Among Christians, What is a Common View of Judgment Day? What Does the Bible Really Say?

Young Christians
Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 140 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

JUDGMENT DAY Appointed time in the future when God will intervene in history to judge the wicked and uphold the righteous. In OT texts nations are pictured as being judged during this time. Yet in the NT the judgment seems to be more for individuals. In both Testaments the use of “day,” “that day,” or “great day,” are often used in conjunction with or in place of the day of judgment. In the OT Yahweh is pictured as the Judge, whereas in the NT the Judge is Christ.[1]

Speaking in general biblical terms for both the OT and the NT, judgment day is a specific day or period of time when selective groups or nations have been judged, that is held accountable by God for their actions. It may be that the people have already been judged and found guilty, deserving of death are to be executed. Or, those who were found worthy of death have had an opportunity to turn God’s righteous indignation into mercy, and they are delivered, even to the point of being eligible for eternal life. Jesus Christ and the apostles pointed to a future “Judgment Day,” which would involve those who are alive at the time and those who had already died in the past. – Matthew 10:15; 11:21-24; 12:41-42; 2 Timothy 4:1-2.

How to Interpret the Bible-1

When Christians think of Judgment Day what comes to their mind? Some envision a huge heavenly throne coming down with a long line of humans as far as the eye can see, these being persons resurrected from the dead. As they pass by the throne, they are judged on their actions, which had been written down in a book now held by Jesus Christ. They are now judged on the things they did in their previous life, which results in their receiving either eternal heavenly life or eternal hellfire.

Is this the picture of Judgment Day presented in the Bible? Judgment Day is not a day to be feared or dreaded for the truly genuine Christian. Note what the Bible says in the book of Acts of God: “He has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31) Of course, the judge who the Father has long ago appointed is his Son, Jesus Christ. The Gospels alone show us that Jesus will be a fair and compassionate judge. A prophecy concerning him at Isaiah 11:3-4 promises us of this.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfootv

Isaiah 11:3-4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
And he will delight in the fear of Jehovah,
And he will not judge by what his eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what his ears hear;
But with righteousness he will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the meek of the earth;
And he will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
And with the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked.

Here we can see that the popular view of judging persons on Judgment Day on their past sins is not the case at all, as in many cases, they were done in absolute ignorance, for they are the unevangelized and have never heard the Gospel. In addition, the Bible makes it clear that the moment a person dies a brain or biological death,* he is then released from all sins in his lifetime except for blasphemy. It says: “For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:7) Therefore, the only conclusion left is, when the person is resurrected, he will then be judged on his actions during Judgment Day, not on his actions before he died.

* No heartbeat + no breathing + no brain activity = clinical death, but it does not necessarily spell Death. Clinical death is treated as a medical emergency, with CPR and the like following. Only when a physician calls off the efforts and throws in the towel can brain or biological death

This conclusion brings us to the next conclusion that we must come to, Judgment Day is not a literal 24-hour day. We can bolster this understanding when we look at the text that discloses some insights about Jesus and those who will serve as judges with him. (1 Corinthians 6:1-3) Then, Peter tells us, “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” Then, the apostle John tells us of a “new heavens” over the “new earth.”

THE CREATION DAYS OF GENESIS gift of prophecy

The New Heavens: The Heavenly Hope

Revelation 20:4, 6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded[2] because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS

2 Peter 3:13

New mention of the Second Coming leads Peter to repeat his earlier description of the impending destruction that awaits the world (see comments on 3:10). Here he added the positive hope that at that time, the new heaven and earth will be the eternal home of the believer, or in Peter’s more generic term, the home of righteousness. Actions of righteousness find their expression in the holy and godly lives of the followers of Christ, the inhabitants of the new heaven and earth.[3]

Believers, of course, are not merely waiting for the destruction of the present world. Such destruction, however, is crucial because it is bound up with the judgment of the ungodly (3:7). Nevertheless, if the future offered only destruction, believers would be miserable indeed. The day of God, the day of the Lord (i.e., the coming of Christ) involves both judgment and salvation. This salvation is not merely spiritual, an ethereal out-of-body experience with God. God promises a new world for believers, a transformed world, a new heavens and a new earth. Hence, the Petrine view should be distinguished from Stoicism that does not look forward to a new world. The word “promise” was important for Peter, focusing especially on the coming of Christ (3:4, 9; cf. also 1:4). The coming of Christ is inseparable from the arrival of the day of God and the new heavens and new earth. The promise of a new heavens and new earth reaches back to Isaiah (65:17; 66:22) …[4]

Those who will be judges with Jesus “came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. … These … will reign with him for a thousand years..”

The New Earth: The Earthly Hope

In the O[ld] T[estament] the kingdom of God is usually described in terms of a redeemed earth; this is especially clear in the book of Isaiah, where the final state of the universe is already called new heavens and a new earth (65:17; 66:22) The nature of this renewal was perceived only very dimly by OT authors, but they did express the belief that a humans ultimate destiny is an earthly one.[5] This vision is clarified in the N[ew] T[estament]. Jesus speaks of the “renewal” of the world (Matt 19:28), Peter of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). Paul writes that the universe will be redeemed by God from its current state of bondage (Rom. 8:18-21). This is confirmed by Peter, who describes the new heavens and the new earth as the Christian’s hope (2 Pet. 3:13). Finally, the book of Revelation includes a glorious vision of the end of the present universe and the creation of a new universe, full of righteousness and the presence of God. The vision is confirmed by God in the awesome declaration: “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:1-8)

The new heavens and the new earth will be the renewed creation that will fulfill the purpose for which God created the universe. It will be characterized by the complete rule of God and by the full realization of the final goal of redemption: “Now the dwelling of God is with men” (Rev. 21:3).

The fact that the universe will be created anew[6] shows that God’s goals for humans is not an ethereal and disembodied existence, but a bodily existence on a perfected earth. The scene of the beatific vision is the new earth. The spiritual does not exclude the created order and will be fully realized only within a perfected creation. (Elwell 2001, 828-29)

DEFENDING OLD TESTAMENT AUTHORSHIP Agabus Cover BIBLICAL CRITICISM

What have we learned so far in this article? God created the earth to be inhabited, to be filled with perfect humans, who are over the animals, and under the sovereignty of God. (Gen 1:28; 2:8, 15; Ps 104:5; 115:16; Eccl 1:4) Sin did not dissuade God from his plans (Isa. 45:18); hence, he has saved redeemable humankind by Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. It seems that the Bible offers two hopes to redeemed humans, (1) a heavenly hope, or (2) an earthly hope. It also seems that those with the heavenly hope are limited in number, and are going to heaven to rule with Christ as kings, priests, and judges either on the earth or over the earth from heaven. It seems that those with the earthly hope will receive eternal life here on a paradise earth as originally intended.

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[1] Joe Cathey, “Judgment Day,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 966.

[2] Lit executed with the ax

[3] David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, vol. 11, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 143.

[4] Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, vol. 37, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 391.

[5] It is unwise to speak of the written Word of God as if it were of human origin, saying ‘OT authors express the belief,’ when what was written is the meaning and message of what God wanted to convey by means of the human author.

[6] Create anew does not mean a complete destruction followed by a re-creation, but instead a renewal of the present universe.

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