Now that we have determined that there will be a future judgment, what would this judgment be, and who will be the judge, let us determine where this judge would come from.

Since we have established in the previous point that Jesus Christ would be the judge, we can now establish from where he would come when the judgment is to be rendered.

Christ will come from heaven in a cloud.  He will come from the same place to which the disciples saw him ascend. It is “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7)  “…In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64)  “…Our citizenship is in heaven. … We eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 3:20)

Christ, according to these declarations of Scripture, will descend in a cloud from heaven, where he sits at the right hand of the Father, and not from the air, the sea or the earth.  He will descend from heaven in a visible manner to this region of the atmosphere, just as he ascended into heaven. 

Acts 1:10, 11  They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

It is necessary that these things should be explained that the church may know where to look for her Judge and Redeemer.  Christ made it known to which place and in which manner He ascended.  He also made it known from where and how He will return, that we may be assured that He has not laid aside his human nature which He assumed and that we may not be confused by false christs that have as their sole objective to mislead the elect, if that were possible.

In which manner would Christ come at that last day?

  1. He will come, truly, visibly and locally.  It will not be virtual or apparent.  He will descend in the same manner in which He went up into heaven, which, as we have shown, was visible and local.

Matthew 24:30  "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory."

They shall recognize him to be God from His visible majesty.

Zechariah 12:10  "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son."

  1. He will come with all his angels in the glory of His Father.

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.

He will come with divine majesty, with all the holy angels, with the voice and trumpet of the archangel, with divine power to raise the dead, to separate the righteous from the wicked, to deliver the godly, and to cast the ungodly into everlasting punishment.  He will come with the glory that belongs to the true God alone, and glorious in view of the retinue of angels with which He will be attended.

I Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

Matthew 24:31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Matthew 25:31  "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory."

  1. He will come suddenly, when the wicked will not be looking for Him. 

I Thessalonians 5:1-4  Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you. 2For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.

Whom would Christ judge when he comes?

He shall judge all people, the living as well as the dead, the righteous as well as the wicked.  He shall also judge the bad angels.  The reference to the “living” and the “dead” refers to the state that precedes the judgment: those who are still alive at the time of Christ’s coming are referred to as the living, while all the rest are the dead.  At that time, those who are dead will first be raised from their graves, while those who have not yet passed away will be changed. The change that the living will experience will have the same effect as if they had died and had been resurrected, so that all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

Matthew 24:31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

I Corinthians 15:51, 52 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

I Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

Does the following passage in the gospel of John say that some will not be judged?

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

No, all will be judged but those who believe will not come under the judgment of condemnation but under the judgment of acquittal.  The judgment will include the whole occasion of a judgment, where the books of the works will be opened, the unrighteous will be condemned and the righteous will be acquitted.  The fallen angels will be judged in the public declaration and aggravation of the decision already passed upon them.

Let us now determine what would be the character of the sentence and the execution of Christ’s judgment.

  1. The dead shall be raised by the divine power and virtue of Christ, and by His human voice calling them forth. 

John 5:28, 29  "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and come out--those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

The living shall be changed; their mortal bodies shall be made immortal. “We will all be changed-in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet … the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”

  1. Christ will gather all, both the righteous and the wicked, from the four corners of the earth, and cause them to stand before his judgment seat.

Matthew 24:31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

  1. The world, the heavens and earth shall be dissolved by fire: there will be a change in the present state of things, but no annihilation.
  2. There will be a separation between the righteous and the wicked, and a sentence passed upon each.  The sentence which will be passed upon the wicked will be according to the law, yet in such a way as to be approved of by the gospel; while that which will be passed upon the righteous will be according to the gospel, yet so as to be sanctioned by the law.

The righteous will hear their sentence out of the Gospel, as they acquired the merits of Christ by faith, of which faith their works will testify. “Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)

The wicked, on the other hand, will hear the terrible sentence of the law: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41)

  1. There will then follow the perfect glorification of the righteous, and the casting of the wicked into everlasting torments.  Christ will take the faithful to himself, for He said,

John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

I Thessalonians 4:16, 17 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17fter that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

If the unbelieving are condemned already and the prince of this world is judged, will they be judged again in the final judgment?  Yes they will, and in the following respects:

1.     In the decree of God.  In the Word of God, it has pleased Him to reveal to us the extent of their condemnation.

2.     In their own consciences.  Their consciences already judge them, which is the commencement of their condemnation.

In the final judgment, their works and condemnation will be made public, for then there shall be

1.     A manifestation of the judgment of God, that those who perish are justly punished.

2.     The ungodly shall also suffer punishment and torments in the body, which now lies in the grave.

3.     Their punishment will be greatly aggravated, and they will be put under such restraints that they shall no longer be able to injure the righteous, or to despise God and cast reproach upon His church.  The great gulf fixed between them and us will effectually prevent them from ever doing us any harm.

Let us now determine what are the objects of his judgment.

God has decreed and declared that there shall be a judgment.  It is necessary that the purpose for which God created man be fulfilled, which is to gather for himself people that would glorify him out of their own free will forever. He decreed that His great goodness and mercy be bestowed upon the faithful, who in this life suffer various trials and afflictions, and that He may manifest his justice and truth in the punishment of the wicked who here flourish and prosper.  There is a necessity that it should at length be well with the righteous, and ill with the wicked, both in body and soul.

The objects of the final judgment are that God may cast away the wicked and deliver the church, that He may dwell in us and be all in all.

When will this judgment take place?

The future judgment will take place at the end of time, or at the end of the world.  The duration of the world consists of three principal periods, namely, the period before the law, the period under the law, and that under Christ.

The period which is under Christ is called the end of the world, the end of days, the last time, or the last hour, and is that portion of the world’s history between the first and second coming of Christ.  We might speculate that this period will not be as long as that from the beginning of the world to the first coming of Christ, for we are in the last times, and daily we see the signs which were foretold in relation to the judgment. 

I John 2:18  Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.

No one knows the year, the month, the day, the hour, in which the final judgment will take place, not even the angels.  Christ himself is ignorant of it as it respects his humanity and his office as mediator, which does not require that He should declare to us the time of the judgment. 

Mark 13:32  "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

Why should we expect the judgment?

Although we do not know the precise time of the judgment, God assured us of the certainty that it will happen,

  1. Because of His glory, that we may be able to refute all those who regard the doctrine of a future judgment as a mere fable, and who infer from the apparent confusion, which is in the world, that God has no concern for it, or if He has, that He is unjust.  They argue that it ought to be well with the righteous, but it is not, therefore God is either not able to effect this, or He is not as good as his promise, or there is no providence.

As we have seen earlier in this study, God allows the unrighteous and the evil in this world, to prosper in some instances and decline in others, all for the execution of His eternal plan and purpose with the elect.  In some instances, His people were the subjects of evil rulers to chastise and punish them, but at the final judgment, these evildoers will face the Lord in his glory and they will tremble.  Then it will be well with the righteous…

1.     On account of our comfort, that we may be assured that hereafter we shall obtain a deliverance from the miseries of this life.

2.     On account of the fear we should have for God, and in the proper discharge of our duties, so that we may be able to stand in the judgment.

Luke 21:36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.

II Peter 3:11, 12  Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.

3.     So that the wicked may have no excuse in that they have been so frequently admonished of the importance of being constantly prepared for the coming of the Son of man, that they cannot say that they have been taken by surprise.

Why is it important the we do not know the time of the final judgment?

Certain as it is that there will be a future judgment, the precise time of it is unknown.  The reasons why God will have the time of the judgment unknown to us are:

1.     That He may exercise our faith, hope and patience, and that we may believe in Him, and persevere in the expectation of the fulfillment of his promise, although we are ignorant of the time when our deliverance shall take place.

2.     That he might restrain our curiosity.

3.     That we might continue to revere Him, and remain faithful in the observance of our Christian duties, so that we may not fall into a state of carnal security, but always be ready inasmuch as we do not know when the Lord will come.

4.     That the ungodly may not defer repentance.  If they knew the hour, they may delay repenting from their ways and propose to seek God just in time for their salvation.  Because no one knows the hour, all need to maintain a watch and expect the Lord at any moment. 

Matthew 24:43, 44 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44So, you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Matthew 25:13  "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."

Why is God’s coming and judgment deferred?

The Lord defers his coming:

1.     That He may exercise the godly in faith, hope, patience, and prayer.

2.     That all the elect may be gathered into the church, for it is because of them and not because of the wicked that the world is permitted to stand.  God created the world for the use and the benefit of his children alone.  The wicked occupy and use the creation as thieves and robbers.  Once the whole number of God’s people have been gathered into the church, the end will come. Or we may say that once all of the elect have been justified and sanctified, the end will come.

God will have his people brought in by ordinary means; he will have them hear his word, and through this be converted and born again, the accomplishment of which requires time. God’s purpose is to gather for himself people that glorify him by their own free will, lest they become irrational creatures. The process of their sanctification is a purification process, a refining process, like silver or gold is refined through fire; the fire of affliction.

Isaiah 48:10 See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

3.     That there might be sufficient time for repentance, as in the days of Noah. God’s delay servers two purposes, that there might be time for repentance and that the wicked and disobedient might have no excuse. 

Romans 9:21-24 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory-24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

Romans 1:28-32; 2:1-11  Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossipers, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents. 31They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

2:1You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth, 3so when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? 4Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance? 5But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6God "will give to each person according to what he has done."

7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life, 8but for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11For God does not show favoritism.

May we desire God’s judgment and look forward to it?

The final judgment should be anxiously looked for, because there will then be a separation between the righteous and the wicked, which the godly earnestly desire, for they continually exclaim with Paul, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;” (Philippians 1:23).

The Holy Spirit works this desire in the hearts of the elect, so that they say with the Spirit and the bride, come Lord Jesus; and let him that hear say ‘come’.  The wicked, on the other hand, fear and tremble at the mention of this judgment.  Fear is a certain sign of ungodliness, for how can anyone say ‘come’ if he is not a member of the church and has not the Spirit of Christ, who inspires this language in the godly?

Fear in the godly is a sign of a lack of knowledge and a study of the Word of God is urgently required so that the faith of such a person can be exercised and strengthened.

What, then, does it mean to believe in the Last Judgment? It means that…

  1. Christ shall certainly come, and that at his second coming there will be a renewing of heaven and earth.
  2. The very same Christ shall come who suffered, died, and rose again for us.
  3. He shall come visibly and gloriously to deliver His church, of which I am a member.
  4. He shall come to cast the wicked into everlasting punishment. 

From these considerations, we obtain strong and solid comfort that…

  1. Heaven and earth shall be made new, and we have this confidence that our condition will hereafter be different and better than it is now; even better than it was in the Garden of Eden; 
  2. Christ shall come, and we have the assurance that our judge will be gracious; for it will be the very same Person who has merited for us righteousness, and who is our Brother, Redeemer and Defender; 
  3. He shall come gloriously, and we believe that He will pass a righteous sentence, and will have sufficient power to deliver us; 
  4. He shall come to liberate His church, and we look for Him with joy;
  5. He shall come to cast the wicked into everlasting punishment, and we patiently bear with their opposition and tyranny; and finally,
  6. He will deliver the righteous and reject the wicked, and He will also either deliver or reject us.  Since our faith is based upon the election of God the Father, the atonement of Christ the Son, and the diligence of the Holy Spirit, there arises a necessity that we should repent, be thankful, and avoid carnal security, so that our inclusion into the number of those, whom He will deliver, will be according to his will.