The Judgment to Come

Acts 17:31 Jude 14-15

Men in all ages have agreed with men of today in one thing—that in this life rewards are not proportionate to virtue, nor punishments to vice. That this is so is self-evident. The relation between conduct and condition is unequal. All around us we may see that the good and worthy are oppressed, while the bad and unworthy flourish. So manifest is this that it often appears as though there is no judge taking account of human action, or that if there be one, he judges unjustly. There is, however, another possibility. It is this—that judgment is deferred; that there is, in fact, “a judgment to come.”

Sowing and reaping govern one another with inexorable certainty, as does everything in this life except as to doing good and doing evil. The exception has proved a terrible trial to men since the world was made. Out of those agonies has sprung a conviction that human existence does not end with the grave, but that in some other world, or in some other state, these inequalities will be rectified, the balance will be restored, and goodness will receive its fair reward, while badness will meet its proper consequences.

The Bible fully harmonizes with reason and instinct in this matter. It declares from beginning to end that thus such a thing will happen as men’s hearts have from the dawn of time either desired or feared. The first of the prophets, Enoch, only seventh from Adam, foretold it. “See,” he said, “the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of His holy ones to judge everyone” (Jude vv. 14-15). And Paul, almost the latest of the great prophetic voices, with equal definiteness cried aloud, “For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice” (Acts 17:31). What reason and instinct demand, therefore, revelation has clearly foretold. The judgment described in the Word of God meets this universal cry of the human spirit.

Look also at the universal sentiment as to hidden wrong. Is there not in every one of us a persistent anticipation, almost amounting to an earnest expectation, that sooner or later the secret will out, and the guilty will be brought forth? Is it not almost equally a conviction that unknown good ought somehow to be rewarded? The world has had innumerable examples of unselfish devotion to the well-being of others which have found no reward in this life. Is all this to be buried in oblivion for some, while trumpeted forth for others?

The pictures in which the Bible describes the Great Assize meet, with remarkable exactitude, these very demands.

Bramwell Booth, Life and Religion

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