Judgment, Hell, and the Blessings of the Elect
In some ways this is the end of one section and the beginning of another. In fact our Larger Catechism literally says after Q.90:
Having seen what the scriptures principally teach us to believe concerning God, it follows to consider what they require as the duty of man.
The last eight or so months has had us consider the nature of the Trinity, how we are to see and understand the saving work of Christ, and most recently the expectations we should have as believers as to the nature of God’s providential working in history to bring forth His judgment for sin, and His redemption of the elect for all time. The LC inquiries today continue that message. As we get into them we need to deal with a controversy that you may (or likely) may not be aware of in Reformed theological circles. There is an influential teacher who has come out in favor of a doctrine called Full Preterism. Now, without getting too far into the weeds one of the features of that idea is that it denies a future day of judgment in the sense of the Great White Throne, etc… It believes that these things have already taken place. Another aspect of it is a denial of a future resurrection body as we may conceive it. The reason why I bring this up is that to speak of these matters as in the past is to openly deny what our Larger Catechism questions for this week explain as being the understanding of the Bible.
We’ll get more into that after the jump, and other denials. Here’s this week’s Q/A’s:
Q. 89: What shall be done to the wicked at the day of judgment?
A. At the day of judgment, the wicked shall be set on Christ’s left hand, and, upon clear evidence, and full conviction of their own consciences, shall have the fearful but just sentence of condemnation pronounced against them; and thereupon shall be cast out from the favorable presence of God, and the glorious fellowship with Christ, his saints, and all his holy angels, into hell, to be punished with unspeakable torments, both of body and soul, with the devil and his angels for ever.
Q. 90: What shall be done to the righteous at the day of judgment?
A. At the day of judgment, the righteous, being caught up to Christ in the clouds, shall be set on his right hand, and there openly acknowledged and acquitted, shall join with him in the judging of reprobate angels and men, and shall be received into heaven, where they shall be fully and forever freed from all sin and misery; filled with inconceivable joys, made perfectly holy and happy both in body and soul, in the company of innumerable saints and holy angels, but especially in the immediate vision and fruition of God the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, to all eternity. And this is the perfect and full communion, which the members of the invisible church shall enjoy with Christ in glory, at the resurrection and day of judgment.
It may seem like an act of grace to try and deal away with the idea of an eternal judgment for sin. Many want to posit an “annihilation” of the ungodly at their death, or go as far as to say that all are redeemed in some way (universalism). However, we range into dangerous territory trying to fiddle with what our God has revealed so clearly in His word. Whether it be Matthew 25 and the separation of the sheep and the goats or the testimony of Revelation 18 and 19 when it comes to the final victory of Christ over His enemies the person who talks the most about Hell, eternal damnation, and/or the final consequences of transgression of the commandments is the very Son of God Himself. If you are thinking that you are more merciful than the King of Kings then you have quite the opinion of yourself. We would be wise to humble ourselves under the plain teaching of the Lord. It does not help those who are lost to take away an evangelistic tool used even by Christ (Matthew 5:22).
When our Father sacrificed the animals in order to provide a covering for Adam and Eve due to the former’s sin He was showing us what was necessary in order that the promise of Genesis 3:15 would be fulfilled. That Jesus would be the seed of the woman and would crush the head of the serpent while His own heel was bruised. There would need to be punishment for what the first man had done (because God is just), and the teaching of passages like Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 is that if you are not of the Lamb then you are of the Dragon and will face the Beast’s demise with him. That includes not only the Lake of Fire, but also the reality of the public day of judgment foreseen in Matthew 11:24, Luke 21:34, and Romans 2:5 among many other places. Understanding the reality of this not only helps us to see why it is we must preach the gospel boldly, but it also reminds us of the great love shown to us in Christ in that He has died for the ungodly, those unworthy of grace and peace. It helps sometimes to remember what we have been saved from as the peaceful sheep of the Lord’s pasture.
As has been noted before about this Day it must be clarified that as the reprobate are split from the elect there is a truism present. Those on the left are not going to be separated from the presence of God, notice again the language of the catechism, it is the sending them out from the favorable presence that happens in their casting into Hell. They experience His presence all too real in His wrath. Yet, in all this space which we have spent on what happens to those still stained with sin and rebellion it is probably worth mentioned the good stuff by which the grace-filled are blessed.
On the Day of Judgment for the righteous, after they are raised from the dead in the future, they will see their faith confirmed. They will see the billions who have come to repentance and will be spiritually strengthened by each example and witness of God’s grace. If there is rejoicing in Heaven over one soul that has come to Christ in this life, imagine the sound of so many being declared innocent in the court of the king on the Day that is to come at the end of days? It is for reasons such as this that we must be deliberately and urgently engaged in involving ourselves in the work of bringing the good word of the gospel to bear on as many as we can get it to.
Here is another word on the Judgement and the Future:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church