Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Word as Judge (Knowing Scripture Part IV)

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12:44-50)

Rejecting Jesus is the same as rejecting God, because Jesus is God. But in this passage, Jesus says something interesting: he tells us that anyone who rejects him and does not put faith in his promises will actually be judged by the words he has spoken.  The Father has commanded the Son to speak, and his words have eternal life.  This isn't just limited to the "red letter" texts in the Gospels, but the whole Word of God comes from the mouth of God, through his Apostles and Prophets, and we are to heed the whole of the Bible.  Or, Christ claims, if we reject him--and rejecting his Word is rejecting HIM--we will be judged by the very Word we rejected.

Before Moses died, he told the people who were about to enter the promised land that a prophet was going come out of Israel, and that to his words they would listen.  When the Father spoke on Mount Horeb, the people could not bear it.  His voice filled the people with fear of death.  A mediator was necessary, and many prophets arose over the centuries, but in these last days, Jesus' words are the complete revelation of hope for mankind. He is the one to whom we listen. He is God himself, and so we are speaking directly to the Father THROUGH the Son, but Christ is our mediator. He transforms our weak and sinful prayers into grand petitions that please God.  Indeed, Jesus claims throughout the Gospels that he says nothing on his own.  He is only speaking the words that the Father has given him to say.  He does not speak on his own authority.

And anyone who does not listen to the words of Christ, God will "require it of him." (Deuteronomy 18:19)  Here is a great paradox.  The one who heeds the words of Christ, who put their faith in him, can fail at keeping God's words, and it will not be required of him, because he has put his faith in Christ.  Such a person is IN CHRIST.  His shortcomings are made straight and good by Jesus himself.  However, one who does not heed Christ's words but REJECTS them, that person is held to the standard of the whole Bible, and that person will be judged on the last day by whether he or she kept the Word of God, in its entirety.  This is what it means to be judged by the Word.

Having finished our study on Revelation this past week, we've seen how that powerful book shows us the last days over and over again.  Included on the very last day is judgment.  Let's look at what Revelation 20 says about judgment day.

1. Those who have been martyred for Christ and who had been part of the one true Church, go to heaven and reign with Christ until the last day. This is the first resurrection.

2. Those who die outside of Christ are not spiritually resurrected and stay "asleep" until the last day.  So for them, death leads instantaneously to judgment day.  This is why you might hear someone say, "If you were to die today and stand before the judgment seat of God..."

3. On the last day, creation is undone and all the dead stand before the throne of God.  Books are opened.  Those whose names are written in the Book of Life, the Church, they BYPASS judgment.

4. The sea has given up the dead who were not in Christ, who were unconscious from their deaths to Judgment Day. They stand before the throne of God and books are opened.  These are books of their wicked and selfish deeds, and their content is compared to the Word of God, spoken by Christ, recorded in all of scripture.  This is a mere formality because...

5. Anyone whose name is not recorded in the Book of Life is thrown into the lake of fire, the second death.

Another paradox is implied in all this. Those whose names are written in the Book of Life bypass judgment.  That means that they aren't judged by the Word of God. BUT those who are in the Book of Life are the same who know scripture and the God who spoke it into being.  Everlasting life is knowing God and Jesus Christ.  The people who actually don't need to be familiar with the scriptures are the ones who know it and obey it, and the ones who DO need to obey all of scripture, because they will be judged by it, they are the ones who don't know it, because they have rejected it.

All this shows why a penitent faith in Jesus Christ is the most important thing.  Not only are you saved from the wrath to come but you love God's Word and immerse yourself in it, learning and studying who our Lord is and how Jesus Christ has saved us for all eternity.