The Lamb of God had been examined, and the temple elite had found him worthy of death.
But Jesus’s face was serene, his head unbowed, and his gaze still held steady, observing Caiaphas in his drama, and the Sanhedrin in theirs.
It was now early morning, five o’ clock, when the Sanhedrin could legally convene and render judgment. It took no time at all. Once again, the shackles were bound to Jesus’s wrists and ankles, and he was led by two guards to stand between them before the dais, and the Seat of Judgment. The rest of the guard arrayed themselves behind and around them, cutting off any way of escape.
Caiaphas placed the mitre of the high priest upon his head, stepped forward in his rent garments and placed himself with great ceremony into the judgment seat, his stately robe flowing out around his feet, his prayer shawl easily seen. The other adjudicators, raiment also torn, flanked his sides, as the rest of the religious rulers, took to their formal seats.
“If you are the Messiah, tell us.”
“If I were to tell you, you all would not believe. And if I were to ask you, you all would not answer. But from now The Son of Humanity will be seated on the right side of the might of God.”
Caiaphas’s eyes flashed, and his voice shook as he and many others called out the same question.
“Then you are the Son of God?”
“You yourselves say that I AM.”
In the end there had been no need of witnesses, no need of testimony, no need of outside evidence at all.
“Why do we now need a witness? For we have heard if from his mouth.”
John, still leaning against the smooth marble wall in the back of the room, could hear through his fevered haze the voice of Caiaphas as he called out the name of each Sanhedrin member, and received their vote. It was unanimous, they had judged the Lamb of God, and found the one before them must die.
Yet, in his answer, Jesus had reminded them it was they who would face a far more terrible judgment when they were brought before the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords, sitting upon the right hand of the Almighty Sovereign of the Universe. His point had not been lost on Caiaphas, or the Sanhedrin, who had thought themselves worthy to condemn God the Son.
Although the Bible talks about many kinds of judgments, throughout the Bible God’s final judgment is described in two main categories: Evaluation or Condemnation.
Evaluation by God
The Apostles Paul and Peter taught on the evaluative quality of God’s judgment of the works of believers, as to how well they served the Lord Jesus Christ as his disciples in this life. In this judgment there are only rewards.
There is no condemnation in God’s evaluative judgment, no punishment.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.Paul in his letter to the assemblies in Rome, Romans 8:1 (NRSV)
The Lord Jesus’ judgment of his people is described as a glorious day of great rejoicing, of untold joy and happiness, an upwelling of worship and praise, Jesus will be glorified in his holy people, everyone will marvel.
There will be no sense of shame or punishment or lingering sins.
There will be nothing like that during this time of evaluation, because believers already, in this life, experience complete restoration and reconciliation with God through Jesus.
The Lord’s evaluative judgments are sometimes spoken of as rewards.
Here is how Paul described this experience:
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.
Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done.
If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward.
If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.Paul to the believers in Corinth, 1 Corinthians 3:10-16
And the truth is, in that moment, whatever was not built on the foundation of Christ could not survive in the presence of God, which is our ultimate destiny. In that moment, we will be overjoyed to see those things go, for we would not want to be saddled with them in eternity.
Wrath of God
There are many passages in scripture which describe a time when those who have rejected God, rejected Messiah, will stand before God to give an account of their lives on earth.
There will be no rewards in this judgment. There will be no scales, with good deeds weighing on one side and evil deeds on the other.
The most important question—arguably the only question—Jesus will ask is, Do I know you? Have you put your faith in me, have you received me, has the Lord made God’s home with in you? The Apostle John introduce this theme in the first sentences of his gospel, writing,
The true light which enlightens all people was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world through him came into being, and yet the world did not know him (did not come to know by observation and experience, the world did not recognize him, did not “get” who he was).
But, however many took hold of him, he bestowed to the ones who believed in his name privilege, capacity, and authority to become children of God—these not out of blood, nor out of the will of the flesh, nor out of the will of a man, but rather they have been brought forth out of God.John 1:9-10, 11-12
Soon after, John explained,
For in this way God loved [agape] the world insomuch as he brought forth the only-begotten Son, in order that all who would believe in him would not be destroyed but rather would have life eternal.
For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge the world, but rather in order that the world would be saved from peril through him.
Those who believe in him are not judged, but those who do not believe have already been judged, because they have not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.John 3:16-18
Justice of God
Each of these points rise up from Jesus and the Apostles’ teaching on God’s final judgment.
- One of God’s attributes is justice, therefore, God’s judgments are just, God gives what is deserved. Sin’s punishment was, and will be, no greater than sin itself, and not one person innocent of sin will come under God’s condemnation.
- God rights what has been made wrong when God judges.
- God’s wrath has a cleansing, purifying aspect to it – to cleanse the universe of the corruption of sin.
- If God did not judge sin it would mean that God was indifferent to the existence of right and wrong, good and evil. But the Lord is not indifferent. God’s wrath, grief, and intense pain over sin is the necessary and only right response.
- God’s punishment will ultimately be endured in a conscious condition forever, where God’s countenance is turned away, and the presence of God’s holy wrath over sin is eternal and infinite in its terrible fire, the place of outer darkness
God’s final judgment appears to be permanent and universal. The Apostle Peter and other writers describe the old heavens and old earth being completely destroyed by God’s coming judgment by fire, and only those who have received Jesus will enter into the new heavens and earth.
God’s judgment shows that who we are and, by the overflow of our hearts, what we do does matter.
It was not Annas, or Caiaphas, or the Sanhedrin who delivered up final judgment. By their words and actions, they showed themselves already under God’s judgment, preparing themselves for the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord to come.
[Story taken from Mark 15:1 and Like 22:66-71]
[The Judgment of the Sanhedrin: He is Guilty! | Nikolai Ge, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]