The World's Judgment Day
"God hath appointed a Day in the which He will judge the world."—#Ac 17:31.
True, it is not today fashionable in civilized communities to worship images; and yet in another sense it is still fashionable. To a great extent idolatry still prevails throughout the civilized world, but in a different form from that of old. No longer do we bow before wooden images, but before inward images—the images of our minds, our mental aspirations—with some, wealth and fame; with others, ease and pleasures; and with still others, the creed idols of our forefathers—miserable misrepresentations of the true God.
St. Paul on Mars Hill preached Jesus and the resurrection—Jesus as the Redeemer from the death sentence, making possible the resurrection of the dead by satisfying the demands of Divine Law against the sinner—the resurrection as the means or agency through which the blessing of the Savior’s death will reach Adam and all the families of the earth. As we follow St. Paul’s thought we shall surely be blessed by his view of the Gospel.
Addressing the Gentiles, the Apostle explains that for a long time God had "winked" at polytheism and image worship, "but now," he says, "God commanded all men everywhere to repent." Let us note the meaning of these words. How did God "wink" at sin and idolatry? And does He still "wink" at it? And why did He change and when did He begin to command all men to repent?
The answer is that for four thousand years idolatry prevailed and God "winked" at or took no notice of it.
He did not "wink" at the idolaters dying in their ignorance, and say to the devils, "Take these poor creatures who know no better! Roast them to all eternity!" Nothing of the kind. Our forefathers merely imagined that, and by false reasoning convinced themselves, and twisted some texts of Scripture which they did not properly understand in support of this theory; and then they handed it down to us to our perplexity and to the testing of our faith in God.
God "winked" at idolatry and sin for four thousand years in the sense of not noticing it, making no comment on it, sending no reproofs, leaving the heathen in their ignorance. The only exception to this was God’s dealings with the little nation of Israel. To the Jews He gave a Law Covenant which offered eternal life on the condition of their thorough obedience to the Divine Law, the measure of a perfect man’s ability, which they were unable to comply with; and hence they died the same as did the heathen. All went to the Bible hell—to the tomb—to sheol, to hades, the state or condition of death—an unconscious state, a "sleep."
JESUS THE REDEEMER
God was in no haste, however. Over four thousand years elapsed before Jesus was born, and thirty years more before He began His ministry. Had it been true, as some aver, that millions for all those centuries were blindly stumbling into eternal torture for lack of a Divine revelation, we may be sure that our gracious God would not have left them without it. Who can think of a just and loving God as winking at the going of millions of His creatures to eternal torture? But since they merely "fell asleep" in death, He could very well "wink" at the matter in view of His future plans, as we shall see.
The fact is that no release from death could possibly be made until the Redemption-price had been provided for the original sin under which they were condemned to death. This is the Apostle’s argument, viz., that "now God commandeth all men everywhere to repent."
The now implies that He did not command men previously to repent; and the reason why He did not do so is manifest; for all the repenting they could do and all the righteous living possible to them would not have saved them. They would have died anyway. Hence there could have been no message sent to them; for if the messenger had come and had said, "Repent, and live contrary to your fallen tastes and appetites," the people might properly enough have said, "Why? For what reason should we practice self-denial, self-restraint? Would it bring us any blessing of everlasting life or harmony with God?" The truthful answer would have been, "No, because you are already under a death sentence and alienated from God as sinners."
Hence God merely overlooked or "winked" at the ignorance and superstition of the period from Adam to the death of our Redeemer. But as soon as Jesus had died, " the Just for the unjust," to make reconciliation for iniquity—immediately the message went forth—God offered forgiveness and reconciliation to those who would believe in Jesus and would accept the Divine terms. Such have their sins forgiven. Such may come back to fellowship with God. And, in the next Age, such may eventually attain full human perfection by restitution processes, up, up to all that was lost in Adam and redeemed at Calvary.—#Joh 3:16,17.
GOD’S APPOINTED DAY
Let us note carefully what the Apostle says respecting God’s appointed Day for the judging of the world.
He says that the command to repent now goes forth to all men everywhere, "because God hath appointed a [future] Day, in which He will judge the world." The Apostle does not refer to that Day as already begun, but as merely appointed or arranged for in advance. He means that in arranging that "Jesus, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man," God was arranging that every man might have a judgment or a trial, to determine whether or not he will be worthy of this blessing which Jesus’ death provides him an opportunity to secure. The Day was future in St. Paul’s time, and it is still future, because God has other work which He purposes shall be accomplished first, before the world’s Day of Judgment or trial shall begin.
The world’s Trial Day, or period of judgment, or testing as to worthiness or unworthiness for everlasting life, will be one of the thousand-year Days mentioned by St. Peter, who said, "A Day with the Lord is as a thousand years." The same period is called elsewhere the "Day of Christ," the Day or period of Messiah’s glorious reign. By the righteous ruling of His Kingdom, by the suppression of Satan and sin and the scattering of darkness, ignorance and superstition, by the shining forth of the Sun of Righteousness with healing in its beams, that glorious Day will bring blessing to the world in general—opportunity for each individual to come into judgment or trial, the result of which will be either the reward of life everlasting or the punishment of death everlasting—"everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."—#2Th 1:9.
That great thousand-year Day is still future; and, meantime, the Apostle’s words respecting mankind are still true: "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together"—"waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God." (#Ro 8:22,19.) If the nineteen centuries delay in the introduction of this great Day seems long, let us not forget that it is less than half as long as the period which preceded—the period prior to the coming of Jesus and His dying, "the Just for the unjust."
Nor is the entire period long from the Divine standpoint; for as the Prophet declares: "A thousand years in God’s sight are but as yesterday," or even shorter, "as a watch in the night." The six great Days of a thousand years each, in which Sin and Death have reigned, are to be followed by a great Sabbath of rest from evil—a thousand years of refreshment, reinvigoration, upbuilding, restitution.—#Ac 3:19-23.
"THE MYSTERY OF GOD"
The purpose of the nineteen centuries between the time when Jesus died as man’s Redeemer and the time when He will take His Throne as the Restorer of Adam and his race is spoken of as a Mystery, because the great work of grace herein accomplished is measurably hidden from the world. The Jews do not understand it; they expected that Messiah’s Kingdom and their own national exaltation would have come long ago. They cannot tell now why they have been for eighteen centuries outcast from the Divine favor. It is a mystery to them.
The Scriptures tell us who may know or understand this Mystery and when it will be finished. They say, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His Covenant." They tell us that "in the days of the voice of the Seventh Angel, when he shall begin to sound, the Mystery of God shall be finished," which He hath kept secret from the foundation of the world. St. Paul refers to this Mystery, saying that it was "hidden from past Ages and Dispensations," and that it "is now revealed to the saints." He explains what it is, namely, that we should be fellow-heirs and of the same nature with our Redeemer.—#Eph 3:6.
This clearly means that the entire Church class, sometimes called "the Body of Christ, which is the Church," and sometimes styled "the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife," is to be sharer with the Redeemer in the sufferings of the present life and in the glories of the future. The nearly nineteen centuries of this Age, therefore, according to the Scriptures, have been for the purpose, not of giving the world its trial for everlasting life or death, but for the trying, testing, the electing or selecting of the Church, and her perfecting with her Lord as sharers in "His resurrection," "the First Resurrection."
We have in the past made two serious mistakes respecting the Divine purposes. One was that we assumed without Scriptural authority that the whole world is now on trial for eternal life, failing to see that it is merely the elect Church, the consecrated class. The other mistake is that we reasoned as though the Church were part of the world and, therefore, that the trial of the Church meant the trial of the world. But hearken to the Scriptures respecting the Church: "Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world"; "I have chosen you out of the world"; and again, "Let your light so shine before men that they, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father which is in Heaven" "in the day of their visitation."—#Joh 15:19; #Mt 5:16; #1Pe 2:12.
TWO DIFFERENT REWARDS
We should notice also the wide difference between the reward promised the Church and that proffered the world. In both cases the reward will be everlasting life.
In both cases this will mean full harmony with God, because "All the wicked will God destroy." And again we read that "Whosoever hath the Son hath life, and whosoever hath not the Son shall not see life." So, then, the attainment of everlasting life, either by the Church class or by the world, will mean coming into full harmony with the Heavenly Father and with the Lord Jesus, by the merit of Christ’s sacrifice. It will mean a full turning away from sin and a full devotion to God and to righteousness.—#Ps 145:20; #Joh 3:36; 5:12.
The difference will be as to nature. The reward for the world will be earthly nature, human nature, with everlasting life in an earthly Paradise or Eden—worldwide.
Mankind never lost a spiritual or Heavenly condition through Adam’s disobedience, nor in any other manner.
He never had such a condition or nature, or a right to it, that he could lose it. He was made man, " a little lower than the angels." His crown of glory and honor was an earthly crown. His dominion was over the birds of the air, over cattle and over the fish of the sea.
This which he lost Jesus gave the Redemption-price for at Calvary; and these things lost are the very things which Jesus and His elect Bride will restore to mankind during the thousand years of the Messianic Kingdom. Thus we read: "The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost."—#Ge 1:26; #Ps 8:4-8; #Lu 19:10.
PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE
The reward of the Church, eternal life, perfection and harmony with God, will be on the spirit plane—wholly different from the human. Man in perfection will again be a little lower than the angels; but the Church, as the Body of Christ, will share with her Lord in His exaltation, "far above angels, principalities and powers and every name that is named"—the Divine nature. This reward comes to the Church under a special covenant of sacrifice, which the Bible specifies.—#Eph 1:21; #Ps 50:5.
This Church class, like her Lord, must sacrifice the earthly nature, earthly interests, hopes and aims, and must be begotten of the Father to a Heavenly, spiritual nature, in order to be a sharer in the First Resurrection; and she must enter into her reward before the Messianic Kingdom can be established for the blessing of mankind in general—the saving of the race from sin and death.
Thus the Apostle wrote that the groaning creation "waits for the manifestation of the sons of God."
(#Ro 8:19.) "Now are we the sons of God, but it doth not yet appear what we shall be [how glorious, how great], but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him." Our resurrection change will make us like the Savior; as it written, "We shall all be changed, in a moment, in a twinkling," because "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of Heaven."
Come back again to St. Paul’s words. He does not say that God commanded the Church to sacrifice; for if sacrifice were a command it would cease to be a sacrifice.
Nowhere are God’s people commanded to present their bodies living sacrifices, nor to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, nor to take up the cross and follow Him. To the saintly these sacrificing features are set forth as a privilege —as an opportunity. If they do these things the Divine arrangement is that through the imputation of Christ’s merit their sacrifice will be holy and acceptable unto God, and they will be granted a share with the Redeemer in His high exaltation—the reward of sacrifice, of self-denial, of loving, voluntary service to God, the Truth and the brethren.
"COMMANDETH ALL TO REPENT"
But to the world in general the Lord issues a command, viz., Repent; turn from your sins; come back to Me; seek My face; seek to know and do My will. The basis of this command is the Divine declaration that God’s grace has provided redemption in the blood of Jesus, a reconciliation through His blood, and that by and by the whole world will be on trial for life or death everlasting, in a great Day of trial, which God has ordained and over which Christ and the Church will supervise, as Judges.—#1Co 6:2,3.
Whoever comes to a knowledge of this great Divine arrangement through Christ has an incentive to live righteously, soberly and godly in this present time. Whoever hears and heeds this command is laying up for himself a good treasure of character and preparation for his life or death trial in the great Judgment Day of the Messianic Kingdom. Whoever ignores this knowledge and "sows to the flesh" will find himself reaping to the flesh further weakness, further degradation and severer stripes or punishments in that great thousand-year Judgment Day.
When He who is our life
Appears, to take the Throne, We, too, shall be revealed, and shine In glory
like His own.
Click here to send us your question on this subject and we will provide you a Bible answer.