The Judgments of the Almighty
August 12th, 1984 @ 10:50 AM
THE JUDGMENTS OF THE ALMIGHTY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Jude 6, 14-15
8-12-84 10:50 a.m.
I was forced to change the sermon that I hoped to deliver this hour because of its vast length. Nine-tenths of what I had prepared and hoped to preach I have to leave beside. So instead of preaching on the announced subject The Seven Great Judgments of God, I am going to preach on the subject of The Judgments of the Almighty, just looking at them generally. In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis – I am not going to read it, you wait a minute. I am just referring to what Abraham said: he lifted his voice up to God and addressed Him as the Judge of all the earth [Genesis 18:25]. And in the fourth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, and the thirteenth verse, he speaks of Him before whom all are naked and known [Hebrews 4:13]: the judgments of God.
Now, if you want to turn to a passage, turn to Jude; Jude. As a background text, this book, next to the last book in the Bible, before Revelation; Jude, the sixth verse says – Jude 6: "… the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." Look at verse 14, verses 14 and 15: "Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied . . . saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all."
These are but typical texts in the Bible that speak of an ultimate judgment, and the fact that all of us one day shall stand in the presence of Almighty God. But there are many judgments revealed to us in the Bible. Some of them are inward, they are in our hearts. Some of them are outward, 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 concern others. Some of them concern celestial beings. Some of them concern ourselves. Some of them concern the living. Some of them concern the dead. Some of them are this side of the millennium. Some are other side of the millennium. And in order for us to see the ever-present judgments of God, I have chosen one out of the past, one out of the [present], and one in the future; one out of the past, one in the present, one in the future. And then we shall speak of the inevitable and inexorable day toward which all humanity and all history does move.
First of all, a judgment out of the past: a judgment that is past. I have chosen the judgment of God upon our sins at the cross on Calvary, on Golgotha, two thousand years ago. In the third chapter of the Book of John, the apostle writes:
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, 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 to condemn the world.,
[John 3:14-15, 17]
That is the King James Version: krinō is the Greek word for "judge." The adjectival form, "to judge." The substantive form is krisis, taken out of the Greek language and spelled exactly in the English language – krisis. Krisis is the Greek word for judgment. "God sent not His Son into the world to krinō – to judge – the world; … that the world through Him might be saved [John 3:17]. He that believeth on Him is not condemned" [John 3:18]. This is the King James Version out of which I always preach: "He that believeth on Him is not krinō – judged – but he that believeth not is condemned already – is krinō – judged already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" [John 3:18]. I turn again to John 5:24: "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 condemnation." There is that word again. The Greek of it is krinō, "shall not come into judgment – krisis – but is passed from death unto life" [John 5:24].
I turn to one other, in Romans 8:1. Romans 8 is one of the greatest chapters in all the Word of God. "There is now therefore no condemnation" [Romans 8:1]. There is that word krinō again; katakrima, an emphatic: "There is now therefore no ultimate condemnation, no ultimate judgment to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" [Romans 8:1]. The judgment of God upon our sins, all of us who believe in Christ, is past. It was at Calvary. The Bible says that Jesus was made sin for us; my sin, our sins, He was made that for us [2 Corinthians 5:21]. And God judged our sin on the cross, and that judgment is past [Romans 4:25]. We are never judged, never ever, now as to whether we are saved or lost. That judgment is past. I am either saved now or I am lost now, one or the other. If I do not bring my sins to Jesus, and if they are not forgiven in Jesus, I bear them myself. I am judged. But if I take my sins to Christ and give them to Him, confess them to Him, ask Him to forgive me and to save me [1 John 1:9], my sins are judged on Calvary. The judgment is past [Romans 5:8-11]. "There is therefore now no katakrinō – no ultimate judgment – to those who are in Christ Jesus" [Romans 8:1]. It is past.
Now, I have chosen one that is present, that is now. In the first Corinthian letter, chapter 11, the apostle writes in verse 31: "If we would judge ourselves" – diakrinō, an intensive, scrutinize ourselves, look at ourselves, judge ourselves – "If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged [1 Corinthians 11:31]. But when we are judged" – if we refuse to judge ourselves, God will judge us – "and we are then chastened of the Lord, that we should not be judged with the world, condemned with the world" [1 Corinthians 11:32]. There is a present judgment now; and if I don’t judge myself and scrutinize myself and examine myself, God will do it for me, and will condemn me, judge me, chasten me with the world.
You do not have a finer, or more poignant, or dramatic, or traumatic illustration of that than in the life of King David, the man after God’s own heart [Acts 13:22]. Nathan the prophet was sent to him by the Lord, and Nathan delivered to him God’s message, "The sword will never leave your house" [2 Samuel 12:10]. Because David refused to judge himself, God judged him. That is a present judgment that continues in every life. I see – sometimes I think, "Lord, Lord, is this the kind of a life into which I’ve been called?" I see the constant sorrow, and tears, and heartache of that judgment every day of my pastoral life.
There was a dear, wonderful mother living in another city who came here to see me; her son, brilliant, able, capable, ambitious; the head of one of the great corporations here in the city of Dallas. She came to see me. Her boy was flirting with some kind of violation of the law and she knew it, and it struck terror to her heart. And she said, "Please, pray with me about my son, and go with me to talk to my boy." On that Sunday that she was here, she came and knelt right there, and I knelt with her. And with many tears she poured out her heart to God in behalf of her son. He would not listen to her. He wouldn’t listen to me. He wouldn’t listen to us. And the result was, he ran afoul of the law and they accosted him and confronted him. He lost his corporation. He lost his family and his home. He lost his children, and he left Dallas in disgrace; the judgments of God. Now I either judge myself, or He judges me and chastens me [1 Corinthians 11:31-32].
A family in our church, their teenage boy, he’s now in the penitentiary. He has a long year, and years, and sentence yet to serve. I plead with the boy, pray with the boy, beg before the boy. He won’t listen. He didn’t listen to his father and mother. He didn’t heed their tears. He wouldn’t listen to his pastor’s plea or listen to his pastor’s intercession and prayer. And his drugs, and all of the life that went with it – and finally, in an awesome confrontation that involved murder, he is now in the penitentiary for the years and the years and the years. There is a present judgment of God that goes on in every life. We either judge ourselves, or God will judge us for us, and that carries with it an awesome chastening.
I choose a judgment of God in the future. In the twenty-fifth chapter in the Book of Matthew that you just read, there is a scene of the nations, the Gentiles of the world gathered in the presence of the Almighty King, coming in His glory. And He divides the people on the right and on the left. These He calls His sheep; these He calls goats. And these that are separated are separated to eternal life. There is a great, ultimate division among people, and these are separated to happiness, and joy, and heaven, and gladness, and bliss, and glory, and these are separated to eternal perdition, and damnation, and hell [Matthew 25:31-46]. There is a great division coming in the life of all humanity.
Now, these that are separated to eternal life shall appear at the judgment seat of Jesus our Lord. All of us are going to be judged. None shall escape. We shall not escape. Each one of us someday shall appear before the great throne of God’s judgment. These that are separated to eternal life will appear at the bema of our Lord.
For example, in 2 Corinthians 5:, the apostle says, "For all of us, all of us must appear before the bema of Christ" [2 Corinthians 5:10]. The bēma was the Greek word for where the judge stood in the Olympic Games, and he crowned the victor. Those that ran and reached the goal, he crowned them on the bēma. The bēma is a Greek word for "step." And he was raised, the judge was; stood on a raised platform. And whoever won the race was rewarded at the bēma of the Olympic Game. Now, Paul says that all of us who are saved, who are Christians, we shall stand before the bēma of our Lord, before the judgment seat of Christ, there, he says, to receive the reward of the deeds done in the flesh. And in the third chapter of 1 Corinthians, he says some of us build with "gold, silver, and precious stones" [1 Corinthians 3:12]. We shall have a glorious, glorious commendation acceptance from our Lord. Some of us, he says, build with "wood, hay, and stubble" [1 Corinthians 3:12]; and we "will be saved just as if by fire" [1 Corinthians 3:15]. We would say it, "just by the skin of our teeth." There will be no reward for us at all, but we are saved by the blood of Christ, by the grace of our Lord. But there is no reward.
All of us shall stand, these on the right hand, these that go into eternal life, all of us shall stand at the judgment throne of Jesus our Lord, the bēma. These that are lost, these that are not saved, these shall stand someday at the great white throne judgment described in the twentieth chapter of the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 20:11]: "and the books are opened" [Revelation 20:12], and they are judged according to the things that are written in the books [Revelation 20:12-15]. The judgment of whether we are saved or lost is already past; that was at Calvary. This is a judgment of the works of these who are wicked, who are lost; their works are judged at the end of the story, the history of humanity. And they are judged according to the things that have happened, written down in those books [Revelation 20:12].
"Well," somebody might ask, "how is it that that judgment is at the end – it’s at the end time?" The reason for it is, a man doesn’t die when he dies. His life and his influence live on. They live on. They live on. And all of that is written down for us who are saved. It is written down in the Book of Life [Luke 10:20; Revelation 20:12]. For those who are not saved, it is written in the Book of Judgment. And we receive the reward of what we have done, not only in the days of the flesh, but in the years that follow after.
Let me show you that. Why is it that a man is not judged when he dies? Why is he judged at the end of history, at the great judgment of the Almighty God? This is a poignant illustration. I was at Baylor Hospital, and I went to see a little, a little boy, little itty-bitty kid, a baby boy. I went to see a little baby boy; just a little thing, two years old, three years old; just a little fellow. And what he did when I visited with him, he took his right hand to move his left hand like this. He couldn’t move his left hand, his left hand was paralyzed, paralyzed. And when the little boy would move his left hand, he pulled his right hand over to move his left hand. So I asked the nurse, "What’s the matter with the little boy? What’s the matter with him?" And she replied, "His father beat him! His father beat him! And his father beat him so that he paralyzed his left hand." All of the years of that little boy’s life, when he grows to be a teenager and when he grows to be a man, he will reach over with his right hand, and he’ll move his left hand with his right hand because it is paralyzed. Why? Because of that father! Every day is a judgment day for what he has done. Every day that the boy lives is a judgment day and is written in the book, written in the book. It is an awesome thing, that ultimate and final day of the Lord.
In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts, the apostle Paul writes – and now I am going to speak of that inevitable and inexorable day. Paul writes, "God now commandeth all men everywhere 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, estēsen – translated here "appointed." One of the commonest of all Greek verbs is histēmi, and this is the aorist indicative active form of it, "appointed"; histēmi means "to set firmly, to establish, to uphold," a certainty of an action of the sovereign Almighty God. And he uses that word estēsen here – God hath set a day; He has appointed a day; it is firmly fixed, the day. There is a day out yonder in the future, fixed of God [Acts 17:31]. Before that day, all of us shall appear and stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God; all of us. Paul does not believe in the philosophy of appearance. Paul believes in the sovereignty of Almighty God, and he avows that all of us are inevitably and inexorably moving toward that ultimate and final judgment day [Acts 17:30-31].
Now a man can say, "I don’t accept that doctrine. I don’t believe in that established law. I have no persuasion that I’m going to be judged by the Lord God. And in the face of what you say, I’m not going to believe. I’m not going to receive it, and I’m not going to turn, and I’m not going to change, and I’m not going to repent." Now that is a part of your spiritual freedom. You don’t have to repent. You don’t have to believe. You don’t have to turn. You don’t have to receive. But there is no other course awaiting you but one of inevitable judgment! Whether you receive it or not, you move toward that final consummating day.
Look at you. Look at you. Whether you receive, or believe, or repent, or change, or turn, or not, time moves, and you move with it. Life moves, and you move with it. History moves, and you move with it. The earth moves, and you move with it. The universe moves, and you move with it. The galaxy moves, and you move with it. All creation moves, and you move with it. You are inevitably caught up in it: in time, in life, in history, in the world, and it moves toward the ultimate and final consummation of Almighty God, and you are a part of it. You can’t extricate yourself from it.
A man will say, "But I am going to stop those hands on the clock." Does he stop time? The man says, "I see the house burning around me, but I’m not going to look at the flames." He says, "The sky is vivid with the lightning of the judgments of God, but I’m going to blind my eyes." He says, "The whole heavens shake with the thunders of Almighty, but I’m not going to listen to them." He says, "I am engulfed in the swirling waters of the flood, but I’m not going to be caught up in the maelstrom." He says, "I see others grow old and I see others die, but I am not going to grow old and I’m not going to die." God sends His messengers before his face. You grow up to maturity. The crow’s feet gather around your eyes. Your hair turns gray. You have lost your tremendous athletic ability, and you are slower and maybe limping, and the days are numbered. But you refuse to see, and to hear, and to listen to the voice of Almighty God. And you are on a collision course with the great judgment day of the Almighty.
There was a big ship plowing through the waters, and a light appeared on the port side, the left side. And it was a collision course. And the captain on the bridge of the ship sent a wireless saying to the light over there, "Change your course. Change your course ten degrees north."
And whoever it was over there on that light to the left, on the port side, answered back, "You change your course ten degrees south."
And the captain on the bridge sent back over the wireless, "I am the captain of this ship. I am telling you, change your course ten degrees north."
And the wireless came over from the light to the left, "I am a seamen third class, but I am telling you, change your course ten degrees to the south."
And the captain of the ship replied, "I am the captain of a battleship. I’m telling you, turn your course ten degrees north."
And the word came over from the light to the left, "I am the lighthouse, anchored on the eternal and everlasting rock, and I am telling you, turn your ship ten degrees to the south."
We are exactly like that. "I shake my fist in the face of God. I will deny death and the judgment." You will be there. Death will knock at that door. You will flounder on the rocks, and you will stand before God naked and lost and damned. Great God in heaven, what has become of our reason and of our conscience and of our freedom to choose the life and not death?
I have to close. May I speak of just one other thing? We love realism. We just do. "Don’t fill me with humbug. Don’t deceive me. Don’t string me along. Tell it to me straight." A sick man will say that to the doctor. "Doctor, tell it to me straight. How many days have I to live? Tell me." We are that way with the preacher in the deep of our souls. "Preacher, don’t bother to stand up there and rehash for me what I read in the newspapers and in the editorials, listen to commentaries on TV and radio. Preacher, if there is a message from God, what does God say that will save my soul from hell and deliver me from the damnation of fire and flame?" All of us are like that ultimately; "Tell it to me straight. What is the truth of my life, and my destiny, and my soul?" Well, let us then be realists. Let us all be realists. Is there any truth that you know of in history – in everything you know, is there any truth that you have ever been introduced to or ever taught or ever read or ever sensed – is there any truth that is more truthful than this, that there is a judgment day awaiting all humanity, inevitably?
There are people who teach this Book dispensationally. They see dispensations in the Bible. There are others who look with contempt and disdain upon such a division of the Word of God. Listen, it does not matter whether you call them dispensations or eras or epochs. It does not matter. Each one of them, whatever you call it, ends in an ultimate and final judgment. The day of innocence ended in the judgment of the expulsion from the garden of Eden [Genesis 3:22-24]. That era, that epoch of conscience ended in the great judgment of the Flood in the days of Noah [Genesis 7:17-24]. That era, that epoch in the days of government ended in the judgment of Babel and the scattering of the people [Genesis 11:1-9]. That era, that dispensation, that epoch of the law ended in the judgment upon God’s people, the destruction of the nation [Matthew 24:2]. This era, this dispensation in which we live, this age of grace, it ends in the terrible visitations and judgments of the tribulation and the ultimate battle of Armageddon [Revelation 19:17-21]. And even the millennium, the beautiful kingdom of God, ends in judgment. In the rebellion, when Satan is loosed [Revelation 20:7-10], it ends in the judgment at the great white throne of Almighty God [Revelation 20:11-15]. You pick out any era and any epoch or any dispensation, and it will end in the judgment day of Almighty God.
"Well, preacher, that’s the Bible, and I don’t read the Bible." Well, do you know anything about history? Do you ever read history? Were you ever taught history? Then look at it. Look at it. The story of humanity is strewn with the nations who’ve been judged by Almighty God, whether it’s the Sumerian, or the Akkadian, or the Assyrian, or the Babylonian, or the Egyptian, or the Greek, or the Roman. I can remember when Hermann Goering, who headed the Air Force of Nazi Germany, when they were raining bombs upon Coventry and London and England, he said to his people, "No bomb shall ever fall from the sky on Der Vaterland." Then I read that again and again as he repeated it to the German people, "No bomb will ever fall on Der Vaterland." I stood in Hamburg soon after the war and from horizon to horizon I never saw one building standing. I stood likewise in Frankfurt. I stood in Munich. I stood in Hamburg. I stood in Berlin. And as I stood in the midst of those immeasurable ruins, I could not help but recall the word of Hermann Goering, "No bomb shall ever fall from the sky on Der Vaterland." They confronted Almighty God, and the Bible says, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" [Hebrews 10:31]. You don’t have to be a religionist to open your eyes and to see the truth.
May I make one other asseveration, avowal? God has no favorites, none, none. If there is any one thing revealed in the Holy Scriptures, it is this: that Israel is the chosen people of the Lord, Israel. But God said to Israel through Jeremiah, "Repent. Turn. Get right with God" [Jeremiah 3:12-14]. And Nebuchadnezzar came in 605 BC [Daniel 1:1-6], and Jeremiah lifted up his voice and cried again, "Repent. Turn. Get right with God." And Nebuchadnezzar came in 598 BC [2 Kings 24:10-16], and Jeremiah lifted up his voice and cried, "Repent. Get right with God." And Nebuchadnezzar came in 587 BC [2 Kings 25:1-26; Jeremiah 52:4-15], and he didn’t need to come anymore. He plowed up Jerusalem. He took the people away into slavery and into captivity in Babylon. And Jeremiah cried: "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved…" [Jeremiah 8:20]. "Oh that my head were a fountain of waters, that I might cry day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!" [Jeremiah 9:1]. God has no favorites. Jesus looked at Jerusalem in His day, and He cried, saying:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how oft would I have gathered thy people together, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, and ye would not!
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
[Matthew 23:37, 38]
And in 70 AD, the Roman legions came and destroyed the nation and the city. God has no favorites. And that includes us. That includes us.
In 1950, I was in Istanbul, and they were feverishly building the great Memorial Highway along the Bosporus, celebrating the five hundredth anniversary of the day that Christian Constantinople fell to Mohammed II, the Muslim. And Mohammed II rode over the Christians dead into St. Sophia on his horse, the greatest Christian church that has ever been built, which is now a Muslim mosque.
And as I stood in St. Sophia and thought of that awful day when that whole part of the earth turned Muslim by the sword, I remembered the word of our Lord to the churches of Asia – to Ephesus:
I have somewhat against thee, thou has left thy first love . . .
Repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy lampstand out of its place, except thou repent – except you turn.
[Revelation 2:4, 5]
God has no favorites. The judgment day awaits us all, an inevitable and inexorable and ultimate day.
All I can do is cast myself upon the mercies of God. I have a choice. God gives me that. I have a choice. We have a choice. In that twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew that you just read, they were divided, the Bible says, according to the way that they received the brethren of Jesus who were preaching the gospel of grace and of love and of forgiveness and of salvation. The way they were treated – the way they received that message; when you listen to the messenger of God, you are going to be judged concerning the way that you receive it.
In the Book of Matthew it says some made of light of it; some of them drowned it in revelry, drunkenness, partying, forgetfulness; but some of them received it, and to them God said, "Enter thou into the glory of thy Lord" [Matthew 25:21]. I have a choice. I can receive it, believe it, accept it, or I can reject it and be judged. Once again, and then I make this final appeal: I have a choice, not in the day appointed, fixed, histēmi, estēsen. I – I don’t have a choice in that fixed day. That’s God. God has a fixed day for my trial [Acts 17:31]. But I have a choice where I’ll be tried. I can be tried before the bēma of Christ. I can appear before Him, my Savior [2 Corinthians 5:10]. I hope, dear God, I hope I can make a good account.
"Lord, do You remember back there when I was a child? I gave myself to the ministry. And I went to school and I studied hard and I started out there preaching the gospel with a little congregation of eighteen people. Then I had a congregation of forty and all through the years of my life I have tried for Thee. Dear Lord, be merciful, kind, and gracious to me." Standing at the bema of the Lord, and He is my friend. He is my Savior. That’s my ultimate and final judgment day. It’s with Him [2 Corinthians 5:10].
Think of the tragedy of those who choose to be tried at the great white throne judgment day of Almighty God, and the books are opened [Revelation 20:11-12]. And lest there be a mistake, God says to the angel, "Search those books. See if his name written there? Is his name written in the Book of Life?" [Revelation 20:12]. And the angel searches the book, lest there be a mistake, and the angel replies back, "Dear Lord, he never in his life accepted Jesus in the free pardon of his sins. He never bowed before the Lord. He never asked Jesus to come into his heart." This is the day of an ultimate and final judgment [Revelation 20:12, 15]. God writes "lost" after his name.
Oh, my brother, why, why would a man choose death rather than life? As Moses said to the people, "This day I have set before thee life and death . . . choose life" [Deuteronomy 30:19]. And that’s God’s Holy Spirit pleading with us this hour, "Choose life, everlasting life." Choose our Lord. Let God come into your heart, into your house, into your home, into your life, into your work. Let God bless every moment that you live, every step of the way, every minute of the day. And then, someday, look forward to the presence of Jesus and His beautiful, "Well done. Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" [Matthew 25:21, 23]. Why not? Why not?
And to the great throng and press of people in this great sanctuary, if you would like to reconsecrate and regive your life to the Lord, you come, and we will pray with you, and then I want to have an ultimate prayer. To give your heart in trust to Jesus, "This day, pastor, I am taking Him for all that He said He was. I am opening my heart to the blessed Savior, and I am accepting Him." You come. A family you, to put your life in the church, "These are my children, and this is my wife and the mother of my children; pastor, we are all coming today." As the Holy Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. Do it now. Make the decision now in your heart, and on the first note of that first stanza, come. God love you. It will be the finest decision you have ever made in your life. Do it, and God will attend you, angels will come up here with you, 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
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