Whoever truly works righteousness "is accepted" with God right now (Acts 10:35), as well as at the final judgment. Some faithful men experience condemnation for their sins now, with the result that they repent and therefore at the day of judgment will not receive that condemnation. The Lord spoke of the rejected at the judgment as being like a house against which "the floods came, and the winds blew, and smote upon that house; and it fell". Floods (of the ungodly), winds (whirlwinds), smiting, a falling house- this is all language taken from Job's experiences. He went through all this now, just as each righteous man must come to condemn himself in self-examination now so that he won't be condemned then. Flesh must be condemned, each man must come to know his own desperation. And if he won't do this, the judgment process at the last day will teach it him. The Lord taught that we should cut off those parts of our lives that offend us, and “cast it [away] from you”- because in the end, the whole body of the wicked person will be “cast [away] into hell” (Mt. 5:29). What He’s saying surely is that we must recognize those parts of our lives which are worthy of condemnation, and we must condemn them now in this life- for this is the meaning of the figure of ‘casting away’.
1 Pet. 1:7 speaks of "our faith" being found worthy of praise at the appearing of Jesus. But in this life, choosing the life of faith as opposed to the legalism of neo-Judaism will also result in "the praise of God" (Jn. 12:43). Likewise Rom. 2:29 speaks of receiving praise of God for choosing to circumcise our heart rather than resting content with being a Jew outwardly. A healthy conscience provides some foretaste of the final judgment. He who does truth comes to the light, "that his deeds may be made manifest" (Jn. 3:21), the reproof of a healthy conscience makes our failings manifest (Eph. 5:13) as they will be made manifest at the future judgment (Lk. 8:17; 1 Cor. 3:13; 4:5; 1 Tim. 5:25). This is why Solomon when reflecting on the human seats of judgment so wished that God would now make men manifest to themselves, make them realize the animal depravity of their natures, because there would be a future judgment of every purpose and work (Ecc. 3:16-18). If we love darkness and refuse to come to the light that our deeds may be manifest (Jn. 3:20), then we will be returned to the darkness in the last day. Therefore willing self-examination and self-correction now, a true response to God's word, a realistic coming to the light- this means we will not be thrown into the darkness in the end. But the question of course occurs: do we really let God's word influence our behaviour to the extent that we really change? Or are we just drifting through the Christian, church-going life...? The children of God and those of the devil are now made manifest (1 Jn. 2:19; 3:10), even in the eyes of other believers (1 Cor. 11:19). His judgments are now made manifest (Rom. 1:19) in that we know His word, His judgments; in advance of how they will be made manifest in the future judgment (Rev. 15:4). We must all be made manifest before the judgment seat, but we are made manifest unto God (s.w.) even now (2 Cor. 5:10,11).
If we condemn ourselves in our self-examination, we will not be condemned (1 Cor. 11:31). We are to most importantly [Gk. Proton] “cast out” the beam from our own eye (Lk. 6:42)- and the Lord uses the same word about the ‘casting forth’ of the rejected at the last day. We are to judge our own weaknesses as worthy of condemnation. We must examine ourselves and conclude that at the end of the day we are "unprofitable servants" (Lk. 18:10), i.e. worthy of condemnation (the same phrase is used about the rejected, Mt. 25:30). Isaiah foresaw this, when he besought men (in the present tense): "Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty", and then goes on to say that in the day of God's final judgment, "[the rejected] shall go into the holes of the rock...for fear of the Lord and for the glory of His majesty when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth" (Is. 2:10,11,19-21). If we find a true, self-condemning humility now, it will not need to be forced upon us in the condemnation of the judgment.
Even in His life, the Father committed all judgment unto the Son (Jn. 5:22). The Lord can therefore talk in some arresting present tenses: "Verily, verily, I say unto you [as judge], He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation". According to our response to His word, so we have now our judgment. He goes on to speak of how the believer will again hear His voice, at His return: "The hour is coming, and [also] now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live". Our response to His word now is a mirror of our response to His word then. Hence the hour is yet future, and yet now is. 'The Son right now has the authority to execute judgment on the basis of response to His word. He will do this at the last day; and yet even as He spoke, He judged as He heard' [paraphrase of Jn. 5:27-30]. Because He is the Son of man, He even then had the power of judgment given to Him (Jn. 5:27). These present tenses would be meaningless unless the Lord was even then exercising His role as judge. When He says that He doesn't judge / condemn men (Jn. 3:17-21), surely He is saying that He won't so much judge men as they will judge themselves by their attitude to Him. His concentration was and is on saving men. The condemnation is that men loved darkness, and prefer the darkness of rejection to the light of Christ. Likewise Jn. 12:47,48: "If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to [so much as to] judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me...hath one that judgeth him: the word [his response to the word, supplying the ellipsis] that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day".
Pre-eminently, our love of the brotherhood will be the basis upon which we find acceptance, and in this lies the reason why the life of love is a living out of an acceptance before the Lord now. If we live in love, we are right now holy and blameless before Him (Eph. 1:4). "Before Him" is the language of judgment day (Mt. 25:32; Lk. 21:36; Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 2:14; 1 Jn. 2:28; Jude 24; Rev. 14:5); and being holy and blameless before Him is exactly how we will be at the judgment seat (Jude 24). Yet right now, he who lives in love, a love unpretended and unfeigned, lives in the blamelessness and holiness of his Lord, whose righteousness is imputed to him. Paul so loved his Thessalonian brethren that he joyed "for your sakes before our God" (1 Thess. 3:9). "Before our God" is very much the language of judgment day; and he had earlier reflected: "what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are [right now] our glory and joy" (1 Thess. 2:19,20). They were in this life his joy, as he lived out his life "before our God" and they would be again in the day of judgment.
So who we are is in reality our judgment. After death, our works "follow us" to judgment (Rev. 14:13). According to Jewish thought, men's actions followed them as witnesses before the court of God, and this is the idea being picked up here. There is a great emphasis in Hebrews 11 on the way that each man has a "witness", "testimony" or "report" as a result of his life (Heb. 11:4,5,14,39). Because of this the dead are still spoken for, in that God keeps and knows that testimony, and it speaks for them (Heb. 11:4 AV mg.). The souls under the altar cry out (Rev. 6:10). But those men and women of Heb. 11 are then described in Heb. 12:1 as themselves "witnesses". Who they were is their witness, the testimony which is given of them in the court of Heaven and upon which God's judgment is decided. We have the witness in ourselves (1 Jn. 5:10), and yet it is a witness which is in fact God's witness / record to us (this is the context of 1 Jn. 5:6-11). The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our Spirit, that we really are the Sons of God (Rom. 8:16). In this sense Paul's conscience bore him witness in the Holy Spirit, i.e. his testimony was that of the Spirit (Rom. 9:1). The rejected are witnesses against themselves (Is. 44:9; Mt. 23:31). Herein lies the crass folly and illogicality of sin. Jeremiah pleaded with Israel: "Wherefore commit ye this great evil against your souls [i.e. yourselves], to cut off from you man and woman...that ye might cut yourselves off" (Jer. 44:7,8, cp. how Jerusalem cut her own hair off in 7:29). In the same passage, Yahweh is the one who does the cutting off (Jer. 44:11); but they had cut themselves off. Likewise as they had kindled fire on their roofs in offering sacrifices to Baal, so Yahweh through the Babylonians would set fire to those same houses (Jer. 32:29). Thus Israel were the ones who had kindled the fire of Yahweh's condemnation (Jer. 17:4). Both Yahweh and Israel are described as kindling the fire of judgment; He responded to what they had done (Jer. 11:16; 15:14; Lam. 4:11 cp. Jer. 17:4). Likewise Isaiah describes Yahweh as kindling the fire of judgment against those who have themselves kindled it (Is. 5:25 cp. 45:24 s.w., A.V. "incensed"). This is just the same spirit as the Lord's comment that He came to bring the fire of condemnation on the land / earth of Israel, but it was already kindled (Lk. 12:49). Israel defiled the temple, and therefore God defiled it by sending the Babylonians to defile it (Ez. 5:11; 9:7; 23:38). In essence and in heart, they had done what the judgment of the Babylonian invasion would do physically. Jerusalem "maketh idols against herself to defile herself" (Ez. 22:3; 37:23), and this gave rise to Yahweh's rhetorical question to Ezekiel: "Wilt thou judge the bloody city?" (Ez. 22:2), the implication being that she had judged / condemned herself, quite apart from Ezekiel's words of prophecy. The Assyrians led Israel away into captivity [s.w. to make naked], "they discovered her nakedness" (Ez. 23:10), and yet in their sin Israel made themselves naked (2 Chron. 28:19 cp. Ex. 32:25; Gen. 3:10). Again, the day of Yahweh's judgment upon them through their invaders was only a reflection of their own self-condemnation. Eli's sons made themselves accursed, and were only therefore [and thereby] judged by God (1 Sam. 3:13 AVmg.).
And so we too can judge ourselves unworthy. It’s been observed that the tribe of Dan is excluded from the list of the redeemed tribes in Rev. 7. Dan didn’t take possession of their inheritance; they despised it. And so they excluded themselves, rather than being excluded for e.g. bad behaviour. The other tribes all had their moments of terrible failures; but these didn’t exclude them. The only one excluded was the one who didn’t want to be there. The wicked will be “overthrown” in the final condemnation (2 Pet. 2:6)- but this is the very same word used for ‘apostasy’ (Strong’s) or ‘subversion’ (2 Tim. 2:14). If we apostatize, we are overthrowing or condemning ourselves ahead of time. Israel in the wilderness "rejected" the land- and so they didn't enter it (Num. 14:31 RV). The condemned amongst the first century ecclesias "cast themselves away through the error of Balaam" (Jude 11 RVmg.)- and yet it is the Lord who will "cast away" the bad fish in the last day. Yet those He casts away have in fact cast themselves away. Those who lay in wait for others to kill them "lay wait for their own blood, they lurk privily for their own lives" (Prov. 1:11,18). There is a direct relationship, in God's judgment, between how we treat others and what will happen to us. This is to the extent that what we do to others, we do to ourselves. If we condemn others, we really and truly do condemn ourselves. Thus when Peter refused to fellowship Gentiles, Paul "withstood him to the face, because he stood condemned" (Gal. 2:11 RV). Just as Peter had condemned himself by denying the Lord, so he had done again in refusing to fellowship the Lord's brethren. Realizing the seriousness of all this, Paul didn't just let it go, as many of us would have done in such an ecclesial situation. He realized a man was condemning himself; and so he risked causing a lot of upset in order to save him from this. Many of us could take a lesson from this. The Jews prostrated themselves before the idols, living out their future condemnation- for "I will lay the dead carcasses of the children of Israel before their idols" (Ez. 6:5). They placed "the punishment of their iniquity before their face" when they set up their idols (Ez. 14:3 LXX). If we are now ashamed of our Lord before men, we will be in the condemnation process (Lk. 9:26 cp. 1 Jn. 2:28). Israel rejected God's covenant, and therefore He rejected them in that He broke the unbreakable-by-Him covenant (2 Kings 17:15,20; Zech. 11:10). In reality, they had rejected themselves, and broke the covenant (Jer. 31:32). It could not and would not be broken by Him- it was only they who could break it. And so with us. They debased themselves unto the grave by their sins, just as Babylon was to be thrown down to the grave in the day of her judgment (Is. 57:9 cp. 14:15). If we let ourselves act against our conscience, we are now condemned (Rom. 14:23). If we judge another, "thou condemnest [present tense] thyself" (Rom. 2:1). We must not let false teachers "judge against you" (Col. 2:18 AVmg.) in the sense that by following them we can let them as it were pass the verdict of condemnation upon us, here and now. When God offered Israel a king, He did so with a series of warnings that this king would treat them just like the prophesied invasion of condemnation described in Dt. 28; he would take their sons, seed, vineyards etc. in just the same way. The links are unmistakable:
1 Sam. 8
Through these allusions, Yahweh was saying to Israel: do you want the condemnation for disobedience? And they answered 'Yes!'. And yet, in His grace, Yahweh still worked through the system of human kingship to bring about His purpose of salvation with Israel. Thus through our unfaithful actions now we will be witnesses against ourselves at the final judgment (Mt. 23:31); indeed, in that the judgment process is now ongoing, we are right now witnesses against ourselves when we sin. And we are not only witnesses, but also the judge who pronounces the verdict of condemnation: for the sinner is condemned of himself (Tit. 3:11). In this lies the illogicality of sin and the utter blindness of man to the implications of his actions before God. They right now fulfill the judgment of the wicked (Job 36:17). Yet the rejected will know that really, they should be condemned. The Lord will "profess" to them that He doesn't know them and they must depart from Him; but Strong understands the Greek to mean 'to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent'. The Lord will be agreeing with them, that they are worthy of condemnation. They will have condemned themselves, and the Lord will simply confirm this to them in His final verdict. If we are ashamed of Him now, we will be ashamed from before Him then (1 Jn. 2:28), and He will be ashamed of us (Lk. 9:26). Every time we are asked to stand up for Him and His words in the eyes of men, we are as it were living out our future judgment. Israel "set up their idols", and in so doing "put the punishment of their iniquity before their face" (Ez. 14:3 LXX; AV "stumblingblock" is s.w. "ruin"; the Hebrew has both senses, as if the cause of condemnation is the condemnation). They were staring at their own punishment and condemnation; but they were blind to this fact. By an interesting metonymy, the idol, the thing that facilitated their sin, is put for their punishment / ruin. Sin and the punishment for it are inextricably linked. The Hebrew language reflects this identity in Lam. 4:6: "The punishment [AVmg. 'iniquity'] of the iniquity of the daughter of my people…". And so it is with all the things of this present evil world; pornographic material, televisions, videos, music, novels, the needle, the bottle.... there is nothing unclean in itself, but these things can all be put by metonymy for the condemnation that can arise from the sin they facilitate. It's a powerful thought.
Israel were driven away from God's face / presence because they had already hid themselves from His face by their sins (Is. 59:2; Jer. 32:33 cp. 33:5). "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself" (Hos. 13:9) says it all. Ephraim daily increased his desolation, in that daily his deeds reckoned up for him condemnation; although that desolation would only be manifested at a future judgment (Hos. 12:1; 13:16). God said that He would try / judge the people with Gideon at the waters (Jud. 7:4)- but they effectively judged themselves by deciding with their own freewill whether to kneel down [as before an idol?], or lap. Whilst part of God's vineyard, they brought forth wild grapes, as if there was no protective fence around them. The hedge and wall were therefore broken down in judgment, so that there came up briars and thorns there (Is. 5:4,6). They brought forth fruit as if they were wild thorn bushes, and so their judgment confirmed this. The elder son would not 'go in' to the wedding (Lk. 15:28); and the Lord surely constructed that story to use a word which so often is used about going in to the Kingdom (in Matthew alone: 5:20; 7:21; 18:3,9; 19:17,23,24; 25:21). His point clearly is that those who don't enter into His Kingdom chose themselves not to do so, they keep themselves out of the Kingdom, because they cannot bring themselves to show a true love to their brother. In the end, the very end, we receive our dominant desire. The rejected will be told: "Depart from me" (Lk. 13:27); and yet in their lives, they will have already departed themselves. In time of temptation some fall away (s.w. "depart from"; Lk. 8:13). Some depart (s.w.) from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:12). Demas departed (2 Tim. 4:10), as the rejected will depart (s.w. Mt. 25:41). The same word is used about how the seed sown among thorns goes forth , it departs (Lk. 8:14) to condemnation. The foolish virgins go, or depart, to buy oil- using the same word with which they are told by their Lord to depart from Him (Mt. 25:9,41). They departed, and so He tells them to depart. Now they willingly absent themselves from the Lord, but then they will not want to depart from Him. God will gather up the nations to thresh them, but they gather themselves to Him (Mic. 4:11,12).
The Jews by their attitude to the word "judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life" (Acts 13:46); and we too can anticipate the judgment seat by the same mistake. The same stamp of Jews are described as 'gnashing their teeth' in furious rejection of Stephen's inspired words (Acts 7:54); such language must surely connect with the oft repeated description of the rejected gnashing their teeth at the judgment (Mt. 8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30); as if those Jews acted out their own rejection by their attitude to the word in this life. As He sent the 70 away on their preaching mission, the Lord commented that Capernaum was exalted to heaven, and yet at the judgment would be thrust down to hell; and yet when they returned, He said that He had seen Satan falling from heaven to earth (Lk. 10:15,18), in anticipation of how it will at judgment day (Rev. 12). The connection is not co-incidental. He was countering the disciples' joy at the superficial response by saying that He has seen it another way; He had seen the Satan of the Jewish system already condemned, hurled from heaven to earth, by their rejection of the Gospel preached. And consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In the day of judgment, that man will cry out "father...have mercy / pity on me", just as Lazarus used to cry out to him daily. The apparent terseness and indifference of Abraham's response in the parable is surely intended as a reflection of the attitude which the rich man had shown to Lazarus in his mortal life. A great gap had been fixed between the saved and the rejected; and the language begs the question, 'Fixed by whom?'. Clearly, by the rich man in the attitude he adopted in his daily life. For it would not be God who fixed a gap between the damned and the saved; through His Son He seeks to save and bridge such gaps. The lesson is that whenever we hear the voice of the desperate, we hear inverted echoes of our own desperation at the final judgment. And how we answer now is related to how we will be answered then. We make the answer now.
Looking at self-condemnation another way, it is apparent that "sin" is sometimes used as a metonymy for 'condemnation for sin'. Lot was taken out of Sodom lest "thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city" (Gen. 19:15). The AV margin rightly suggests that "the iniquity" of the city was the condemnation / punishment for their iniquity. And there are other examples in Ps. 7:16; Jer. 14:16 and Zech. 14:19. This isn't just a matter of cold exposition; the reality is that every sin we commit- and we sin daily- is in fact a self-infliction of condemnation upon ourselves. We rather than the Lord are the ones who in essence have demanded our condemnation; His judgment is merely reflecting our own choice.
Even in this life, those who will be rejected have “a reprobate mind” (Rom. 1:28)- they have the mind of the rejected, the unaccepted [Gk.]. The mindset the rejected have in that awful day, is the mindset which they have now. This is how important our thinking is. Our thoughts, the thoughts of yesterday and today and tomorrow, will either accuse or excuse us in the last day, when God shall judge us according to our “secrets”, our inner thinking (Rom. 2:15,16).
- Christ came not to judge / condemn (Jn. 12:47)
- The wicked snare themselves, fall into their own pit (Ps. 7:15; 9:15; 57:6; Prov. 26:27; 28:10)
- By our own words we will be condemned (Mt. 12:37); Out of our own mouths we are condemned (Lk. 19:22)
- “So they shall make their own tongues to fall upon themselves” (Ps. 64:8)
- So speak as they who will be judged; he who shows no mercy [in his words] will find none (James 2:12,13)
- “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his mouth calleth for strokes [condemnation- Lk. 12:47,48]” (Prov. 18:6)
- The tongue is the fire that kindles the Gehenna fire that will destroy us (James 3:6)
- A heretic is condemned of himself (Tit. 3:11)
"By your words…"
It is a common theme that the wicked snare themselves, falling into their own pit, rather than God specifically snaring them (e.g. Ps. 7:15; 9:15; 57:6; Prov. 26:27; 28:10; Ecc. 10:8). Their condemnation, the nature of their punishment, will have been specifically prepared for them (Mt. 25:41). The bitter self-hatred and ineffable regret of the rejected will be their punishment; and in accordance with the specific, personal way they mistreated and neglected God's Truth in this life, so they will mentally torture themselves. From their own mouth and words men will be judged (Mt. 12:37; Lk. 19:22 cp. 2 Sam. 1:16). And yet perhaps even now, men are justified by their words before the court of Heaven- for 'justify' means to pronounce righteous, and this pronouncement / justification is therefore given even now. "So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it" (1 Kings 20:40). It could even be that the Lord cites the condemnatory words of the rejected uttered during their lifetimes and leaves these as their condemnation. Woe, therefore, to he or she who has said unrepentantly that they don't want to be in the Kingdom if brother x or sister y are going to be there. The specific words which some have spoken will be the reason for their condemnation. "Their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue" (Hos. 7:16)- not so much for their idolatry, their worldliness…but for their uncontrolled and cruel words. Those who speak strong words with Divine oaths will 'fall under judgment' for those words (James 5:12 RV); if they don't use them, they won't have to have them considered at the judgment. And thus "He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life; but he that openeth wide his lips [in this life] shall have destruction" at judgment day (Prov. 13:3). The children of Edom will have their words against Zion remembered against them at judgment: "Remember, O Lord, against the children of Edom The day of Jerusalem; Who said, Rase it, rase it" (Ps. 137:7 RV). The link between the final verdict and the words we use today is that clear. When the Jews spoke out the judgment they thought should come on those who killed the Master's Son, the Lord cited their words back to them as description of their own forthcoming condemnation (Mt. 21:41,43). This is just as David was invited to speak words of judgment on a sinner, and was told: "thou art the man". God will remember against Edom the specific words they spoke when Jerusalem fell (Ps. 137:7 RV). Whatever we have spoken in darkness will be revealed for all to hear and know (Lk. 12:2,3)- our words will as it were be cited back to us before others in that day. The Lord says this in the context of warning us not to have the leaven of hypocrisy in the matter of our words- there's no point in saying one thing to one person and something different to someone else, because our words will be gone through at the judgment and will be open for everyone to hear. We should live, He implies, as if we are now before the judgment; speaking things we wouldn't be ashamed for anyone to hear. Note in passing how he says that hypocrisy in our words is like leaven, that corrupts and spreads within an individual and a community. Once somebody starts being hypocritical with their words, someone else does. Even every word of murmuring against each other will be judged; and hence, James points out, it is bizarre that we should be doing this with the judge standing before the door (James 5:9).
The idea of dishonest words being like yeast, a source of corruption, takes us to Mt. 12:32-37: "Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him…Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh… every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned". The fruit of the tree equals the words (as in Prov. 12:14; 13:2); a corrupt man will speak corrupt words. And these will be the basis of his condemnation. By contrast "the fruit of our lips" should be praise (Heb. 13:15). "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth" (Eph. 4:29) refers to this passage- the corrupt fruit is corrupt words. But the idea is that we bear the fruit now- our words now are our fruit. The Lord puts it all another way in Lk. 6:44 when He says that men don't "gather" good fruit from a corrupt tree. The language of gathering is very much that of judgment to come; and yet the fruit is produced and gathered now, in the words / fruit that comes out of our mouth. This is why right now we can judge a false teacher, by his corrupt words [this is one of the contexts of the Lord's words about corrupt trees and fruit- we see the fruit now]. The corrupt man will speak villainy (Is. 32:6). But corrupt words don't just mean expletives- the false teacher would be too smart to use them. He comes in sheep's clothing. But Lk. 6:41-44 gives us an example of "corrupt" words; words which create a corrupting spiritual influence in a man or in a community. One may say to his brother that he must cast out the splinter from his eye, although he has a plank in his own. And the Lord goes on to say that a good tree doesn't bring forth corrupt fruit. The corrupt fruit, as in the above passages, means 'corrupt words'. And in Lk. 6:45 the Lord concludes by saying that "for of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh". The corrupt fruit are the corrupt words of Lk. 6:42- saying, 'My brother, I'm very sorry, but I just have to correct you, you are so obviously wrong and stupid to walk round with a splinter in your eye, I can correct your spiritual vision, because I see perfectly. At the moment your spiritual perception ['eye] is just hopeless'. The Lord understood 'the eye' as ones' spiritual vision (Mt. 6:22,23). These kind of words, in essence, are the real leaven; they corrupt / pull apart over time communities as well as individual faith. These criticisms work away within a brother or sister, deaffirming them as believers, deaffirming them for who they are, raising doubt and not hope, humiliating them that they haven't made the grade …until they are corrupted.
We have a specific example of a man being punished in judgment for his words, and it may well be the basis for the Lord's teaching here: "When the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done this…" (Is. 10:11,12). And there follows a long quotation of his words. These words were the 'fruit of his heart'- out of the abundance of his heart his mouth had spoken. And these words were almost cited back to him at the time of his condemnation. We know, however, that it is quite possible for human actions and words to not reflect the heart. Consider how Sennacherib invaded Judah but in his heart "he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so" (Is. 10:7). This is why the Lord clearly condemns the thought as being as bad as the action, even if the action isn't actually committed. Ps. 55:21 laments how words can not reflect the true state of a man's heart: "The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords". So why, then, is there so much emphasis on spoken words as the basis for judgment to come? Surely it is that although thoughts will also be judged, and the hypocrites revealed for who they are, it doesn't follow that a good man sometimes uses 'corrupt speech'. It's impossible. A good man cannot bring forth bad words. But a bad man can sometimes bring forth words which seem good on the surface, but which are in fact counterfeit. But it can't happen another way- a good man's words aren't just his surface level sin. And I for one flinch at this; because when I have to own up to having said inappropriate words, my flesh wants me to think that in my heart, I didn't mean them. And yet, ruthlessly, I must press the point: bad words reflect a bad heart. We can't justify them. We must repent of them, and by the influence of knowing God, through and in His Son and His word, we must change the state of mind that leads to them. And we should be, on one hand, simply worried: that bad words came out of a bad heart. And a good man cannot bring forth such corrupt fruit. There is with some especially the problem of temper, saying things well beyond what they really mean in hot blood. But here again, the words of hot blood do reflect something of the real man or woman. The tongue is a fire that can lead to condemnation, whatever and however we justify its' words as a relatively harmless outcome of our personality type. This may be true, but it isn't harmless.
Speaking of the sudden destruction of the wicked at the future judgment, David reflected: "So they shall make their own tongues to fall upon themselves" (Ps. 64:8). Unsound speech will be condemned, or perhaps [will lead to our] condemnation (Tit. 2:8). By our words we will be justified or condemned. The false prophets were judged according to their words: "Every man's word shall be his burden" at the day of Babylonian judgment (Jer. 23:36). Gal. 6:5 alludes here in saying that at the judgment, every man shall bear his own burden- i.e., that of his own words. Concerning his enemies, he imprecated: "When they arise [in resurrection?], let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice...let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle" (Ps. 109:28,29). God said He judged His people 'according to their way…according to their judgments I will judge' (Ez. 7:27 LXX). A man's way, freely chosen, is his judgment. We truly 'make the answer now'. The Saviour came more to save than condemn (Jn. 12:47); it is men who condemn themselves as inappropriate to receive eternal life. It is their words, not His, which will be the basis of their rejection. We must so speak as those who will be judged, knowing that he who shewed no mercy in his words will receive none (James 2:12,13); our words of mercy or condemnation, and perhaps the way we say them, will be the basis upon which we will be accepted or rejected. "A fool's mouth is [will be] his destruction, and his mouth calleth for strokes [i.e. condemnation at the judgment, Lk. 12:47,48]" (Prov. 18:6). By our words we may be shouting out for condemnation. Those who condemned the Lord spoke "such gainsaying of sinners against themselves" (Heb. 12:3 RV), just as the idols "are their own witnesses" to their untruth (Is. 44:9). "In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride [with which he will be beaten at the day of judgment]; but the lips of the wise shall preserve them" from such a fate (Prov. 14:3). Our words are as fire, and are to be connected with the fire of condemnation (James 3:5,6), which our words have already kindled (Lk. 12:49). Speaking of the last day Isaiah 33:11 had foretold: "your breath [i.e. words], as fire, shall devour you". Likewise wrongly gained wealth is the fire that will burn those who have it at the last day (James 5:3). James is picking up a figure from Is. 33:11, again concerning the final judgment: "Your breath, as fire, shall devour you". Their breath, their words, were as fire which would in the end be the basis of their condemnation. Nadab and Abihu kindled strange fire, and it was with that fire that God burnt them up, in symbol of His destruction of all the wicked at judgment day (Lev. 10:2). "He that believeth not is condemned already" (Jn. 3:18). A heretic is already condemned of himself (Tit. 3:11); our heart can condemn us now (1 Jn. 3:20).
By our words we will be acquitted [Gk.] and by our words we will be condemned (Mt. 12:37)- but it is God who acquits, and therefore nobody but He can condemn us (Rom. 8:33; Is. 50:8). Yet how does and how will He do this? Surely on the basis of our acquittal or condemnation of others. The connection in thought surely shows that through our words, we form our own judgment of ourselves, to acquittal or condemnation.
The Lord taught that His people were to be unconditionally truthful, because every untruthful word would be judged at the last day (Mt. 12:36). When He taught us ‘swear not at all’ (Mt. 5:33-37), He spoke specifically about not swearing by the judgment throne of God at Jerusalem. Jews and indeed all Semitic peoples were in the habit of swearing by the last day judgment, to prove that they were truthful (cp. Mt. 23:16-22). The Lord is saying that His people have no need to use those invocations and oaths- because they are to live always as if they are before the final judgment seat of God in Jerusalem. And therefore, our words will be true- because we live as men and women who stand constantly before His judgment presence.
When the Lord said that His people would preach before rulers ‘for a witness / testimony against them’ (Mk. 13:9), we are left wondering when and how exactly this will be. It’s hard to come to any other conclusion than that this refers to how our words of preaching will be quoted back to the hearers at the judgment. It’s an incidental proof that it is hearing the word of the Gospel that makes a person responsible to the last judgment. But in our context, my point is that our words of preaching in this life will be quoted back to those who heard them, at the day of judgment. The simple point is, our words aren’t forgotten. They will be quoted back, in some form, at the day of judgment. And yet it appears we can speak and think how we like in this life. Indeed we can; but all these things will ultimately surface again in the last day.
Response To The Word: Foretaste Of Judgment
The Jews will be judged by the word at the second coming (Jn. 12:48); but they were 'accused' (judgment seat language) by their rejection of God's word in the Old Testament during their lifetime (Jn. 5:45). The Jews in the parable "began to make excuse (saying)... I pray thee have me excused" (Lk. 14:18). The Greek word for "excuse" here is also translated "reject"- by excusing themselves from the requirements of God's word in this life, they were effectively rejecting themselves, as they will be at judgment. So as we read the word, we show our judgment. It could be that the reluctance of some to get down to reading the word is not simply because they lack time, but more subtly because they realize they are faced with God's judgments in it.
There is a purposeful ambiguity in Paul's comment that it is better to marry than to burn due to unlawful passions (1 Cor. 7:9). Is he referring to the burning 'fire' of judgment (e.g. Mt. 13:40), or of burning in lust (cp. Rom. 1:27)? Surely he intends reference to both, in that burning in lust is effectively condemning yourself, kindling the fire of condemnation yourself. David burnt in lust, and was then smitten with a disease which he describes as his loins being filled with burning (Ps. 38:7 RV). Or consider the Jonah type. He was disobedient and left the presence of the Lord of his own volition, and was therefore cast forth from the ship to the dark waters- in this little type of judgment, he condemned himself. The rejected are told to depart, and yet in another sense they are cast away (Mt. 25:30,41). The Gehenna fire of condemnation of the wicked is "already kindled" by men's attitude now (Lk. 12:49). The tree that will not bring forth good fruit "is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (Mt. 7:19)- alluding to the figure of Gehenna, into which the rejected will be 'thrown'. The ungodly are already like the chaff that will be blown away after the Lord's return (Ps. 1:4,5; 35:5; Job 21:18-20 cp. Is. 5:24; 17:13; 29:5; Dan. 2:35; Lk. 3:17). Those who lose their first love are now condemned (1 Tim. 3:6; 5:12). The Lord Jesus stands with the sword of judgment now going out of His mouth (Rev. 1:16), as it will do at the final judgment (Is. 11:4).
Mutuality Between God And Man
God’s present judgment of us is actually related to how we ‘judge’ God to be. There’s a mutuality between God and man in this business of present judgment. This theme is played on throughout Hebrews 11. Sarah “judged” God as faithful, and He ‘judged’ her as faithful (Heb. 11:11). As Abraham “was offering up Isaac” (RV), with the knife raised, he was “accounting” God to be capable of performing a resurrection, just as Moses quit the riches of Egypt, “accounting the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:17,19,26 RV). And yet God ‘accounts’ us to be faithful, imputing righteousness to us. Through these acts and attitudes of faith, “these…had witness borne to them through their faith” (Heb. 11:39 RV). It was as if their lives were lived in the courtroom, with their actions a constant presentation of evidence to the judge of all the earth. Our judgment of God to be faithful thus becomes His judgment of us to be faithful.
The rejected with “loathe themselves” (Ez. 6:9; 20:43; 36:31); and yet in their lifetimes, God loathed them (s.w. Ps. 95:10); the process of rejection will teach them how God saw them, and they will perceive themselves how God did. Thus they will ‘know the Lord’ finally. Having spoken of how they will loathe themselves, God comments: “And they shall know that I am the Lord, and that I have not said in vain that I would do this evil unto them” (Ez. 6:10). But the Hebrew word translated “in vain” is that elsewhere translated ‘without cost’, carrying the idea of ‘not without personal disadvantage’. God will in that sense feel He has lost something, it has cost Him a lot, to see them in this condemnation. It isn’t something that a vengeful deity wilfully and selfishly brings upon anyone.
Changing The Verdict
So whenever we sin, we are judged by the court of Heaven as deserving condemnation. Yet now is our day of opportunity; the verdict really is given, but we can mercifully change it. Consider the implications of Mk. 3:29: "he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness but is in danger of eternal damnation". Not being ever forgiven is paralleled with having eternal damnation. The implication is that when we sin and are unforgiven, we are condemned. But in this life we can be forgiven, and therefore become uncondemned. Abimelech was "but a dead man" for taking Sarah (Gen. 20:3), as if although he was alive, for that sin he was in God's eyes condemned and dead. But that verdict for that case was changed by his change of the situation. The unfaithful now walk naked (Rev. 3:17); but they will do so in the final condemnation of Rev. 16:15. They can walk naked now and repent, clothe themselves so as to cover the nakedness of condemnation which they now have; but not then.
Here we see the urgency of our position as sinners; we are condemned now and yet we can repent; but not then. Heb. 4:13 makes the point that we right now are “naked” before the eyes of Him to whom we right now give account [logos]. We will give that logos in the last day (Rom. 14:11,12); yet before the Word of God, as it is in both Scripture and in the person of the Lord Jesus, we face our judgment today, in essence. And we are pronounced “naked” before Him. Yet therefore, in this day of opportunity, we can come boldly before the throne because we have “such an High Priest”, as Heb. 4:16 continues. Lot suffered in the condemnation of Sodom when the neighbouring kings invaded (Gen. 14:12)- he was in the same situation as those who were warned to come out of Babylon lest they be consumed in her plagues. So he went through a condemnation process in this life- but later learnt his lesson and will be saved in the end. The blind can lead the blind into the ditch, i.e. to be 'rooted up' in condemnation (Mt. 15:13,14 cp. 13:29). And yet now in this day of marvelous opportunity, we can lift both ourselves and others out of that pit of condemnation (Mt. 12:11). Some of those who are now 'rooted up', i.e. condemned as they would be in the future judgment (Mt. 13:28), who are “wandering” as the rejected will in the last day, can still be saved from this by us pulling them out of the fire of condemnation (Jude 12,22). Men can escape from the "damnation of hell" in which they are in (Mt. 23:33). Herein lies the urgency of our task in both personal repentance and pastoral work. Peter in this life denied his Lord in front of men (Mt. 26:70)- and the record of his failure intentionally looks back to the Lord's warning that whoever denies Him before men will be denied by Him at judgment day (Mt. 10:33). He sinned, and in the court of Heaven was condemned. There is a passage in Proverbs 24:11,12 which has a strange relevance to Peter's self-condemnation. Having spoken of those being lead away to death (the very context of Peter's denial), we read: "If thou sayest, Behold we know not this man: doth not he that weigheth the hearts consider it? And shall not he render to every man according to his works?". This last phrase is quoted in Rev. 22:12 about the final judgment.
Bible minded Peter must surely have later reflected that he had said those very words: 'I know not this man'. He "went out" from the Lord (Mk. 14:68) and then some minutes later further "went out and wept bitterly" (Lk. 22:62), living out the very figure of condemnation- and yet he was able to repent and come back. In this life we can be judged, condemned, weep...but still repent of it and thereby change our eternal destiny (1). Again, this is the urgency of Hosea when he warns that in Israel's final judgment, they will repent, seek God and not find Him. Therefore he appeals for them now to seek Him, while He may be found...and Isaiah likewise. Lk. 12:9 says that whoever denies the Lord before men will be denied before the Angels. Two words are used here, the first weaker than the second. If we deny Jesus, He will utterly deny us before the Angels- what we do now on earth is even more strongly reflected in Heaven and at judgment day. The Heavenly response to our words and actions is out of proportion to our words. This surely inspires us in our daily words and decisions.
The parable of the man coming to his friend at midnight and asking for loaves (Lk. 11:5-13) occurred in the context of the Lord's teaching about forgiveness (see the parallel Gospels). Yet the terms of the parable are replete with reference to the Lord's return and judgment:
11:5 At midnight- Christ comes "at midnight" in other parables (cp. Mk. 13:35)
11:7 Door now shut- the door is shut on those rejected, never to be opened (Mt. 25:10; Lk. 13:25)
11:9 Knocking on the door in prayer, and the door is opened- the rejected knock on the door but it isn't opened.
Now, in this life, we knock on the door, knowing we are condemned, needing forgiveness, living out the situation of the rejected at the last day. But now, the door is opened. We are granted as much forgiveness as we need, which we accept shamefacedly and awkwardly, as the man receiving loaves at midnight for the visitor [note how Nathan describes David's lust for Bathsheba as a visitor arriving needing feeding].
Particularly by our attitude to our brethren can we condemn ourselves. If we hate our brother, we state we are already in darkness- the darkness to which we will be thrown in judgment day. If we go out from the fellowship of the brethren, we declare we are not of them (1 Jn. 2:19). Jude 19 speaks of those who separate themselves- those who diakrino themselves, judge themselves, by their separation from us. And yet this condemnation can so easily be undone by a studied application to brotherly love.
Condemnation is in that sense God’s appeal to us. The Hebrew word translated “condemn”, “judge” is also that translated “plead”. Ezekiel often uses the word in speaking of how God will judge / condemn Israel. But he uses the same word when he speaks of how He will “plead” with Israel in their captivity in Babylon, i.e. in their condemnation experience (Ez. 17:20); how He will plead with them as He pleaded with them whilst they were undergoing judgment in Egypt (Ez. 20:35,36- s.w. “judge” Ez. 20:4); and how He will “judge” or “plead” with Israel’s latter day invaders through the punishments He will bring upon them (Ez. 38:22). When God gives those wicked people to the sword, He will be pleading / judging with “all flesh” (Jer. 25:31); “For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead [s.w. judge] with all flesh” (Is. 66:16). They will be gathered to the valley of Jehoshaphat, so that the Lord can “plead [s.w. judge] with there for my people” (Joel 3:2).
The Example Of David
David was another man who like Peter was condemned in this life, but repented and received justification and salvation by God’s grace. After David sinned with Bathsheba, the terms of the judgment pronounced against him are framed to echo the rejection and condemnation of Saul. Consider:
- David “despised the commandment of the Lord to do evil” (2 Sam. 12:9)- Saul likewise rejected the commandment of God (1 Sam. 15:29)
- “I will raise up evil against you out of your own house” (2 Sam. 12:11)- what happened to Saul (1 Sam. 20:30)
- “I will take your wives before your eyes and give them unto your neighbour” (2 Sam. 12:11). This happened to Saul- David is termed his “neighbour” (1 Sam. 15:28; 28:17), and David married Saul’s wives (2 Sam. 12:8).
- David’s “I have sinned” (2 Sam. 12:13) is word for word what Saul said at his condemnation (1 Sam. 15:24)
David then lies all night upon the earth, refuses to eat, people try to raise him up from the ground, and then they succeed in setting bread before him and he eats it (2 Sam. 12:16,17,20). David was consciously doing exactly what Saul did in 1 Sam. 28:20-25, the night before his death / condemnation. David was recognizing, of his own volition, that he was no better than Saul. And by doing this, he was saved. Unlike Saul, he altered the verdict of condemnation by meaningful repentance. Again we make the point, with Paul- if we condemn ourselves, we will not be condemned. Those who will have “cast off” the offending parts of their lives will not be “cast” into destruction (Mt. 5:29). The play on the word “cast” is surely to show that we are to condemn the actions of our own body and as it were cast them / those parts of ourselves into condemnation. And in this way we will “enter into life”.
... and Jonah
Jonah's yet another example. He utters a tepilla, an appeal for a favourable judgment from God- and received the answer in the answer to his prayer (Jonah 2:1,3,8). Note that Jonah did this from within the fish's belly- whilst undergoing a figurative condemnation for sin and rejection by God, having removed himself [as he thought] out of God's presence. But even then, a man could appeal to God's judgment seat for acceptance- and have his verdict changed. And thus the fish spat him out on dry ground, speaking of course of resurrection and acceptance by God.
We can sum up our findings as follows:
Action In This Life: Israel hid themselves from God's face [cp. Adam] by their sins, they turned to Him the back and not the face (Jer. 32:33; Is. 59:2)
The Final Judgment : They were then driven away from God's face, He hid His face from them (Jer. 33:5)
Action In This Life : The elder son would not 'go in' to the feast (Lk. 15:28) (= the Kingdom)
The Final Judgment : The rejected are not allowed to 'go in' to the Kingdom (Mt. 5:20; 7:21; 18:3,9; 19:17,23,24; 25:21)
Action In This Life : Some depart from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:12); Demas departed (2 Tim. 4:10)
The Final Judgment: "Depart from me...into everlasting fire" (Mt. 25:41); "He shall say, I know you not, depart from me" (Lk. 13:27)
Action In This Life: The foolish virgins go (s.w. "depart") to buy oil (Mt. 25:9)
The Final Judgment: "Depart from me" (Mt. 25:41)
Action In This Life: The nations gather themselves together against the Lord
The Final Judgment : He gathers them together for threshing (Mic. 4:11,12)
Action In This Life : "They began to make excuse (saying)...I pray thee have me excused" (Lk. 14:18)- s.w. reject
The Final Judgment : They will be rejected at the final judgment, although they rejected themselves.
Action In This Life: Burning in lust (1 Cor. 7:9; Rom. 1:27); riches (James 5:3) an the tongue as a fire (James 3:6) that now burns
The Final Judgment: The final burning up of the wicked (Mt. 13:40)
Action In This Life: If we hate our brother we are in darkness. If we go out from the brethren, we declare we are not of them (1 Jn. 2:19).
The Final Judgment Darkness = condemnation. We separate / diakrino / judge / condemn ourselves by our separation from our brethren (Jude 22).
Action In This Life We can bite and devour one another (Gal. 5:15)
The Final Judgment As the Jews did in their day of condemnation in the Babylonian invasion (Is. 9:19,20 LXX; Jer. 13:14).
Action In This Life We can ‘go back’ from the demands of Jesus because we find them too demanding (Jn. 6:66).
The Final Judgment The same words are used of how the rejected will ‘go away’ from Jesus into rejection (Mt. 25:46; Mk. 9:43 s.w.).
Action In This Life I must go away and bury my father...young man went away in sorrow...people go away to their farm, trading (Mt. 8:21; 19:22; 22:5; Jn. 6:66), Judas went away to hang himself (Mt. 27:5)
The Final Judgment The rejected go away into everlasting punishment (Mt. 25:46)
Action In This Life The Jews gnashed their teeth against Stephen (Acts 7:54)
The Final Judgment As they will at the judgment (Mt. 8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51)
(1) There are other connections between Peter's position at this time and that of the rejected before the judgment seat. He called down Divine curses upon himself if he knew Jesus of Nazareth- and thus brought the curse of God upon himself (the record of his cursing and swearing refers to this rather than to the use of expletives). One such Jewish oath would have been 'May God condemn me at the judgment if…'. The whole idea of 'I don't know Him' must, sadly, be connected with the Lord's words in Mt. 7:23 and 25:41, where He tells the rejected: "I never knew you". By denying knowledge of the Saviour, Peter was effectively agreeing that the verdict of condemnation could appropriately be passed upon him. In one of his many allusions to the Gospels, Paul wrote that "If we deny him, he also will deny us" (2 Tim. 2:12).