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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
Judgment has many aspects. It may concern legal procedures and announcements, or it may concern private acts of examining, discerning or criticizing. It is something that people do and something that God does. It takes place in the lives of people now and will take place in their encounter with God at the end of the age.
God the judge
As creator of the human race and ruler of the universe, God is the supreme judge (Genesis 18:25; Psalms 67:4; Psalms 94:2; Psalms 96:13; John 8:50; Hebrews 12:23). His judgment is always just because it is according to his own perfect standards, but it is also mixed with mercy (Psalms 9:8; Psalms 36:5-6; Psalms 89:14; Romans 2:12-16; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 2:13; Revelation 16:5; see ).
God’s judgment is not merely another word for his condemnation and punishment. True judgment involves both discernment and action, and the two are inseparable. First the judge makes a distinction between what is right and what is wrong, then on the basis of his findings he takes action. The purpose of that action is to condemn the person who is wrong and vindicate the person who is right (Deuteronomy 1:16-17; Deuteronomy 16:18-20; 1 Kings 3:9; 1 Kings 3:28; Jeremiah 5:28; Ezekiel 7:27).
For this reason persecuted believers in Old Testament days often looked forward to God’s judgment. Though downtrodden, they knew they were in the right, but because of the corruption of the courts they had no way of gaining a hearing and therefore no chance of getting justice. They longed for the day when God would act in true judgment, righting the wrongs, declaring them to be right, and sentencing their opponents to punishment (Psalms 7:6-8; Psalms 9:8; Psalms 9:12; Psalms 10:2; Psalms 10:12; Psalms 10:17-18; Psalms 82:1-4; see ).
Persecuted believers in the New Testament era could likewise long for the day when God would intervene in judgment, bringing relief to them and punishment to their persecutors (2 Thessalonians 1:4-8; Revelation 6:10; Revelation 11:18). Christ’s death makes the judgment and condemnation of evildoers certain, because by that death Satan himself was judged and condemned (John 12:31-33; John 16:8-11).
Making judgments between right and wrong is part of the process of living (Luke 7:43; Luke 12:57). This is particularly so in the case of Christians who, having an understanding of the mind of God, are better able to judge between the good and the evil (John 7:24; 1 Corinthians 2:15-16; Hebrews 5:14). In the church they must make judgments concerning what is said (1 Corinthians 10:15; 1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21) and what is done (Acts 15:19; 1 Corinthians 5:3; 1 Corinthians 5:12; 1 Corinthians 6:1-3).
When exercising this judgment, Christians must first of all judge themselves, to make sure they are not guilty of the things concerning which they accuse others. God will judge them according to the standard they use to judge others (Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 2:1-3). Therefore, they must exercise strict self-examination and self-correction, otherwise they may experience God’s judgment upon them in the form of various sufferings (1 Corinthians 11:28-32; Hebrews 12:6; see ).
There are some things, particularly in the lives of others, concerning which Christians should not make judgments at all. In such cases God is the only one capable of making right judgments (1 Corinthians 4:3-5; James 4:11-12). They should not be harshly critical of those of weaker faith, but should concentrate on strengthening them (Romans 14:3-4; Romans 14:13).
Jesus Christ the judge
The purpose of Jesus’ first coming was not to be a judge but to be a saviour; not to condemn sinners but to save sinners (John 3:17; John 12:47). It is at his second coming that Jesus will carry out God’s work of judgment (Matthew 25:36-41; John 5:22; John 5:26-30; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8; 2 Timothy 4:1).
Although Jesus’ first coming was not for the purpose of judgment, it did, in a sense, result in judgment. When people faced him they had to make a decision either to accept him or reject him; and the decision they made was their own judgment on themselves. It determined whether they would be saved or condemned (John 3:19; John 9:39; cf. Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28).
People who considered themselves good, who heard Jesus’ teachings and saw his mighty works yet deliberately rejected him, condemned themselves. They would suffer greater punishment than those whom they considered wicked but who had never heard of Jesus (Matthew 11:20-24; Mark 12:40; Luke 12:47-48; John 9:39-41).
All people will one day stand before Christ, the supreme judge. This includes those who are living at Christ’s return and those who have died throughout the thousands of years of the world’s history (Matthew 10:15; Matthew 25:31-32; Acts 10:42; Acts 17:31; Romans 14:10; Hebrews 9:27; 1 Peter 4:5). Because no one knows when that judgment will be, people should live in a state of constant readiness for it (Matthew 24:36; Matthew 24:42-44). At that judgment each person’s behaviour will be judged, even hidden actions and secret thoughts, because such works are evidence of what a person really is (Matthew 12:33-37; Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6; Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12).
Being perfect in holiness, God cannot treat evil as if it does not matter. His love for all that is right is so strong that he reacts against all that is wrong in righteous anger and holy wrath (Romans 1:18; Romans 2:5; Ephesians 5:6; Revelation 6:17; see ; ).
As far as believers are concerned, this wrath has fallen on Jesus Christ. Through him believers have the forgiveness of their sins and so escape the wrath that is to fall on sinners at the final judgment (Romans 3:24-26; Romans 5:9; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; see ; ; ).
Since Christ has borne their sin and brought them into a right relationship with God, believers can face God’s judgment with confidence (Romans 8:33; 1 John 4:17). They do not fear condemnation, because once they are ‘in Christ’ there can be no condemnation (John 3:18; John 5:24; Romans 8:11). Since their names are in the book of life, they have no fear of the judgment of death (Revelation 20:11-15; cf. Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 21:27).
This confidence does not mean that believers will escape all judgment. There will be an examination of their lives and works that will reveal whether they have lived for God or for themselves; whether they have followed God’s standards or the standards of the world. That examination will determine the reward or rebuke they will receive (Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 3:8-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; see ; ).
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Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Judgment'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/bbd/j/judgment.html. 2004.