The Judgments of Almighty God
August 12th, 1984 @ 8:15 AM
THE JUDGMENTS OF ALMIGHTY GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-12-84 8:15 a.m.
And the Lord no less bless the great throngs of you that share this hour with us on radio. This is the First Baptist Church, and this is the pastor bringing the message on The Judgments of Almighty God. Now let us humble ourselves before the Lord, bowing our heads, closing our eyes. And this is our 2 Corinthians 13:5 commitment: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not… how that Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” And dear Lord, give us an open heart now, an understanding mind. As we listen to the Word of God, we tremble before it. Lord, be merciful to us, and save us, and deliver us; and we will be praying until the end of this invitation for the saving of the lost and for the blessing of our own households. In Thy dear name, amen.
To my great disappointment in preparing the message, I had to leave out nine-tenths of it. I guess we would have been here all day long had I been able to deliver all that I had prepared, so I changed it from The Seven Judgments of God to this message now preached on The Judgments of God, looking at them as a whole. As a background text, and only that, I read from Jude; next to the last book of the New Testament, Jude, the sixth verse and the fourteenth and fifteenth verses. In the sixth verse of Jude, the author writes:
The angels which kept not their first estate…
God hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
Then verse 14 and 15:
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His angels,
To execute judgment . . .
The Greek word for judgment is taken alphabetical letter by letter, is spelled out exactly in our language “crisis.” Krisis is the exact Greek word for “judgment,” krisis; to execute krisis, judgment, upon all. The prayer of Abraham in the eighteenth chapter of Genesis was to the Judge of all the earth [Genesis 18:25]. And in Hebrews 4:13, the author writes, “All things are naked and opened before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”
There are many judgments of God revealed to us in the Bible. Some of them are inward, in our hearts. Some of them are in the earth. Some of them are in the air. Some of them are in heaven. Some of them are past. Some of them are present. Some of them are in the future. Some of them have to do with us. Some of them have to do with others. Some of them have to do with angelic hosts. Some of them have to do with the lost. Some have to do with the saved. Some of them are this side of the millennium. Some of them are the other side of the millennium. There are many judgments of God. I’m going to take one out of the past, and one out of the present, and one out of the future, and then speak of the judgment of God as such.
The judgment that I have chosen out of the past is the judgment of God upon our sins at the cross. In the third chapter of the Book of John, our Lord says [John 33:14-17], “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life . . . For God sent not His Son into the world”—now, the Greek word for “judge” is krinō; like krisis is the substantive form of it, krinō is the verbal form of it—now you have it “condemn,” in the King James Version, “to condemn the world,” krinō, to judge the world; “but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth on Him is not krinō,” judged, translated here “condemned,” “but he that believeth not is krinō, condemned, already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” [John 3:17-18]. In John 5:24, our Lord says, “Verily, verily”—the Greek of that is “amen, amen”:
Truly, truly, I say unto you, He that heareth My word,
and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life,
and shall not come into krinō, condemnation, krisis,
but is passed from death unto life.
In the eighth chapter of Romans, which is one of the great chapters of the Bible, Paul writes, “There is therefore no katakrima, there is no condemnation,” it is translated here, “there is no judgment to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” [Romans 8:1]. That is a past judgment upon our sins, and there’s no judgment now upon us who accept the atoning mercy of our Lord on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50].
I read of a passenger on a big ship who arose early in the morning and walked out on deck, and he saw the clouds lowering and the waves boisterous and high, and he said to the captain, “There’s a great storm brewing.” And the captain replied, “No, the storm has already passed, and these lowering clouds and these great waves are but the aftermath.” That is the way with us: the judgment of God, the great thundering storm rising against us in our sins, is already past. God judged our sins in Jesus on the cross. He was made sin for us [2 Corinthians 5:21], and our sins were judged on the cross. And now there is no krima, there is no krisis, there is no krinō, there is no judgment, no condemnation, the King James Version says it, because of our sins; it is past [Romans 8:1]. That is a past judgment.
Now I have chosen one in the present, a judgment of God in the present: in the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul writes, “If we would diakrínō”—that’s a very intensive particle—“If we would diakrínō, if we would judge ourselves, we should not be krinō, judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world, judged with the world” [1 Corinthians 11:31-32]. Now this is a present judgment: if we would judge ourselves, then we wouldn’t be judged by the Lord [1 Corinthians 11:32]. Well, what do you mean, “judge ourselves”? If we would—literally this word diakrínō means “to scrutinize ourselves carefully, to look at ourselves carefully, to judge ourselves carefully”; if we would do that, then God wouldn’t chasten us, judge us [1 Corinthians 11:32].
You have a most familiar and dramatic illustration of the judgment of God in a present life in the story of David. Nathan was sent to him by the Lord to announce to him, “The sword will never leave your house” [2 Samuel 12:10]. That is a present judgment in his life [2 Samuel 11:1-17]. And all of us are like that, all of us. If we don’t judge ourselves, and don’t scrutinize ourselves, and examine ourselves [1 Corinthians 11:28], God will do it, and God will visit condemnation and judgment upon us [1 Corinthians 11:31].
One of the most sorrowful things I ever lived through in my ministry happened right here. There was a dear mother in another city who came to Dallas to talk to me about her son. He was the brilliant, young, ambitious head of a corporation here in Dallas, and was rising just like that. But he was involved in an off-colored violation of the law in building his commercial empire, and his mother came down right there and knelt and just wept her heart out over her boy, her son. She was familiar with every step of the way, and I prayed with her, and did everything I could with the young man, to no avail. He lost his presidency. He lost his great opportunity. He lost his family. He lost his every opportunity in life. That is a present judgment and a sorrowful one.
I pled with a young teenager here in our church. He’s now in the penitentiary; going to be there a long time. I pled with the lad, “Don’t take those drugs. Don’t go with that group. Don’t be influenced by your peers. Don’t. For your mother’s sake, for your father’s sake, for Jesus’ sake, for your sake, don’t.” Paid no attention, paid no heed, not judge himself, not scrutinize himself, and lost one of the dearest most precious gifts of God, a name that he inherited from his parents so fine, and his liberty; he is now in the prison. If we don’t judge ourselves, that is a present judgment. The Scriptures here say that God judges us if we don’t judge ourselves [1 Corinthians 11:31].
Now the third kind of judgments are in the future, and you read just now a part of that twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew that reveals to us the great separation. God will gather together the nations of the world, these Gentiles, and He will separate them as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats. And these are separated unto eternal life, and these are separated unto eternal perdition. That’s a future judgment of God [Matthew 25:31-46].
Now there are two judgments that follow that vast separation. These that are separated on His right [Matthew 25:33] are separated to the bēma, b-e-m-a, the bēma of Christ. For example, in [2 Corinthians 5:10], Paul says, “We shall all stand,” we who are Christians, “we shall all stand before the bēma of Christ.”
We’ve been listening to these Olympic Games. In the Olympic Games there was a bēma. The Greek word for bēma actually means a step. The judge was raised, and whoever won the gold, whoever ran the race, whoever was the winner was crowned at the bēma. And Paul takes that word “bēma” from the Olympic Games and applies it to the great judgment day of Jesus our Lord. “We shall all stand before the bēma of Christ, there to receive the reward” [2 Corinthians 5:10]. He speaks of it in the third chapter of 1 Corinthians: if we build gold, silver, and precious stones, then we have a great reward. If we build in our lives wood, hay, and stubble, we lose our reward, though we ourselves are saved, he says, “as though by fire” [1 Corinthians 3:11-15], by the skin of our teeth. That’s the great judgment for the Christian raised from the dead or raptured before the Lord [1 Corinthians 15:51-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17], set aside for eternal life; that’s a reward judgment [1 Corinthians 3:14].
These that are condemned to everlasting perdition, they stand at the great white throne judgment, and the books are opened, and they are judged according to those things written in the books, and they receive the reward of their deeds [Revelation 20:12]. The Bible plainly teaches us there are degrees that God gives us in heaven; there are degrees of punishment in damnation. As the Bible would say, “These that are worthy of many stripes shall be beaten with many stripes” [Luke 12:47-48]. These are the judgments that lie before us, and all of us, all of us, shall appear before one or the other of those great judgment days of Almighty God [Matthew 25:31-46; 1 Corinthians 3:14; Revelation 20:12].
Paul will say in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts, “God commandeth all men every where to repent: Because He hath appointed a day, in which He will judge the world in righteousness” [Acts 17:30-31]. He hath appointed a day, estēsen. That is an aorist, indicative, active verb from histēmi; and histēmi is a very common, much used Greek word meaning “to set, to make firm, to establish, to uphold, to make certain,” here translated “to appoint.” “God hath appointed, He has set for certain, firmly, a day in which He will krinō, in which He will judge the world” [Acts 17:31]. Our Lord has, the great Almighty God of heaven has a set day in which we shall all appear before Him at one or the other of those final judgments. It is set. It is known to God; it is appointed; it is established [Acts 17:31]. You see, Paul doesn’t preach the gospel of appearance, or follow the philosophy of probability. Paul believes in the sovereignty of God. Nor does Paul persuade himself that things just happen. These movements of time and tide move in the sovereign will of God.
Now a man can say, he can reply to this, “I don’t believe in any such doctrine as that. I don’t believe in an established law like that, and I’m not going to receive it. I’m not going to believe it. I’m not going to repent before it. I don’t believe in these great judgment days of Almighty God.” Now you have the freedom to believe it or not; you have the freedom to receive it or not; you have the freedom to change, to turn, to repent or not; but you don’t have the freedom whether to appear or not! You will be there at the appointed time set by the sovereign purpose of God! [Hebrews 9:27]. All of us move toward that inevitable and inexorable hour. Time moves, and we move with it. Life moves, and we move with it. History moves, and we move with it. The earth moves, and we move with it. The universe moves, and we move with it. The galaxy moves, and we move with it. The very heavens move, and we move with it. And no man can stop that forward, inexorable, inevitable rendezvous with Almighty God [Hebrews 9:27].
A man may say, “I’m going to stop the hands of the clock.” He is foolish! A man may say, “The house is burning down around me, but I refuse to see the flames.” A man may say, “The skies are vivid with lightning, but I’ll blind my eyes.” A man may say, “The heavens are shaken with thunder, but I refuse to hear it!” A man may say, “I am engulfed with these great floods, but I refuse to be caught up in the maelstrom. A man may say, “I can see in others age and death, but it will not come nigh me.” God sends His messengers before His face [Luke 9:51-52]. As we grow older, as we grow mature, as the crow’s feet gather around our eyes, as we lose our athletic ability, as we become more limping and hesitant in all of our reactions, those are God’s messengers before His face. We have an inevitable rendezvous with God, and he is foolish who does not recognize it and prepare for it.
There was a big ship plowing through the waters, and a light appeared on the port side, on the left side, of the great ship, and the ship from the bridge sent a wireless across the waves to the light and said, “We are on a collision course. Turn ten degrees to the north.” And the answer came back over the wireless to the big ship, “You turn ten degrees to the south.” And the captain on the bridge of big ship wired back, “I am the captain of this ship. You turn ten degrees to the north.” And the wireless came back, “I am a seaman third class. You turn ten degrees to the south.” And the captain on the bridge replied, “This is a battleship! You turn ten degrees to the north.” And the voice replied over the wireless, “This is a lighthouse anchored to the everlasting rock! You turn ten degrees to the south!” Humanity is like that. When we choose our own stubborn, unrepentant ways, inevitably and inexorably we face the judgment day of Almighty God.
You know, I can hardly believe I’ve got to quit. What we need is days down here to preach the gospel. It seems to me just as I get started, the time is over. The tremendous, the tremendous witness of the Lord God in our lives is confirmed by everything we know in history. Everything we know in the Bible, whether you believe in the dispensations or not—call them “eras,” call them “epochs,” call them “periods,” call them anything that you like—each one of them inevitably ends in judgment. The period of innocence in the garden of Eden ended in a judgment: the expulsion [Genesis 3:22-24]. The period of conscience ended in the Flood, a judgment [Genesis 7:17-24]. The period of government ended in the judgments of Babel [Genesis 11:1-9]. The period of promise ended in a judgment: the fires of the slavery of Egypt [Exodus 1:13]. The period of the law ended in a judgment: the destruction of the nation [Matthew 24:2]. The period of grace in which we live ends in the tribulation [Matthew 24:21, 29], and the great battle of Armageddon, the judgment of Almighty God [Revelation 19:17-21]. And the period of the millennium ends in the rebellion [Revelation 20:7-9], and the great white throne judgment [Revelation 20:11-15]. All history is like that. The shores of history are strewn with the judgments of God upon the Assyrian, upon the Babylonian, upon the Egyptian, upon the Greek, upon the Roman.
When I was first pastor of this church, I heard Hermann Goering say, and read it half a dozen times over again, as they bombed England, “No bomb will ever fall on der Vaterland,” and as I stood in Hamburg soon after the war, from horizon to horizon I never saw a house standing. And I remembered Goering: “No bomb shall ever fall on der Vaterland!” And as I stood in Hanover, and stood in Frankfurt, and stood in Munich, and stood in Berlin, destroyed by the judgment of Almighty God, that’s history! And he’s blind that doesn’t see it!
Nor does God have any favorites, none. The Lord God said to Israel through Jeremiah, “Repent” [Jeremiah 3:12-14], and the Babylonians came in 605 [Daniel 1:1-6]. Jeremiah said, “Repent, turn, get right with God,” and the Babylonians came in 598 [2 Kings 24:10-16]. And Jeremiah lifted up his voice, “Repent, get right with God,” and the Babylonians came in 587 [2 Kings 25:1-26; Jeremiah 52:4-30], and they didn’t need to come anymore. They destroyed the nation. They took the people captive into slavery. They sowed down Jerusalem. God has no favorites, none.
I was in Istanbul in 1950, and they were building a memorial highway along the Bosporus, feverishly getting ready to celebrate the demise of the Christian faith in Constantinople, when Mohammed II, with his horse, rode into the greatest Christian church that’s ever been built, St. Sophia in Istanbul, which is now a Muslim mosque! God said to Ephesus and those Greek churches, “Except you repent, I will remove your candlestick from its place” [Revelation 2:5]. There are no favorites with God, none.
The judgment day faces all of humanity and all of mankind. We cast ourselves upon the mercies of the Lord [Titus 3:5]. I make the appeal. In that great judgment described in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord says, “The basis of the judgment is how you receive My brethren, the message of hope and salvation preached by these emissaries of God; and to refuse the message, the overtures of grace, is to die eternally. To receive them is to find life everlasting” [Matthew 25:31-40].
Listen, my brother, as I say this last sentence: I cannot obviate, I cannot interdict, I cannot choose not to face the judgment day of Almighty God, but I can choose where I will be judged. I cannot interdict the trial that I face, but I can choose where I am tried: either before the bēma of Christ, there to receive a reward from His gracious hands [2 Corinthians 5:10], or else I am tried at the great white throne, with its fear and its final verdict: “Depart from Me” [Matthew 25:41-46; Revelation 20:11-15]. “And these whose names were not in the Book of Life were cast into the lake of fire” [Revelation 20:15]. I have that choice.
Dear God, grant to me, to you, to us, that we listen to the voice of the emissary from heaven, the ambassador from the courts of glory, listening to the word of grace, to the love and invitation and tears and appeal of Jesus, “Come unto Me,” be saved [Matthew 11:28].
Do it, and make it now. In this moment we’re going to sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, to give your heart to the Lord [Romans 10:9-10], to come into the fellowship of His church, to rededicate your life to the blessed Savior, as the Spirit of God shall open the door, follow after. May angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
JUDGMENTS OF GOD
I. Many judgments spoken of in the Bible
past judgment – the judgment of God upon our sins at the cross(John 3:14-18, 5:24, Romans 8:1)
present judgment – sin in the believer(1 Corinthians
11:30-32, 2 Samuel 12:10)
great separation (Matthew 25:31-46)
Christians before the bema of Christ (2
Corinthians 5:8-10, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
The lost at the great white throne (Revelation
II. The inevitable future judgment(Acts 17:30-31)
judgment day is fixed, established
Some repudiate the doctrine – but we all face the judgment
II. The inevitable future judgment(Acts 17:30-31)
judgment day is fixed, established
Some repudiate the doctrine – but we all face the judgment
realism of life
The judgment of God in human history
of humanity strewn with nations who’ve been judged by Almighty God(Hebrews 10:31)
God has no favorites(Jeremiah 8:20, 9:1, Matthew
23:37-38, Revelation 2:4-5)
Casting ourselves upon the mercies of God
Divided according to the way they received the brethren of Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46)
have a choice in that fixed day – but have a choice where I’ll be tried