God has always existed as judge over His creation. But we need to understand how He judges, when He judges and why He judges. Knowing how, when and why He judges helps us understand the kinds of judgment described in the Bible.
When God determined to punish Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins, Abraham recognized that God is the judge of men’s actions (Genesis 18:20-25 Genesis 18:20-25 20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come to me; and if not, I will know.
22 And the men turned their faces from there, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Will you also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: will you also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
25 That be far from you to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from you: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
American King James Version×). In this case God passed judgment, issued a verdict and carried out the sentence.
God is deeply interested in us and how we are progressing toward fulfilling His purpose.
Psalms 75:7 Psalms 75:7But God is the judge: he puts down one, and sets up another.
American King James Version×declares, “But God is the Judge; He puts down one, and exalts another.’ Nebuchadnezzar came to understand this (Daniel 4:37 Daniel 4:37Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
American King James Version×), and Daniel passed on this truth to the blasphemous Belshazzar (Daniel 5:21-22 Daniel 5:21-22 21 And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appoints over it whomsoever he will. 22 And you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this;
American King James Version×).
In these cases God is not judging people to determine their suitability to receive salvation, nor is God making right every injustice. These instances show that God will intervene, however, to deal with injustices or sin for the benefit of mankind and to further His purposes. Judgment is not passed on the majority of people now in this age for the purpose of eternal salvation. This kind of judgment will occur later. Jude tells us that “the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment on all” (Jude 1:14-15 Jude 1:14-15 14 And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his saints,
15 To execute judgment on all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
American King James Version×).
God’s ultimate purpose for man is that he will enjoy eternal life in the family of God. Since God is not calling everyone now (John 6:65 John 6:65And he said, Therefore said I to you, that no man can come to me, except it were given to him of my Father.
American King James Version×), He is not judging every person now to grant or deny him eternal life (John 12:47-48 John 12:47-48 47 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
American King James Version×). God reserves this kind of judgment for humans until later, when they will fully grasp God’s truth as it is presented to them. Only then can they be fairly judged on the basis of that truth. God will not hold people accountable for what they don’t know.
Sin, however, is always judged to be worthy of death (Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
American King James Version×), and therefore the whole world is guilty before God (Romans 3:19 Romans 3:19Now we know that what things soever the law said, it said to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
American King James Version×), and death is upon all because of their sin (Romans 5:12 Romans 5:12Why, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned:
American King James Version×). Hebrews 8:8-12 Hebrews 8:8-12 8 For finding fault with them, he said, Behold, the days come, said the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, said the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, said the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
American King James Version×speaks of a time yet future during which people who are unaware of God’s truth will be brought into a new covenant with God, and then they will all know God, and their sins will be forgiven.
The judgment of God is also described in the Bible as a process, not strictly the rendering of a verdict or passing of a sentence. For example, Peter tells us that “the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17 1 Peter 4:17For 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?
American King James Version×). From this we can see that judgment is an evaluation process that has already begun for those who are a part of God’s Church-“the house of God.” This evaluation ultimately leads to a rendering of a decision or verdict.
Some of Jesus’ parables illustrate that judgment is a process that eventually leads to a decision and a reward or lack thereof. The parables of the pounds (Luke 19:12-27 Luke 19:12-27 12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said to them, Occupy till I come.
14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
15 And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called to him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
16 Then came the first, saying, Lord, your pound has gained ten pounds.
17 And he said to him, Well, you good servant: because you have been faithful in a very little, have you authority over ten cities.
18 And the second came, saying, Lord, your pound has gained five pounds.
19 And he said likewise to him, Be you also over five cities.
20 And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is your pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:
21 For I feared you, because you are an austere man: you take up that you layed not down, and reap that you did not sow.
22 And he said to him, Out of your own mouth will I judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:
23 Why then gave not you my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required my own with usury?
24 And he said to them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that has ten pounds.
25 (And they said to him, Lord, he has ten pounds.)
26 For I say to you, That to every one which has shall be given; and from him that has not, even that he has shall be taken away from him.
27 But those my enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring here, and slay them before me.
American King James Version×), talents (Matthew 25:14-30 Matthew 25:14-30 14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods. 15 And to 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. 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and dig in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants comes, and reckons with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, you delivered to me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 His lord said to him, Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord. 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, you delivered to me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23 His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord. 24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew you that you are an hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not strewed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the earth: see, there you have that is yours. 26 His lord answered and said to him, You wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: 27 You ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury. 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him which has ten talents. 29 For to every one that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has. 30 And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
American King James Version×), laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16 Matthew 20:1-16 1 For the kingdom of heaven is like to a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. 2 And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 And said to them; Go you also into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you. And they went their way. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and said to them, Why stand you here all the day idle? 7 They say to him, Because no man has hired us. He said to them, Go you also into the vineyard; and whatever is right, that shall you receive. 8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard said to his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last to the first. 9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. 11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the manager of the house, 12 Saying, These last have worked but one hour, and you have made them equal to us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. 13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do you no wrong: did not you agree with me for a penny? 14 Take that your is, and go your way: I will give to this last, even as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? Is your eye evil, because I am good? 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
American King James Version×) and 10 virgins (Matthew 25:1-13 Matthew 25:1-13 1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him. 7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go you rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. 11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. 12 But he answered and said, Truly I say to you, I know you not. 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man comes.
American King James Version×) all help to clarify that judgment is a process after which comes a reckoning.
During the Millennium, God will judge people on how they live during that time; the 1,000 years will be a period during which God holds all people accountable (Revelation 20:4 Revelation 20:4And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
American King James Version×).
After this evaluation process, we will be judged according to our works (Revelation 22:12 Revelation 22:12And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
American King James Version×). There will be a reckoning only after a fair and ample process is complete (Matthew 25:31-34 Matthew 25:31-34 31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
American King James Version×; Matthew 25:46 Matthew 25:46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
American King James Version×).
When you really turn to God, you can confidently ask Him to step into your life in a powerful way. How God deals with you to fulfill His purpose in you is described in the Bible as a form of His “judgments.” When God is intimately involved in your life, He makes decisions about you daily. His decisions about us have to do with answers to our prayers, bestowing His blessings on us, protecting us and even allowing us to endure trials. God is deeply interested in us and how we are progressing toward fulfilling His purpose.
David saw God’s judgments in all His works and recognized that they were apparent throughout the creation (Psalms 105:5 Psalms 105:5Remember his marvelous works that he has done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;
American King James Version×, 7). David knew all God’s decisions regarding him were right and in his best interest. Therefore David praised God continually for His faithful judgments in his life (Psalms 119:20 Psalms 119:20My soul breaks for the longing that it has to your judgments at all times.
American King James Version×; Psalms 119:62 Psalms 119:62At midnight I will rise to give thanks to you because of your righteous judgments.
American King James Version×; Psalms 119:75 Psalms 119:75I know, O LORD, that your judgments are right, and that you in faithfulness have afflicted me.
American King James Version×).
God, the Judge over all creation, makes decisions. It is in His power to decide-and carry out-righteous and merciful judgments. We can be confident that God is a righteous judge (Psalms 7:11 Psalms 7:11God judges the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
American King James Version×; 2 Timothy 4:8 2 Timothy 4:8From now on 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 to all them also that love his appearing.
American King James Version×).