For we must all of us appear before the tribunal of the Anointed, so that each may be requited for the things he did, whether good or deplorable. (2Co 5:10)
I don’t know about you, but before tackling judgment, I feel it is better, in a foundational sense, to set the tone for the judgment seat. It’s tempting to read ideas into Scripture based on a lens of expectation that itself is based on our past experience with a word. It’s also tempting to pontificate about judgment (this applies to the whole spectrum, from ECT to universalism) and simply present our concrete opinion. It might be preferable, however, to present Scripture, analogies, personal experiences and allow people to “judge” for themselves.
That said, perhaps no passage of Scripture unclouds this better than Hebrews 12. I know that some want to differentiate between judgment and discipline, but for our purposes I think it is extremely healthy (and freeing) to see no or little difference.
In Greek “to judge” is krinó and means to separate, as in Homer’s Iliad where Ceres separates the grain from the chaff. “Discipline” is linked to training and is about instruction that enables someone to reach full development and maturity. Is it conceivable that the two work together?
You have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: “My son, neither make light of the Lord’s discipline nor faint when you are reproved by him… Endure discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons… Of course, no discipline seems a joy in the present, but rather something grievous; and yet afterward, for those who have been trained by it, it yields a peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
From this, one could come away with the following:
- It is possible to forget that we are sons (implying belonging and inheritance).
- It is possible to forget God’s word to his sons.
- It is possible to treat fatherly discipline too lightly.
- It is possible to take fatherly discipline too heavily (fainting).
- It is important to go through it (endure).
- Fatherly discipline is not enjoyable in the moment.
- (From HELPS Word Studies) training in Greek is gymnázō, to exert intensely, naked or wearing a loin cloth [implying transparency, vulnerability], like a pro-athlete. Figuratively, it is to train with one’s full effort, i.e. with complete physical, emotional force as when working out in a gymnasium. It presumes the full discipline necessary to be in “top working condition” (with full agility, skill, endurance), the kind gained only from constant, rigorous training. The word conveys proficiency through practice — regular exercise with graduated resistance.
- We are in “God’s gymnasium”.
- It is possible that some sons are *not* trained by it, presumably clothed and sitting on the sidelines.
- If we are trained by it, it will naturally yield the desired effect. Peaceful benefits (shalom, God’s gift of wholeness) will result from being on the “right track” (righteousness).
For you have not come to something tangible and set ablaze with fire, and to deep gloom, and to a storm, And to a trumpet’s echo, and to a voice uttering words whose hearers begged that no further word be imposed upon them; For they could not bear what was commanded: “Should even a beast touch the mountain, it must be stoned.” And what appeared was so dreadful that Moses said, “I am terrified and trembling.”
- God’s judgment is not tangible, nor fiery, gloomy, nor violent.
- His voice and words are not terror-inducing, nor unbearable.
- His judgment cannot be mistaken for the imposition of a heavy burden.
Rather, you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of a living God, a heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, And to [a full gathering and] an assembly of the firstborn, enrolled in the heavens, and to God the judge of all, and to spirits of the righteous who have been perfected, And to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to a blood for sprinkling that bespeaks something better than that of Abel.
- God’s judgment is spiritual (more real than the physical).
- God’s judgement is about coming to a heavenly home (mountain, city, Jerusalem)
- It is about children and heirs and registered citizens.
- It is about God judging everyone (quite possibly in the same way).
- It is about being perfected.
- It is established on Jesus who has taken the initiative to prepare and go through everything first.
- It is about his blood, which speaks forgiveness and mercy, not retribution and vengeance.
Now, we may start going through Scripture, finding the word judgment and interpreting and applying accordingly. For example,
You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times: ‘You shall not commit murder; and whoever commits murder shall be liable to judgment.’ Whereas I say to you that everyone who becomes angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; and whoever says ‘Raka’ to his brother shall be liable to the Council; and whoever says ‘worthless reprobate’ shall be liable to enter Hinnom’s Vale of fire. (Mat 5:21–22)
What Is the Judgment of the Holy Spirit?
And when he comes he will prove the cosmos wrong concerning sin and concerning righteousness and concerning judgment:
Concerning sin, because they do not have faith in me;
Concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father, and you no longer see me;
Concerning judgment, because the Archon of this cosmos has been judged. (John 16:8–11)
Here we have a passage that’s possibly been abused in your hearing. Words are important, but the meanings of words are more important. When you explore the original meaning of words, surprises leap out of the text. Doctrines become not just true, but good, and not just good, but beautiful, and not just beautiful, but true.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the in-rushing of the breath and the fire and the most expressive language the world had ever seen.* The Spirit’s job was and is to convince the world of men that:
- Not believing in Jesus is missing the mark of our destiny.
- Our righteousness is a gift, by faith — not by sight, imitation or works.
- The ruler of this cosmos (presumably the corrupted systems foisted upon Creation) has been tried, judged guilty, and sentenced.
The Spirit will not come to take us away like a white knight the damsel in distress. He is here to make manifest on earth the visions and dreams of God’s kingdom family in heaven (Acts 2:17). He is here to drive roots as deep as the soil of men’s hearts are able. The Spirit does not come and go. He does not leave the Church. The Spirit is here to stay.
* of which the gift of tongues was but a single syllable in a far wider vocabulary.