. Because we are wired to desire justice, when we actually encounter the source of that justice, I would not be surprised to see everyone worship no matter how they encounter God whether in adoration or judgment.
It is interesting that even as the judgments of being handed out in the beginning of Revelation 11, there is simultaneously a worship service going on in heaven.
Rev 11:15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
Rev 11:16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
Rev 11:17 Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
Rev 11:18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
This really makes me think about our earthly perspective in perspective as it were. We might not understand what God is doing. In fact, most of the time, I will freely admit that I’m not positive what God is doing. I think that God does open doors and close doors at times to help guide us in the right direction, but I am not Jesus Christ. I do not have that type of perfect sense of following the will of God at all times.
As a result, I don’t always understand all of the judgments of God. I don’t know everything about a situation that God knows. I don’t know the heart of people in the way that God does. As a result, it then challenges me to think about why I am so quick to say that God was unfair in a certain situation. I think that I can play God better than God is God. That is blatantly false.
In the scene in Revelation, even though God is handing down judgments that might not be pleasant for those being judged, there is a worship scene going on. It challenges me to think my limited perspective. I need to be worshiping God even when maybe I don’t know why certain things are happening. Even the judgments of God are just and are therefore something that we can worship Him for.
Revelation 8 demonstrates the power of the judgment of God. I know that people will debate over what this actually means and when it takes place, but I think there’s no doubt that is not fun to experience the judgment of God.
Rev 8:13 And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!
This is a hard thing for many of us to put together. Yes, God is a God of love. There’s no doubt about that. As a matter of fact, God is love. We love because God first loved us. There is no doubt about that from the Biblical testimony.
On the other hand, God is also a God of judgment. We see that in Sodom and Gomorrah. We see that with the nation of Israel when they disobeyed. We see that with Ananias and Sapphira. We now see that in Revelation.
How do we reconcile these two images of God? Some people might think they are entirely different or at the very least inconsistent.
I don’t think it is particularly hard to reconcile these however. Think about your parents or your teacher in school. They certainly love you, but they also are in a position to discipline you. The discipline does not come out of a place of vengeance or hate. It comes out of a place for the just consequence that follows the action you committed.
The world as we know it has fallen away from God. There’s no doubt about that. It started with Adam and Eve. As a result, there are consequences, and God does need to exercise discipline. It does not mean that He does not love the world. This does not need to be inconsistent.
In Matthew 7, we come to one of the most popular passages that unbelievers reference when Christians appeal to some type of moral standard that God has set.
Mat 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
Mat 7:2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Mat 7:3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Mat 7:4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Mat 7:5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
I think that a large part of the confusion over this passage comes down to what it means to judge.
Does this mean that we can never tell people they are doing something wrong? I don’t think so. I don’t think it means that because when you get down to verse 5, we are able to cast out the mote out of our brother’s eye once we have gotten rid of the beam in our own eye. We are able to help our neighbor once we have our own house in order. As a result, I don’t think that prohibition is on correcting things that are wrong. We don’t want to be hypocritical and do exactly what we tell people not to do, but it seems that there is a time where it is acceptable to do just that.
What then does it mean to judge? I think that we are talking about a salvation issue here. I am thinking of judgment in the sense that one of the outcomes of judgment is condemnation. Ultimately, God is the one who is going to judge. Therefore, it makes sense that Jesus would say it is not my job to do that. My job is to love God and try to glorify Him in whatever I do.
As a result, I think that in context, we entirely have a right to talk about moral issues. As long as we’re not being hypocritical, it does not seem that there is a prohibition against that. However, there are things that we need to leave to God. Eternal judgment is His. We know the verdict that everyone is guilty before God, and we know that salvation is available for all who will receive it. I know that, but I do not know the heart of every person I have ever met. Who has truly accepted God, and who hasn’t? It is God’s call to judge that.
Nineveh was not going to be a pretty place at the end of Nahum 2. They were going to be invaded, their leadership destroyed and everyone was going to wonder what happened to this once great city.
Nah 2:11 Where is the dwelling of the lions, and the feedingplace of the young lions, where the lion, even the old lion, walked, and the lion’s whelp, and none made them afraid?
Nah 2:12 The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin.
Nineveh used to be a fearsome opponent, but the people around them were wondering what happened? They were used to being torn apart by the Ninevites, and now Nineveh itself was being demolished from the outside. The people did not get how this was possible.
Nah 2:13 Behold, I am against thee, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will burn her chariots in the smoke, and the sword shall devour thy young lions: and I will cut off thy prey from the earth, and the voice of thy messengers shall no more be heard.
Now we know. We talk a lot about the fact that when God is with us, we have nothing to fear. When God is against us, we have everything to fear. When we have brought judgment upon ourselves through our evil actions, we ought to be trembling. The people of Noah’s day are pretty good example of that.
I think about this, and it makes me think that people have lost this fear of God. I know that God is a God of love, and that is entirely true. However, in modern society, we don’t want to be afraid of anyone, so this fear of God gets thrown out to make people feel good.
We have to make sure we don’t do that. I have written about this type of fear of God before, and I think about the way that you might fear your parents when you are a kid. It is not that they don’t love you, but you don’t want to be grounded for example so you abide by their rules. It is a similar type of situation here. It is not that we fear God because He is some kind of evil being whatsoever. Rather, it is a fear based on an understanding of who God is and how great He truly is. There is respect in that, but it goes even beyond that.
In Micah 2, there are people who are clearly doing things that are against some of the 10 Commandments. They also know that they are doing wrong, but they continue doing it.
Mic 2:3 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil.
Mic 2:4 In that day shall one take up a parable against you, and lament with a doleful lamentation, and say, We be utterly spoiled: he hath changed the portion of my people: how hath he removed it from me! turning away he hath divided our fields.
We see a contrast here. God has a plan in verse three. He does not approve of what these people are doing. At the same time, because the judgment is not immediate, these people in the beginning of the chapter are still going through with it. They are going to have disaster fall on them, and sometimes you have to wonder why people are walking into this bad situation.
They certainly knew the law of God. Being culturally Jewish at this time, you would definitely know the 10 Commandments. It isn’t as if they are violating one particular provision in Leviticus which are still important, but they are actually breaking the 10 Commandments. Even if the people being referred to are not the most religious, there is no way that people in this time and culture would not know the 10 Commandments.
They might not have known the exact nature of the punishment that was going to be coming from God, but they would have at least realized they were breaking the law of God.
The contrast is what they should know they did and what they actually did. I think it was because they did not take what they did know seriously. Maybe they did not think that God was really going to punish them for breaking His law. Maybe they thought that wealth could protect them from whatever consequences might be coming.
I hope that we don’t do this. We know a lot of things about God, but we need to take them seriously.
Obadiah is only one chapter long, but it is a powerful prophecy directed at people of Edom. These people had a major problem. They thought that because their city was in a powerful position, they would not be able to be overtaken.
Oba 1:3 The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?
Oba 1:4 Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.
From a tactical standpoint, I suppose that they had reason to be confident. When you build a city on top of a rocky hill, it is very hard to attack. It honestly makes an awful lot of sense to assume that they would not be overrun.
However, notice what they are told in verse three. The pride of their hearts has deceived them. How often does that happen to us? We have obvious false sense of security in our own strength. Some people do have remarkable talents.
There are plenty of physically strong people. There are plenty of intellectually brilliant people. No matter how talented any person is though, God is greater than that. Even Lucifer, the greatest created angel, was not able to overthrow God. God was and is still beyond him and everyone else.
Judgment is going to come to the people of Edom because they thought that they were secure by their own power. They had miscalculated. I kind of think about the phrase that asks if God is with us than who can be against us. It makes me then think about why on earth we ever think that it would be a good idea to stand alone against God.
In Ezekiel 22, God is explaining the consequences of idolatry. In the middle of His explanation, we receive a very interesting hypothetical question.
Eze 22:14 Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee? I the LORD have spoken it, and will do it.
God is going to bring judgment on the people of Israel, and He asked the people if they think they are going to be able to hold on under the judgment of God.
This implicitly brings up two questions. The first is whether or not people are strong enough to endure under the judgment of God. To think about it, let’s consider Noah’s Ark. Other than Noah’s family that was saved through the grace of God, was anyone able to survive? Did God say that He was going to destroy every living thing but then some person outsmarted Him and built a raft? No. The judgment of God was done because it was what God willed. Therefore, I think it is pretty safe to say that we cannot resist the judgment of God if it is what He has chosen.
The other question is similar. Can we be strong at all without God? For example, God might not be actively bringing judgment as He did for Noah or the people of Israel. However, what if we did not have the strength of God? What if He simply decided not to be with us anymore? Could we do anything?
Joh 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
I think about this on a few levels. On one hand, this verse in particular is speaking about fruit, so that brings to mind the fruit of the spirit. We cannot do anything that will please God without the work of Jesus. However, on another level, this makes me think about the fact that God holds together the universe. He is the architect, and as easily of God created the universe, He certainly has the power to destroy it. Therefore, the second question is also safe to answer in the negative. Any strength that we have is a consequence of what God has given.
God is good all the time. He is always just and righteous. Part of that justice is the right to judge, and God does hate sin. The people of Israel were facing the prospect of having to stand against God, and it is quite clear that we simply cannot do that.
At the end of the book of Jeremiah, we finally get a summary of all that went wrong with the people of Judah, and even though it took 52 chapters to describe entirely, it really was rather simple.
Jer 52:1 Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.
Jer 52:2 And he did that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.
Jer 52:3 For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, till he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
The people of Judah had done evil for so long that God finally allowed them to fall. It was the ultimate consequence to all of their actions. It seems as if it was kind of like getting your hands closer and closer to fire. Every time gets a little bit warmer, but when it burns, you feel the consequences. That is kind of like this situation.
Obviously God had not caused people of Judah to fall every time that there were problems. Even under King David there were problems, but by this point, the offenses had grown so great that the consequences had to come.
It is also worth pointing out on this front that while the suffering was certainly awful for the people of Judah, when you think of the larger picture, it did accomplish the purpose of getting the people to come back to God. Under the leadership of Nehemiah, the people did come back to Jerusalem, and there was a return to faith.
It seems as if that a lot as a response to adversity. When all that you have on earth seems to fall apart, we have to go back to what you have in your base, and when you have God in your base, you come back to what is really important. Your eyes opened to all that was going wrong before. Because of that kind of foundation, you end up with people like Nehemiah who are able to then rebuild nations and do it in the right way.