“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” – Acts 17:30-31
As we continue to ask and consider the many wonderful answers to the question, “Who is Jesus?”, it’s of great benefit to look forward and consider the promises regarding Christ and what will be true when He returns. Scripture reveals many things to us about this in Matthew 24:30, Acts 1:9-11, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, for example. When Jesus returns, one awe-provoking role He will carry out is that of judge. In fact, Jesus is the just judge. As judge, Christ isn’t like sinful human judges who can and do err. No, He is holy and sinless. Further, Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. In every way, He is the dividing line between salvation and condemnation.
Therefore, because God has appointed a day when Christ will come as judge, in His mercy repentance is now His command and call to all men (v. 30). The prophets were called and sent to command the Jews to repent, but the apostles were sent to preach repentance and remission of sins to all nations. So, when Christ comes, note how Luke says He will judge in verse 31. Jesus will judge the world in righteousness. God gives assurance of this in Christ’s resurrection. Praise the Lord! God’s raising Christ from the dead is the great proof of his being appointed and ordained the judge of the living and dead. As Jesus will judge the world in righteousness, none of His creation can rightly say, “You’ve been unfair.” or “Your hand is too heavy in Your judgment.” Reality is that Jesus’ judgment is marvelously perfect, good, and right.
On that appointed last day, the apostate angels will be judged (2 Peter 2:4). All people will stand before the tribunal of Christ to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Romans 2:16; Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 33.1) Matthew Henry rightly comments, “The God that made the world will judge it; he that gave the children of men their being and faculties will call them to an account for the use they have made of them, and recompense them accordingly, whether the body served the soul in serving God or the soul was a drudge to the body in making provision for the flesh.” To be clear, Christians aren’t under condemnation (Romans 8:1), nor is our salvation by works (Romans 3:28). However, our actions have consequences and believers will receive rewards (1 Corinthians 3:14). He will reward His people and punish the wicked. The condemned will be cast into everlasting torment in Hell while those who have been saved will go on to enjoy everlasting life (Daniel 12:1–2, Matthew 25:31-46).
Some may ask, “Pastor, I know Judgment Day is approaching, but why did God appoint such a day?” The answer is simple, yet profound – for the manifestation of the glory of His mercy and justice. Again, our Confession is very helpful here: “The end of God’s appointing this day is for the manifestation of the glory of his mercy, in the eternal salvation of the elect; and of his justice, in the damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fullness of joy and refreshing, which shall come from the presence of the Lord: but the wicked, who know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 33.2)
As we as God’s children consider Christ, the judge, and the coming day of His return, how should we think of it? It will be an awesome and terrible day – awesome for God’s people, terrible for the wicked. As Paul teaches us in 1 Thessalonians 5, we welcome the day. The day won’t take us like a thief in the night, like it will the wicked. We joyfully look forward to Christ’s coming, for the judge is also our Savior who loves us and has bought us with His precious blood. When God looks at us, He see us as His righteous, clean, and beautiful bride. We will go into everlasting life and receive the fullness of joy and refreshment that comes from His presence. Oh, how excited we are and long for that day!
So, what must you do today and in the days ahead? Keep your eyes upon and trust Christ and His promises declared to you in His Word. As the day approaches, be watchful and sober, continuing to live penitently before your Lord. Pray God will grant you more and more zeal to share the good news of Christ, the hope that is within you, calling those who don’t know Him to repent of their sins and turn to Him in true faith.
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37)