1.6 The Logic of Judgment

There is a powerful Biblical theme, upon which we have expanded elsewhere. It is that if we do not judge / condemn ourselves now, then we will be at the judgment. If we don't burn up the flesh now, then it will be at judgment day. When the rebels were burnt by fire, Moses commented: "This is it that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me" (Lev. 10:4). Either we burn ourselves up in commitment now, or we will be burnt up. God demands us from ourselves. The glaring logic is that seeing the flesh will be dissolved, it must have its judgment, therefore we ought to judge it now and thereby receive acceptance at the judgment; rather than omit to do so now and go through the same dissolution at the judgment, with the result that we will sleep eternally. Israel's cities were full of witches, Egyptian horses and chariots, and idols; and therefore those cities had to be destroyed in judgment. If those things had been cut off by Israel's own self-purging, there would have been no need for the process of condemnation to do it (Mic. 5:10,12,14). But they would not; and so "I will pluck up thy groves out of the midst of thee: so [therefore] will I destroy [Heb. 'purify'] thy cities" (Mic. 5:14). This is where an understanding of the ongoing, present nature of the judgment is such a powerful imperative to spirituality; if we don't condemn sin in ourselves now, then God does, and will articulate His judgment at the Lord's return.

Here, then, are some examples of this logic:

- Jeremiah used it in appealing to Israel to humbly repent: "Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves: for (i.e. because) your principalities shall come down ", i.e. be humbled (Jer. 13:18). The pride of man will be humbled by Yahweh; if we refuse to humble ourselves, then God's condemnation of us in the day of judgment will humble us. Therefore it is logical to humble ourselves now.

- John the Baptist had a clear perception of this logic: "He (Jesus) shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit (even) with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and...he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Mt. 3:11,12). John put a choice before them: fire, or fire. Either we are consumed with the fire of devotion to God, or we face the figurative fire of thecondemnation. This is the logic of judgment.

- The Lord Jesus picked up on the same idea. He spoke of the destruction of the unworthy in Gehenna fire, and went straight on to comment: "For every one shall be salted with (Gk. 'for the') fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted" (Mk. 9:48,49). Unless we become a living sacrifice, wholly consumed by God's fire, laying ourselves down upon the altar, then we will be consumed by the figurative fire of Gehenna at the day of judgment. Again, there's no real choice: it's fire, or fire.

- And it's bankruptcy, or bankruptcy. Paul spoke of spending and being spent in the Lord's service, alluding to how the prodigal spent himself in dissipation (Lk. 15:24). That sense of losing all must come- either in sin's service, or in that of the Lord.

- We are either ashamed of our sins in repentance; or we will be made ashamed of them in the judgment (Jer. 6:15 RVmg.)- it’s shame either way. We either wail for our sins now, or we will wail for them at judgment day (Jer. 9:19,20).

-  Is. 45:20 RV speaks of how some "carry the wood of the their graven image". We either carry the wood of the cross, or the wood of the cross of our idols. In the same vein Is. 30:17 says that the rejected will be left as a beacon (RVmg "mast") upon the top of a mountain, "and as an ensign on a hill". This is the image of the cross- a piece of wood on a hill. And so it's a cross, or a cross.

- God’s people are likened to a hilltop vineyard, about which God “made a trench” (Is. 5:2 RV) in order that it would bring forth fruit; and it had a winepress in the midst of it. Yet ultimately, in the horror of condemnation in AD70, a trench was made around Jerusalem in order to destroy it, and the city became a winepress of judgment. The logic of judgment again becomes apparent; we either respond now to the appreciation of our rightful condemnation; or we will be condemned.

-     Legalism and human religion [of which our own brotherhood has its share] are a burden laid on men's shoulders. But the cross of Jesus is also a burden laid upon our shoulders (Mt. 23:4). The greatness of the demands of the cross free us from the burdens of man's legalism. But it's still a choice, between a cross and a cross.

-     "I will judge [condemn] you...and ye shall know that I am the LORD", Ezekiel often warned (e.g. Ez. 11:9). Men must either know Yahweh now, or they will know Him in condemnation. And Ezekiel uses the idea of 'knowing' Yahweh in the sense of the knowledge that leads to a desire for responsive action. But Ezekiel plays on this logic even further; because Israel had not "executed my judgments", therefore in their condemnation Yahweh would "execute judgments among you" (Ez. 11:9,12). We cannot escape the moral requirements of Yahweh; if now we ignore the cutting of the flesh which they demand, then in the day of condemnation those judgments we have neglected to execute will be executed in us.

- We must have tribulation, either in the condemnation of the judgment (Rom. 2:9), or now, in order that we will enter the Kingdom (Acts 14:22). We must bear the burden either of our sins (Am. 2:13; Is. 58:6; Ps. 38:4) or of the Lord's cross (Gal. 6:4 etc.). We will experience either the spiritual warfare of the striving saint (Rom. 7:15-25), or the lusts of the flesh warring in our members, eating us up with the insatiability of sin (James 4:1; Ez. 16:28,29). Either we will mourn now in repentance (Lk. 6:25; the Greek for "mourn" is often in a repentance context), or we will mourn at the judgment (Mt. 8:12 etc.). Having foretold the inevitable coming of judgment day, Yahweh Himself pleads with Israel: "Therefore also now...turn ye even to me...with weeping, and with mourning" (Joel 2:12).

- The sacrifices taught Israel that God especially valued the fat- the best parts of their lives were to be freely offered to Him. But the wicked at judgment day will be as the fat of lambs, consumed upon the altar (Ps. 37:20). We either give our best to the Lord's service now, or He will ultimately take it from us anyway. Cars, houses, flats, valued jewellery, banknotes stashed away, bank accounts, our innermost emotions, jealousy, love...we either give them now, or He will take them from us in the day of judgment.

- We simply must get down to serious self-examination. To him who orders his ways aright, the salvation of God will be shown. But for those who never reprove themselves, and think that God "was altogether such an one as thyself", He will reprove them "and set them in order before thine eyes" at the judgment (Ps. 50:21,23). We must face our sins, either now in our self-examination and genuine confession and struggle for self-mastery; or then, when the grounds for rejection are made painfully apparent.

- The day of the Lord will result in the wicked being "in pain as of a woman that travaileth" (Is. 13:8; 1 Thess. 5:3). The Lord seems to have alluded to this when He spoke of how the faithful just before His coming would be like a woman in travail, with the subsequent joy on delivery matching the elation of acceptance at Christ's return (Jn. 16:21). So, it's travail- or travail, especially in the last days. If we chose the way of the flesh, it will be travail for nothing, bringing forth in vain (this is seen as a characteristic of all worldly life in Is. 65:23). We either cut off the flesh now (in spiritual circumcision), or God will cut us off at the last day. This point was made when the rite of circumcision was first given: "The uncircumcised [un-cut off] man...shall be cut off" (Gen. 17:14).

- "Whosoever shall fall on this stone (Christ) shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder" (Mt. 21:44). There is an unmistakable allusion here to the stone destroying the image, the Kingdoms of men, in Dan. 2:44. The choice we have is to fall upon Christ and break our bones, to get up and stumble on with our natural self broken in every bone; or to be ground to powder by the Lord at his return, to share the judgments of this surrounding evil world. Yet strangely (at first sight) the figure of stumbling on the stone of Christ often describes the person who stumbles at his word,  who rejects it (Is. 8:14,15; Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:7,8). In other words, through our spiritual failures we come to break ourselves, we become a community of broken men and women; broken in that we have broken our inner soul in conformity to God's will. As Simeon cuddled that beautiful, innocent baby Jesus, he foresaw all this: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again (resurrection) of many in Israel...that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk. 2:34). If we are to share his resurrection, if we are to experience such newness of life in this life, we must fall upon him, really feel the cutting edge of his word. We must be broken now; or be broken and ground to powder at the judgment.

- Having spoken of the need to take up the cross daily, the Lord Jesus employed this form of logic to encourage people to really take on board what he was suggesting: "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross...for  whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, and the gospel's, the same shall find it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own life (AV "soul")? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mk. 8:34-37). If we follow Christ, we must lose our natural life. If we don't, even if we gain the whole world, we will lose our natural life. I must lose my life, one way or the other. We need to go through life muttering that to ourselves. God asks our life, our all. If we hold it back in this life because we want to keep it for ourselves, He will take it anyway. The cross was a symbol of shame (Heb. 12:2 speaks of the shame of the cross). In this context verse 38 continues: "Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed" at the day of judgment. We either go through the shame of carrying the cross now, especially in our personal witnessing to those around us; or we will suffer the eternal shame of rejection (Dan. 12:2); our shame will be evident to all then (Rev. 16:15).

- The Greek text in Mt. 16:25,26 and Lk. 9:25 can bear a re-translation and re-punctuation which quite alters the sense as found in the English translations. It shows the Lord emphasizing the evident and compelling logic of losing our lives for His sake: "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For how much a man is profited if he shall gain the whole world (in the Kingdom) and lose his own soul (now, as I asked you to do, to lose your soul for me)!...for the Son of man shall come... and then he shall reward every man according to his works", i.e. the losing of our soul is through our everyday works. Lk. 9:25 makes the same point: 'How is a man advantaged if he gain the whole world (the Kingdom) and lose himself (now)!: or - be cast away, be condemned at the judgment, because he tried to keep his soul, he didn't see the logic of all this!' . The point is, a man at the day of judgment will be willing to give up everything, even the whole world if he possesses it in order that he may find acceptance. But then it will be too late. Now is the time to resign all for the sake of that blessed acceptance.

- Israel were told to "throw down", "break in pieces" and "utterly destroy" the idols and altars of Canaan. There were times during their history when they obeyed this command by purging themselves from their apostasy in this. The Hebrew words used scarcely occur elsewhere, except very frequently in the context of how God "broke down", "threw down" and "destroyed" Israel at the hands of their Babylonian and Assyrian invaders as a result of their not 'breaking down' (etc.) the idols. "Throw down" in Ex. 34:13; Dt. 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chron. 31:1 is the same word in 2 Chron. 36:19; Jer. 4:26; 31:28; 33:4; 39:8; 52:14; Ez. 16:39; Nah. 1:6. "Cut down" in Dt. 7:5; 12:3; 2 Chron. 31:1 later occurs in Is. 10:33; Jer. 48;25; Lam. 2:3. So Israel faced the choice: either cut down your idols, or you will be cut down in the day of God's judgment. Those who worshipped idols were like unto them. The stone will either fall on us and destroy us, or we must fall on it and become broken men and women (Mt. 21:44). For the man untouched by the concept of living for God's glory, it's a hard choice. God will conquer sin, ultimately. When a man dies, it isn't just a biological, clockwork process. It is God's victory over sin in that individual. Either we must be slain by God; or with His gracious help, we must put sin to death in our members through association with the only One who really did this- and thereby rise to life eternal. The inevitability of God's conquest of sin is brought out in Ez. 6:4-6: "Your altars shall be desolate, and your images shall be broken...in all your dwelling places, the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease...and your works may be abolished...I will lay the dead carcasses of the children of Israel before their idols". The people of Israel had to be destroyed because their idols had to be destroyed. The inevitability of God's ultimate conquest of sin is evident: and we are asked to side with Him, not against Him. God will have His way. The rebels amongst natural Israel were "wasted out" (Dt. 2:14)- using a Hebrew word which means 'perfected'. God will perfect us anyway, either by our destruction or by our salvation; He will have His way. This means we must put to death our sinful works now, not leave it for Him to destroy us so that He might destroy them. The secret sins of every human soul, those things we wrongly allow ourselves, those untackled, unacknowledged habits, will all ultimately be destroyed by the Lord: either through our response to His hand in our lives, or through His destruction of us so that they might be destroyed.

- There is reason to think that a latter day tribulation is to come upon us, which will really test our appreciation of this principle which is so embedded throughout God's revelation. Those who will refuse to worship the beast will be killed (Rev. 13:15); but those (responsible) who try to avoid this death will themselves be tortured to death by the Lamb, because they worshipped the beast (14:9-11; 16:2).

- Paul speaks of how sinful behaviour ends up in people doing things ‘contrary to nature’; and yet he uses a similar phrase to describe how being ‘graffed in’ to the true hope of Israel, with all it implies in practice, is likewise “contrary to nature” (Rom. 1:26,27 cp. 11:24). We walk against the wind, go against the grain, one way or the other in this life. And, cynically speaking, it may as well be for the Lord’s cause than for the flesh.

- The breaking of bread is intended to bring the logic of all this powerfully before us. The cup of the Lord is a symbol both of His condemnation, and also of His blessing and forgiveness. We take it, week by week, either to our condemnation, or to our salvation. There is no third way. We may as well realize this. The Lord Jesus hates the fact that some think there is a third road; He would that we recognized, as He does, that there is really no 'lukewarm' position- only hot or cold. He seems to ask us to realize this: "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt" (Mt. 12:33).

previous page table of contents next page next chapter