"Judgments of a Loving God" - Chapter 33





Chapter 33: Judgments & the New Testament (1)

- The Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles



Chapter 33 Contents

33.1 Introduction

33.2 Judgments in the Gospels

33.3 Judgments in the Acts

33.4 Judgments in the Epistles

33.5 Summary-Recap




33.1 Introduction


And 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.


Because 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 as follows:


- 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.


In 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).



33.2 Judgments in the Gospels


Here we note three times when the subject of judgments occur.


The Fig Tree


Mk 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!"

  • Fig 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.
  • The suggestion is usually made that the fig-tree represented Israel and therefore this is a parable of judgment on Israel , (see Hos 9:10; Na 3:12)
  • If 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!
  • The 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 cast out.
  • This 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.


The Temple


Mt 24:1,2 Jesus 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."

  • Very 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.
  • An examination of Jesus' ministry and his words of challenge to the religious authorities indicate the spiritual lack in Israel at that time (see above).
  • Some 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 chapters)


A General Warning


Mt 24:15-22 "So 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.

  • Jesus 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.
  • Some 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.
  • Some, 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; Rev 13:14-15).
  • Whatever and whenever this happens it is clearly a judgment on Jerusalem .
  • The 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.



33.3 Judgments in Acts:


Here 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.


Ananias and Sapphira


Basic Facts: Acts 5:1-11

A man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property.( v.1)

With 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)

Then 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)

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died (v.5)

The same thing happened when his wife came in some hours later (v.7,8)

Peter said to her, "….The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also." ( v.9)

At that moment she fell down at his feet and died.” (v.10)

Result: “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 world.




Basic facts: Acts 12:21-23

Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people . (v.21)

They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." (v.22)

Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. (v.23)




  •   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).




Basic Facts: Acts 13:7-11

The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. (v.7)

But Elymas the sorcerer opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. (v.8)

Then 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 ." (v.9-11)

Immediately 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 these men.


33.4 Judgments in the Epistles


1 Corinthians 11 - the Church at Corinth


You 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.


i) The judgment

1 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.


ii) The cause

1 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?


iii) Comments

  •   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 better.
  •   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.


The Sinning Brother at Corinth


Tucked 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:


i) The Sin

1 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 wife .


ii) The judgment the church ought to be bringing

1 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


iii) Comments 

  •   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.


The Judgment Warnings of Hebrews & Jude


Although 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:

Heb 3:7-11 So, 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,

`They shall never enter my rest.'

The warning is from the past against hard heartedness, quoted from Psa 95:7-11

It is using the judgment of the past as a warning for the present.


Heb 3:12-14 See 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.

This is the warning applied into the present

It is expanded in the following Heb 3:15-19


Jude 1:5-11

A similar set of 5 warnings here, all referring back to failures and judgments found in the Old Testament.

Though 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. (v.5)

The first warning – against unbelief using the example of Israel in the Exodus

And 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. (v.6)

The second warning – against rebellion , using the example of angels

In 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)

The third warning, against sexual perversion , using the example of Sodom and Gomorrah

In 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. (v.8-10)

The fourth warning – against rejecting authority and demeaning Satan's power

Woe 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. (v.11)

The fifth warning is a collective – against selfishness, greed and violence (Cain), against greed (Balaam), and against rebellious attitudes (Korah)


Again 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.



33.5 Summary-Recap


In this chapter we have sought to pursue our subject into the New Testament and have briefly examined the Gospels, Acts and the Epistles.


In 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.


In 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.


In 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.


In 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.


In 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).


In 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!


Our 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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