At the outset of this teaching, I want to point out that both judgment and justice in the Bible are topics and concepts that are inseparably related—but also much different in many respects and in many aspects.
In a perfect world here on planet earth, a courtroom judge would weigh very carefully a case brought before him or her. After weighing all the relevant data in a case, the judge (or jury) then hands down a perfect judgment and verdict based on perfect justice. Obviously, we don’t live in a perfect world with perfect justice and judgments. But such a perfect scenario would be, nevertheless, a dim reflection of heavenly judgment meted out by God who is perfect.
This teaching is about our perfect God who weighs all matters with perfect justice and hands down perfect judgments—always tempered with perfect love, perfect grace, and perfect mercy.
In brief, here’s the typical Christian view of God’s judgments—including his final judgment of all humanity. God created humanity, and when first created, humanity was good. However, humanity (personified in Adam and Eve) sinned against God, turning “good into bad and evil.” Because of humanity’s sin, God has no other choice but to judge those who do not turn back to Him and back to good. God judges them by sending them to suffer eternal conscious torment in the ever-burning fires of hell.
Some may escape hell and be welcomed into heaven—if they receive Jesus into their lives and faithfully follow Him in this mortal life. After this life, there are no more opportunities to receive Jesus and turn from bad to good. The majority of humanity will suffer in hell; only a relatively small minority will go to heaven. “In a nutshell,” that’s the typical view of God’s judgment for sinful humans as understood and believed by millions of God-believers and pre-believers alike.
With this teaching, I am attempting to question whether that typical view of most of humanity’s bleak and hopeless, eternal fate is true. Perhaps there are other ways to look at God’s judgments. Perhaps most of humanity does not need to succumb to such despair and hopelessness. Perhaps there is hope for all!
Having stated that, let’s next examine some definitions of justice and judgment as it applies to God’s “courtroom.” Of course, we understand that nowhere is there a real, material, heavenly courtroom where God the Judge sits behind a high judicial bench presiding over a courtroom with the accused person and his or her attorneys, bailiffs, opposing attorneys, court reporters, witnesses, and the like. That is a human courtroom scenario.
Generally speaking, the Bible defines “judgment” as “a favorable or unfavorable verdict pronounced judicially.” “Justice” is defined as coming from the word “just” meaning “righteous” or “morally clean.” It also means to have “right standards” or “right conduct.” If we put these various definitions together in terms of God’s judgment and justice, they mean that God is altogether righteous and morally clean, and, therefore—after fully considering all the relevant information—always hands down perfect judgments. Of course, we must factor in that He is God and therefore knows everything there is to know about the one being judged. God’s judgments are never judicial decrees of punishment; they are always remedial, rehabilitative, and restorative!
Genesis 18: 19 is the first reference in the Bible about God’s judgment. In that reference, God is commending Abraham for being a good husband and father who practices good judgment (righteous judgment) and justice. This occurrence pretty well sets the tone for the concept of judgment throughout the remainder of the Bible; God’s judgments flow from perfect and righteous justice.
Throughout the remainder of both the Old and New Testaments, when God is judging humans for one thing or another, He is judging them based on his own perfect righteousness, upon his omniscience (God is all-knowing), and his omnipresence (God is fully present everywhere at once, and sees all). For those three reasons God can render only perfect judgments in every instance.
The final instance of God’s judgment in the Bible is found in Revelation 19: 2: “For true and righteous are [God’s] judgments…” Thus, from the first reference about God’s judgments in Genesis 18: 19 to God’s final judgments in Revelation—and almost every reference in between those two references—God’s judgments are true and righteous. We know from elsewhere in the Bible, his judgments flow from his love, grace, and mercy. Someone has said, “Mercy means we don’t get what we deserve, and grace means we get what we don’t deserve!”
I hope it goes without saying that God does not judge humanity as humans do, because anger, rage, and wrath are human characteristics. To say that God has wrath, anger, and rage are human figures of speech applied to God. I invite you to turn to another teaching on my website titled “The Wrath of God” for clarification of God’s wrath. (leservices.org).
In his popular book, Hope For All, Gerry Beauchemin lists a number of other qualities and purposes of God that are inseparably linked with his judgments. He begins writing about Anchor Three (reason three) by asking the question: “Does God have a remedial and corrective purpose in his judgments, or are they solely punitive?” He begins to answer that question by writing about remedial and corrective purposes. Do God’s judgments offer a remedy for the sin of humanity? Or, are God’s judgments handed down for the sole purpose of punishing sinful humanity?
What does “remedy” (or “remedial”) mean? In human legal terms one of its meanings is “to remove an evil or wrong.” In Hope For All, Gerry Beauchemin lists eighteen biblical references from the Bible supporting the view that God’s judgments are remedial and corrective. Some detractors of this view might suggest that Gerry has simply done some “cherry picking” in the Bible or selected some isolated “proof texts” to prove the view. On the contrary, Gerry knows that a basic “rule” of Bible study is to study all biblical references about a given subject or topic before arriving at a conclusion. The eighteen references he gives about God’s judgments being remedial are presented to the reader after extensive study of all the Bible references.
Next, let us examine Gerry’s contention that God’s judgment and mercy are synergistic.
What does he mean by that? I believe he means that God correlates his judgment and mercy so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects; that is, God’s perfect judgments and his perfect mercy together restore humanity to a far greater and better state beyond their original condition when humanity was first created as being “good” (Genesis 1: 31).
All of restored humanity will eventually be far better than merely good. For more teaching about the concept of God’s restoration, see another teaching on my website titled “Restoration.”
Think of that synergistic effect of judgment and mercy this way. Picture a human courtroom scenario when a defendant will often throw himself or herself upon the mercy of the court; often when that happens the judge will make provision for the defendant to become involved in some program that will lift the defendant higher than their former social and criminal status. That’s a very dim picture of how God’s judgment and mercy work together to make our final state better than our original condition.
Finally, in terms of God’s judgment and mercy, the Bible clearly proclaims that God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1: 3). God dispenses to us whatever amount of mercy we need for Him to fully restore us into an ever-growing, loving relationship, (in another synergistic relationship with mercy). His comfort and mercy combined are to give us a sense of ease in our relationship with Him, console us in all our trials, tribulations, and pains of this life, and give genuine hope to all humanity.
Next, Gerry makes a very strong point about the following matter. He writes, “Note carefully: many think that because they have “accepted Christ” in this life, no judgment awaits them. Yet Scripture abounds with warnings to believers in Jesus. Yes, many believers in Jesus mistakenly feel that simply because they have invited Jesus into their lives, that invitation gives them a “free ticket” to Heaven when they die—that when they die they will immediately be welcomed with open arms through the gates into Heaven and instantly perfected with no consequences for their mortal lives. That’s just not true.
Unfortunately, that belief has led many believers in Jesus to feel that merely inviting Jesus into their lives makes them a Christian. In one sense, that is true, but in a greater sense a Christian is one who has become a lifelong follower of Jesus “through thick and thin.” Accepting Jesus into one’s life is only the starting point of the Christian life. The judgment events of Romans 14: 10 – 12, 1 Corinthians 3: 9 – 15 and 2 Corinthians 5: 9 – 11 make abundantly clear that there are judgments after a Jesus-believer leaves this life. A number of other biblical references support this view.
Finally, in Hope For All, Gerry Beauchemin writes about “Rejoicing in Judgment.” How can that be? If we think of judgment in terms of punitive verdicts handed down in a human courtroom scene, certainly there is not cause for rejoicing in such circumstances. But remember, we are not thinking in terms of human judgments; we are thinking in terms of God’s judgments—an altogether different scenario.
God’s judgments are redemptive, not punitive, and ultimately lead to our restoration far greater and beyond our originally created condition. When we really come to understand God’s judgments in that light, then we can have cause for rejoicing and joy—knowing that all shall be well for us in the end! We can know that no matter what life’s dreadful circumstances bring, no matter how we have sinned, there is forgiveness and cleansing for our sin. Our sin is not merely covered as it was for those pre-believers in the Old Testament. No, our sin is completely taken away (John 1: 29), never again to be brought up or held against us by God. That, dear reader, is cause for joy as the ages of time roll on and are swallowed up into the Eternal State—all judgment finally and forever behind us! There is hope for all—
“Now may God, the source and fountain of all hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you place your hope in Him. And may the inner power of Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his superabundant goodness until you radiate with hope!” (Romans 15: 13, paraphrased)
NOTE: Many more of my teachings and writings may be found on our ministry website, leservices.org and my books may be found at billsbooks.org
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Revised and Updated October 2020