The Plan of God in Brief

Study 6—The Day of Judgment

"He (God) hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained"—"Jesus Christ the righteous." "For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son"—Acts 17:31; 1 John 2:1; John 5:22 (NKJV).

A very vague and indefinite idea prevails in regard to the day of judgment.

The term judgment signifies more than simply the rendering of a verdict. It includes the idea of a trial, as well as a decision based upon that trial. And this is true not only of the English word judgment, but also of the Greek word which it translates.

The term day, both in the Scriptures and in common usage, though most frequently used to represent a period of twelve or twenty‑four hours, really signifies any definite or special period of time. For instance, we speak of Noah’s day, Luther’s day.

Then again we read of the "day of Christ," the "day of judgment," and "His day"—terms applicable to the Millennial age, in which Messiah will reign over, rule and judge the world in righteousness, granting trial as well as rendering sentence. And of that period it is written: He will judge the world in righteousness, and in His times (day) shall show, who is that blessed and only potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords. (Acts 17:31; 1 Tim.6:15) Why any should suppose this day of judgment to be of but twelve or twenty‑four hours, while recognizing the wider meaning of the word day in other similar cases, is beyond comprehension, except upon the supposition that they have been influenced by tradition, without proper evidence or investigation.

Those who will carefully consult a complete concordance of the Bible with reference to the Day of Judgment, and note the kind and amount of work to be accomplished within that period, will soon see the absurdity of the common view, and the necessity for giving to the term day its wider significance.

The first great judgment [trial and sentence] was at the beginning, in Eden, when the whole human race, as represented in its head, Adam, stood on trial before God. The result of that trial was the verdict—Guilty, disobedient, unworthy of life; and the penalty inflicted was death—Dying thou shalt die. (Gen.2:17 margin) And so "In Adam all die." That trial time in Eden was the world’s first judgment day, and the decision of the Judge (Jehovah) has ever since been enforced.

But God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world individually. We are informed that when God gives the world this individual trial it will be under Christ as Judge, whom Jehovah will honour because of His obedience even unto death for our redemption. God has highly exalted Him, even to the divine nature, that He may be a Prince and a Saviour (Acts 5:31), that He may be able to recover from death and grant judgment to all whom He purchased with His own precious blood. God has committed all judgment unto the Son, and has given Him all power in heaven and in earth.—John 5:22.

It is then the highly exalted, glorified Christ, who so loved the world as to give His life as its ransom‑price, who is to be the Judge of the world in its promised future trial. And it is Jehovah Himself who has appointed Him to that office, for that very purpose. Since such are the plain declarations of the Scriptures, there is nothing to dread, but on the contrary there is great cause for rejoicing on the part of all, in looking forward to the Judgment Day. The character of the Judge is a sufficient guarantee that the judgment will be just and merciful, and with due consideration for the infirmities of all, until the willing and obedient are brought back to the original perfection lost in Eden.

This coming judgment will be on exactly the same principles as the first. The same law of obedience will be presented, with the same reward of life, and the same penalty of death. And as the first trial had a beginning, progressed, and culminated with a sentence, so also will the second; and the sentence will be life to the righteous, and death to the unrighteous. The second trial will be more favourable than the first, because of the experience gained under the results of the first trial. Unlike the first trial, the second trial will be one in which every man will stand the test for himself alone, and not for another. None then will die because of Adam’s sin, or because of inherited imperfections. It shall no more be said, "The fathers have eaten a sour grape and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge." "The soul that sins, it shall die." (Jer.31:29,30; Ezek.18:4 JUB) And it will be true of the world then, as it is of the Church now, that a man will not be judged according to that which he hath not, but according to that which he hath. (2 Cor.8:12) Under the reign of Christ, mankind will be gradually educated, trained, and disciplined until they reach perfection. And when they have reached perfection, perfect harmony with God will be required, and any who then fall short of perfect obedience will be cut off, being judged unworthy of life. The sin which brought death to the race through Adam was simply one disobedient act; but by that act he fell from his perfection. God had a right to demand perfect obedience of him, since he was created perfect; and He will demand the same of all men when the great work of restoring them is complete. None will be permitted to have everlasting life who then in the slightest degree fall short of perfection. To fall short of perfection, then, will be to sin wilfully against full light and perfect ability.

Any who sin wilfully, against full light and ability, will perish in second death. And should anyone, during that age of trial, under its full blaze of light, spurn the offered favours, and make no progress toward perfection for a hundred years, he will be reckoned unworthy of life and will be "cut off," though at a hundred years he would be in the period of comparative childhood. So it is written of that day: "As a lad shall one die a hundred years old; and as a sinner shall be accursed he who dieth at a hundred years old." (Isa.65:20—Leeser) All must have at least one hundred years of trial; and, if not so obstinate as to refuse to make progress, their trial will continue throughout the entire day of Christ, reaching a culmination only at its close.

The conclusion of the world’s coming judgment is clearly shown in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt.25:31‑46), in Rev.20:15; 21:8 and in 1 Cor.15:25. These and other Scriptures show that at its close the two classes will have been completely separated—the obedient and the disobedient; those in harmony with the letter and the spirit of God’s law, and those out of harmony with it.

We do not wish to be understood as ignoring the present responsibility of the world, which every man has, according to the measure of light enjoyed, whether it be much or little, whether it be the light of nature or of revelation. "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good," and "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil." (Prov.15:3; Eccl.12:14) The good and the evil deeds of the present time will receive a just recompense of reward either now or hereafter. "Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some...they follow after." (1 Tim.5:24) No others than the Lord’s favoured "little flock" have as yet sufficient light to incur the final penalty, second death.

Under the sophistries (fallacies) of the great deceiver, Satan, both the world and the Church nominal have been robbed of the blessed assurances of the coming time of righteous judgment. They know that the Bible tells of a coming judgment day, but they regard it with only fear and dread; and because of this fear, there is to them no more unwelcome tidings than that the day of the Lord is at hand. They put it far away from them, and do not wish to hear it even mentioned. They have no idea of the blessings in store for the world under that glorious reign of Him whom God hath appointed to judge the world in righteousness. Among the greatest of the blinding influences which Satan has devised to keep men in ignorance of the truth regarding the judgment day have been the errors which have crept into the creeds and hymn books of the various religious sects. Many have come to esteem these errors as of paramount importance to the Word of God.

How differently did the prophets and apostles regard that promised day of judgment! Note the exultant prophetic utterance of David (1 Chron.16:31‑34). He says:

"Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
And let them say among the nations, Jehovah reigneth.
Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof;
Let the field exult, and all that is therein;
Then shall the trees of the wood sing for joy before Jehovah,
For He cometh to judge the earth.
O give thanks unto Jehovah, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness endureth forever." (RVIC)

To the same day the Apostle also points, assuring us that it will be a glorious and desirable day, and that for it the whole creation is groaning and travailing in pain together—waiting for the great Judge to deliver and to bless the world, as well as to exalt and glorify the Church—Rom.8:21,22.

In John 5:28,29 a precious promise for the world of a coming judgment‑trial for life everlasting is, by a mistranslation, turned into a fearful imprecation (curse). According to the Greek, they that have done evil—that have failed of divine approval—will come forth unto resurrection [raising up to perfection] by judgments, "stripes," disciplines.—See the Revised Version.