GOD IN JUDGMENT
BY: A. E. SAXBY
[Taken from his book “God in Creation, Redemption, Judgment and Consummation”]
Two of the parables of Christ are responsible more than anything else for the prevailing views of future judgment. The catch phrases from these two parables, which have been quoted more than any others, and upon which the terrific structure of the doctrine of endless punishment has been erected, are possibly the two phrases, one of which is found in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, where Abraham is reported to have said, “Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed”; and the equally much quoted verse in the parable of the sheep and the goats, which contains the sentence of the King, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.”
By means of these, and perhaps several other striking and isolated fragments, the process of the reasoning out of the truth concerning future judgment has been inverted. Instead of ascertaining from Scripture, by a general survey of its teaching on this great subject, upon what principle God will judge mankind, and then fitting in these parables in their proper niches, the method of framing the teaching upon these parables has been followed, and then making all the teaching of Scripture fall into line. It is little wonder that the utmost confusion has resulted.
It goes without saying that we raise no objection to the use of these parables in the way in which Christ intended them to be used. They present definite teaching upon the points they were intended to elucidate, and they cannot be avoided, or explained away. We hope in some future issue to deal exhaustively with these parables, a task which is impossible in the present article, since we are bent upon laying bare the principles upon which God will proceed to a judgment of the world which will leave out no single individual. In doing so, however, He will be careful to do that which expositors of His methods have most frequently failed to do. He will carefully observe TIMES AND CLASSES in this universal judgment which none will escape.
Men have made Him too often like a judge, who, without discriminating between the offenders of an assize (a judicial inquest), has assigned to each an identical sentence, and that the severest possible. In an amazing jumble, which serves to show the prevailing lack of apprehension of the principles and processes of divine judgment, sentences which are obviously directed to a certain class, are pronounced upon all classes indiscriminately.
Take these two parables to which allusion has been already made. No “Christ rejector” – to use the phrase so common in evangelical circles today – will come under the treatment of either of these parables. The story of the rich man and Lazarus presents to us a condition of things prior to the present Gospel age, and the parable of the sheep and goats sets forth a scene subsequent to the close of this age, immediately prior to the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on the earth. Both sentences are founded on works, a fact that must not be forgotten in their application. Neither the two Jews who figure in the first story, nor the sheep and goats who appear in the second parable, represent men who knew anything of Christ at all as a Redeemer proclaimed to them for their salvation.
We take no exception to the principles embodied in the parables being applied in similar conditions. Doubtless the selfishness of those who are possessed of the God-given standards of action towards their poor brethren (both were children of Abraham, the context proves this fact) will be faced in the future with the sure judgment upon such selfishness. Let the Sermon on the Mount serve to remind us that the rewards of obedience, as well as the penalties of lawlessness, will be meted out to every one who is given the privileges of relationship in any way to God. Then we shall learn the lesson of the parable in its all-round application, and we shall not be awarding eternal life to poverty, and eternal torment to wealth, as so often has practically been done in expounding this parable in the popular fashion.
It is much the same when we approach the other parable to ascertain its meaning. Here are sheep which as well as goats have not known Christ. These are not the sheep of John 10, for they know the Shepherd’s voice (v. 4), and they know the Shepherd (v. 14); whereas the sheep of the Matthew parable are represented as ignorant of the Shepherd.
Again in the first parable the scene has been projected into eternity, whereas both the rich man and Lazarus were in hades, to which, it must be remembered, Christ Himself descended in spirit, while His body was in Joseph’s tomb. It is equally clear that the sentence meted out to both sheep and goats is limited to the Millennium and their case will be reviewed at the Great White Throne. For, as we pointed out, these two companies are figures of men of flesh and blood on the earth at the time of the return of Christ to set up His millennial kingdom.
Both these parables, then, have to do with the PROCESSES OF THE AWARDS OF JUDGMENTS WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST.
Much more could be said to support the view here presented of these parables, which are illuminative of the just and impartial adjudication of the Son of Man, to whom is entrusted this great work of Judgment. Upon these fragments the teaching of the endlessness of punishment has been built up. Against this teaching we have the fact that, all through Scripture, both by statement and ensamples, the opposite principle is inculcated, that of judgment unto victory, of judgment issuing in salvation.
These parables do not deny this principle, but take their subsidiary part in the judgments of the ages, by means of which Christ establishes His kingdom.
In “The Eternal Saviour Judge,” by Dr. James Langton Clarke, taking as his keynote the Septuagint version of Isaiah 19:20, “Judging He shall save,” the author gives much food for thought, by bringing the Old Testament types of judges and judgments under tribute, to make it clear that the great Antitype, in the person of Him who is to judge the quick and the dead, will judge with a view to salvation, no less than did these types of Himself in the Old Testament. Thus the revelation of Scripture is that THE SAVIOURHOOD OF CHRIST IS CO-EXTENSIVE WITH HIS JUDGESHIP.
This is in entire accordance with His own announcement, that He came, NOT TO CONDEMN the world, but to SAVE THE WORLD. According to the popular conception of the functions of His judgeship, He will spend, not only the day of Judgment– in its protracted scenes of age long administration – in judging men, but He will also be occupied throughout eternity in a ceaseless punishment of their sins. The utmost such teaching will accord Him in the province of the unseen world, is, that His possession of the keys of hell (hades) and of death will make Him the Jailer of the souls He once died to save. On the contrary, He will eventually become the Emancipator of the prisoners in that prison house, which, in the prophetical visions of the Old Testament, He is repeatedly seen opening with ease and triumph.
“For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” The structure of this sentence is exactly the same as the passage, where Paul tells the Corinthians that he was sent “not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel.” Everybody understands that he makes the negative object the subordinate one. He does not rule out baptism, but it is subservient to the greater purpose, that of proclaiming the Gospel. Similarly, in the sentence we have quoted out of the third of John, the negative purpose of judgment is subsidiary to that of salvation. He has come to save. That is His outstanding and ultimate purpose, but, as an adjunct, nay, as a means to that end, “judging He will save.” The usual application of this passage reverses the order, and makes His Saviorhood transient and in many cases ineffectual, but His judgeship eternal and overwhelming.
With what vast responsibilities and engagements God has delighted to entrust Him. “The Father hath given ALL THINGS into His hands.” (John 3:35) Where the nail was driven in, the end of a world-wide scepter of dominion rests, never to be resigned, until He has subdued all things unto Himself and deposited His great trust intact, back into His Father’s hands.
What a vastly different issue is this from the partial rule, the eternal chaos, the hemispheres of heaven and hell, which tradition awards the Man of Calvary. How far different is His Father’s purpose for His Well-beloved– a universe subjected, adoring, established at last in an indestructible allegiance, based on holiness and love, to the Father of Spirits!
To those who know the Man of Calvary, it ought to be sufficient that the Father has “COMMITTED ALL JUDGMENT UNTO THE SON.” We can do little more here than enumerate those successive judgments which Scripture sets forth for us.
What is He doing in this age but bringing forth judgment unto victory, applying, through the Spirit, that judgment which was passed at Calvary upon the sin and self life of His people? Utterly mistaking the purpose by the addition of the words “to come,” the believer has missed the significance of the third function of the Holy Spirit in the passage “When He is come, He will reprove the World of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” The perspective here is backward, not forward. Calvary‘s triumph is to be practically registered in the believer by an unqualified acceptance of the sentence of death upon the old creation in him in all its parts here and now, so that he may say, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ Iiveth in me.” How many believers want a salvation without judgment! A ticket for heaven without a sentence executed upon the old man! This made Paul say to the Ephesians, “For this ye know, that no unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” This is in a real fashion an age of judgment unto salvation with age-during glory. (2 Tim., 2:10-13) In the power of His Cross, within the domains of spirit, soul and body, He is establishing His kingdom within (the Kingdom of God is within) His people, that he may presently proceed to establish it in the universe.
To all such as know Him as One who walks in the midst of the Seven golden lampstands, with feet that shine like brass as if they burned in a furnace, the scene of the JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST holds no terrors. When manifested before that judgment seat (2 Cor., 5:10), the holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14), will create a boldness, and humility, that will rob the scene of all terror.
Passing swiftly over the great tribulation, when the cup of His earthly people and of the nations of the earth will overflow with His wrath, we come to the judgment of the living nations. This has been erroneously called the “last Judgment.” We agree with Dr. Clarke, who thinks that it ought to be called the first rather than the last. It is, as he says, “THE INAUGURAL JUDGMENT OF THE VISIBLE KINGDOM.” It ushers in His kingdom of millennial glory. The scene in Matt. 25 is not the Day of Judgment, but ONE INCIDENT in that day or period. It will be followed by a thousand years of His reign as Messiah and King. All through this period He will be Judge, as well as King, with rod of iron seeking to subdue all things unto Himself, through the power of His Cross.
Where we believe the thread of revelation has been missed, is at the Great White Throne, which has been mistaken for the close of His kingdom, instead of an episode therein. It introduces a final and severer judgment into His kingdom, as well as a wider triumph and larger rule. Beyond the thousand years, and the Great White Throne, is that age of His final victory at the close of which He will deliver His perfected Kingdom to His Father to receive His “well done.”
We have written of this vista of His rule through the ages, in other pamphlets. We will be content here, therefore, to point out that all these judgments and administrations founded on the triumph of the Cross of Calvary are WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF HIS KINGDOM. Here is the missing link of eschatology. That which is predicated of time has been projected into eternity. By the time that God is all in all, described as “THE END,” judgment will return unto righteousness, and the victory of the Cross be extended to the utmost bounds of the heavens and the earth. (Eph. 1:10, Col. 1:20)
No word concerning the functions of Christ is quoted more frequently than the announcement that He is “THE SAME YESTERDAY, AND TODAY, AND FOREVER.” Ordinary theology would have us believe that He who died for the sinner, regards him with compassion and desire up to the time of that sinner’s death, even though he be unrepentant and indifferent to Divine love, but one minute after death that His love is changed to anger, and He pursues the sinner with relentless and resistless fury for evermore.
How opposite this is to the Shepherd who seeks “till He find it”; to the Father who waits till the last boy away from the homestead returns. The truth in these glorious words is, that “for the ages” – so is the phrase – He is the same: Saviour of men, seeking the lost with undiminished compassion; Judge of mankind, arraigning every transgressor before His bar, pulling down that He may build, destroying that He may plant: King of the ages, Holder of the keys of hades and of death, Vanquisher of death, Spoiler of His enemies; Worker of all things new, Head of His ransomed race, unsatisfied, unconquered, and unwearied till, with its subjects penitent, subdued, adoring and satisfied in Him, He delivers up His kingdom to His Father that God may be All in All.
Let the reader ponder again that parable of husbandry which God gave to His people of old, when they could not believe that He would bring to pass “His strange act” of judgment upon them. (Isaiah 28:23-29) He pictures the ploughshare doing its rough work, until the cartwheel bruises the harvest, and He enunciates the principle of His judgments in the words “He will NOT EVER be threshing it.” Nay, not one grain shall fall to earth. He is the same yesterday, and today, and for the ages. Judgment shall “return unto righteousness.” The storms of Divine wrath will finish their work, and there will be a great calm. They began at Calvary, and, through the administration of One who bought the right to save through His sufferings for a world, love will conquer.
“Lord, I believe were sinners more
Than sands upon the ocean shore,
Thou hast for all a ransoms paid
For all a full atonement made.”
Saxby, A. E., London, England, God in Creation, Redemption, Judgment and Consummation. Fallbrook, California, Van-Del Press,
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