7. Foretastes of Judgment
We have explained in The Judgment Now that the principles God will use in the final judgment are manifested now, and have been reflected in His previous judgments of men. In our very personal lives, there are foretastes of that future judgment. When we receive forgiveness. This gives a knowledge of the future salvation (Lk. 1:77). Indeed, whenever man meets with God, whenever His ways have contact with those of men (which so often happens in the life of the believer) there is a judgment experience; His holiness, His demands, the imperatives which lay within His very being, reveal quite naturally our failures. The Hebrew word used to describe God’s ‘meeting’ with men is also used in the senses of ‘summoning’ or gathering to a trial (Ex. 30:6). And positively, the degree to which we have responded to Him will be revealed by our meeting with Him. Men fell down before Him when they realized who He was (Lk. 8:28,47), just as they will at judgment day (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10; Rev. 4:10).
The sun arising and withering the seed is a symbol of tribulation arising in the life of the believer (Mk. 4:6). But the sun arising is also a clear symbol of the day of the Lord’s return. Thus whenever we encounter tribulation, our response to it is in some sense a preview of our response to the Lord’s coming in judgment. Trials and reproofs from God are Him “entering with thee into judgment”, here and now (Job 22:4). In our suffering for righteousness' sake at the hands of the world, we must "give an answer (s.w. 'a defence, clearing of oneself)...a reason (logos , cp. Mt. 12:36)... with meekness and fear...having a good conscience...let him not be ashamed " (1 Pet. 3:15,16; 4:16). This is all judgment seat language. And yet we must go through this now in our confrontations with the world. The trials of our faith are like fire which purifies us (1 Pet. 1:7; 4:12). And yet this is the language of the last judgment (Mal. 3:1,2). In our response to trials, we have the outcome of our judgment. We must rejoice now in our tribulations with the same joy which we will have when we are accepted by the Lord at the last day (1 Pet. 4:13). Job felt that his calamities were God entering into judgment with him (Job 14:3). If we react properly to trials, we thereby receive now "the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls" (1 Pet. 1:9). Thus the question of the degree to which we now are 'saved' is connected with the fact that to some degree, the judgment process is also going on now. If we continue faithful under tribulation, this "is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer" (2 Thess. 1:5). it is a foretaste of judgment.
Trial can easily arise from within our ecclesial experience. Although sects and divisions should not be within the one body of Christ, in another sense there must be such sectarianism that they which are approved may be "made manifest" by their response to it (1 Cor. 11:29)- in anticipation of how we will all be "made manifest" (s.w.) at the judgment (Lk. 8:17; 1 Cor. 3:13). In this we see the Divine ecology; nothing is wasted. There must not be divisions; but because they do occur, they are used by God in order to manifest the righteous even now. The children of God and of the devil are manifest now by their behaviour; so that the future 'manifesting' of them into the children and angels of the devil and those of God is only a re-statement of the division they have already made in this life by their behaviour (1 Jn. 3:20).