It's the topic no one wants to talk about. It's the bad news of the Gospel. There is coming a day when Jesus will judge the world and people will either face eternity with Him or apart from Him. What will your judgment be?
Part 5 Acts 17:30-34
James Woolsey, Director of Central Intelligence told the following story a few months ago at a conference on global organized crime. A really funny incident took place when FBI Agents were conducting an investigation at a San Diego psychiatric hospital for medical insurance fraud. After hours of reviewing thousands of medical records, the dozens of agents worked up quite an appetite. The agent in charge of the investigation called a nearby pizza parlor to order a dinner for his colleagues. The following telephone conversation took place and was recorded by the FBI who was in the process of taping all incoming and outgoing phone calls.
Agent: “Hello. I’d like to order 19 pizzas and 67 cans of coke.”
Pizza Man: “And where would you like them delivered?”
“We’re over here at the psychiatric hospital.”
“To the psychiatric hospital?”
“That’s right, I’m an FBI agent.”
Pizza Man: “You’re an FBI agent?”
“That’s correct, just about everybody over here is. . . oh and, you’ll have to go around to the back entrance to deliver the pizzas, we have the front doors locked.”
Pizza man: “And you say you’re an FBI agent?
Agent: “That’s correct.”
Pizza Man: “And everyone at the psychiatric hospital is an FBI agent?”
Agent: “That right, we’ve been here all day, and we’re starving.”
Pizza Man: “I don’t think so!” Click
And thus is illustrated the challenge of communication. What the agent should have done was to give the Pizza man a little more background to begin with – “Hello, I’m an FBI agent and my colleagues and I are in the process of conducting an investigation at the San Diego Psychiatric Hospital. We’ve been here all day and would like to order dinner.
Because the background wasn’t fully established, the message never got across.
We have been listening to the sermon by the Apostle Paul these last 4 weeks – now in our fifth discussion. What we have been observing is really, nothing more or less than background, developed by Paul as he moves toward his request.
And make no mistake, the Apostle Paul sounds as ridiculous to these Athenians as the FBI agent must have sounded to the Pizza Man.
In order for Paul to get his message across he has spent a lot of time on the background. He has been introducing the Athenians to this Unknown God:
v. 23 - He is more than a monument! That is, He is alive, Lord of heaven and earth.
vv. 24 & 25 - My God made all there is! That is, He, the creator of the universe is transcendent – over, above, separate from creation, yet immanent – personally involved in His creation.
Third, in vv. 26-29 - My God is the Almighty Mover and Shaker of planet earth.
He is the Divine Resource – providing all we need and
He is the Divine Ruler – as the God of anthropology and history
All of that has been background – setting the stage for the final and most compelling point of Paul’s sermon.
Now we move into the fourth and final Point of Paul’s sermon
“My God is the holy Magistrate in the coming judgement!”
This is the conclusion of the sermon – and this is the confrontation of the gospel.
Judgement day is coming.
Now on the back of your study notes, I’ve reproduced a graph taken out of Sam Smith’s outstanding book, “What the Bible Says About the Future.” Sam is a member of Colonial and if you’d like a copy of his manuscript, let us know at the office – you’ll notice he’s put on a prophetic time-line the coming judgements.
In order to understand which judgement Paul is referring to, we need to be aware that there are more than one judgement scheduled in the future.
Judgement #1 – The Judgement of Believers
This judgment, referred to as the “bema” seat – bema, is the Greek word that referred to the tribunal – this judgement is for believers only – and therefore cannot take place until after the rapture of the Church, and most pre-tribulational expositors consider it happening prior to the marriage ceremonies of the church to the Lamb – Jesus Christ – I would agree that this judgment takes place in heaven shortly after the rapture.
Now the Bible makes it clear that this judgment does not determine whether you get into heaven or not – the fact that you’ve been raptured as a member of Christ’s body secures that fact.
It is however a judgment of every believer’s works – and God will reward every believer according to their faithfulness as a believer. I also believe another outcome of this judgment will be the position and responsibility of the believer in the millennial kingdom.
Some Christians in here are going to be Governor’s and leaders in the thousand year reign of Christ on earth because you’ve been committed to Christ’s cause and church; some will Governor’s - others will be garbage collectors. Why? Paul says in I Cor. that unfaithful believers will have all their works burned up – they lived unproductive, unfaithful lives on earth – Paul wrote, “If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
Lest any of us, however anticipate anything of ourselves being worthy of reward apart from the grace of God – let me tell you what Augustine, the fifth century theologian called the bema seat – he called it the time when God crowns His own gifts. What he meant was that the only way we can perform any measure of obedience to God is by God’s gracious help. Not only does God stoop to help us, but He will at the Bema seat reward us for what we couldn’t possibly have done without His help.
No wonder our response will be to cast our rewards back at His feet.
This is not the judgement Paul is warning the Athenians to avoid.
Judgement #2 – The Judgment of the Nations
The rapture has taken place – the believers are in heaven; earth enters a 7 year period known as the tribulation – a time when God unleashes his wrath on humanity; also a time when the nations of the world unite against Israel; a time when the ecumenical dream finally comes true and any doctrine that divides is laid aside and a one world church is created – which follows their mesmerizing, spiritual and political leader, the AntiChrist.
Following this 7 year period – Matthew 13 informs us that the redeemed and the unredeemed will be separated – those who’ve placed their faith in Christ during the tribulation will be ushered by the angels into the Kingdom – the 1,000 year reign of Christ with His bride, the church will commence. The unredeemed will be banished to Hades to await their final judgment and sentence of eternal hell.
That final judgement is the third judgement:
Judgment #3 – The Great White Throne (Rev. 20)
This is the final judgement – the comprehensive judgement of the unredeemed from all of human history – they will stand before God to be judged.
Sam summarizes what will happen here:
First, this Divine courtroom will prove each individual a guilty sinner.
Second, the court will reveal that the individual is not redeemed and is therefore liable for his own punishment.
What the Bible Says About the Future
Sam Smith, p. 45
Why don’t you turn to Revelation 20.
Revelation makes clear that in order to do that, two books will be consulted. One set of books is the record of that individual’s works – every sin, every evil deed, every impure thought, every crime, every secret sin will be exposed. The other book is the book of life – that book has recorded in it the names of every person who has been redeemed by faith alone in the Lamb of God alone.
Turn to Revelation and look at the judgement that Paul is about to mention to the Athenians – Rev. 20:11. And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12. And I saw the dead, the great and he small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged form the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14. And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
This isn’t popular stuff today – the most recent public opinion polls show a belief in heaven is held by nearly twice as many people as a belief in hell.
Why? Because the wrath of God is not a very popular concept. And frankly, man churches today skip the subject, bypass it – or even ignore it because it’s hard to talk about.
That’s why you can talk about golf to your unbelieving co-workers – you can talk about the weather, you can talk about the upcoming Super bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers. You can talk about kids and school – but why is it that you clam up when it comes to talking about Jesus Christ – may I suggest to you that it’s because inherent in the message of Jesus Christ is a message of condemnation – a message about guilt and sin – its a message about a future in heaven or hell. In other words, just bringing up His name and His plan of salvation immediately conjurs up in the heart of every person you talk to the matter of future accountability.
There is a judgment day coming! And they don’t want to hear it and you know it, before you even mention it.
One author had a conversation with an unbeliever – let me read it to you:
READ TONY EVANS
Maybe you think a preacher shouldn’t talk about hell fire and judgment – don’t be so judgmental – so negative. And furthermore, you shouldn’t try to scare people into heaven by talking about hell.
Well, if you’ll go back to the Book of Acts, you won’t like Paul’s sermon either, because Paul now draws to a conclusion in chapter 17, because that’s exactly what Paul does.
He’s presented all the background information on the character and nature of God that was necessary for the Athenians to understand the right and power God has to one day demand an accounting with the human race that He created.
Notice chapter 17 and let’s pick our paragraph back up with verse 30. Therefore (in other words, on the basis of everything I’ve just said) having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent.
And the word translated “overlooked” comes from a word that could be rendered, “He did not interfere.” In other words, God has chosen not to wipe Athens off the face of the earth because of their idolatry. But Paul says, “A new day has come – a new dispensation, if you will. The plan of salvation demands repentance – a change of mind – about this personal God, the Lord of Heaven and earth. And you’d better change your mind about Him because - 31. He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed – by the way, Jesus Christ himself referred Himself as the judge and He used the title the Son – the Son of Man. (John 5).
Now follow this – in our last discussion, Paul declared that from one man, the first Adam, all of humanity desended. Now, he declares that from another man, the second Adam – the God-man, all of humanity will be judged. Romans 5 discusses this concept thoroughly.
Now, by what right does this God-man judge the world – look further – v. 31b. Having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.
The climax and the confrontation of Paul’s sermon is this – Leave your dead idols and follow the living and true God, the Lord of heaven and earth, the coming judge.
Paul’s entire sermon could be summarized this way:
There is one God – there is one human race – there is one Savior – therefore, there is one judge.
The polytheism of Athens was swept away – you cannot have many gods and follow the true and living God – it isn’t many roads that lead to God, it is one road which leads to God and that road is Christ. And God’s claim to that revelation is the empty tomb of Jesus Christ.
Our nation which has become a mixing pot of polytheism and pluralism and syncretism is in desperate need of a reintroduction to this true and living Lord.
A few months ago, an article in World magazine interviewed Jim Stephens a former Buddhist of 14 years.
READ WORLD MAGAZINE
Have you ever thought about the fact, that for Jesus Christ to be the judge, He would have to be God?
The only way billions of people from all of human history could ever be judged fairly, so that no verdict could be wrong, would demand every attribute and quality of God’s character. . .let me list a few for you:
First of all, this Magistrate of all humanity would have to be Holy.
This judge – this Divine Magistrate would have to be the perfect standard of holiness and perfection.
He couldn’t be bribed, cajoled, influenced, manipulated – for if He could with one human being be influenced, then all of humanity could rightly demand eternity in heaven and Him deserving of hell.
Only a Holy Judge can inspire the awe and respect that humanity will give to no earthly judge.
Only a Holy Judge can see through the excuses of sin and demand a holy verdict.
I used to watch the People’s Court – I’d find myself listening to the first side and thinking – “Man, they’ve got some good points.” Then the other side would speak and I’d think, “Wow, that puts everything in a different light!”
Part of the problem is the ability of every human being to not only make themselves look good but justify their sin.
Someone in our church clipped this article that is classic proof of that ability. The question posed to a senior high student, “Is cheating ever okay?”
READ ARTICLE ON CHEATING
A holy God can see through the flimsy excuses humanity and His tribunal will declare, “Thou shalt not lie” and cheating is a form of deception and deception is synonomous with lying.
But wait a second - even a holy God, if He were only holy would be unable to judge – yes, He is the standard, and He did say, “Thou shalt not lie, but did He really know all of my circumstances?”
Ah . . . so the Divine magistrate, in order to accomplish the task of judging the world with perfect justice must be. . .#2 Omnicient.
In other words, He would have to knows all the facts.
He would have to be able to weigh all the evidence, understand every nuance, know every motive that proves a person really did sin.
By the way – how many unbelievers do you know who admit that they are guilty sinners?
I can count on one hand the people I’ve encountered with the gospel who’ve said, “Man I need to here about this because I am a guilty sinner.”
Oh no – the world is filled with innocent people who are misunderstood.
Illustrated best by something I read several years ago. A monarch once visited his prison with the purpose of pardoning whoever was truly remorseful for committing their crime – he interviewed each criminal and then asked them, “Are you guilty of your crime and deserving of your punishment?” Each one of them said “No, I’m not guilty – I was framed, evidence was overlooked, I had a crooked lawyer, I don’t deserve this sentence. . .etc.” Finally he came to one man and said, “Are you guilty?” And the man humbly said, “Yes, your majesty I am guilty.” The King said to the warden, “Release this man immediately before he corrupts all of these innocent people.”
Jesus Christ knows the innocent from the guilty – that means He must know all things.
I remember my parents coming home one day – we were told we couldn’t watch any T.V. while they were gone – they said, did you boys watch T.V? No sir – no ma’am. . . my mother walked over to the T.V. and put her hand behind it – in those days, they had those big tubes that heated up – well, the back of our T.V. could have fried an egg. It was at that moment that I realized she was smarter than I was – in fact, at that moment, anybody was smarter than I was.
However, there was one time, when she wasn’t aware of all the facts – and I got a spanking for something I didn’t do.
Halloween was coming. Back when I was a kid we’d get 4 or 5 grocery bags full of candy. Now you need to understand, that 30 years ago, observing Halloween wasn’t considered a test of orthodoxy – we all dressed up like hobos – and hit the streets at dusk. Sure, there were rumors of razor blades in apples, but we weren’t looking for fruit anyway – so we were safe.
There was a mask that someone had given us – rubbery mask that looked hilarious – I was supposed to be doing my homework, but instead I slipped downstairs to the basement closet; put the mask on and entertained my younger brother. Mom told me to put it up and not to touch it again – or else!. So, I was obediently sitting in my seat, doing my homework when one of my younger brothers – there were four of us boys – a very peaceful childhood – went downstairs and put on the mask – he then heard mom coming – he took it off, and just before she appeared, threw it in my lap and ran around the corner. She yanked me up and proceeded to discipline me according to the righteous ordinances of almighty God.
But I was innocent – don’t look at me like that – I was.
I’ve held this over my wonderful mothers head for years – and, Mom if your listening to this tape – as I’m sure you will be – I have forgiven you – even though it warped my personality – I’ve forgiven you.
The irony of it is that I am now a parent and I have made similar mistakes.
The only one capable of judging sin is one who knows all the facts.
But how do you know the facts Lord – you say you know all things – but you should have seen what happened.
Ah, so not only must He be holy and omniscient, this Divine Magistrate must also be Omnipresent
He was there when my brother threw that mask in my lap and ran away – and as far as I’m concerned, my brother will be severely judged.
He is everywhere at once.
God saw you fill out your income tax return. He was there with you on that date – He saw you cheat on that exam – God was sitting next to you when you watched that movie – He saw you log onto cyber-porn – He heard you lie to your boss – God was there when you said that – He saw you steal – He watched you write off that activity as business expense – He listened in on that phone conversation; he heard your adulterous plans – he heard your filthy language.
He is not only judge and jury, but at the Great White Throne, He is the eye witness.
And He is supremely qualified to be your judge.
But that still isn’t enough. In order for God to be the righteous judge who judges evil and exacts eternal punishment for crimes against His eternal character and His eternal Son who offered an eternal gift of eternal life – He must not only be holy and omniscient and omnipresent – He must also be powerful enough to carry out the verdict – because billions of unredeemed would certainly attempt to overthrow His court.
So, finally, He must be omnipotent – all powerful.
The Apostle Paul said to the Athenians – you claim Zeus has power over everything – I claim that my God is instead the one so powerful that He conquered the one absolute certainty of living that no one can deny and that is the absolute of dying.
God revealed that power by raising from the dead, His son, the Son of Man, Jesus Christ – and that Man will one day occupy the throne as judge and jury and executioner of all who’ve denied His character and refused His glory.
Now notice – verse 32. Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” 33. So Paul went out of their midst. 34. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite – that’s one of the 30 judges and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
The three responses to Paul are the same three responses in this auditorium today – some were critical, others were curious and a few were converted.
How can you avoid that awful judgement day – repent! Paul said, “Change your mind – leave your idols and the gods that you have created in your own mind – and follow the living and true God by faith in Jesus Christ.”
I’ll close with this story:
In 1829, a Philadelphia man named George Wilson robbed the U.S. mail and killed someone in the process. Wilson was arrested, brought to trial, convicted and sentenced to be hanged. Some friends intervened on his behalf and were finally able to obtain a pardon for Wilson from President Andrew Jackson. But when informed of this, Wilson refused to accept the pardon. The sheriff was inwilling to carry out the sentence. How could he hang a pardoned man? An appeal was sent to president Jackson. Perplexed, Jackson turned to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the case. Chief Justice John Marshall wrote the ruling that a pardon rejected is no pardon at all. George Wilson would have to face his sentence. So, although Wilson’s pardon lay on the sheriff’s desk, George Wilson hanged by the neck until dead.
My friends, your pardon was written in blood from the cross of Jesus Christ – it is efficacious to those who believe – to those who refuse to receive His death on their behalf, it is no pardon at all.
There is a judgement day coming – have you accepted the pardon – have you received the Lamb of God as your personal Savior.
Move from being critical – move from being curious – move to being converted – a member of God’s family, by a personal prayer of faith in Jesus Christ.
Our God Is Awesome
Published by?????? p. 244
A man once told me, “I’m not into that hell stuff. I don’t believe in the wrath of God. But even if hell is true, I’m going to turn the place around because all my friends are going to be there. We are going to go down there and have a party.” He obviously didn’t get the picture, so I said, “Do me a favor. When you go home today, turn on a burner on your stove and wait until it gets real hot. Then sit on that burner and try to get a party going at the same time.” He did not understand that hell has no fellowship, no parties, no get-togethers, no buffets. God will eternally quarantine all those who are not rightly related to Him in the pit of the universe called hell.”
September 20, 1997, p. 23
He talked about the inroads being made today into American intellegencia by Buddhism – which I find fascinating because the average American doesn’t like to talk about the reality of hell, and yet Buddhism believes in 16 different hells. That’s beside the point I guess – at any rate, Jim Stephens rasies his concern over the fact of Buddhism’s growing influence in local churches and even in formerly evangelical works. Buddhist monks, he says, are increasingly welcome as speakers in churches. Last Christmas, St. Anslem’s Episcopal Church in Orange City, Calif., brought in a statue of the Buddha and celebrated his birthday alongside that of Christ.
However, Jim Stephens eventually reached what he called the despairing dead end of Buddhism – and came to grips with the “concrete reality of Christ’s resurrection and was converted.”
The fact that the Buddha is dead and Jesus is alive is the supreme claim of Christ to not only be the living and true Lord but the coming judge.