33: Judgments & the New Testament (1)
The Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles
Judgments in the Gospels
Judgments in the Acts
Judgments in the Epistles
so we arrive at the New Testament and need to remind ourselves that
we have said a judgement of God is a decision of God to act in a way
that brings either discipline and change, or termination of life.
of its unusual prophetic and visionary nature we are going to give
over the book of Revelation to a separate chapter.
In what follows we will divide the remainder of the New Testament
the Gospels in which there are NO judgments as
such , but we will consider three incidents that occur,
the Acts of the Apostles where three ‘judgments'
are discernable, and
the Epistles or letters in which we will observe
three things pertaining to judgments.
addition to these, we will also go on to consider in the next chapter
the whole matter of the death of Jesus Christ which is in reality
a judgment of God (upon Himself).
Judgments in the Gospels
we note three times when the subject of judgments occur.
The Fig Tree
11:13,14, 20,21 Seeing
in the distance a fig tree in leaf , he went to find out if
it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves
, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the
tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his
disciples heard him say it….. In the morning, as they went along,
they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and
said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"
trees around Jerusalem normally begin to get leaves in March
or April but do not produce figs until their leaves are all out in
June. This tree was an exception in that it was already, at Passover
time (April), full of leaves.
suggestion is usually made that the fig-tree represented Israel and
therefore this is a parable of judgment on Israel , (see Hos 9:10;
that is so then the fact that this fig tree has leaves suggests that
Israel tried to look good but the reality was that it was not producing
fruit as the people of God, which it should have been doing. i.e.
it is clear from Jesus' ministry that he expected the religious establishment
to be producing fruit of God but it was clearly not. They dressed
in their finery and appeared all powerful but were not. The ‘leaves'
were there but the fruit was not!
fact that there were so many demoniacs coming to Jesus for deliverance
suggests a poor spiritual and moral state of Israel when Jesus came.
When Jesus went into a synagogue and found a demon possessed man there
(see Mk 1:21-28) it seems obvious that this demon was regularly there
in this man, entirely at ease in the presence of all these other religious
people. It was only when Jesus came that he was disturbed, and then
would seem a warning of a coming judgment on a nation that should
have born the fruit of righteousness, coming out of a living relationship
with God, but didn't.
left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to
him to call his attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these
things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone
here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."
obviously this was a warning of a coming judgment. No reason for the
judgment is given but it was f ulfilled
literally in A.D. 70, when the Romans under Titus completely destroyed
Jerusalem and the temple buildings. Stones were even pried apart to
collect the gold leaf that melted from the roof when the temple was
set on fire.
examination of Jesus' ministry and his words of challenge to the religious
authorities indicate the spiritual lack in Israel at that time (see
suggest that the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 together with
the destruction of the temple and the dispersion of the Jews may be
in keeping with their rejection of their Messiah in the form of Jesus.
This would be very much in line with the destruction nearly five hundred
years before and the subsequent exile. (which we considered in earlier
when you see standing in the holy place `the abomination that causes
desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel--let the reader
understand-- then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of
the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful
it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray
that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.
For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning
of the world until now--and never to be equaled again. If those days
had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of
the elect those days will be shortened.
refers to a prophecy from Daniel that speaks of a future desolation
that involves some ‘abomination' (in God's eyes, maybe not in the
eyes of some in the world) set up in the Temple in Jerusalem , or
maybe where the Temple used to be.
suggest the primary reference in Daniel
was to 168 B.C., when Antiochus Epiphanes erected a pagan altar to
Zeus on the sacred altar in the temple of Jerusalem , but the warnings
Jesus gave were to the future.
suggest there were still two more stages in the progressive fulfillment
of the prophecies spoken by Daniel and Jesus: first, the Roman destruction
of the temple in A.D. 70 and then, second, the setting up of an image
of the antichrist in Jerusalem in the End Times (see 2 Thess 2:4;
and whenever this happens it is clearly a judgment on Jerusalem .
fact is that Jerusalem fell in A.D.70 and the temple was destroyed
and has never been rebuilt, and the people were sent into exile across
the world until the middle of the twentieth century.
Judgments in Acts:
we find ourselves facing some literal judgments on specific individuals
and so we need to the see the facts of the accounts and then consider
hat they mean. There are three in this book.
Facts: Acts 5:1-11
man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of
his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself,
but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet .(2)
Peter challenged him: “you have lied
to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you
received for the land? (v.3)…. You
have not lied to men but to God." (v.4)
Ananias heard this, he fell down and died
same thing happened when his wife came in some hours later (v.7,8)
said to her, "….The feet of the men who buried your husband are
at the door, and they will carry you out also." (
At that moment she fell down at his
feet and died.” (v.10)
“Great fear seized the whole church
and all who heard about these events.” (v.11)
There appear to be times in Church history when
there seems to be a higher level of accountability required, e.g.
during times of revival when God's presence has been so evident that
when people do blatantly sin it is almost an enemy challenge that
cannot be left to go unanswered. This was one of those times.
The power and the presence of God was so obvious
in those early days of the life of the church that the accountability
bar was raised.
Whether Ananias had a ‘natural' heart attack
or it was God-induced, we will never know.
Similarly whether Peter simply has a word of
knowledge over Sapphira or he released the power of God to take her
life, will similarly remain unknown for fact.
Twice in the account of what happened
to them, the fact of great fear coming on the church is mentioned.
The outcome was a church (and surrounding world) that truly knew the
genuine ‘fear of the Lord' which suggests that they at least were
sure these things had been brought by the Lord as judgment.
We would consider that there is no suggestion
that this couple lost their eternal inheritance. If it is the Lord,
they are being disciplined for the sake of the Church and the onlooking
facts: Acts 12:21-23
wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public
address to the people . (v.21)
shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man."
because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck
him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.
The above comments about accountability should
also apply here.
We can only assume the truth of the record that
somehow the early church recounting this to Luke the writer, were
sure this is what had happened.
The only question that really arises is
why God does not deal with far more people in a like manner when they
are clearly killing off innocent Christians (as has happened throughout
the following two thousand years of Church history, right through
to the present day).
Facts: Acts 13:7-11
proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because
he wanted to hear the word of God.
Elymas the sorcerer opposed them
and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. (v.8)
Saul …filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said,
"You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that
is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you
never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of
the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time
you will be unable to see the light of the sun ."
mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone
to lead him by the hand. (v.11b)
The words “for a time” indicate that this was
a short, sharp disciplinary lesson that the Lord brought as He inspired
the apostle Paul and thus boosted his credibility.
Nevertheless it is a disciplinary judgment to
impact the church with the reality of the presence of God through
Judgments in the Epistles
Corinthians 11 - the Church at Corinth
would not expect the epistles of Paul, or any of the other apostles
who wrote letters for that matter, to reveal judgments of God but
in fact that is exactly what is there in 1 Cor 11 when Paul was speaking
about communion or the Lord's Supper, depending on what we call it.
Cor 11:28-32 A
man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks
of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the
body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why
many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have
fallen asleep . But if we judged ourselves, we would not
come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being
disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
Cor 11:20-22 When
you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you
eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One
remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don't you have homes to eat and
drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those
who have nothing?
Paul's language clearly implies that people being
ill and dying in the church in Corinth was judgment from God.
The words above about accountability should
apply here also for here was a church where the power and presence
of God was markedly present and the people there should have known
Instead they were casual, insensitive and self-centred
in the way they participated in the Lord's Supper.
This meant they came out from under the protective
blessing of the Lord that is normally over His church and therefore
became vulnerable to illness and some of them then died.
It is worth noting, as we did earlier in the
book, that the people had not taken in what was going on and it needed
the apostle to point it out to them.
Sinning Brother at Corinth
away earlier in 1 Corinthians is a brief reference to something that
can only be called a judgment. However it is to be a judgment imposed
by the church:
Cor 5:1 It
is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and
of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's
The judgment the church ought to be bringing
Cor 5:2-6 And
you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and
have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though
I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already
passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present.
When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with
you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand
this man over to Satan , so that the sinful nature may be
destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord
This is what in the modern church might be called
ex-communication, putting a person out of the church.
The idea is that out of the church he does not
have the spiritual protection of the church and thus becomes more
vulnerable to the attacks of Satan who is likely to come against him
and bring him down and humble him so that he repents and can be restored.
See also 2 Cor 2:5-11 about restoring
him when he clearly had repented.
Judgment Warnings of Hebrews & Jude
they are not actual judgments, we find that warnings about judgments
observed in the Old Testament are sometimes used in the New Testament
as warnings against present sins. We note the warning first in Hebrews
then the one in Jude:
as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not
harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of
testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and
for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that
generation, and I said, `Their hearts are always going astray, and
they have not known my ways.' So I declared on oath in my anger,
shall never enter my rest.'
warning is from the past against hard heartedness, quoted from Psa
is using the judgment of the past as a warning for the present.
to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart
that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily,
as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened
by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold
firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
is the warning applied into the present
is expanded in the following Heb 3:15-19
similar set of 5 warnings here, all referring back to failures and
judgments found in the Old Testament.
you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered
his people out of Egypt , but later destroyed those who did not believe.
first warning – against unbelief
using the example of Israel in the Exodus
the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned
their own home--these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting
chains for judgment on the great Day.
second warning – against rebellion ,
using the example of angels
a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves
up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of
those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire .(v.7)
third warning, against sexual perversion
, using the example of Sodom and Gomorrah
the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject
authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael,
when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did
not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The
Lord rebuke you!" Yet these men speak abusively against whatever
they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct,
like unreasoning animals--these are the very things that destroy them.
fourth warning – against rejecting authority
and demeaning Satan's power
to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit
into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion.
fifth warning is a collective – against selfishness,
greed and violence (Cain), against greed
(Balaam), and against rebellious attitudes (Korah)
we point out that these are not actual judgments but warnings against
possible judgments, aligning the present possibility of sinning with
sins in the Old Testament period that did incur the judgment of God.
this chapter we have sought to pursue our subject into the New Testament
and have briefly examined the Gospels, Acts and the Epistles.
respect of the Gospels we noted three times when
the subject of judgments occur: in respect of the fig tree that Jesus
cursed, his warnings about the Temple, and his more general warning
about what would happen in the future as later seen in AD70.
respect of judgments in Acts , we looked at what
happened to Ananias and Sapphira and then later to what happened to
Herod and then Elymas.
the Epistles we noted what had been going on as
recorded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 in respect of the church at Corinth,
then considered his way of dealing with the sinning brother in Corinth
and we concluded by considering the general judgment warnings found
in Hebrews & Jude.
the Gospels and the epistles, most of the material refers to warnings
about possible future judgment, although in 1 Corinthians we see examples
of a series of terminal judgments and also a disciplinary judgment.
Acts, not surprisingly in a book about action, we noted three terminal
judgments ( Ananias and Sapphira) and
then later to what happened to Herod and
one disciplinary judgment (Elymas).
the judgments on Ananias and Sapphira
and those dying in the Corinthian church we need to face the fact
that these ‘terminal judgments' were examples of God taking His children
home, i.e. we have been seeing Christians subject to God's ‘terminal
activity'. The major difference between them and the death of Herod
is that we may fairly assume they went to be with the Lord in heaven
and Herod did not!
activity in the New Testament has been to provide a fairly general
survey while, to use a modern expression, ignoring the ‘elephant in
the room'. I refer, of course, to the judgment of the Son of God on
the Cross at Calvary and that will be the topic of the next chapter.
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