Discipline Versus Destruction

What lay ahead would be a devastating ordeal, yet God did not want God’s people to be afraid, for their crucible would soon pass, and those who harmed them would receive just judgment from God.

Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts: “O my people who live in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians when they beat you with a rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did.

For in a very little while my indignation will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction.” 

Isaiah 10:24-25 (NRSV)

There are two different kinds of judgments in these verses.

Discipline

According to Isaiah, God’s judgment of God’s own people was corrective. God evaluated their lives and, as the Lord had promised to do, applied increasingly heavy corrective measures when they strayed. God’s intention was always to restore and build up God’s people. The Lord’s fire to God’s own people acted as light and purification, and the Lord’s aim was to make God’s people holy.

Destruction

The Assyrians were by definition not God’s people. They had exalted themselves above the Lord and were intent on not only destroying God’s people, but proving their own gods as greater than the one true and living God. God promised that God would hold the Assyrians accountable to their wrongdoing. God’s judgment of God’s enemies would bring the fire of God’s wrath which would defeat and sweep away.

Judgment of God

Although the Bible talks about many kinds of judgments, it seems God’s judgement are spoken of in two main ways: as evaluative or final. God’s judgment of God’s own people and of Assyria came under these categories in a temporal way, which points to how God’s judgment is depicted on the Day of Judgement.

Separation of the Sheep and Goats | By Rijksmuseumhttp://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.513829, CC0

Final Judgement

Jesus spoke often of God’s final judgement. For example, in the Gospel of Matthew,

Treatment of the Holy Spirit

Jesus told a parable about ten bridesmaids who prepared to wait with the bride until the groom would come for her. Five of the young women brought oil—representing the Holy Spirit—the other five did not. In the end, the five without oil were turned away from the wedding feast, for the groom said,

“Truly I tell you, I do not know you.”

Matthew 25:12 (NRSV)

Treatment of the Gospel and of Jesus

Jesus then told a parable about three servants who had been entrusted with varying amounts of money to tend in the master’s absence. Two servants invested the money wisely and doubled their returns, but the third maligned the master and buried the money. The two who were faithful received the same reward.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things; I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’”

Matthew 25:21, 23 (NRSV)

But the third servant earned the master’s ire.

“As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Matthew 25:30 (NRSV)

Treatment of God’s Own

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 

“All the nations will be gathered before him,

“and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 

“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world … 

“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You who are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels … 

“And these will go away into eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31-45 (NRSV)
Separation of the sheep and goats | By This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, CC0

According to these and many other passages, it seems those who have refused the gift of salvation from God, and have rejected Jesus as Messiah, will stand before God to give an account of their lives on earth. There will be no rewards in this judgement. There will be no scales, with good deeds weighing on one side and evil deeds on the other. Instead, Jesus will ask: Do I know you?

God is just

Because God is infinitely and eternally just, 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 be judged against.

  • 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 God is not indifferent. God’s wrath, grief, and intense pain over sin, is the necessary and only right response.
  • The simplest reading of the scripture appears to indicate 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.

It is an admittedly troubling conclusion, and theologians do not agree on this doctrine.

  • Some scholars point to passages in Revelation that speak of a lake of fire, into which all those who have rejected and opposed God will be cast on the Day of Judgment, to experience a second and final death.
  • Other theologians argue for a middle place in which those who have died may work out their salvation over a certain time period until they have been purified.
  • And finally, there are commentators who indicate that one day every knee will willingly, happily bend in acknowledgement of Christ as Lord, for a universal salvation of all humankind.
Final Judgment | By Rijksmuseum – CC0

Evaluative Judgment

The other description of God’s judgment is as the evaluation of the lives of believers, as to how well they served the Lord Jesus Christ as His disciples in this life.  

In this judgment there will be no corrective action, no condemnation, but only commendation.

The Lord Jesus’s judgement of His people is described as a glorious day of great rejoicing, worship, and praise, Jesus will be glorified in His holy people, everyone will marvel.

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 the work that someone has built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a wage. 
  • If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.
Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 (NRSV)

There will be no sense of shame or punishment, or lingering sins or anything like that during this time of evaluation, because believers already, in this life, experience complete restoration and reconciliation with God through what Jesus already has done for us through His death and resurrection.  

Whatever we do in the power and ability of Christ, to His glory and for His sake, will be transformed into heavenly stuff, treasure to be rejoiced over.

And the rest of it, the rest of what we said and did in our lives (or omitted to say or do)? That, too, will be evaluated. Whatever is not made of heavenly stuff will simply be burned up, and you and I will be glad to see it go.

God’s final judgment is portrayed as permanent and universal—the old heavens and old earth will be swept away in God’s coming judgment by fire, and God will raise up a new heavens and earth.

The Last Judgement Fra Angelico 1429 Gemäldegalerie, Berlin Kat.Nr. 60A | Fra Angelico, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

God’s judgment shows that who we are and, by the overflow of our hearts, what we do matters.


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