Wholesome Words Home
Doctrinal & Practical Writings

Judgment

from Foundation Truths of the Gospel by John Ritchie

John RitchieJudgment as revealed in the Sacred Scriptures is in several aspects. By confusing these, the Gospel, the believer's present position, and the sinner's final doom are alike obscured. There is:

1. The Judgment of the Believer as a Sinner.— Past,

Romans 5:8. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

1 Peter 2:24. Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

Galatians 2:20. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

John 5:24. Verily, verily, 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; but is passed from death unto life.

2. The Judgment of the Believer as a Son.— Present,

Hebrews 12:6-9. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

1 Peter 4:17. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

Hebrews 12:10. For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

James 5:11. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

1 Corinthians 5:5. To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

1 Corinthians 11:32. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

3. The Judgment of the Believer as a Servant.— Future,

2 Corinthians 5:10. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Revelation 22:12. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.

Colossians 3:24-25. Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

1 Corinthians 3:13-15. Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5. Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

The Time:

Revelation 22:12. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.

1 Corinthians 4:5. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

2 Timothy 4:1. I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.

Matthew 25:14-19. For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

Luke 19:15. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.

The Place:

John 14:3. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

John 17:24. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

Matthew 10:32-34. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

Revelation 3:5. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

The Purpose:

2 Corinthians 5:10. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Revelation 3:21. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

The Rewards:

1 Corinthians 9:25. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

Revelation 2:10. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

1 Thessalonians 2:19. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

1 Peter 5:4. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

2 Timothy 4:8. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

The theory of a general judgment of saints and sinners at the end of time, although widely spread and commonly believed, has no foundation in the Scriptures. The present condition of the sinner is that of condemnation (John 3:18). His probation is past. That the unbeliever will be judged in the future, the Scriptures do teach. The Judge (Acts 17:31), the throne (Rev. 20:11), the judgment (John 5:30) and the destiny (Rev. 20:14-15), are all foretold with a precision calculated to arrest the attention of the most indifferent. To the sinner the future is black with clouds of coming judgment, which must, sooner or later, burst upon his unprotected head, and although men are doing their utmost to fritter away these solemn utterances of the Holy and Almighty God, they will surely come to pass, as surely as He is God who uttered them.

The Judgment of Believers as Sinners.

To the believer in Christ the future has no terrors. His judgment as a sinner is already past. It fell upon his spotless Surety when He stood in his place bearing his sins upon Golgotha. In Christ's death God reckons the believer to have died. His judgment has been borne by his Substitute, and he, reckoning according to God, exclaims, "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20). He is therefore judicially dead already. Judgment has been executed; it cannot be repeated. The One who will Himself be the Judge of the sinner has said to the believer—"He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24). These words clearly tell of the believer's complete deliverance from judgment to come, no matter when that judgment may be. There will be judgments great and many—judgments of the living and of the dead; some in time (Matthew 25:31), some in eternity (Revelation 20:11); but in view of all of them, the word concerning the believer is, that he "shall not come into condemnation [judgment]."

The Judgment of the Believers as Sons.

The believer no longer stands as a sinner before God awaiting judgment: he is now (1 John 3:2) a child within the Father's house. He is therefore a subject of its rule, and of the present discipline, exercised by the Father in the circle of His children (Hebrews 12:6-9; 1 Peter 4:17) and of Christ as Lord in the Church. This is neither past nor future, but PRESENT. The judgment of God is at present limited to His own: in the future it will be toward the world. Now, all the children of God are continually sharing it. God as a Father has a claim on His children's obedience (1 Peter 1:14) and their subjection to His authority (Hebrews 12:9). Obedient children receive the Father's approval (Hebrews 11:5) and His companionship (John 14:23); disobedient ones, His corrective Word (John 15:3) and rod (Hebrews 12:5). If the believer sins, communion with the Father is broken. If he confesses his sin, and forsakes it, communion is restored (1 John 1:9). If sin remains unconfessed, the Father's discipline comes in. But all is of grace, and for our profit (Hebrews 12:10). Into the circle of the children, judgment unto damnation cometh not. The severest forms of the judgment of the Lord among His own have as their ultimate object salvation, and not condemnation (see 1 Corinthians 5:5; 11:32).

The Judgment of Believers as Servants.

But the believer is not only a son in the family of God: he is also a servant of the Lord Jesus. He has been entrusted with his Master's goods (see Matt. 25:14), and left on earth as His steward to use them for Him (1 Pet. 4:10). He has been called to a life of service and warfare in the Kingdom and House of his absent Lord and Master (2 Tim. 2:3-4), and the reward and recompense of that service is not for the present made known. It will be, in the future, at the judgment-seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). There the servants of the Lord will be gathered to receive their Master's verdict on their service and and warfare here.

The Greek word "bema," translated "judgment-seat," means "an elevated place where one may stand"—such as was used by the umpire in the Grecian games to stand upon and watch the progress of the race, and from which the winners received their laurels. The race (Heb. 12:1), the contest (1 Cor. 9:24-27), and the warfare (2 Tim. 2:3-4), are at present going on: the Lord Jesus from His exalted place is watching the ways (Rev. 2:2), the works (1 Cor. 3:14), and the motives (1 Cor. 4:5) of His people. He will review, declare, and reward what has pleased Him in "that day" (2 Tim. 4:8), when His saints shall "appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (2 Cor. 5:10).

The Time.

After the Lord comes to the air for His people (1 Thess. 4:16-17), and before He returns with them to the earth (Col. 3:4; Rev. 19:11-14). "The resurrection of the just" is mentioned as the time of recompense (Luke 14:14); the coming of the Lord as the time of reward (Rev. 22:12); and "that day" as the time when the "laid up" crowns will be given (2 Tim. 4:8). When the Lord Jesus comes for His saints, He will halt in the air, and from thence "shout" (1 Thess. 4:16). "Unto Him" the saints caught up will be gathered (2 Thess. 2:1), there He will "receive them" unto Himself (John 14:3), and conduct them to "the Father's house " (as Isaac came forth to the field to meet his bride, received her, and conducted her to his mother's tent) (Gen. 24), to the place prepared for them, there to be presented "faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24), and to behold the glory which the Father has given Him (John 17:24). This is the common portion of the saints, the result of sovereign grace alone. But the saints have been their Master's stewards and His servants on the earth (1 Peter 4:10; 1 Cor. 4:1); they have had their Master's goods and His work entrusted to their care, and in this they have served Him with various degrees of faithfulness (see Luke 19:15-19). The judgment-seat will be the public avowal by Christ of the appreciation with which He has marked the obedience (2 Tim. 2:5), the faithfulness, and the devotedness of His own (Matt. 10:42). After David had received the throne and the kingdom of Israel, it was one of his first acts to gather together those who had served him and companied with him in the day of his rejection and reward them according to their faithfulness, by appointing them places of honour in his kingdom (2 Sam. 23). In like manner will the Lord Jesus reward His faithful servants and the sufferers for His Name in that day.

The rewards will differ according to the measure of the individual faithfulness of the servant (see Luke 19), and the character of the work done or the testimony borne. There will be the "crown of life" (Rev. 2:10), the "crown of righteousness" (2 Tim. 4:8), and the "crown of glory" (1 Pet. 5:4). These, unlike the fading wreaths of the earthly victor, are all incorruptible: they are honours for eternity. Grace gives us our place in the Father's house; the measure of our faithfulness to Christ our place in the kingdom.

Some will suffer loss (1 Cor. 3:13-15). Their work had been abundant in quantity—very busy saints were they—but being sadly deficient in quality it does not stand the test. Others will be there who have striven hard zealously, but "not lawfully" (2 Tim. 2:5), that is, not according to commandments of the Lord. They failed to test the modes and manner of their service by the written Word: they also are "uncrowned." And some who began well but halted in the race, fought well and earnestly for a time, but gave up the contest, ceasing to earnestly contend for the faith and "hold fast" that which they had, will see another take their crown (Rev. 3:11).

"He is coming—oh! how solemn
  When the Judge's voice is heard,
And in His own light He shows us
  Every thought, and act, and word!
Deeds of merit, as we thought them,
  He will show us were but sin;
Little acts we had forgotten
  He will tell us were for Him.
Oh! what joy when He imputeth
  Righteousness instead of sin;
Sweet to take the linen garments,
  All a gift, and all from Him.

"He is coming as the Bridegroom,
  Coming to unfold at last
The great secret of His purpose,
  Mystery of ages past.
And the Bride, to her is granted
  In His beauty now to shine,
As in rapture she exclaimeth,
  'I am His, and He is mine.'
Oh! what joy that marriage union,
  Mystery of love Divine;
Sweet to sing in all its fulness
  'I am His, and He is mine."'


Copied for WholesomeWords.org from Foundation Truths of the Gospel by John Ritchie. 2nd ed. Kilmarnock:00 Office of "The Believer's Magazine," [1904].

Selections from Foundation Truth of the Gospel


Doctrinal & Practical Writings Index

 Copyright ©2018 Wholesome Words. All Rights Reserved.