“[God] has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.” — Acts 17:31
(1) The traditional church teaches a very vague idea about the day of judgment. This traditional view would have us believe that when Christ returns he will sit upon a great white throne. Then he will summon saint and sinner in rank and file before him to be judged. Amidst great convulsions of nature earthquakes, opening graves, rending rocks and falling mountains, the trembling sinners will be brought from the depths of everlasting woe to hear their sins rehearsed. Then they are once again returned to an eternal and merciless doom. The saints, according to the prevailing theory, will be brought from heaven to witness the misery and despair of the condemned, to hear again the decision in their own cases, and to return. This theory holds that all receive their sentence at death. The final judgment, often styled the “general judgment”, is nothing more than a repetition of that first judgment, but for no conceivable purpose, since they claim that a decision which is final and unalterable is rendered at death. The entire time supposed to be assigned to this stupendous work of judging billions is a twenty-four hour day.
(2) This popular view is a very crude conception. It is entirely out of harmony with the inspired Word. It is drawn from an inaccurate interpretation of our Lord’s parable of the sheep and goats. (Matthew 25:31-46) It illustrates the absurdity of attempting to force a literal interpretation upon figurative language. A parable is never an exact statement, but merely an illustration of a truth by something which is in many respects like it. If this parable were a literal statement of the manner in which the judgment will be conducted, it would apply to literal sheep and goats, just it reads, and not to mankind at all. Let us now look at a more scriptural as well as a more reasonable view of the work and the result of the great Judgment Day which God has appointed. With the true reasonable and scriptural conclusions all parables and figures should and do agree.
(3) The term judgment often signifies more than simply the rendering of a verdict. It includes the idea of a trial, as well as a decision based upon that trial. And this is true not only of the English word judgment, but also of the Greek word, krisis, from which it is translated. Thus Vine defines krisis is the way: (a) denotes “the process of investigation, the act of distinguishing and separating”; hence “a judging, a passing of judgment upon a person or thing”; it has a variety of meanings, such as judicial authority, John 5:22, 27; justice, Acts 8:33; James 2:13; a tribunal, Matthew 5:21-22; a trial, John 5:24; 2 Pet. 2:4; a judgment, 2 Peter 2:11; Jude 9; by metonymy, the standard of judgment, just dealing, Matthew 12:18, 20; 23:23; Luke 11:42; divine judgment executed, 2 Thessalonians 1:5; Revelation 16:7.
(4) Usually the word day signifies a 24-hour period. However, both in the scriptures as well as in common usage, it is often used to denote any definite or special period of time. Thus, for instance, we speak of Noah’s day, Luther’s day, Washington’s day. Likewise, in the Bible the entire time of creation is called a day “the day” that Jehovah God made the earth and the heavens.” (Genesis 2:4). In reality it was a long, definite period of time. Also we read of “the day of the trial in the wilderness” forty years (Hebrews 3:8,9), “the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Additionally, we read of the “day of vengeance.” (Isaiah 63:4) “day of wrath,” (Proverbs 11:4; Zephaniah 1:15) and “day of trouble”. (Isaiah 22:5; Zephaniah 1:15) These terms are applied to a period of time in the close of the Jewish Age and to a similar period of trouble in the end of the Good News Age. Further, we read of the “day of Christ,” (Philippians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 2:2) the “day of judgment,” (Matthew 10:15) and “the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10) terms applicable to the Millennial Age. The same period is spoken of the “last day” in which believers are to be raised to rule with Jesus, and in which unbelievers are to be raised for judgment. (John 6:39,40,44,54; 11:24; 12:47,48) During this 1,000 years Messiah will reign over, rule and judge the world in righteousness. He will grant trial as well as render sentence. Of that period it is written that God will judge the world in righteousness, and “in his times he will show who is that blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords. (Acts 17:31; 1 Timothy 6:15) It is only because of tradition without further investigation that many suppose that the day of judgment must be twelve or twenty-four hours. Certainly all must recognize the wider meaning of the word day in other similar cases. Therefore, we also conclude that the day of judgment is not referring to a twenty-four hour day.
(5) We will be presenting scriptures that speak of that great judgment or trial day yet future. We will show from the scriptures that the masses of mankind are to have their complete trial and final sentence in that day. We will also present scriptures that show there have been other judgment days, during which certain elect classes have been on trial.
(6) The first great judgment [trial or sentence] was at the beginning, in Eden, when the whole human race, as represented in its head, Adam, stood on trial before God. The result of that trial was the verdict guilty, disobedient, unworthy of life. The penalty inflicted was death “Dying you must die.” (Genesis 2:17, see margin in King James Version) And so “in Adam all are dying.” (1 Corinthians 15:22) That trial time in Eden was the worlds first judgment day, and the decision of the Judge (Jehovah) has ever since been enforced.
(7) “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:18) It may be seen in every funeral procession. Every tomb is a witness to it. It is felt in every ache and pain we experience all of which are results of the first trial and sentence the righteous sentence of God. We are unworthy of life and blessings originally provided for man when obedient and in Gods likeness. — Romans 1:31.
(8) But mankind are to be recovered from the sentence of that first trial by the one sacrifice for all, which the great Redeemer provides. (Romans 8:22; 5:18) All are to be rescued from the grave and from the sentence of death destruction. (Hosea 13:14; Revelation 20:12,13) Because of this redemption, death is no longer to be considered “death” in the full, everlasting sense of the word, but rather a temporary sleep. (John 11:11-13) In the Millennial morning all will be awakened by the Life-giver who redeemed all. — John 5:28,29.
(9) Only the true disciples of Jesus and the faithful servants of old are yet in any sense released or escaped from this original sentence and penalty. (2 Peter 1:4; Ephesians 2:3-5; Romans 5:8-11; Matthew 22:32) Their escape is not yet actual, but only so reckoned by faith. “We are saved by hope” only. (Romans 8:24) Their actual release from this death penalty (incurred in Adam and escaped by getting into the Anointing of Jesus blood) will not be fully experienced until the resurrection morning. Then they will be satisfied to awaken in the likeness of God and Jesus. (Psalm 17:15; Genesis 1:26) Those who have come to a knowledge of God’s gracious plan in the Messiah have reckonedly “escaped the corruption that is [still] upon the world.” (2 Peter 1:4) Does this prove that others will have no future hope of escape? No, not at all. Rather it proves the opposite. Those now saved are the first-fruits of Gods creatures to receive this escape. (Romans 8:23) Their escape from death in Adam to life in Christ is but a foretaste of the deliverance of whoever wills to be delivered from the bondage of corruption [sin and death] to the liberty of life proper to all who God will recognize as sons. (Romans 8:21) All who will may be delivered from death to life, regardless of the distinctions God has provided for his sons on different planes of being. The present age is the trial-day for life or death for those who are being called to various ruling positions in the Kingdom.
(10) Thus God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world. How can this be? Has God changed his mind? Has he concluded that his decision in the trial of the first man and the general sentence were unjust, too severe, that he now concludes to judge the world individually? No. Were such the case, we would not have any better guarantee of a just decision in the future trial than in the past. It is not that God considers his decision in the first judgment unjust. Rather, he has provided a redemption from the penalty of the first judgment. Thus he could grant another judgment (trial) under more favorable conditions to the entire race all having then had experience with sin and its results. God has not changed one iota from his original purpose, which he formed before the world began. (Isaiah 45:18; 46:9-11; 55:11) He distinctly informs us that he does not change, and that he will by no means clear the guilty. (Malachi 3:6; Isaiah 55:11, Exodus 34:7) He will exact the full penalty which he justly pronounced.
(11) But note this! that full penalty has been provided by the Redeemer or substitute whom God himself provided. Jesus Christ, who, by the grace [unmerited favor] of God, tasted death for every man. (Hebrews 2:9) Our Lord provided a ransom for Adam’s race with his own life. Therefore he can justly give a new offer of life to them all. This offer to the his disciples is under the covenant by Jesus’ sacrifice, by which receive powers of the age to come as firstfruits of creatures to receive life. (Psalm 50:5; Galatians 3:14-17, 26-29; Hebrews 6:5; James 1:18) The world will receive the offer under the New Covenant in the age to come. — Romans 14:9; Hebrews 10:16; Jeremiah 31:31.
(12) We are further informed that when God gives the world this individual trial, it will be under Christ as Judge, whom Jehovah will thus honor because of his obedience even to the point of death for our redemption. God has highly exalted him, giving a name that above every name. (Philippians 2:9) He is therefore a Prince and a Savior. (Acts 5:31) He will be able to recover from death and grant judgment to all whom he purchased with his own precious blood. (1 Peter 1:18,19) God has committed all judgment to the Son, and has given him all power in heaven and in earth. — John 5:22.
(13) It is, then, the highly exalted, glorified Christ, who will be the Judge of the world in its promised future trial. And it is Jehovah himself who has appointed him to that office, for that very purpose. And what great love and concern Jesus has shown for the world by giving his life as its ransom-price! (John 3:17; 12:47,48) Since such are the plain declarations of the Scriptures, there is nothing to dread, but on the contrary there is great cause for rejoicing on the part of all, as they look forward to the Judgment Day. (Isaiah 35:10) Indeed, it is this day that world of mankind is ignorantly awaiting while in its present bondage of corruption. (Romans 8:19-22) The personal attributes of the Judge is sufficient guarantee that the judgment will be just and merciful, and with due consideration for the infirmities of all, until the willing and obedient are brought back to the original perfection lost in Eden.
(14) A judge, in ancient times, was one who executed justice and relived the oppressed. Note, for instance, how, when under oppression by their enemies because of transgression against Jehovah, Israel was time and again released blessings by the raising up of judges. Thus we read: “When the children of Israel cried to Jehovah, Jehovah raised up a savior to the children of Israel, who saved them . . . . The Spirit of Jehovah came on him, and he judged Israel; and he went out to war . . . . and his hand prevailed. . . . The land had rest forty years.” (Judges 3:9-11) So, though the world has long been under the power and oppression of the adversary, Satan, yet shortly he who pays for the sins of all with his own precious blood will take his great power and reign. He will deliver and judge those whom he so loved as to redeem. With this conclusion all the prophetic declarations agree. It is written: “He will judge your people with righteousness, And your poor with justice.” — Psalm 72:2.
(15) This coming judgment will be on exactly the same principles as the first. The same law of obedience will be presented, with the same reward of life, and the same penalty of death. (Acts 3:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9) And as the first trial had a beginning, progressed, and culminated with a sentence, so also will the second. The sentence will be life to the righteous, and death to the unrighteous. The second trial will be more favorable than the first, because the experience gained under the results of the first trial. Unlike the first trial, the second trial will be one in which every man will stand the test for himself alone, and not for another. None will then die because of Adam’s sin, or because of inherited imperfections. It will no more be said: “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But everyone shall die for his own iniquity: every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.” “The soul who sins, he shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4; Jeremiah 31:29,30) And it will be true of the world then, as it is of the disciples of Jesus now, that a man will not be judged according to that which he does not have, but according to that which he does have. (2 Corinthians 8:12) Under the reign of Christ, mankind will be gradually educated, trained and disciplined until they reach full knowledge of God and ability to keep his requirements perfectly. (Isaiah 2:3,4; 29; 24; 1 Timothy 2:4) And when they have reached such full knowledge and ability, full harmony with God will be required. Any who then fall short of perfect heart obedience will be cut off, being judged unworthy of life. (Deuteronomy 10:12; 11:13; 26:16; Proverbs 17:3; Romans 6:17; Hebrews 10:26) The sin which brought death to the race through Adam was simply one disobedient act. (Romans 5:18) But by that act he fell from his perfection. God had a right to demand complete obedience of him, since he was created with complete ability to obey. He will demand the same of all men when the great work of restoring them is complete. To fall short of perfect obedience, then, will be to sin willfully against full light and perfect ability.
(16) The conclusion of the world’s coming judgment is clearly shown in the parable of the sheep and goats, (Matthew 25:31-46) and also Revelation 20:15; 21:8; 1 Corinthians 15:25. These and other scriptures show that at its close the two classes will have been completely separated — the obedient and the disobedient — those in complete harmony with God’s law, and those out of harmony with it. The obedient enter into everlasting life, and the others are remanded to death, extinction (“second death”). (Revelation 21:8) It will not be the same sentence as in the first judgment, from which they had been reckonedly released by Christ who secured the right to release them by the giving of their ransom by his death. This will be their second death. No ransom will be given for them from this sentence. (Hebrews 10:26) There will be no release or resurrection for them because their sin will be willful, individual sin against full light and opportunity, under a most favorable individual trial.
(17) We do not wish to be understood as ignoring the present responsibility of the world, which every person has, according to the measure of light enjoyed, whether it be much or little, whether it be the light of nature or of revelation. “Jehovah’s eyes are everywhere, keeping watch on the evil and the good,” and “For God will bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it is good, or whether it is evil” (Proverbs 15:3; Ecclesiastes 12:14) The good and bad works of the present time will receive a just recompense of reward either now or hereafter. “Some men’s sins are evident, going before to judgment, and some men also they follow after.” (1 Timothy 5:24) No others than those who are now have tasted of the heavenly gift, and made partakers of the holy spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, have as yet sufficient light to incur the final penalty, the second death. (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26) We here merely introduce the subject of the world’s accountability, leaving the particulars for subsequent consideration.
(18) There is a period of several thousand years between the world’s first and second judgment days. During this long period God has been selecting two special classes from amongst mankind. He has been specially trying, disciplining and training them to be his honored instruments during the period or day of the worlds judgment. These two classes are respectively designated by Paul (Hebrews 3:5,6) as the house of sons and the house of servants. The former is composed of those who are called out of the world to be of the seed of Abraham during the during the Christian dispensation. (Galatians 3:26,27) The latter is composed of the faithful overcomers who lived before the Christian dispensation. These special selections should not be understood as causing any interference with the judgment or trial promised to the world of mankind in the age to follow this Gospel, or Good News, dispensation. Those who successfully pass the trial for either of these special classes will not come into judgment with the world, but will enter into their reward when the world is coming into judgment. (John 5:24) They will be God’s agents in the blessing of the world in giving men the instruction and training necessary for their final testing and judgment. “Don’t you know that the saints will judge the world?” — 1 Corinthians 6:2; See also: Daniel 7:22; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:29,30; Revelation 20:4.
(19) These specially selected classes, like the rest of mankind, were once under the Adamic condemnation, but became sharers by faith in the benefits of Christ’s death. (Ephesians 2:3; Romans 4:3,5) After being first justified by faith in God’s promises, and having then fulfilled the subsequent conditions of their respective callings, they are accounted worthy of high exaltation to stations of honor and authority. — 1 Peter 5:6.
(20) The trial or judgment of both these classes has been much more severe than the trial of world will be in its judgment day. These have had to withstand Satan, the ruler of this world, with all his cunning and devious schemes. The world’s judgment day, on the other hand, will have Jesus as its ruler. Satan will be bound so that he will not be able to mislead the nations. (Revelation 20:3) The sons and servants of God in the present age have suffered persecution for righteousness sake. In the next age people will be rewarded for righteousness and punished only for unrighteousness. The justified of this age have had great stumbling blocks and snares in the way, which will be removed when the world is placed on trial. But though the trial of these two special companies has been much more severe than the trial of the world will be, the rewards are correspondingly greater.
(21) Under the appealing, yet misleading guidance of the great deceiver, the world, including the false churches of popular Christianity, have been robbed of the blessed awareness of the coming time of righteous judgment. (Revelation 12:9) Many may know that the Bible tells of a coming judgment day, but most regard it with only fear and dread. Because of this fear, there is to them no more unwelcome news than the day of Jehovah is at hand. They put it far away from them, and do not wish to hear it even mentioned. They have no idea of the blessings in store for the world in that glorious reign of him whom God has appointed to judge the world in righteousness. (1 Corinthians 2:6-8) Among the greatest of the blinding influences which Satan have devised to keep men in ignorance of the truth regarding the judgment day have been the errors which have crept into the creeds and hymn books of the various religious sects. Many have come to esteem these errors as of paramount importance to the Word of God. — Matthew 15:6-9.
(22) How differently did the prophets and apostles regard that promised day of judgment! Note the exultant prophetic utterance of David (1 Chronicles 16:31-34). He says:
Let the heavens be glad,
and let the earth rejoice;
Let them say among the nations, Jehovah reigns.
Let the sea roar, and the fullness of it;
Let the field exult, and all that is therein:
Then shall the trees of the wood sing for joy before Jehovah;
For he comes to judge the earth.
Oh give thanks to Jehovah; for he is good;
For his lovingkindness endures forever.
(23) The apostle Paul points to the same day, assuring us that it will be a glorious and desirable day, and that the whole creation is groaning and travailing in pain together as they wait for that day. Then the great Judge will deliver and bless the world, as well as exalt and glorify his disciples. — Romans 8:21,22.
(24) In John 5:28,29 a precious promise for the world of a coming judgment-trial for life everlasting is, by a mistranslation, turned into a fearful imprecation. According to the Greek, they that have done evil – that have failed to obtain divine approval – will come forth to a resurrection of judgment [Greek, krisis see paragraph 3]. What a glorious prospect for all! What glorious Good News the true message of the Bible is!