THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT OF GOD
by B.H. Carroll
“The day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” – Rom. 3:5
When God created the world, with all of its creatures, under natural and spiritual laws according to their being, he did not turn it loose to work out its own destiny under these laws. It is true that in accommodation to man’s understanding it is said that after creation had been performed, God rested from all of the works that he had made; but our Lord interprets that declaration when he says: “My Father worketh until now”: that is, the work of God did not stop with the creation. No law ever enforces itself, either in the natural or in the spiritual world, nor indeed, in the government of men, any more than a train, well equipped, would automatically run itself without a brakeman, without an engineer, without a conductor, without a fireman. There has been no vacation of the throne of God from the beginning. His superintendence in both the natural and spiritual worlds, and particularly his moral government over accountable, rational beings, have never relaxed for one moment, and this superintendence and rule have been not only general as to systems and great things, but they have condescended to the most minute particulars. While he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, he also numbereth the very hairs of our head, and suffereth not even a sparrow to fall to the ground without his permission.
Of course, under a superintendence, under a rule, so general, so special, so persistent, there have been numberless special judgments. Some of these special judgments have been and are astounding and repulsive to the unrenewed mind of man. In getting at the philosophy and the necessity of the general judgment, I wish to examine some of these special judgments that have taken place in time against which man has revolted.
First, the judgment upon the apostate angels. The angels which “kept not their first estate” and sinned, he judged and cast out of heaven, but did not send them to their final abode; cast them down to the earth, where they come in contact with the human race to malign and injure it. Now, the mind of man has not revolted at the fact that God judged the apostate angels, but that he did not send them to their final abode and in their final fixed condition. He permitted them to stop in this world and tempt and torture the children of men. That part of the divine judgment man has criticised. He is unable to understand it. Even the most enlightened Christian does not yet fully comprehend all of the reasons which actuated the divine mind in permitting the human race to be subjected to the seductive influences of the devil and his demons. They are reserved to the general judgment.
Another one of the astounding special judgments was the judgment of God upon the first Adam in the garden of paradise, set forth in the early chapters of Genesis. Man has not objected so much to the expulsion of these delinquents from the garden of paradise, nor to any infliction put upon them, but when “In Adam all died,” when by the decree of God death through Adam passed upon all men, and when, as a result, all of the posterity of Adam became depraved, inherited a hereditary bias against good and in favor of evil, man objected to that part of the judgment in the Garden of Eden. To the unrenewed mind it has been an intensely revolting decree of God. In every possible way men have fought against that decision. They have denied the facts. They have denied the conclusions. They have assailed the equity. In every way that special judgment of God has been rejected by the unrenewed mind. And what Christian in his most enlightened state has ever been able fully to understand all the wisdom and righteous ness of that judgment of God?
Then again on one occasion, God judged the whole human race by sending the Deluge, only one family escaping from the universal ruin. Men looking at that specific act of the moral government of God have objected to it. They have denied the fact. They have denied the conclusions. They have denied the equity.
Yet, again, when as a forecast of another deluge, not of water, but of fire, God sent swift and irretrievable destruction upon the cities of the plain, swallowing up Sodom and Gomorrah in the vengeance of eternal fire, men have objected. They are willing enough to concede that sometimes a volcanic eruption, like that of Vesuvius, or an earthquake, like that at Lisbon or Caracas, or a sea-storm, like that which swept away Galveston, or a tornado on the land, like that which desolated Cisco, they are willing enough to concede that these things occur in nature, but they deny that God, as ruler, specially intervened in the swallowing up of the cities of the plain by earthquake and fire. And it is exceedingly difficult for one even of the brightest faith and of the clearest and broadest general information to comprehend all the reasons involved in God’s using natural forces to bring about a swift and awful judgment upon a city.
In like manner, while they have been willing to concede that cities and states have natural laws of growth and of attaining to their maximum, and then decaying and perishing, they have objected to the special judgments of God upon Tyre, upon Nineveh, upon Babylon and particularly that most awful destruction upon Jerusalem announced by our Lord himself; a judgment that came directly from God, a judgment that came on account of the sin of the cities judged, or of the nations; and however much natural or human instrumentalities were employed, the immediate concern of the Almighty in it, it is that that they have revolted against.
Still more have men revolted at a correlated series of judgments that have covered almost the whole historic period of the human race, consisting of five parts: First, the giving up of the Gentiles to the vile affections, giving them up to the lusts of the flesh, giving them up to work that which is unseemly, until every practical phase of wickedness was developed in them. Second, the judgment which selected one nation and made that nation the peculiar people of God, showering upon it blessings untold for many ages. Then, third, the rejection and dispersion of that select people, accompanied with a judicial blindness which exists to the present day, so that throughout the world the Jews, that once favored people of God, with whom were the urim of the priest and the thummin of the prophet, the Jews, who were God’s mouthpieces, are now blind, a veil over their eyes; and in all of their dispersion subjected to pitiless persecution; and then, fourth, the calling of the Gentiles; the door closed so long flung wide open; a judgment that not merely takes away the kingdom of God from the Jews but confers it upon another people and the 1,800 or 1,900 years in which the Gentiles have been the special favorites of God, – for how much longer we do not know, – followed by another judgment, as yet prophetic, when rejected Israel shall be recalled and restored. Now, upon every part of these correlated judgments, this system of judgments, man has raised a protest and stood in rebellious attitude. And Christians find themselves put to it, more perhaps than they are willing to admit, to explain in a thoroughly satisfactory manner these several and correlated judgments of God.
But I come to one that beside all the others is as Mont Blanc to a mole-hill. Not the sentence on angels fallen, not the verdict on Adam and Eve, not the judgment of the Deluge and not the penalty on Sodom and Gomorrah, not the giving up of the Gentiles, the calling of the Jews, the opening of the door to the Gentiles, the rejection of the Jews, and the restoration of the Jews, all put together, equal the astonishment of man at another special judgment of God to which I wish now to call attention. It was when God Almighty, God the Father, judged to both physical and spiritual death his only begotten Son. I refer not to any judgment rendered by Pilate or the Sanhedrin and executed by Roman soldiers, but I refer to the fact that the Father was pleased to bruise him, that the Father awakened the sword of divine wrath against that gentle Shepherd, that the Father stripped him of human sympathy and abandoned him in the hour of darkness. It is that verdict on the second Adam, as a substitute for sinners, to make vicarious expiation for sin, that is more repugnant to the unrenewed mind than all the others put together. Their gorge rises at it. It provokes their sneers and their gibes. They question it upon every part of the ground. They deny the fact. They deny the reasons. They deny the conclusions. And with bitterness and malignity they fight it, and have fought it from its first announcement. Christians in endeavoring to explain this special judgment of God have written many, and some of them good, bodies of systematic theology. They have endeavored to fathom the motives and reasons of the divine heart, and through the revelation of God they have been able to flash much light upon the subject, but this is like that system of correlated judgments. Only the most spirit-enlightened mind can say: “Oh! the depth both of the riches and of the wisdom of God. His judgments are past finding out.” And I venture to say that when we come to the general judgment, all of our bodies of systematic divinity, with their explanations, will fall inconceivably short of the fullness of the reasons and the fullness of the wisdom of the divine judgment upon Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Man and Son of God.
Finally, the judgments that have come upon men as individuals, on two points. As men report it, no two men have the same circumstances, the things that stand around them are not the same; the light, the privilege, the opportunity, of no two is exactly even. And yet all of one class of men, as they say, are sent to a fixed and equal heaven, and all of another class of men, no two alike, either in opportunity or in degree of guilt, are sent to one fixed and equal hell. The other point in the special judgments upon individuals that has awakened the opposition of man has been this: That here in time he is either justified or condemned, and as a result of that justification or condemnation, immediately upon the death of the body the soul goes to its reward or to its punishment, and yet at some remote date in the future, after ages of joy in reward, and ages of suffering of penalty, these souls are dragged from heaven and hell to a common tribunal, to be tried. Does reward, does penalty precede trial and sentence?
I have cited these particular judgments of God, that have occurred in time, based upon the fact that he has never vacated the throne, and that he did not create the world and turn it loose to work out its own destiny, and that there is no such thing as a law enforcing itself, and that he has all the time been governing and ruling and judging. Now the difficulties which have been suggested by these special judgments lead us to consider the philosophy and the necessity of the general judgment, and hence our text: “The day of the revelation of the judgment of God,” the main thought being this: That while that day is called the judgment day, it is not called judgment day so much from the fact that it is to be a day of ascertainment of man’s moral attitude, certainly not of ascertainment to God, but it is to be a day that reveals the wisdom and righteousness and equity of every past judgment of God, – reveals it not to God, but reveals it to the judged; the judged that could not understand it thoroughly in time, even the best informed, and hence could not glorify God as he deserved, since their glorification, to be intelligent, must be based upon knowledge, and men in turn are ignorant. You can understand somewhat the reasons of your acquittal here and now. On the day that you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, God justifies you and he assures you that you shall never come into condemnation. You can see some of the philosophy of it, not all the philosophy of it. The most grateful heart that ever throbbed in the bosom of a saved man cannot intelligently adore and glorify God for his grace in salvation now as he will do it when he shall know even as he is known. “The day of the revelation of the judgment of God,” the day that will show to the saved Christian all of the reasons of his salvation, all of the wisdom and appropriateness of that divine plan of redemption, all the extent of that redemption, both as to soul and body, you need that day. Hosannas languish on your lips, even in revival times. Your spirit of praise is oftentimes the spirit of heaviness . You go around rejoicing somewhat, but O thou saved soul, when that day for which all other days were made shall come, and the height and depth and length and breadth of the love of God in your salvation shall appear, not painfully, not gradually, but in one instantaneous flash of information, your joy eclipses conception then. A man is condemned now. He stands condemned. The verdict has already been rendered and it stays a verdict so long as he rejects God’s plan of salvation. “He that believeth not is condemned already.” But there are many things about it that he does not comprehend, and there are many things about his condemnation that stagger you, the Christian. Not long ago a young preacher came to me. He said: “The eternity of this penalty, it staggers me, it staggers me. My sentiment revolts at it. I cannot conceive how I would eternally condemn my child for any offense.” Is there any reason for that day, so as to cause each condemned soul to thoroughly comprehend the reason of that unalterable sentence, “Depart from me,” and the eternity of that penalty, “into everlasting fire”!
God declares that when the light comes every knee will be bowed and every tongue will confess, and every heart will acquiesce in the righteousness of the verdict rendered. But I am not speaking so much just now of the condemned man’s understanding it as of the Christian man’s understanding that condemnation. He will say, “One of these condemned is perhaps my father, may be my mother, my brother, may be my sister, my child.” I know that you cannot take in now, constituted as you are, with the flesh and its natural ties, and the ties of blood binding you, you cannot to your satisfaction acquiesce in the eternity of the judgment and of the penalty of the law. We need that day, “the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” when every secret thing is uncovered, when every false face is unmasked, when flesh and blood have been left behind, when body has been sublimated and spirit glorified, and all of the dignity and majesty of law is brought out in full view, and government in its foundation and superstructure is comprehended, when we ourselves are detached from earthly ties and united to God, we will be able to understand and to acquiesce in any penalty God may inflict upon any person. Heaven will not be unhappy over the eternal punishment of the lost, but you would be unhappy, situated as you now are, and with the little you know, if God were to uncap the pit before your eyes.
The philosophy and the necessity of the general judgment seem to me clear from the consideration of the special judgments. It is bound to be future, because influence has not yet struck the shores of eternity. It is bound to be future because all of the man has not yet received either reward or penalty. It is bound to be final, for it takes place at the end, not only of the probation of one man and his complete probation in every transition, but at the end of the earth’s probation. There will never be a reason for recalling the case and reopening the question. On the throne, the great white throne, are many books of explanation, and these books will be opened and they will shine in their record upon what a man has thought, what he has imagined and what he has done; but there is one book there, not a sentence in it written that day. Before the judgment is set, the last record in it has been made. Hence, it is a book of judicial decisions already rendered, and that is the Book of Life. And it comes to pass that whoso is not found already written in that book, not to be written that day, as a result of the investigation, – but whoso ever is not found written in that book is cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death. In this way we can comprehend something of the nature of the general judgment. And yet there are real trials and judgments that day, and I want in subsequent sermons to show you the Christian at the judgment seat of Christ . There are some that deny that he stands there. I want to prove to you that he must stand there. True, he is not on trial for his life. That book of judicial decisions already rendered establishes that. But he is there to be investigated, and there is something that will be adjudged as the result of the investigation of the Christian. And then I want to show you, in subsequent sermons, what, after all, is the sole ground of the general judgment. It is not worth while to multiply causes. A single thought expresses the whole thing. The ministering angels that stand around the throne of God will be affected in all their future by the bearing of that thought. The angels which lost their first estate and received the verdict for that, but have been permitted under limitations to seduce the human race, shall come before that judgment, on that point. On that point Christians come before it . On that point sinners come before it. And as the last declaration of this sermon I avow that the treatment accorded to Jesus Christ in his gospel and in his people is the sole ground of the general judgment for angel or man. Let us unite in prayer.