It’s interesting to me that people who call themselves Christians and present themselves as students of the Bible don’t believe in God’s judgment. Even as a brand new Christian, just saved from atheism, I knew that God was the Eternal Judge Who ruled from Heaven. Why did I believe that? Because as I asked Christians questions about the existence and nature of God, they presented His position as Judge of angels and humans to me clearly. And, I might add, nothing I’ve read, heard, or seen since that day more than 40 years ago has changed that fact.
In the last part of our test of The Hell Test we looked at what the Old Testament taught about Messianic Judgment. Jesus, Who the New Testament identifies as the promised Messiah, explained in detail who He would judge, why He would judge them, how He would judge them, where He would judge them, when He would judge them, and what sentence they would receive. So, let’s get started.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear that everyone is NOT going to be allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That statement alone should end the debate about universalism.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Matthew 7:21-23
Jesus also presented Himself, the Son of Man, as the King who would judge people of all nations by dividing them into a group on His left and another group on His right. To those on His left hand Jesus said, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Again, that would seem to end the debate about whether the Lord will judge people and send them to a place of “everlasting punishment.”
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You,or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46
God the Father has committed “all judgment” to God the Son. Another statement that should end all debate.
“For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” John 5:20-23
Jesus will “execute judgment” and His “judgment is righteous.” Why? Because He does not seek His own will “but the will of the Father” Who sent Him. What happens to the people who Jesus will judge? Those who have done good “to the resurrection of life.” To those who have done evil “to the resurrection of condemnation.” Again, another debate-ending statement by the Lord.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” John 5:24-30
What happened to the Lord’s clear message of judgment and punishment after He ascended into Heaven after His Resurrection? Did the apostles drop that from their teaching? Acts 2:42 says that the new followers of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.” Let’s take a look at “the apostles’ doctrine” for the first generation following Christ’s Resurrection.
“Then Peter opened his mouth and said … Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” Acts 10:34, 40-43
The Apostle Peter’s doctrine included the fact that God ordained that Jesus “be Judge of the living and the dead.” What is basis for His Judgment? “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” Faith in Christ brings “remission” of sins and that’s tied directly to the Lord being the Judge of the living and the dead.
Peter also taught that “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.” (2 Peter 2:9) He wrote that “the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7)
Here’s what the Apostle Paul taught about the Judgment of Christ.
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:39-31
Paul preached that God “commands all men everywhere to repent.” Why? Because “He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.” The “Man” God appointed to judge the world is Jesus and the standard and method of judgment will be “in righteousness.” How can we be sure that is true? “He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the proof that He is the Judge and that He will Judge “in righteousness.”
Paul was consistent throughout his ministry concerning the coming Judgment of Christ and his message caused fear among those who heard. One example is Felix, Procurator of Judea … “And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.” Acts 24:24-25
When Paul reminded Timothy about what he must do as a pastor and preacher of the Gospel, he wrote – “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom.” (2 Timothy 4:1)
Paul said that “the judgment of God is according to truth” against the people who practice evil and that they would not “escape the judgment of God.” (Romans 2:2-3). Paul wrote often in his letters to Christians about Christ’s Judgment. He boldly pronounced that God would “judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” (Romans 2:16) One of Paul’s most powerful statements about the coming world-wide Judgment of Jesus Christ on humanity is in his second letter to the Thessalonians. Read this carefully and then tell me what you think will happen to those “who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.” 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10
Would I be wrong to use words like “the righteous judgment of God” when sharing with someone about what the Lord is going to do one day? Would I be wrong in saying that people who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ would have to deal with His using “flaming fire” in taking vengeance on them? Would I be wrong in saying that people who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ will “be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power?” Would I be wrong or would I be simply sharing the clear Truth of God’s Word?
If I stopped right here and didn’t write another word … the debate about universal salvation is finished. But I won’t stop here because God is not finished. We’ll see that the next time we test The Hell Test.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
Excellent job of exegesis, Mark. Thank you for the clarity with which you write.
Nice post. You will not be wrong. You’ll be simply sharing the gospel TRUTH!
I like the part of the verse you pointed out with Paul saying “these times of ignorance God overlooked”
It always amazes me too when Christians or people who believe in Jesus think hell isn’t real. To the Christians I ask why even get saved then if you’re going to heaven or that there’s no hell? And to the ones that believe in Jesus I always wonder then how can you believe in Jesus but not believe what he says. If there’s anyone that stressed hell, it was Him, as you clearly pointed out with this post.
I think hell is just so scary that it’s one of those things people don’t like to think about, saved or not.