28-09-18 THE APPOINTED DAY
OF JUDGEMENT - PART ONE
Acts 17: 29-31: Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man who he hath ordained: whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.
John 12:47: … I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.
Acts 10:42: And He (Jesus) commanded us to preach unto the people and to testify that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
Matthew 12: 18 and 20: Behold my Servant … I will put my Spirit upon Him and he shall shew judgement unto the Gentiles … till He send forth judgement unto victory.
2 Tim: 4:1: (Paul to Timothy) I charge thee therefore before God, even the Lord Jesus Christ who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.
If there’s a message everyone needs to hear heed today it is that God has appointed a set day to judge the world in righteousness. Why? Because this is the best good news we as people could ever hear. You see, for thousands of years men have striven to bring about a better world, yet today society is more evil than when they began. We humans are incredibly slow to learn that only Almighty God can reshape the world from the mess it is now into the Paradise He intends it to be.
Given that mankind suffers incurable disease, death, poverty, and other evils, there should be rejoicing on every hand that God has predetermined a set time to intervene in human affairs to set right that which is wrong. Yet there isn’t, because the proclamation of the ‘appointed day’ to change history for ever is studiously ignored, not only by the world but worse still by organisations that claim to be the ‘church’ of Jesus Christ.
Nevertheless God’s word is true. The dawning of this great day will usher in a new world in which sickness, death, sin, war and even economic exploitation will be banished. For God Himself will rule the earth and all in it and only one belief system will be allowed – His. ‘In that day’ all will know Him and submit to Him in this ‘set day’, denoted seven times in Paul’s epistles as the ‘Day of Christ’ and heralded by Old Testament prophets as the eon when ‘…all the earth shall be filled with glory of the Lord’ (Numbers 14:21).
For us who live in this ‘present evil world’ (Galatians 1:4) it’s high time to face facts. To recognise that for all our much vaunted wisdom and technological advance life for most of Earth’s inhabitants is only getting worse. Cruelty, starvation, poverty, ecological disaster, murder, rape, slavery and war are escalating. Not to mention insecurity and fear. Man is not evolving into a better being; he is becoming more selfish and evil. The truth is that only God can halt humanity’s slide to self-destruction; the good news announced in Athens by the Apostle Paul, and relayed to us through the Bible, is that He most definitely will.
God will intervene
As briefly stated before, this wonderful message of hope finds little traction in Christendom. It is set aside by almost all ‘churches’ because they believe they and their teachings can make the world a better place, not a powerful and unprecedented intervention by Almighty God who alone has power to change the heart of man and the world he lives in.
But, unlike them, let us suppose such a huge change for the better really is coming. That there will indeed be an eon (a wonderful new age) when things will be put right, not made worse for the earth and all who live on it. If that is so then all the conclusions of science, education, economics, politics, medicine and psychology, about both the present and the future, stand to be upset like the proverbial apple cart.
Now, it is highly significant that it is on Mar’s Hill in Athens the centre of world thinking in its day - and not Jerusalem or Rome - that God chose to proclaim this great news. He did so because the promise of this new day is to the world as a whole, to every nation, not just Israel. The timing was also critical. In 53 AD the Acropolis was a great seat of learning. It was home to the Areopagus, which debated and decided matters of belief, justice and government, not just for Athens but for the Greek world and beyond. Thus the Areopagus was at once debating chamber, university, High Court and seat of Government all rolled into one. So deep was Greek thinking that its philosophic theories still influence us today.
And it was to this Areopagus on Mars’ Hill in 53 AD that the Apostle Paul was summoned to answer for his preaching of ‘strange gods’ (as the Athenians termed it and for promulgating ‘a new doctrine’, that of Jesus and his resurrection. Such a trial was no light matter. On this very spot in 399 AD the Areopagus condemned the famed philosopher Socrates to death by suicide for ‘impiety against the pantheon of Athens’ and ‘corrupting’ Athenian youth by ‘refusing to recognise the gods acknowledged by the state, and importing strange divinities of his own’ – in a nut shell, exactly what Paul was accused of doing.
World put on notice
However, so stunning were the words that God spoke through Paul in answer to these charges that penalty was averted. In fact the Lord used the occasion to put all men, both then and now, on notice that, in response to the ‘world’ judging his emissary Paul, He has set down a day in which He will judge the world. In particular the Lord commanded that idolatry – the concrete evidence of which was all around Paul as he spoke – should cease. Instead men should urgently submit to Him as the only God in light of the soon coming ‘judgement day’.
Sadly, the Athenians took little notice of these marching orders from on high. Nor did the wider world of Paul’s day give them credence. Worse still, even to this day Christendom’s leaders set aside this proclamation, finding little place for it in their humanly-contrived scheme of interpreting scripture. Ironically this, in large part, is due to the still pervading influence, even today, of some of the pagan beliefs Paul withstood on Mars’ Hill in 53 AD. Take, for example, Platonism which has so infiltrated church thinking that most Christians today believe the soul lives on after death, despite clear scriptural statements, including one from Jesus, (see Ezekiel 18:20 and Matthew 10:28), that it does not. They do so because of Plato’s insistence on there being ‘an immortal soul’. But the Bible teaches all such things perish with time and ‘the soul that sinneth it shall die’.
The sad truth is that to this day the major Christian denominations, Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed are Platonic in thought. They are also Amillennial, denying the truth of both the Lord’s 1,000-year reign upon earth and the Day of Christ (in which He will indeed judge the world) which precedes it. Instead they take a cudgel to Acts 17-29-30 to make it teach there will be one ‘last judgement’ at which Christ will consign people either to a hell of ‘eternal torment’ or to heaven.
However, Paul’s Mars Hill pronouncement says nothing about any individual’s eternal destiny or a ‘last judgement’ at all. What it does say is that God will judge the world in righteousness. That is He will put right what is wrong with, ‘this present evil world’ (Gal. 1:4), the course of which is currently determined by the devil, ‘the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience’ (Eph. 2:2). And, as the one time New Zealand appliance dealer L.V. Martin used to say, it’s the ‘putting right that counts’. Certainly such rectification counted with the Apostle Paul. He described God’s promised day of it as the Christian’s ‘blessed hope’ (Titus 2:13). Christendom, however, as we have seen, prefers the myth of a ‘Last Judgement’ in which God resurrects every person and despatches them either to heaven or hell. Against that, Paul’s Mars’ Hill proclamation declares God will judge the world - not individuals - ‘in righteousness’; that is He will correct both our bad behaviour and restore our habitat, the earth, to its original created glory.
A radical correction
Furthermore, God will radically correct the world as a system. His Government and his justice will take over. It will be blessing and reward, rather than punishment. Furthermore it will not be a judgement unto punishment, rather, it will be a setting right of all that is wrong. That is why it is described as a ‘judgement in righteousness’. Stripped of the myths and lies religion has told about Him, our ‘great God and Saviour Jesus Christ’ is a fair God. As the Psalmist foretold: ‘With righteousness shall He judge the world and the people with equity’ (Psalm 98:9). Today in many cases neither governments, the police nor courts can deliver true justice. But God can and will. Believers should take to heart Psalm 67:4:
O let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for Thou shalt judge the people righteously and govern the nations upon earth.
It may be asked: Does God have a right to judge the world? The answer has to be a resounding ‘yes’. After all, He not only created the earth and every living form it contains, He also gave man the right to govern himself (Genesis 9:1-7). Sadly in the outcome mankind turned from God and gave the devil control of his social system and habitat. Now, after more than 4,000 years of watching man misgovern himself by heeding Satan rather than God, the Lord will render his verdict on our efforts and He will do so in a stunning display of his love, mercy and grace.
Indeed He will so fully reveal his glory that every person on earth will know Him, hear Him and be caused to believe Him. As said elsewhere in these studies, the word ‘appearing’ (2 Timothy 4:1, Titus 2:13) is far too weak to correctly translate epiphanea, which means the full unveiling or revelation of Jesus Christ as the God of all power and might, who has been given the right to rule the nations because of his death for our sin and subsequent resurrection (Romans 1:4). Thus when Christ blazes forth his glory as the ‘man made God’ through his death and resurrection and asserts his right to rule all on earth, then the hearts of men and women will be changed to love Him. Millions worldwide will be instantly converted, for ‘all will see Him,’ as the great God and Saviour He truly is. As Col. 3:4 declares: ‘When Christ who is our life shall appear (i.e. blaze forth), then shall ye also appear with Him in glory’.
In the Day of Christ, the Day of righteous judgement, the world will see a great light. Psalm 77:18 says that when God’s thunder is heard in heaven ‘his lightnings lightened (or enlightened) the world; the earth trembled and shook’. As Jesus Himself said (Luke 17:24): ‘For as the lightning that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven shineth unto the other part under heaven, so shall the Son of Man be in his day’. It should go without saying that the ‘lightning’ here is Christ enlightening the world; it is not just the lightning of a thunderstorm.
To be continued