Most of us find ourselves shuddering somewhat at the idea of judgment. If you’ve had a call to appear in an earthly court, it’s usually with feelings of apprehension, to say the least.
An exception to this reaction might be how an innocent convict on death row would feel. When news comes that a judge will be hearing your case and you may have a chance for vindication and release from prison, you might experience some actual joy. Or when the perpetrator of a crime against you is scheduled to be sentenced, punished, and no longer a threat to your security, your feelings of dread may turn to celebration.
Memory Text: “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” Daniel 7:27 KJV [all emphases, author’s]
Could it be that we have lost sight of the positive side of the judgment of God? I think Satan has worked hard at shaping our opinions about this topic. He encourages us to think only on the negative side of what judgment means.
If you thoroughly study the judgment, prefigured in the Day of Atonement services in the earthly sanctuary, you will discover that judgment is as much about justification, deliverance, and vindication as it is about condemnation, punishment, and the destruction of evil. We’ll be delving into this topic more fully in the next couple of weeks.
To get a better grasp on the judgment now though, there’s an excellent article at www.atsjats.org by Jiri Moskala, called “The Gospel According to God’s Judgment”. I would encourage you to see his explanation of God’s judgment.
Sunday: The Vision and the Judgment
Daniel 7 is our focus this week. Here we not only see the reason for God’s judgment, but also the timing of it. This beautifully poetic chapter, which has an introduction, a vision, its interpretation, and an epilogue, is further divided into the following parts:
- Setting the background–vs. 2-3
- Description of the three beasts in the vision–vs. 4-6
- The terrifying, diverse fourth beast–v. 7
- Activity of the “little horn” power–v. 8
- Heavenly judgment–vs. 9-10
- More about the “little horn” and its fate–v. 11
- Fate of the first three beasts (or world kingdoms)–v. 12
- The triumphant judgment–vs. 13, 14
- The interpretation of the vision–vs. 23-27
The four beasts or animals seen in the vision parallel the four kingdoms in Daniel 2: Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
After a brief description of the “little horn” in v. 8 (more detailing of his identity is found in verse 25), the focus shifts to a dazzling heavenly court scene, where two figures predominate the picture: God the Father, a wise judge portrayed as the Ancient of Days, and the Son of man, clearly Jesus Christ Himself (Matthew 24:30 and 26:64), representing humanity.
When looking at the sanctuary services, one can’t help but recognize the Day of Atonement ritual as the type for this scene in the throne room. Its purpose (to cleanse the temple), timing (at the end of the year), and activity (entering the Most Holy Place) closely matches what is happening in the heavenly throne room that Daniel saw in the vision.
Discussion Questions: Why are just God the Father and God the Son seen in this heavenly throne room? Where would the Holy Spirit be and what is He doing at this time?
Also, where did God’s justice and law first become questioned, on earth or in heaven? Does this help us understand why this heavenly judgment scene must take place in God’s throne room above?
Monday: Judgment Pattern
First we should acquaint ourselves with the way God judges. He does follow a logical pattern, that can be seen as totally fair and merciful. Consider how He dealt with Bible characters in the past:
- Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8-20)
- Cain (Genesis 4)
- Babel (Genesis 11)
- Sodom (Genesis 18 and 19)
God investigates (goes out looking for them after they sinned), asks questions (gives them a chance to confess or explain), listens to their defense (allows them to speak for themselves). In every instance, God shows Himself to be a wise and perceptive Judge.
The investigative judgment concept should not be foreign to the ears of modern societies and cultures. It’s how our own judicial system is supposed to work. It involves transparency and full disclosure, terms we are quite familiar with when it comes to governments and courts.
God’s investigation is quite public too. The whole universe is invited to see that His judgments are loving and just. And we shall see how this is done in what has been called the investigative judgment.
“A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.” Daniel 7:10 KJV
“Books” are mentioned a number of times in the Bible. The “book of life” or the “book of remembrance” alludes to some kind of record of each person’s life.
Discussion Question: Why does God need “books”? If they aren’t to help God remember, then why are they mentioned? Could it have anything to do with transparency and full disclosure?
Tuesday: Time of the Judgment
Verse 27 of Daniel 7, our memory text, alludes to the Second Coming, when the saints will be given an everlasting kingdom. Verse 14 further describes this as a kingdom that “shall not pass away…which shall not be destroyed”. Both verses are preceded by verses that talk about the judgment scene that Daniel saw.
If the saints are rewarded when Jesus comes in the clouds of glory (the righteous are taken to heaven and the wicked are slain at His coming–I Thessalonians 2:8 and 4:16-17), then some kind of judgment has already taken place before He comes. Revelation 22:12 establishes this thinking when it says, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” KJV
This time of judgment has been called the investigative, or the pre-Advent judgment, because it happens before the Second Advent. It also seems to take place after the time set aside for the “little horn” to be in power. His power and persecution were to last “a time and times and the dividing of time.” (Daniel 7:25)
A biblical year has 360 days and is referred to as a “time”. “Times” would refer to double that amount (or 720 days), and “the dividing of times” would be half that amount (or 180 days). For a total of 1260 days. This same amount of time (1260) is found in Revelation 11:3 and 12:6 when it speaks of the woman (symbolizing the church) having to flee into the wilderness for protection against persecution during this time period.
Prophetically, a day stands for a year (Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6), so this period is thought to be the time of persecution of God’s church, which actually occurred when the papacy held its greatest power over earthly monarchs from 538 A.D. to 1798 A.D.
Discussion Question: II Timothy 2:19 says, “…The Lord knoweth them that are his…”. Therefore, why does God even need a judgment or an investigation, and why would it take place before the Second Coming?
Wednesday: When the Judgment Ends
Several things are accomplished by having a judgment take place. Here’s the result of this pre-Advent judgment:
- The Son of man is crowned. (Daniel 7:14–He receives “dominion, glory, and a kingdom.” NASB)
- The saints receive the kingdom forever. (Daniel 7:22, 27–“…the saints possessed the kingdom.” KJV)
- The rebellious elements in the universe are defeated and destroyed. (Daniel 7:25-26–“…they shall take away his dominion…to destroy it unto the end.” KJV)
- God’s full justice is displayed for the universe and God Himself is vindicated. (Psalm 51:4–“…that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.” NKJV)
Indeed God has two intentions with this judgment plan:
- to save His people and do away with sin
- to leave no doubt about His love and justice so sin will not return in the universe
Discussion Question: Why can’t we fully see the truth and love in the gospel without also seeing this justice, which involves such destruction? How does justice fit in with our understanding of a loving and merciful God?
Thursday: Responsible Assurance
How does the universe react to this judgment?
“Let the heavens rejoice,and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord. For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth.” Psalm 96:11-13 NKJV
Repeatedly in the book of Psalms David used the expression, “Judge me, O Lord”. (See Psalms 26:1, 32:24, 43:1, 54:1.) He recognized that judgment also implies vindication and salvation from his enemies.
Our lesson quarterly expressed the judgment so well when it said: “The judgment is not the time when God decides to accept or reject us [which is probably our greatest worry]; rather, it is the time when God finalizes our choice of whether or not we have truly accepted Him, a choice revealed by our works.” And “Judgment is actually another manifestation of the salvation that is ours.”
In other words, God’s judgment in all its phases means that our salvation is a “done deal”. It should increase our Christian assurance, instead of lowering it.
Discussion Question: Read II Corinthians 5:10 and discuss how accountability plays into our relationship contract with God. Does our life show our loyalty to God or to someone else? What should be our motivation for moral behavior?
Next week: The Eschatological Day of Atonement