*April 13 - 19
The Son of Man and the Final Judgment
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Gen. 3:8-19; Ps. 95:5, 10; Dan. 7:10, 22; John 5:24, 25; Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:24; Rev. 20:12, 13.
MEMORY TEXT: " 'A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened' " (Daniel 7:10, NIV).
LAST WEEK WE STUDIED DANIEL 2 AND 7, in which the sequence of history as it relates to God's church (Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome [pagan and papal]) was shown. Yet, not all the events depicted were of an earthly nature. In fact, Daniel 7 climaxes with a great judgment scene in heaven that leads, ultimately, to God establishing His final kingdom (vss. 26, 27).
Three times in Daniel 7
9-11, 21, 22, 25, and 26) this great heavenly judgment happens after
the "time and times and dividing of time," used to delineate a phase of the
little horn's dominion. The sequence unfolds like this:
(1) Little horn (vs. 25)
(2) Heavenly judgment (vs. 26)
(3) Second Coming (vs. 27)
Clearly, then, the book of Daniel teaches a pre-Advent judgment. This week's lesson takes a look at the biblical teaching on this important topic.
*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, April 20.)
Sunday April 14
"For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son. . . . And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man" (John 5:22, 27).
The Bible, in numerous places, makes it clear that there will be a judgment. In the above texts, however, Jesus says that He, Himself, will be the One who does the judging.
Why is it that Jesus will be the Judge, as opposed to the Father? What insight does verse 27 provide that answers this important question?
"He who took humanity upon Himself, and in this world lived a perfect life, is to judge us. He only can be our Judge. . . . Christ took humanity that He might be our Judge."Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 185. "Because He has tasted the very dregs of human affliction and temptation, and understands the frailties and sins of men; because in our behalf He has victoriously withstood the temptations of Satan, and will deal justly and tenderly with the souls that His own blood has been poured out to save,because of this, the Son of man is appointed to execute the judgment."Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 210.
What the prophet is saying here is that, apparently, the Father entrusted judgment to Christ to avoid any resemblance of injustice on His part. In other words, because Jesus had been a human being, because Jesus had partaken of our sorrows, our pains, and our sufferings, He should be our Judge!
The American Indians have a saying: "Never judge a man unless you have walked in his moccasins." Jesus, who "was in all points tempted like as we are" (Heb. 4:15); Jesus, who came "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Rom. 8:3); Jesus, who "became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14, NKJV); Jesus, "born of a woman" (Gal. 4:4, NIV), He, and He alone, will be the One who judges us, because He has "walked in our moccasins."
|No doubt, the Bible teaches that there is a judgment. Think of how much more comforting it is to know that our Judge is Jesus, Someone who has been here; Someone who knows what temptation is like; Someone who knows our sorrows, toils, and troubles. Look at how Jesus judged people when He was on earth. In what ways does that give you comfort to face His judgment at the end of the world?|
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).
"For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Eccles. 12:14).
It is hard to imagine the concept of judgment, at least a fair judgment, without any kind of trial or investigation. Only in nations that violate the most basic of human rights are people sentenced without any inquiry into their deeds. Even in the ancient world, an inquiry preceded judgment.
Read Judges 6:28-30, Esther 2:21-23, and Acts 25:4-12 and study the examples of an inquiry before judgment there.
In Israel's judicial proceedings, investigating the evidence was of fundamental importance. "Investigatory activities. . . had the precise aim of casting light on a particular event (crime) in such a way thatknowing what crime had been committed and knowing who was its authorit would be possible to proceed to the indictment and sentencing of the culprit in accordance with truth and justice."Pietro Bovati, Re-establishing Justice (Sheffield, England: JSOT Press, 1994), p. 241.
Which legal procedure did God follow in the first trial recorded in the Bible? Gen. 3:8-19.
In Genesis 3:8-18 God functions as Judge and Prosecutor, who, before pronouncing the sentence, makes an investigation. He asks Adam and Eve, "Where are you?" "Who told you that you were naked?" "Have you eaten from the tree?" He gathers information that will determine the verdict. Because God knows what happened, "the purpose of the trial scene is to make clear to the man and the woman what they have done."Claus Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary (Minneapolis, Minn.: Ausburg Publishing House, 1984), p. 254.
|Daniel 7:10; Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; and Revelation 20:12, 13 indicate an investigative process in the final judgment. What does this tell us about how we should live now? Also, because no one has the perfect life needed to stand in judgment, what do these texts say about our need of a Savior?|
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27).
Study Romans 2:5-8. What insights does it reveal about judgment?
The New Testament establishes several important things about the timing of the final judgment. First, judgment generally does not take place while we are alive; character is fixed after death (the exception is the last generation).
Second, judgment is directly associated with "the day of wrath," the Second Coming (Rom. 2:5; 2 Tim. 4:1). Then each one is rewarded according to his or her works.
Third, at the return of Christ "the righteous judgment of God" will be revealed (Rom. 2:5). In this case, "judgment" refers to the legal decision arrived at by a celestial court unknown to humans. At the coming of Christ, the verdict passed in heaven is revealed: death for some; eternal life for others (vss. 6-8).
Where in salvation history did Daniel place the final judgment? Dan. 7:9, 10, 25, 26.
Daniel teaches that the final judgment is a judicial process that includes the following elements: (1) it begins in the heavenly courtroom before God, the angels, and the Son of man (Dan. 7:9, 10, 13); (2) the books are investigated before a decision is reached (vss. 10, 22); (3) the revelation of the verdict will result in the vindication of the saints and the condemnation of the enemy (vss. 22, 26); (4) it begins some time after the 1,260 years of persecution, instigated by the little horn (vss. 25, 26).
|In what ways do you draw comfort from the notion of judgment? Or does the notion scare you? If, however, God is just and loving, we should trust that judgment will be something as just and loving as God Himself. Thus, if we are fearful of the judgment, that must be only because either we know that we are not living right, and/or we do not have a correct understanding of God and His love. What can you do for yourself (or for someone else) who fears the judgment, to help this person understand it better? At the same time, in what ways does knowing there is a judgment positively motivate us to live in accordance with God's will?|
"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:13-15).
However unpleasant a topic, the final punishment of the lost is discussed in the Bible. The lost are described as those who, through their own choices, did not avail themselves of the light that God, in one way or another, had made available to them. Nevertheless, it is a topic of concern and importance, because it deals with what is, in many ways, the fundamental issue in the whole great controversy: the character of God.
How does Revelation 20:11-15 depict the judgment of the wicked?
The judgment of the wicked also includes an investigative component before the execution of the final sentence. This investigation takes place during the millennium and the saved ones participate in it (Rev. 20:4). It includes the passing of judgment on Satan and his angels (1 Cor. 6:2, 3; 2 Pet. 2:4). At the end of the millennium comes the execution of the sentence, which is the destruction of the wicked (Rev. 20:12-15). Study the following summary of the judgment process:
|Judgment Begins||Second Coming of Christ||Millennium||Judgment Ends|
|Investigative judgment of saints||Rewards for the saints||Investigative judgment of the wicked||Executive judgment of the wicked|
|In heaven before Second Coming||On earth at Second Coming||In heaven during millennium||On earth after the millennium|
|Contrast our understanding of the second death, as eternal destruction, to the common notion of hell as eternal, conscious torture in flames of fire. What different pictures of God do they present?|
"In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel" (Rom. 2:16). See also Acts 24:25.
Are the judgment and the gospel compatible? How do we understand the role of the judgment if we are saved by faith, without the deeds of the law? See Rom. 3:28.
In the Scriptures the gospel and the final judgment are inseparable; in fact, the gospel reaches its consummation at the judgment. Among the goals of that judgment are:
1. To reveal the truth about God's people. Judgment presupposes an uncertainty that will be resolved through an investigation, an evaluation of evidence, and a final verdict in which, at a cosmic level, God's faithful ones are vindicated (Dan. 7:22).
2. To reveal God's justice and love. The judgment does not inform God about who is forgiven or guilty; rather, it reveals the justice and love of God before the on looking universe.
3. To restore harmony in the universe. An element of disharmony fragments the universe as a result of the conflict between good and evil. The final judgment restores harmony by rewarding the forgiven and bringing to an end the presence of evil in the cosmos, cleansing it from sin. It is then that God's work of salvation through Christ will be consummated (Rev. 11:15-18).
4. To force all humans and evil powers to assume responsibility for their actions. Confronted by the evidence gathered by the Divine tribunal, every creature will have to acknowledge the righteousness of God's verdict against him or her. Those who accepted Christ as their Savior recognize that, though they deserved eternal death, it is through Christ's grace alone they have been given eternal life instead. All the wicked will recognize that they deserve to die eternally and, in the judgment, they will acknowledge the justice of the Divine verdict against them (Phil. 2:9-11).
5. To motivate personal spiritual growth. The final judgment calls us to perseverance in the Christian life; it calls for total reliance on Christ. The judgment does not make our salvation uncertain; rather, it reaffirms its exclusive certainty in Christ (Rom. 8:1).
Someone once described the judgment not as a time when God decided to accept or reject us but as the time when God finalizes our choice of whether or not we have truly accepted or rejected Him. How do you view that concept of the judgment?
FURTHER STUDY: Ellen G. White, "Facing Life's Record," The Great Controversy, pp. 479-491.
Please note the following points in conclusion to this week's study:
1. The coming of the Son of man to the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13). "Attended by heavenly angels, our great High Priest enters the holy of holies and there appears in the presence of God to engage in the last acts of His ministration in behalf of manto perform the work of investigative judgment."Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 480.
"We are thus led to the conclusion that Dan 7:9-14 describes the eschatological Day of Atonement . . when the true high priest will come to the Ancient of Days surrounded by clouds of incense."Crispin H. T. Fletcher-Louis, "The High Priest as Mediator in the Hebrew Bible: Dan 7:13 as a Test Case," in Society of Bible Literature 1997 Seminar Papers (Atlanta, Ga.: Scholars Press, 1997), p. 186.
2. The heavenly records. "The book of life contains the names of all who have ever entered the service of God. . . . 'A book of remembrance' is written before God, in which are recorded the good deeds of 'them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name.' Malachi 3:16. . . . There is a record also of the sins of men."Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 480, 481.
The nature of the heavenly books is unknown to us, but they clearly convey the idea that decisions made for or against a person are based on factual, objective evidence. It is because of the objective nature of the judgment that God's justice will be recognized by all (Rev. 15:4).
SUMMARY: The final judgment proclaims the consummation of the work of Christ for us. It begins with a pre-Advent investigation of those who have claimed to serve the Lord and concludes with the executive judgment of the wicked after the millennium.
When Carlos Flores* picked up his luggage at the airport in Havana, Cuba, several boxes were missing. The boxes contained Bible lessons for children, and Flores, director of the popular children's program Your Story Hour (Tu Historia Preferida), suspected that the boxes were in customs.
He found the customs office and filled out the forms to retrieve the missing packages. He was sent to talk with the customs agent on duty. The agent, a young woman named Yolanda,* asked him what the boxes contained. Flores gave her some sample Bible lessons like those in the boxes. While she read the lessons carefully, Flores pleaded with God to protect the lessons from destruction or high import duty. He reminded God of the children waiting to study these lessons. The woman continued reading. What if she finds something objectionable in the lessons? he thought. Again he prayed.
When she finished reading the lessons, she looked at him. "My grandmother sometimes took me to church when I was a child. She told me stories from the Bible and talked about God." Flores held his breath. What is she trying to tell me? he wondered. "My grandmother was a Seventh-day Adventist," she said. "But my father is a Communist and opposes any interest in Christianity."
Flores listened for any hint that she opposed religion or Adventists, but he found none. In fact, he thought he saw tears in her eyes.
"Are there other lessons in this series?" she asked him.
Flores told her that there were several more and offered to bring them to Yolanda. He gave her his card and invited her to visit his office some day. Then he thanked her for her time and left the airport.
Later that afternoon he was surprised when he saw the young customs agent enter his office. "I have come to learn more about your program," she said. She asked for a complete set of the Bible lessons to study.
"The lessons you read this morning are for children," Flores explained. "We also have lessons for adults, if you would like them."
"No, thank you," she answered. "I want to read these lessons." She looked at the lessons a moment then asked Flores, "Are you an Adventist?" Flores began to sense God's purpose in holding the precious Bible lessons in customs.
(continued next week)
*Carlos Flores and Yolanda are pseudonyms. Charlotte Ishkanian is editor of Mission.
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