Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
The Judge Of All the Earth
For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son John 5:22 NKJV
Question 56 of the Larger Catechism, asks, “How is Christ to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world?” It gives the answer, “Christ is to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world, in that he, who was unjustly judged and condemned by wicked men, shall come again at the last day in great power, and in the full manifestation of his own glory, and of his Father's, with all his holy angels, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, to judge the world in righteousness.” Last week we examined Christ’s present role as intercessor for all of His people. This week we consider His future coming again as judge of heaven and earth.
In unfolding the exaltation of Christ, there is one event that still remains entirely future. Whereas Christ’s resurrection and ascension are in the past and His sitting at the Father’s right hand and interceding are in the present, only Christ’s coming again to judge the world has not yet begun to occur. As the Catechism states it, “Christ is to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world.” This final act of Christ’s exaltation as God the Son remains to be implemented. Jesus has always been the judge, but the time for Him to act in the role of judge has not arrived, yet! It will come on “the last day.” Biblically, the last day is the final 24 hour period of the kingdoms of this world.
Since the creation of the world, God has commanded man to glorify Him and to obey Him, but man has been allowed to disobey that command and continue to exist on earth. Scripture sometimes uses particular phrases to refer to the various periods of time – of this permitted disobedience – from the Garden until now. Thus we have the age of “the fathers” before Moses (John 7:22), the days of “the judges” right after Moses (2 Kin. 23:22), the time of “the law and the prophets” (Luke 16:16), or simply “the kingdom” throughout the reign of the sons of David (Hos. 1:4); and the “last days” which began with the glorification of Christ (Heb. 1:2). Now without addressing the error Dispensationalism makes in its recognition of these time periods, let us notice one obvious thing all the ages have in common: ultimate, final judgment has not yet come. There will be a final day, a last day, on which judgment will fully and finally come.
That day will come with power. The Bible provides vivid, though mysterious images of what that day will look like. The heavens will be rolled back like a scroll (Isa. 34:4); the stars shall fall from heaven (Mark 13:25); the elements will melt with heat (2 Pet. 3:10); the mountains and islands will be removed (Rev. 6:14); and all the people of the earth will flee to the mountains, begging to be covered in a rockslide in order to flee “from the wrath of the lamb” (Rev. 6:15-16). Thus, Christ will be seen in all of His glory, with His mighty angels and with flaming fire (2 The. 1:7-8). The glory of the Father and the Son will be seen to be one on that day, for they have always shared the same glory, being equal persons in the same Godhead (John 17:5; Rev. 5:13). This fact will be made manifest as the same holy angels that wait on God the Father, will attend Christ the Son when He returns to judge the earth. Thus, the Son of Man “comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).
Three other events are noted by the Catechism that will attend the coming of Christ: a shout, the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God. These things are found in a single verse of Scripture: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 The. 4:16). What’s interesting about this verse is that all of accompanying elements of Christ’s return described here are auditory. As with the visual features, there is mystery in these expressions. What will they literally be? What will it look like? What will it sound like? We will have to wait and see… and hear! But one thing is sure: Christ alone will be exalted on that day. All wickedness and disobedience will be forever put down, for He will judge the world in perfect and in everlasting righteousness!