NEGATIVE JUDGMENT AND THE BELIEVER
[Joseph C. Dillow, 'The Reign of the Servant Kings', 1992, Schoettle Publishing, Miami Springs, Fl, pp. 390-1]:
"The Bible makes it clear that God has judicially removed sin from the believer and has done it completely.
[Compare Isa 44:22]:
"I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins"
[Compare Ps 103:12]:
"As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us"
[Compare Micah 7:19]:
"Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea"
[Compare Heb 8:12]:
"For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."
With regard to sin, Scripture affirms that the child of God under grace shall not come under judgment (Jn 3:18; 5:24). Our sin, past, present, and future, has been born by a perfect Substitute, and we are therefore forever placed beyond condemnation (Col 2:10), accepted as perfect in Christ (1 Cor 1:30; Eph 1:6; Col 2:10; Heb 10:14), and loved as Christ is loved (Jn 17:23).
The perplexing thing is that the Scriptures affirm in many other passages that God does judge us when we become carnal and does remember our sin. Consider:
"Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me."
[Compare 1 Jn 1:9]:
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us these sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
If the Christian does not confess, he is not forgiven. This certainly appears to be a penalty for willful sin.
[Compare Jn 15:10]:
"If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love"
If the Christian refuses to obey, he will apparently no longer remain in Christ's love. This is true even though Paul has declared elsewhere...
(v. 38) "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
(v. 39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth."
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done."
Apparently, true Christians, due to their sin, can 'have no part' with Christ, can be unforgiven, and can be outside of His love. Scores of other passages can be cited. We are also told that we will reap what we sow. We have been warned that there is no sacrificial protection from judgment in time (Heb 10:26) for willful sin. Paul tells us that at the judgment seat of Christ we will be rewarded for both the good and the bad things we have done....
[Compare 2 Cor 5:10]:
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."
For the persistently carnal Christian a dreadful experience awaits him at the last day. He will suffer the loss of everything but will be saved as through fire [notice the phrase 'suffer loss']:
(v. 12) "If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,
(v. 13) his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.
(v. 14) If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.
(v. 15) If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames."
In addition, we have Christ's stern warning to the wicked servant that he would be cast into the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. The foolish virgins are excluded from the wedding banquet, and the man without the proper attire for the banquet was cast into the darkness outside. The exegetical data in these passages argues well for the regenerate state of the individuals undergoing these punishments. We cannot say they are unregenerate just because our theological system teaches that these punishments could not come upon the regenerate. That is the point in question...
There are three negative consequences for the consistently carnal Christian at the judgment seat of Christ. First, for some there will be a stinging rebuke. This is the meaning of the Lord's warning that some will be "cut in pieces" (Mt 25:26). Second, such unfaithful Christians face millennial disinheritance. When the Lord declares that He will 'deny' those who are ashamed of Him and when Paul says, 'If we deny Him, He will deny us,' disinheritance is in view. A father may disinherit his son, but that son remains his son. To be disinherited is simply to forfeit our share in the future reign of the servant kings. And finally, the carnal Christian faces exclusion from the joy of the wedding banquet, 'Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' (Mt 22:12)....
[Negative] judgment [comes upon] those Christians who persist in wilful, unconfessed sin...
In proof of this assertion we might point to (1) the explicit scriptural statement of this point (Heb 10:26) and (2) the numerous biblical illustrations where God does seem to punish justified saints, e.g., Ananias and Sapphira, the sickness that came upon drunk believers at the Lord's table in 1 Cor 11, or the punishment David received for his adultery and murder. Peter tells us that judgment must begin with the family of God (1 Pet 4:17). And the writer to the Hebrews says the Lord will judge His people (Heb 10:30). When Adam sinned, the penalty was physical and spiritual death (Rom 5:12-14). The Lord made it clear that we cannot be counted as His friend unless we obey Him (Jn 15:14). Failure to respond to discipline can result in a believer being condemned with the world (1 Cor 11:32-33). These judgments can include sickness and death. It is difficult to remove the notion of judgment and penalty from the stern exhortation of the writer to the Hebrews, 'And He punishes everyone he accepts as a son' (Heb 12:6). Hymenaeus and Alexander are punished and turned over to Satan (1 Tim 1:20). Throughout the Old Testament there are numerous judgments which come upon the people of God. Moses warns of many curses which will come upon the disobedient (Dt 28:9-26). Saul was punished by God by being rejected as the king (1 Sam 15:23). God punishes Solomon by taking the kingdom from him and raising up many adversaries (1 Ki 11:11). King Uzziah was punished by God with leprosy (2 Chr 26:20). These inflictions are clearly penal in nature even though Christ is the propitiation for all sin and the justice of God has been satisfied!...
The judgment of physical death is a penal judgment upon sin (Rom 5:12-14). If all believers are exempt from any kind of condemnation without exception, then why do all believers undergo the penal judgment of physical death (Rom 5:14-18)?... No where in Scripture does it say that the penal element is removed from physical death.
If God can bring condemnation upon believers in time as these illustrations prove, there is no necessary reason to believe He cannot condemn believers at the judgment seat of Christ. Indeed, there seem to be numerous Scriptures which indicate that this is the case. The wicked servant was warned that every man will be judged according to deeds.. It must also be remembered that the central passage on the judgment seat of Christ is set in a legal context. The judgment seat referred to was a raised platform in the middle of the city where judgments were passed and penalties announced. Paul tells us that we will all stand before God's judgment seat (Rom 14:10) where we must all give an account. Even describing the negative judgment as 'loss of reward' is only a circumcision for penalty. A loss of reward is one kind of penalty! The man in the parable of the talents who buried his money will lose what he has and will be cast into the darkness outside. The foolish virgins will hear the terrifying words, 'I do not know you.'. . The condemnation, however, has nothing to do with the believer's eternal salvation. The atonement has forever settled that issue.
The difficulty is obvious. If Christ is truly the satisfaction for sin and has therefore satisfied the justice of God, why then do believers still have to satisfy that justice by undergoing more penalties?
THE INTENT OF THE ATONEMENT
The atonement of Christ is either a satisfaction for the sins of some men (limited atonement) or a satisfaction for the sins of all men without exception. It cannot be the former because the Scriptures say it was a satisfaction for the whole world (1 Jn 2:2).
The atonement must therefore be a satisfaction for the sins of all men without exception.
Now this satisfaction for all must be either provisional... or actual. If it is provisional, then the passages which say it is a satisfaction and redemption and reconciliation must be qualified to mean it is provisionally a satisfaction. This seems to be adding words to the text to help explain a theological difficulty.
It is simpler to say it is an actual satisfaction, redemption, and reconciliation for all men without exception. Granting this, we must then ask, 'In what respect is it a satisfaction?' It is either a satisfaction for sin in all respects or a satisfaction for sin in some limited respect. It cannot be a satisfaction in all respects because then all men would be saved. If the claims of justice have truly been satisfied in all respects, then no man should have to satisfy those claims himself by suffering the penalty of hell. But men do go to hell. Therefore, the atonement must be a satisfaction for sin in a special sense.
What then was the atonement intended to accomplish? The intent of the atonement is not to completely satisfy the claims of justice in all respects or to save all men. Rather, the intent of the atonement is to completely satisfy the justice of God in a limited and specific sense. The atonement has freed God to unconditionally accept those who believe [unto eternal life].
Specific support for this view is surprisingly obvious. When we are told that God has reconciled the world to Himself and that he no longer counts their trespass against them (2 Cor 5:10), we are also told that not all men go to heaven. When we are told that Christ's death is a propitiation for the sins of the world (1 Jn 2:2), we are reminded that those who do not believe on Him are condemned (Jn 3:18). How can God's justice be satisfied and the world be reconciled and men still go to hell? Either the term 'world' refers only to the 'world of the elect' or the reconciliation, satisfaction, and redemption of Christ have a more limited intent. To limit the term world to 'world of the elect' seems a bit contrived [especially when considering other verses such as Jn 3:16 which renders this concept absurd]. But a limitation on the atonement is clearly taught in the Bible. We are told, for example, that false teachers, who have denied the Lord, were nevertheless redeemed by Him (2 Pet 2:1). It is therefore clear that the redemption of Christ does not automatically cover the sin of the unsaved. What then is the atonement intended to do? Its purpose, says Paul, is that God might 'be just and the one who justifies the man who has faith in Jesus' (Rom 3:26). In other words, the death of Christ freed God to confer justification upon those who believe...
The satisfaction of Christ does not obligate God to cancel our whole indebtedness... Rather, His acceptance of Christ's death as a legal satisfaction 'was, on His part, an act of pure grace; and therefore the acceptance acquits us just so far as, and no farther than God is pleased to allow it.' The man who does not believe is condemned to hell because God apparently did not extend the atonement to be a satisfaction as far as condemnation to hell. Rather, it was designed to satisfy the justice of God in the sense of freeing Him to unconditionally accept those who believe. When a man does believe, he is not only unconditionally accepted by the Father, but the benefits of the atonement are extended in his case to protect him from hell. This extension occurs through the free gift of justification, acquittal at the divine bar of justice...
All of this means that the only thing standing between the unsaved and entrance to heaven is faith in Jesus Christ. Their sin is not a hindrance to entrance, only their unbelief in Christ. Jesus taught this explicitly when He said:
"He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
The only reason men are excluded from heaven is unbelief in Christ. This is true because two things are required for entrance into heaven: (1) a satisfaction for sin and (2) the gift of righteousness and a new nature. The former has been provided for all men without exception (in a limited respect), but the latter is available only to those who believe. A failure to believe excludes one from the gift of righteousness and justification. He is therefore not acquitted at the heavenly bar of justice and is condemned for his sins. However, when he is condemned, he is not paying a penalty for sins for which Christ already paid. Christ's atonement only paid the penalty for sin in a limited and specific sense: removal of the bars to heaven. It was an actual provision and propitiation in this sense. It was, however, a provisional propitiation whose benefits could be extended to cover the penalty of hell for those who believed. We argue then that the atonement was both actual, as the adherents of limited atonement argue, and provisional as the advocates of unlimited redemption maintain.
TWO KINDS OF RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
The understanding of the intent of the atonement explained above clarifies how God can punish believers for sins when Christ is the satisfaction for sin. The answer is that Christ's atonement was not intended to cover the sins of believers for sins within the family of God. It only renders God free to accept unconditionally into His family those who believe. Like all children we enjoy two kinds of relationships with our father. We are forever safe and secure in His family, but our fellowship with our Father can vary depending upon our behavior. With God our eternal relationship is secure and unchanging because it depends upon Him; it was secured by the atonement. But our temporal fellowship is variable because it depends upon us. We must confess our sins and walk daily in the light of His Word.
Imagine, for example, that you are a teacher in a classroom. Your son is one of the students in your English class. One day you catch him cheating on the final examination. Will he not pay penalties? Is he not still your son? Or suppose you are the owner of a small business. Your son is employed at the cash register. One day you catch him stealing money out of the cash register. The fact that he has stolen money in no way affects the fact that he is your son. It does, however, mean that, even though he is your son, he will pay penalties for his crime.
True sons of God can likewise pay penalties. The intent of the atonement was obviously not to remove all penalty from the life of the Christian. The atonement was intended by God to free Him so that He can confer unconditional acceptance upon those who believe.
The Partaker's solution to this problem of judgment on the believer is to recognize that we have two kinds of relationship with God: eternal and temporal. Consider the example of David. As a result of David's adultery and murder, Nathan the prophet rebukes him and announces judgment. Then he says, 'The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die' (2 Sam 12:13). David's eternal relationship with God is forever safe and secure. But Nathan also says that David's son will be taken by death and that David's house will experience terrible trouble (12:10-12). It is evident that this is a penalty, a punishment, even though the propitiation of Christ has satisfied the Father's justice and David has been removed from all condemnation. The text suggests two relationships with God: eternal and temporal. In regard to His eternal relationship He is without condemnation, but in regard to this temporal fellowship He can come under condemnation.
The fact that Christ has paid the penalty for the believer's sin, forensically, forever, in no way implies that He automatically grants forgiveness for fellowship within the family irrespective of our behavior. We say 'forgiveness for fellowship within the family' because, as discussed elsewhere, the Bible speaks of two kinds of forgiveness: eternal and temporal. The sacrifice of Christ gives sacrificial protection from the former on the basis of faith and hte permanent gift of regeneration and justification. But it does not give sacrificial protection to unconfessed temporal sin subsequent to our justification. Our eternal forgiveness depends upon Him, but our temporal fellowship depends upon us.
Unconfessed sin relates not to forensic forgiveness but to familial forgivenes. Any sin is a barrier to fellowship but does not endanger our eternal relationship. 'Daily forgiveness of those who are within the family of God is distinguished from the judicial and positional forgiveness which was applied forensically to all of a person's sins the moment he believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.' Forensic forgiveness is the subject of Col 2:13, but familial forgiveness is in view in 1 Jn 1:9.
Thus, in Jn 5:24 when we are assured that we will not come into judgment and yet in 2 Cor 5:10 we do, the resolution is that John is referring to judgment with respect to one's eternal destiny and Paul is referring to the wages for work. John speaks of forensic justification, and Paul refers to familial forgiveness. John speaks of our rewards and punishments within the family of God. The satisfaction of Christ unconditionally and irrevocably covers the former but only provisionally covers the latter. We must confess daily to obtain the benefits of having the atonement extended to forgive sin within the family of God.
In summary, we may observe that sin has three powers over us: the power to bar us from heaven and send us to hell, the power to enslave, and the power to excluded us from vital fellowship and friendship with Christ. Through the atonement God dealt with all three powers. Through propitiation the barriers to heaven were removed for all men. God's justice has been satisfied. God is legally free to confer unconditional acceptance upon those who believe. Through redemption God has purchased us out of slavery to sin. Through reconciliation we are restored to friendship. Yet even though God is now free to confer acceptance, we must appropriate it by faith. Similarly, we appropriate the benefits of redemption from sin by reckoning that we are truly free from sin (Rom 6:11). We appropriate the benefits of reconciliation by walking in the light, confessing our sin so as to remain in constant fellowship (1 Jn 1:9). The following chart summarizes these various aspects of the atonement:
|PROPITIATION||To free God to accept those who believe||Believe|
|REDEMPTION||To purchase us out of the slave market of sin||Reckon|
|RECONCILIATION||To establish friendship between former enemies||Confess|
But it is asked, 'What is the purpose of such a negative judgment against the believer at the judgment seat of Christ?' The final chapter has been written, so why punish him? Throughout Scripture God uses warnings of negative consequences in the future to motivate us toward sanctification in time. Why must God punish him? For two reasons: (1) He warned him, and He must honor his Word, and (2) justice requires that sin be punished. Using this objection, one might as well say that there is no purpose in punishing the nonbeliever either. We reap what we sow. So God must punish the carnal Christian, or He is not just and fair.
It is also asked, 'How can a negative judgment come upon a completed and perfected saint?' The assumption behind this question is that, since no condemnation can come upon a believer, all indications of condemnation are in reality 'discipline' and the intent is correction rather than punishment. What purpose would there be for correction in a completed and perfected saint?
We reply that (1) penalties and judgments do come upon saints in time as argued above; (2) the Scripture teach that such judgments can come upon perfected saints at the judgment seat, their purpose being punitive not corrective; and finally (3) they came upon the 'perfect' angels who sinned and upon Adam who was without sin. Apparently, just being perfect and sinless does not exempt us from judgment.
Will God judge us for sins we have confessed? The answer is yes. However, this judgment would only be loss of reward and not rebuke or disinheritance. We must remember that Scripture speaks in a threefold sense of the judgment of believers. Eric Sauer points out that we are judged as sinners, children, and servants. As sinners we were judged at the cross. There the sentence of damnation was fully executed upon our Substitute. As children we are judged in the present. It is a penalty (1 Cor 11:32), but its purpose is to advance our sanctification (Heb 12:10). Finally, we are judged as servants in the future at the judgment seat of Christ. Here believers can 'suffer damage,'
A believer who sins an extended period of time and then confesses cannot expect to receive the same reward as one who lives a godly life. While the sins are forgiven, the rewards that could have been obtained are lost. What about the man who lives a carnal life for years and then on his deathbed sincerely decides to confess his sin. Will this man be punished? The answer is yes. Once he confesses, he is forgiven, but he will still be held accountable as a servant. Indeed, when he wakes up in heaven, in the full power of his glorified body, no restraint from sin will be felt. Any failure in the past will be instantly repented of, and he will enter the kingdom in complete fellowship with the Savior. However, he will suffer loss at the judgment seat of Christ. Here he is judged, not as a sinner or a child but as a servant. His reward will be minimal. His loss will be great.
We must remember in all these kinds of questions that God knows everything in our hearts and always deals fairly and with respect to respect to our deepest motivations. In addition, the parables of the vineyard workers should remind us that God does not dispense His blessing on the basis of legal merit and that He can, and does, bring blessing and reward to those who have been in the battle for fewer years than others.
We may say four things about the negative consequences which come upon the believer at the judgment seat of Christ.
First, God's love and acceptance of the sinning Christian is not affected in terms of the Christian's eternal relationship to God and permanent membership in His family. We are forever perfectly accepted in Christ and perfectly loved. However, God does not approve of our sins, and we can lose our fellowship in time and our share in the great future in the kingdom if we persist in them.
Second, the negative consequences for believers at the judgment seat of Christ may be viewed as the final chastisement which the Lord has ordained for His people. The fact that some of the punishments are experienced in eternity rather than in time enhances their value for sanctifying us now. The anticipation of negative chastisements serves to keep us humble, to pursue faithful lives, and to live spiritually in the present. While they are a punishment for an unfaithful life, their main purpose is to effect sanctification now.
It is sometimes asked, 'How can future chastisement have any motivational influence upon our lives now?' We answer that throughout Scripture God has used warnings about the future to promote the sanctification of His people in time. He has deemed the warnings of these judgments necessary for motivating the indolent and carnal. As their meaningless lives progress, the force of these warnings has more and more impact on them. Having warned them, He must of course carry out the chastisement. For those disciples who feel no motivation toward godliness when faced with these warnings, we would say that the warnings are not addressed tot he faithful Christian who is persevering. They are addressed to the Christian who is not persevering, who is carnal. Perhaps for that Christian these warnings will have the more pertinent impact. At any rate, for many the sobering reality of final accountability in this matter serves as a goad to perseverance and a barrier to backsliding.
Third, this view of the judgment seat should not lead to introspection. For most of us our inner life is confusing and full of mixed motives. How can we have any confidence to stand before Christ is we know that every word will be recalled and every deed evaluated? We can all identify with the apostle Paul when he said, 'For I know that in me... nothing good dwells.' This being true, the expectation of being punished for our sin can be a frightening and disheartening prospect. How can we quiet the claims of conscience? For the Christian who is walking in the light, even though he fails repeatedly, he has no need for concern. While even persevering disciples will have regrets and loss at the judgment seat, their predominant sense will be of joy and gratitude.
The apostle John says that a condemning heart can be silenced only by resting in the fact of God's omniscience:
[1 Jn 3:19-20]:
(v. 19) '''This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence
(v. 20) Whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything." '''
Specifically, John counsels us to love other Christians. He says that, if we are demonstrating practical love (v. 18), then we can know that we are practicing the truth (v. 19) even if we do not do it perfectly. Indeed, Peter has assured us that our love for us will do no less. This in turn should give us confidence that God approves our practical Christianity. With this we can face the future judgment with anticipation and joy.
At this point Experimental Predestinarians object that the Partaker system of motivation leads to as much unhealthy introspection as theirs. However, unhealthy introspection is generally problematic only for unusually introspective people. No matter how the doctrine is presented, these sensitive souls will likely to be troubled. It is, however, astounding that Experimental Predestinarians can equate the introspection of the Partakers with that of their own system. The believer caught up in the doctrine of the Experimental Predestinarians is continually worried about his eternal damnation! Surely this [is] a wretched perversion of the grace and assurance offered in Scripture. It is one thing to be introspective regarding our eternal salvation. It is entirely another to be introspective regarding our rewards or the loss thereof.
Finally, God's motive in these future chastisements is merciful and loving. It is His desire that all His children enjoy the fullness of co-heirship with His Son in the final destiny of man. He knows more than anyone how grieved we will be to miss out on the reign of Christ's metochoi in the coming kingdom. He, more than anyone, wants us to have the richest possible experience of heaven. He is not to be viewed as angrily, sternly, rejecting His child as He casts him to the darkness outside. Rather, Jesus weeps with pain that His children must be excluded from the joy of the great future. We are specifically told that 'the Lord disciplines those whom he loves' (Heb 12:4). Another illustration is found in Christ's grief over Jerusalem. As He approached the city at the beginning of the last week of His life, He weeps in anticipation of the terrible judgment which will befall its people in A.D. 70:
(v. 41) '''As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it (v. 42) and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes.
(v. 43) The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side." '''
(v. 37) "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
(v. 38) Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.' "
We must never view God as cold and uncaring when He carries out these chastisements. The Father's heart weeps with the full knowledge of what His child is about to undergo and to forfeit. Furthermore, we must remember that the duration of this chastisement is momentary and the subsequent remorse does not last into eternity. We are told that Christ will wipe away every tear. When we arrive in eternity future, everyone's cup will be full, but the cups will be of different sizes.'''