First he came to offer salvation to a world under condemnation. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Yet he will come again to put the axe to the root of the tree. First he came to sow. Then he will come to reap. As the Christian gospel shows us the glory of Christ not only as sovereign and sacrifice, but also as final judge, we might identify at least five distinct aspects of this coming Justice.
Christians do not settle in with injustice in this age. Even as it surrounds us. Even as we find its impulses within us. In Christ, we aim and act for genuine justice. We do not pretend that the anger of man will work the justice of God (James 1:20), or that fallen humans can execute full and final justice, but still we make justice our aim.
Yet in Christ, we also know that full and final Justice is coming. Just as Grace incarnate came in him, so also Justice will come with his return.
Glory of the Great Judge
It is precious to know Jesus as our advocate (1 John 2:1). And so he is for us by faith. Few of us ponder this glory nearly enough. It is worth daily reflection and enjoyment. This is at the very heart of the Christian faith.
But our gospel not only acknowledges Jesus as our advocate. He is also our judge. Indeed, the Judge, of all the earth and of all history. One day soon, the man Christ Jesus will sit on the very judgment seat of God, and execute full and final justice for all mankind and for all time.
One of the great glories of Christ is that God will judge the world through him. “According to my gospel,” writes the apostle Paul, “God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16).
Early Church Preached It
That God will judge the world through Jesus Christ is not only a stunning reality to acknowledge, but a glory to embrace. It is not just fact; it is good news. The early church not only received it; they rejoiced in it. The apostles proclaimed the coming Justice as a warning to Christ’s opponents, and preached it as gospel to his people.
When Peter opens his mouth to proclaim the message of Christ to the Gentiles for the first time, he not only recounts Christ’s death and resurrection and the witnesses “who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:39–41). He also says that Jesus
commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:42)
As Christians, we not only celebrate that “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name,” but we also declare, and delight in, the glory of our Christ as “the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.”
So also, the apostle Paul, proclaiming the good news in the public market in Athens, preaches that God
has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:31)
Yet how often today do we linger over the glory of Christ as Judge? Do our simple hearts and minds tend to reduce our Lord merely to the Lamb who gave his own neck to the knife, and rose again (hallelujah!), and forget that he is coming again, with the very omnipotence of God, to judge the living and the dead?