Read Genesis 3:15-24. List the various ways that God judged Adam and Eve both positively and negatively in this passage.
Though the specific word judgment does not occur in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, the passage is very much concerned with it. Paul wants the believers in Thessalonica to be aware that God’s judgment is not limited to something that happens in heaven at the end of time but that it has real consequences for their everyday lives.
Many people today are uncomfortable with the theme of judgment. They don’t like the implication of negativity and threat. But the biblical concept of judgment is broader than just threat, condemnation, and execution. There is also a positive side to judgment. Simple everyday actions of mercy and kindness do not go unnoticed or unrewarded (see Matt. 10:42, for example). God sees everything we do, whether positive or negative, and it all has meaning in the ultimate scheme of things.
The two-sided nature of judgment is evident in the earliest narratives of the Bible. In the Garden of Eden, God judges the sin of Adam and Eve negatively. There are consequences of sin in relation to childbirth, farming, and where they are allowed to live. At the same time, God judges them positively. He creates enmity between them and Satan and mercifully clothes them with skins so they will not suffer unduly in the changing environment. Even more important, those skins symbolized the righteousness of Christ that would cover their sin, as well.
In Genesis 4, God judges Cain negatively by sending him into exile. But Cain also receives a positive judgment. God places a mark on him so that no one will kill him. At the time of the Flood, God judges the human race negatively by way of the destruction of the Flood but also positively by providing the ark as a way of escape (Gen. 6-9:17).
In Genesis 11 God mixes up the languages and scatters the human race all over the earth (negative). Where is the positive judgment? It is found in Abraham’s call to be a blessing to “all peoples on earth” (Gen. 12:3, NIV), the same people who were scattered at Babel years before (Gen. 11:9).
How does the truth of Christ as our substitute in judgment make that judgment positive for us? Why must we always keep that important truth in mind when we think about judgment?