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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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JUDGMENT.—The Synoptic Gospels differ from the Gospel of John in their view of a judgment. The former set forth a multitude of external tests which furnish ground for continuous judgment in this life. The ‘deeds’ or ‘works’ of a man are a measure of his attitude toward Jesus Christ. The Gospel of John is more especially concerned with the inner and hidden judgment which is being pronounced continually in man’s soul. The sensuous and external aspects are little emphasized. All the Gospels hint unmistakably at a final crisis or judgment.

Mt. is pre-eminently the Gospel of judgment, for, throughout, Jesus appears as the Judge of men, and is always discriminating and separating the good from the bad, the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, the grain from the chaff, the sincere man from the hypocrite (Matthew 13:38; Matthew 25:33; Matthew 13:25-30; Matthew 3:12; Matthew 6:5-6). The predominance of this special aspect of Jesus’ teaching, selected from among His varied utterances, in this Gospel, may arise from Matthew’s Hebrew predisposition to consider Israel as a people separated from the Gentile world. Almost every utterance carries within it an unmistakable voice of judgment which separates men into two classes. The judgment which eventuates in blessedness, as in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10), or as ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father’ (Matthew 25:34), is as notable as that which leads to separation from Christ and to eternal wretchedness (Matthew 25:46).

1. Jesus is the Judge.—This is the view of all the Gospels. The Father gives all judgment to the Son (John 5:22-27). Jesus came into the world for judgment (John 9:39). He separates men under moral tests (Matthew 25:31-46; cf. Matthew 7:23). He pronounces judgment on the Pharisees (Matthew 22:15-46). He judges Satan (Matthew 16:23). He imparts the authority for judgment to men (Matthew 16:19). (Cf. Acts 10:42, Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:10, 2 Timothy 4:1). His judgment-seat is at the same time the throne of His glory (Matthew 25:31), as it marks the culmination of the work which He has mediated in creation and in redemption. The judgment will be glorious, because then will be the final enthronement of holiness among men, and the deposition of evil. It is to be noted that He associates with Himself the twelve disciples (like the Roman assessors of judgment) who are to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28, Luke 22:30; cf. 1 Corinthians 6:2-3). This exhibits the vital union of righteous souls with Christ, for the new life which His disciples obtain through Him would dispose them to pronounce judgment upon the same principles of justice as does their Lord. It is fitting that He who has mediated creation, maintenance, and redemption, should pronounce judgment upon man with regard to his attitude and responsibility toward each of these sovereign acts and relations. All judgment is determined by the attitude which men hold towards Christ. He is set forth as a perpetual challenge to men to live a right thinking and right acting life.

2. The Judgment.—Jesus in the Gospels presents an almost numberless series of tests by which men may judge themselves in this present age. Their ‘works’ or ‘deeds’ are reviewed (Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31; cf. Romans 2:6, Revelation 20:12). Every kindness to a disciple will be rewarded (Mark 9:41, Matthew 10:42). Every cause of stumbling to one of these little ones (Luke 17:2) will be punished. Jesus presents Himself as the supreme and personal test. What is man’s attitude towards Him as proved by ‘his deeds and works’? This kind of judgment is continuous and cumulative here, and comes to a conclusion at the final crisis or judgment. These are some of the tests:

Following Him (Matthew 4:18-22; Matthew 10:38; Matthew 19:28, Mark 8:34); confessing Him (Matthew 10:32, Luke 12:8); failure to appreciate His presence and work (Matthew 11:21); failure to come to Him (John 5:40); failure to believe Him (John 3:18); failure to obey Him (John 3:36); failure to honour Him (John 5:23); failure to stand with Him (Matthew 12:30); failure of right fruitage (Matthew 21:31-42; Matthew 7:16, Luke 6:44); failure in outward conduct (Matthew 22:11-13); failure to help men (Matthew 25:31-46); failure to repent (John 5:40); failure to use the gifts of God (Matthew 25:14-30); making light of His personal invitations (Matthew 22:1-7); unwillingness to hear His words (Matthew 12:41-42); unwillingness to forgive an injury (Matthew 6:15; Matthew 18:28-30); being ashamed of Him (Mark 8:38); breaking a commandment (Matthew 5:19); the spirit of our judgment on others (Matthew 7:2); faith or lack of it (Matthew 8:10; Matthew 9:22; Matthew 9:29; Matthew 15:28, Mark 5:34); heart unreceptive to His words (Matthew 10:14-15); hypocrisy (Matthew 23:13-36); idle words (Matthew 12:36); lip service without the heart (Matthew 15:7); selfish conceit (Matthew 6:2); wicked pride (Mark 12:38); love of darkness (John 3:19); rejection of His disciples (Luke 10:10); adultery (Matthew 19:9); commercialism in worship (Matthew 21:13); blasphemy against the Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32); loving others more than God (Matthew 10:37); hearing, seeing the Son, with belief or with failure to believe (Matthew 7:24; Matthew 13:23, John 5:24; John 6:40); the cup of cold water given to a disciple (Matthew 10:42); mercifulness (Luke 6:36); love to Christ (Luke 7:47, John 21:16); love to enemies (Luke 6:27); humble-mindedness as a child (Matthew 18:4); fidelity of service (Matthew 20:14; Matthew 24:45-51); endurance in well-doing (Matthew 24:13); doing will of God (Matthew 12:50); deeds in general (Matthew 16:27); inward thoughts and motives (Mark 7:21, Luke 5:22-23).

These are clear, varied, and concrete tests which men may apply daily to conduct and character, and which bring them into continual judgment. They cover almost every phase of human life, both inward and outward. The great first and second commandments in the law which our Lord enunciated to the lawyer (Matthew 22:37-39) are in the nature of a judgment, for men know whether or not they have been kept. Judgments are continuous in the sphere of moral life, as conscience persistently affirms. They are continuous in the religious life, and the principles upon which they are based are found in these teachings and in the character of Jesus. No man can plead ignorance of the grounds on which judgment is pronounced on him, because these varied tests cover clearly and openly so much of his life. Jesus always holds Himself forth (‘I am the way and the truth and the life,’ John 14:6) as the supreme standard of life; and the invitation to come to Him leads to a comparison and judgment of likeness or unlikeness. The work of the Holy Spirit (whom Jesus sends, John 16:7) is to convict men of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:9), and He accomplishes this by showing men their unlikeness to Christ. The character of Jesus is thus continually a challenge to men, and the measure of the judgment which they must pass on themselves. In all the Gospels, judgment is determined by the relation which a man holds to Jesus Christ. But the Gospels also teach that this continuous judgment will culminate in a crisis or Final Judgment. The inadequacy and inequalities of punishment here seem to demand a final adjusting of the accounts of all men on principles of eternal equity. The parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:20-25) exhibits this final accounting and the equitable readjustment of their respective conditions. Lazarus had wretchedness. Dives had luxury. The continuous judgment in this life did not result in the proper rewards and penalties, hence the balances are struck after death. Final judgment and penalty are then reached.

3. The time of this Final Judgment is set forth in the Synoptics as at ‘the end of the world’ (Matthew 13:39). Some have held that this means at the end of each man’s life, but the more obvious meaning is the end of this time-order of race, life, and things (cf. Hebrews 9:27). The words ‘the time’ (Matthew 8:29), and ‘then’ (Matthew 16:27, Matthew 25:1), point to a time which follows the Lord’s appearing in glory with His angels after the resurrection from the dead. ‘That day and hour’ (Matthew 24:36), ‘the resurrection of life’ and ‘the resurrection of judgment’ (John 5:29), are the antithetical statements of what takes place after the resurrection, which to one class of men is entrance into life, and to the other entrance into judgment followed by spiritual death. The Gospels do not give information as to whether or not the Final Judgment follows immediately on the general resurrection. The weight of impression is that judgment does follow immediately, but it would be by no means an entire misinterpretation of the sayings of Jesus if one held that there was a considerable period of intervening time.

4. All mankind and all evil spirits are to be judged.—‘All nations’ (Matthew 25:32) and all men (Matthew 12:36, John 5:29) shall be judged (cf. Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Revelation 20:12-15). It is implied in Matthew 8:29 that evil spirits also are to stand in the judgment. But it is clear that the holy angels do not come into judgment, for they accompany and serve the holy Judge (Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31). Judgment would not be necessary for men if it were not for their sin. Wherever there has been need of a redemption, there will be need of a Final Judgment.

5. Some characteristics.—Jesus Christ the Judge in His glory (Matthew 16:27; Matthew 19:28, Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26) [the glory of Jesus will be as manifest in His judgments as in His forgiveness]; ‘the throne of his glory’ (Matthew 25:31); the surrounding holy angels as His servitors (cf. Matthew 13:41); mankind gathered before Him; evil spirits awaiting their final doom; the sharp separations; the openness of the facts upon which judgment proceeds; the uncovered moral life of every man; the irrevocableness of the decision (Matthew 25:46),—all these, together with the manifestly diverse feelings of the righteous and the wicked, present a scene of surpassing grandeur, extent, and interest. Judgment stands in the Gospels as the natural terminus of an aeon in the life of the race which began with Creation, was continued under a purpose and revelation of Redemption, and demands a Judgment as its proper culmination.

Nathan E. Wood.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Judgment'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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