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The Christadelphian | January 2012

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Waiting
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning “Today” | Sam Alexander
  • “Sing forth the honour of His Name” Ten years of worship from the 2002 hymn book | John Botten
  • Confidence at the judgement | Paul Cresswell
  • The message to the seven churches 1 – Introduction | James Andrews
  • “Unto us a child is born …” 3 –The visit of the shepherds | John M. Hellawell
  • The heart and holiness of God 1 – Setting the scene | Andrew E. Walker
  • Questions Jesus asks “Wilt thou be made whole?” | Paul Aston
  • Signs of the times A world in terminal decline | John Morris
  • Israel and their land Differences over Iran
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

Confidence at the judgement

THERE is a distinct note of confidence for the future in many Bible passages. For example, David, despite his sin, was able to write: “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD … Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee” (Psalm 122:1,6). Our Lord advised that we pray, “Thy kingdom come”, but do we really want it to come, knowing that we must first stand before the “great white throne” in judgement (Revelation 20:11-15)?

When I was a young brother I well remember an older sister saying, “I don’t fear judgement; I know that I’ll be in the kingdom”. I was astonished. How could she possibly know? She replied, “Because I’m not going in my own righteousness but in the righteousness of Jesus Christ”. It was a point I couldn’t argue with, although I didn’t feel confident like that myself.

To come to the present, Christadelphians are sometimes mocked by those in the churches around us for not only not knowing whether we shall be in the kingdom, but for being fearful, terrified even, of the Lord’s coming in judgement. Is this true?

Do we fear the judgement?

I had always dismissed the idea until recently, when, to my consternation, I found that there are old brethren and sisters who are frightened of what the Lord’s coming may mean for them. This fear, I hope, is localized rather than general in the brotherhood because it shows a misplaced emphasis in teaching on this matter.

The Apostle John wrote:

“Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness (confidence) in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love … Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 4:17,18; 5:5)

On the other hand Paul wrote: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:10,11). Here, Paul, knowing the solemn fear of the Lord, persuaded men through his preaching so that we may have the forgiveness of sins by baptism into the name of Jesus Christ. Once we have been baptized, our fear is not a fear of God, but a fear of offending Him whom we love. He becomes our Father and “like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him” (see Psalm 103:12,13).

What is the judgement seat for? For the vindication of the righteous! As it is written: “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee” (Revelation 3:9). To these our Lord will say:

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord … Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me … And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:21,34-36,40)

Notice that in these passages there is no mention of a judicial enquiry into the sins of the righteous. It is not what we have done wrong but what we have done right that is recalled. The judgement seat is not to crush and humiliate us, after which the Lord will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”. It is not a minute examination of our lives as it was lived hour by hour; sins forgiven are not remembered. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” Consequently all faithful men in scripture looked forward to judgement. Yes, there will be a judicial examination of the unrighteous so that it is clear to all that their rejection is not due to unfairness or miscarriage of judgement – the judgement will be just, and seen to be so.

Are we saved? – or being saved?

The angel Gabriel said to Mary, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). We do believe this, don’t we?

“Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Romans 9:33; Isaiah 28:16)

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

We seem to have a mindset of trying to justify ourselves by works. It just cannot be done, but our situation is not thereby hopeless:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9)

“… who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (2 Timothy 1:9)

“For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” (Matthew 18:11)

Who will be rejected?

Perhaps we should ask, Who will not be saved? Peter writes:

“But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters … For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Peter 4:15-18)

Here Peter tells us who will be rejected – those who have been baptized but whose lives are ungodly, and sinners who have learned the truth but have not been obedient to it in baptism. Similarly Paul mentions fornication, uncleanness, covetousness:

“Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting (unclean, immoral and suggestive talk is the context), which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (see Ephesians 5:3-7)

These are the ones Peter refers to as “ungodly” who continue in iniquity.

Our Lord said, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23). Jude wrote of some “who turned the grace of our God into lasciviousness (without restraint, indecent) and deny the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude verse 4). Paul writes of those with hard and unrepentant hearts, “contentious, and (who) do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness … But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good” (Romans 2:5-10).

The Apocalypse also has much to say about what leads to rejection before the Judge. We read of the unrepentant, those guilty of the worship of idols and demons, murders, sorceries, fornication, thefts; of the fearful and unbelieving, the abominable and all liars: “For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (see Revelation 9:20,21; 21:8,27; 22:11,15). One would hope that these descriptions do not apply to any of us. It is the removal of such that will make the kingdom enjoyable.

What about sins done in the past?

Baptism absolved us all of that. There will be no recall at the judgement:

“But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live … But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.” (Ezekiel 18:21-24)

“For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” (Galatians 6:8)

Jesus Christ has “made peace through the blood of his cross … and you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Colossians 1:20-22). So we focus not on the mistakes we have made in the past, but on whether today the truth is first in our lives – or just an add on! The greatest example to encourage us is surely the Apostle Paul who taught, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). The same apostle also wrote:

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Is this licence? No, it is not! For Paul continues, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient”. Later he writes, “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (10:31).

Of course, we are not promoting complacency. We need to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”. Brother Thomas wrote:

“If a saint has no righteousness of his own, Jesus Christ will refuse to be righteousness for him at the judgement.” (Anastasis, page 27, 1935 edition)

But we still sin, you say. Yes, we do, though not every minute of every day as is sometimes said. If that were true then we are certainly amongst the ungodly. On the other hand, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Some worry about the phrase, “every idle (useless) word” for which account must be given in the day of judgement. But these words are spoken in the context of the unforgiveable sin when the Lord’s enemies accused him of healing by “Beelzebub the prince of the devils” (Matthew 12:36). And none of us would do that!

Do we really believe in God’s forgiveness?

“He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). And remember, “mercy rejoiceth against judgment”.

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (James 2:13; Hebrews 8:12)

Fear of the coming judgement can blight our lives in Christ. It can stop us looking forward to our Lord’s appearing and praying earnestly for it. How sad when Paul assures us that there is a crown of righteousness unto all those “that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). And there are such examples of God’s mercy in scripture: Adam, David, Manasseh “who filled Jerusalem from one end to the other with innocent blood”, Peter who denied his Lord three times, Paul who persecuted the ecclesia unto imprisonment and death. Above all, there is Israel who failed so often, yet are beloved for the fathers’ sakes and will be gathered into God’s land again.

Signs in the nations indicate that our Lord’s coming is at hand. Do not be fearful: “Look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28). “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (12:32). Let us “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).

Christ came into the world to save us, not to condemn us. He left us a wonderful promise: “He that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22; 24:13). “Who is he that condemneth? Christ that died … who also maketh intercession for us?” (Romans 8:34).

This is the love of God toward us. So let us pray genuinely and fervently, “Thy kingdom come”. Let us draw confidence from Paul’s inspired and inspiring statement:

“Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our hope (RV) without wavering (for he is faithful that promised).” (Hebrews 10:17-23)

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” (Jude verses 24,25)

Paul Cresswell

 

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