The subject of the judgment in many so-called Protestant churches is a subject not really talked about, perhaps even less believed in. The popular trend is that at one’s death their journey is straight to heaven, so that eliminates the need for any judgment beyond the point of death.
But taking the Bible as it reads, we have a very different story. Here we will take into consideration some facts.
No person's record can be completely made up at death. The life is closed, but the influence continues, their “works do follow” them. If we are responsible for our influence – and this we are – the record cannot be made up fully until the end of time.
But this does not mean that a person has not sealed their destiny when they die. They certainly have. Even in earthly courts the outcome of a committed crime is held before judgment is pronounced. If, in a shoot-out a man is wounded, judgment is based not on the immediate effect but on the final outcome of the shooting. The wounded man may linger for a week or two, or even a month. The criminal cannot demand an immediate trial and judgment based just on the shooting. The victim has not as yet died. Therefore an immediate sentence would be short sighted, when in actual fact the end result is the death of the victim which increases the charge to murder.
People are responsible for more than the immediate effect of their acts. It seems altogether more reasonable that the judgment be delayed until all the facts are in, at which time a just estimate can be arrived at. If we admit that some will be punished with many stripes and some with few (Luke 12:48), the judgment cannot and must not take place until all factors can be considered. This can be done only at the time God designates, the end of the world. In harmony with this is the statement that God will “reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.” —2 Peter 2:9.
The Saints Are Judges
The wicked are to be judged by the righteous. “The saints shall judge the world... The world shall be judged by you.” —1 Corinthians 6:2. As the angels have their work to do in heaven, so the redeemed will have theirs. God makes His plans known to His own, and gives them responsibilities to bear. The saints are given both the privilege and the responsibility of judgment. Humanly speaking, God does not want to run any risk of dissatisfaction or questionings. It is conceivable that some people will be lost who others thought should be saved. If someone is missing in heaven, a question might come up concerning them in the minds. It may be a person who was dear to us, whom we loved and for whom we prayed. Now they are lost. We don't know the circumstances; we don't know why.
If we have a part in the judgment; if we ourselves have looked into the case and examined the evidence; if after weighing all the factors we have at last concluded that the person did not want to be saved and would not be happy in heaven, no question will ever arise in our minds as to the justice of what was done. We have a part in the judgment; we know; we were there; we are satisfied. Moreover, this arrangement assures both a just and a merciful judgment. Sadly, some of those whom we have loved will be lost.
We have prayed for them. We have been kind to them till the last. No one will be punished more than he deserves. God's plan assures that. It should be noted that the saints are to have a part in judging those whom they have known. If one purpose of God in allowing us to have a part in the judgment is to make sure that no doubt will ever arise in our minds, the saints must judge their own generation and their own acquaintances. God must not run the risk of having someone say or think: “Some of my friends are lost, and I never had a chance to find out just what happened. I thought they would be saved. I understood them better than anyone else. I wish I had known a little more of their case.” Such a thing of course, will never happen. Everyone will be satisfied as to the justice and the mercy of God. His plan is rightly arranged.
No Judgment at Death
If what is said here is correct, there can be no judgment at death. A group of Christians are praying for a wayward young man. Day after day, year after year they pray, but without result. Then suddenly the young man dies. What about the judgment? Those who know him, those who have prayed for him, are still living. If the young man is to be judged by the saints immediately, they would all have to die immediately if they are to have a part in his judgment. Otherwise he would have to be judged by others, who did not know him. This holds true of all the wicked who have ever lived. They could not ordinarily be judged until a generation after their death, if they are to be judged by the saints. But not to be judged by the saints, or to be judged by others unknown to them, would frustrate God's plan and jeopardize it. We therefore hold that if the wicked are to be judged by the saints, they cannot be judged at death. God says the wicked are reserved unto the judgment at the end of the world.
While it is true that each generation best understands itself and should be judged in the light of its own knowledge, so that an Old Testament sinner should not be judged by New Testament standards, it is also true that before any consistent judgment can take place, there must be some knowledge as to general guiding rules and principles.
It is evident that the idea of the saints having any part in the judgment must be given up if the judgment takes place at death. To have the saints take part in the judgment makes heaven a safe place and raises an effective barrier against further questionings and doubts.
What about the judgment of the righteous? It is evident that some kind of investigation must take place before they are permitted to enter into eternal bliss. It must be decided whether their life and character proves they can be entrusted with eternal life; and this decision must be arrived at before the Lord comes to take them home. It is no more reasonable to save the righteous and afterward have a judgment than to damn the wicked and afterward place them before the judge. But there is one difference. The wicked are not destroyed until the end of the thousand years. So that gives abundant time to judge them after the Lord comes. But not so with the righteous. If they are to be judged at all, if any reward is to be meted out to them, their cases must be decided before the Lord comes. When He comes, His reward is with Him (Revelation 22:12). Hence their status must be determined beforehand.
The Day of Atonement is a fitting type of the day of judgment. On that day there was a separation between the righteous and the wicked. The decision hinged entirely on who had confessed their sins and who had not. Those who had brought their offerings and complied with the ritual had their sins blotted out; the others were cut off.
We don’t know of any record being kept in the sanctuary on earth as to who appeared during the year with a sacrifice. We do know however, that the blood placed on the horns of the altars in itself constituted a record (Jeremiah 17:1). God had commanded sacrifices to be brought. He respected His own command and took notice of those who served Him in truth and uprightness. In His book they were recorded as faithful.
Of the judgment of the last day is written, “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” —Revelation 20:15. This text speaks definitely of the book of life, and says in effect that only those whose names are found in it are saved. But note carefully, “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life...” This suggests an examination of the book to find which names are recorded. “Whosoever was not found.” This is simply an investigation. It is as though the command were given: “See whether this name is found in the book.” The report comes back, “I have found it,” or, “I have not found it.” Either report indicates an investigation. The expression, “Whosoever was not found,” indicates an examination of the record, resulting in a separation for salvation or condemnation.
Angels Have Part in Judgment
It is true that if God should so desire, He could in a moment settle all questions as to the future destiny of everyone. With unerring accuracy He could consign one portion of mankind to be damned and another to be saved. But God could not do this and at the same time allow men and angels to have a part in the judgment. This is vital. God must place every safeguard around the future existence.
Men must, from their own investigation, be assured as to the justice of the punishment meted out. Angels who have been ministering spirits must be present when the saints are judged also. For this reason books are kept. For this reason millions of angels are present at the judgment (Daniel 7:10). God takes every step needed to make the future safe. Heaven and earth must be protected. God will not suddenly admit millions of human beings into heaven with the privilege of eternal life without taking the angels into His confidence and counsel.
The angels have passed through some sad experiences because of sin as well as man. They have seen millions of their fellow angels lost. They have seen Christ die on the cross. They have known of the sorrow of the Father because of sin. And would they not be interested in the question of the admittance of millions of redeemed sinners to eternal life? Should they not have some assurance that admitting men to heaven does not mean admitting sin? While our thinking is from the perspective of our limited knowledge of mankind, they should have such assurance and God will give it to them. They are present when the cases of the righteous are decided, as are the saints that have part in the judgment of the wicked. This constitutes an assurance for the future. No question ever will or ever can arise in the mind of anyone. God has seen to that.
The Thousand Years
The thousand years are a time of judgment. “I saw thrones,” said the revelator, “and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them.” —Revelation 20:4. During this time the angels will have opportunity to become better acquainted with those who are heirs of salvation. We shall work with them in the judgment, which will concern both men and angels. As the little time before the coming of the Lord (1844 to the second coming) was an investigative judgment which concerned the righteous, so the thousand years after His coming are an investigative judgment which concerns the wicked. Their fate has already been decided, but other considerations make such a judgment necessary. Both men and angels have fellow creatures who will be lost and in whom they are interested. God safeguards all interests so that sin will not arise the second time.
The angels have kept the record. Shall they have no part in the examination of the record when final decisions are made? They will have a part in the execution of the judgment —Revelation 20:1-3; 18:21; Ezekiel 9:1-11. At its conclusion they will give their testimony as to the justice of the decisions made —Revelation 16:5, 7. This they can do only because they know the facts involved.
“The Father loves the Son, and hath given all things into His hands.” —John 3:35. We may not be sure why the Father has given all things into the hands of the Son, but the statement occurs so many times that it is clear God wants us to know it. In addition to the statement quoted above, note the following:“Thou has put all things in subjection under His feet.” —Hebrews 2:8. “All things are delivered unto Me of My Father.” —Matthew 11:27 / Luke 10:22. “Thou has given Him power over all flesh.” —John 17:2. This power includes judging. “The Father judges no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” —John 5:22. Christ is “ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead.” —Acts 10:42. God will “judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained.” —Acts 17:31. This includes the execution of the judgment, for the Father “hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man.” —John 5:27. This granting of authority to the Son may all be summed up in the sweeping statement of Christ Himself: “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” —Matthew 28:18. This leaves no doubt as to the extent of the power given Him. It is all power in heaven and earth.
The Father was in possession of all these powers, but for some reason He bequeathed them to the Son. Notice how God has “given,” “put,” “delivered,” “committed,” “given authority to,” “ordained,” His Son. All that the Father had He gave to His Son. God at some time in the past put all things under Christ, told Him to reign, to execute judgment and gave Him all power in heaven and earth.
This whole controversy reveals a trait in the character of God that is most comforting. God could have treated the rebels differently. He would not have needed to heed the charges placed against Him by Satan. But He submitted His case to be decided upon the basis of the evidence presented. He could afford to wait and let created beings decide for themselves. He knew that His case was just and that it could stand investigation. He was absolutely fair and just in all respects.
This gives us ground for believing that the judgment to come will be conducted along lines that will measure up to the highest attainments of justice and right, and of course mercy. God is not revengeful. He is not waiting for an opportunity to “pay back.” He wills that all men be saved and come to repentance. He takes no delight in the death of the wicked.
There are some things, however, that God cannot do. He would be happy to save all, but it would not be best to do so. There are several reasons: Many do not wish to be saved on the terms that alone can ensure life. The rules which God has laid down for our guidance are the rules of life, and not arbitrary decrees. Society cannot exist, either here or in heaven, if men do not stop killing one another. This is so evident that no one will attempt to dispute it.
Killing has its roots in hatred. It would not be safe to permit one who hates his brother, or who hates anyone, to live in heaven with others. To expect peace and harmony under such conditions would be ridiculous. Men have abundantly demonstrated that hatred leads to murder. It has been fully revealed and needs no more demonstration. If God expects to have a peaceful heaven, He must exclude murderers. That means He must exclude all who hate.
But it means more than that. Love is the only effective antidote for hate. Only he who loves is safe. Absence of love means hatred sooner or later. Hence, love becomes one of the laws of life. Only he who loves complies with the law; hence only he has the right to live. That right should not be jeopardized by permitting hatred to flourish. Those who cherish hatred in their lives, violate the law of life. It would not be safe to save such should they even want to be saved. There must be no murderers in heaven, no violators of the commandment which says, “Thou shall not kill.” The same argument holds true with respect to all the other nine commandments.
When God therefore admits men and angels to sit in judgment, He does more than merely take them into partnership. This is important. For the sake of the future it is necessary. That assurance has been given the righteous in a personal part in the judgment. But even more is involved. When God admits saints and angels to a part in the judgment, they are in reality examining God's work. The rules, the principles, the laws governing men and angels, come under scrutiny. —Romans 3:4
In the light of this, the fact that men and angels at the end of the controversy express their belief in the justice of God, takes on added significance. The great question always has been: Is God just, or are Satan's accusations true? At the end of the controversy the angel of the waters says, “Thou art righteous, O Lord.” —Revelation 16:5. Another angel says. “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments.” —Verse 7. “Much people in heaven” say, “Alleluia; salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God: for true and righteous are His judgments.” —Revelation 19:1,2. Those who have been victorious over the beast and the image say, “Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.” —Revelation 15:3. And as God resumes the throne, “a great multitude” “as the voice of mighty thundering” shout, “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigns.” —Revelation 9:6.
But God does not reign alone. When “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ” (Revelation 11:15), when the accuser is finally cast down, then the throne of God and the Lamb shall be set up. Glorious consummation of our hope! (Revelation 12:10; 22:5).
Based on The Sanctuary by M L Andreason pages 322-334