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12th July, 2010

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Judgment and salvation: perfect partners

The day of the Lord demonstrates God's hatred of sin and His zeal for righteousness. For two hundred years God vented His righteous anger against those who had incurred - deservedly - His wrath:

For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; the coastlands He will fully repay (Is. 59:17-19).

And repay He did. And repay He will again:

. 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 (2 Thess. 1:6-8).

Jesus' faithful disciples will escape the final judgment:

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 (John 5:24).

As for all others, well, not a single soul can avoid facing His maker (Rom. 2:3), at which time he will be held accountable even for such matters as "idle words" (Matt. 12:36) - whatever exactly that may mean. Every soul who has ever lived will be raised from his grave to face His judge, Jesus Christ:

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 (John 5:28-29).

The Greek word rendered "condemnation" here is precisely the same word used elsewhere in the neutral sense of judgment. The canniest of talkers, the most convincing conmen, will be exposed in all their gory. Atheists have long parodied and mocked the warning to "prepare to meet your Maker". Their derision is misplaced and foolish. Jesus will judge with impeccable justice. Some will be beaten with few

stripes, others with many (Luke 12:47-48). The principle of justice dictates that in that future day of judgment the victims of the divinely-wielded sword in Jeremiah's time will undoubtedly experience an appropriate reduction of their sentence. By the same measure of justice, those who have endured a living hell in their lifetimes will be "set on high, far from affliction" (Ps. 107:41). Jesus' judgment will be infinitely just; the glorified saints will see it and rejoice (Ps. 107:42-43).

But as perfect as Jesus' judgment will be, is that the best He can do? Is punishment for sin and the destruction of the wicked all that He has in store? Not at all. Once the scales of justice have attained perfect balance - and it may take many years for justice to have its full effect - mercy will be offered to all. Jesus came not only to kindle judgment (John 9:39) but to provide atonement for mankind's sinfulness and sins. Redemption of the wicked, not their destruction, is His long-term goal (2 Peter 3:9). He willingly gave Himself over to death that the penalty of death may be waived for all who cast themselves, after judgment, upon His mercy.

Those who perished in the flood in Noah's time, along with all those who were slain by the Babylonian sword of God's vengeance, together with those who will be beaten with few stripes, or many stripes, or who will be set on high above affliction, will be granted full opportunity to come under the blood of Jesus Christ and experience justification, sanctification and salvation. Jesus' sacrifice two thousand years ago provided the grounds for these undeserved blessings; once judgment has run its full course, God will apply Jesus' atoning work to all - Jew and Greek - who have learned their lesson through the administering of Jesus' justice and turn from sin. Then the mystery of the ages will come to fruition:

Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth - in Him (Eph. 1:9-10).

Yes, a small number will stubbornly refuse to turn to their Creator and His Son; they have none to blame but themselves for their fate, which is to suffer "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power" (2 Thess. 1:9). But God will succeed in utterly demolishing sin and saving all but the incorrigible. What a God is God and His Son, Jesus Christ! Perfectly just, infinitely merciful.


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