Resurrection & Judgement


True Bible Teaching - About You and God and Your Hope of Salvation

Resurrection & Judgement


ResurrectionThe apostles of Jesus Christ travelled the Roman world with a bold and urgent message. Jesus had died; but he had risen from the dead and his exaltation to God's right hand gave new hope to all who would try to follow his example of obedience. In spite of mocking, derision and persecution, these apostles sounded forth their great clarion call: being witnesses themselves of Christ's resurrection, they were galvanised into action, publicly proclaiming the hope of resurrection for all true disciples of the Lord.

There is probably no better way for us to learn more about this wonderful and comforting Christian hope and the associated teaching concerning God's judgement of man, than to examine it through the preaching of one of these apostles who had joined the group of witnesses, as "one born out of due time" (1 Corinthians 1 5:8). He too was persecuted and imprisoned for the things he preached, but while in custody would not be silenced and continued to speak, even to his captors, of the hope which filled his own heart.

At the Court of Felix
The Apostle Paul was in prison in an outpost of the Empire and distant from the magnificence of the capital city. But there is no doubt that, however unsavoury that prison cell may have been, the provincial governor's headquarters in Caesarea bore some similarity to the fashionable apartments known to Felix from his earlier life in Rome. With wide-ranging powers he had gathered to himself a court and dispensed what he would fondly and incorrectly call justice with a casualness and sadistic severity equalled, and later exceeded, by the recently enthroned emperor Nero.

At Felix's side was his teenage wife Drusilla, by all accounts a great beauty and just widowed as a result of the death of the Syrian king Azizus to whom she had been married, probably at the behest of her father Herod Agrippa 1, at the tender age of fourteen. Whether the tenderness of her character matched that of her age may be questioned by her premature association with the uncultured Felix long before Azizus' death regularised the situation. It seemed part of the family characteristics of the Herods to disregard the sanctity of marriage and treat the bond with contempt. Had not John the Baptist been imprisoned and subsequently beheaded by Herod Antipas for his effrontery in criticising him for taking his brother's wife? (Matthew 14:1-11).

Civilisation Corrupt
The thin veneer of civilisation cloaking corrupt and immoral practices parallels our own modern 20th century western world. Criticism of its ways was as unwelcome then as it is now. Yet it was against this background and before the two most prominently involved that the imprisoned Apostle Paul "reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgement to come" (Acts 24:25).

And again in Acts 17:30-31 Paul says; "30 And the times of this ignorance (lack of knowledge) God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man (Jesus Christ) whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."

It is therefore fitting that we in our day should examine the same principles, recognising in ourselves, as well as in the world of which we form part, the need for more exalted standards of thought and conduct. It is neither comfortable nor fashionable to speak of a time of coming judgement. It seems a subject inextricably linked with the doctrine of hell-fire, which has become an object of derision and the butt of music hall jokes. But while eternal torment deep in the bowels of the earth is nowhere taught in Scripture, judgement is an integral part of God's programme which will result in the world ultimately being full of His glory.

Just like Felix of old, though, if we try to push the subject from our consciousness we shall hardly succeed.

Even Felix trembled as he saw the strong connection between his way of life and his ultimate destiny. He was unwilling to mend his ways and strive after the "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). Our own experiences teach us that, whether we like it or not, there is a connection between endeavour and reward; and between disobedience and punishment. It is the guiding rule in the disciplining of children and management of organisations and is summed up in the phrase 'the carrot and the stick'. Consider the following words, written by the same apostle who stood before Felix and Drusilia:

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:11-14).

There is, then, a responsibility incumbent upon those who wish to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ to lead lives consistent with, and reflecting the standards he taught. To do this it is necessary to "deny ungodliness and worldly lusts" now to the extent that we are aware of the certainty of his return. How similar these words are to those spoken to Felix!

Moral Standards -- Then and Now
Following God's ways (righteousness) involves a high degree of self-control. We must each acknowledge that left to his own devices man "is like the beasts that perish" (Psalm 49:20). How often do we hear of the very slender barrier that exists between order and safety in society and mob rule? The well-ordered and cultivated Roman Empire, degraded by men like Felix and Nero, became inevitably prey to the original Vandals and other ill-named barbarous tribes. In similar fashion, as the moral standards of our society crumble and respect for authority evaporates, the streets of our cities become battlegrounds and fighting and fear grow.

Nowhere is the quality of self-control or temperance upheld. Instead "each man does that which is right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). Just as that was true at a critical stage in the history of Israel, so it is true today. Of course, if there are no standards set, there can be no judgement; or, to use the words of Scripture, "where there is no law, neither is there transgression" (Romans 4:15). Our society, in order to flout the required standards for life set by God, has therefore had to reject the idea of judgement. The catch phrase for our age, as it was for the civilisation whose similar disregard hastened its destruction by flood and tempest in Noah's day, is: "Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (1 Corinthians 15:32; Matthew 24:38; Luke 17:27).

God has specifically recorded that the wickedness of the world will result in His judgements being unleashed on the earth: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Romans 1:18). Our particular study, however, concerns our individual response to the Gospel message and the impending judgement seat of Christ.

Tomorrow we die
This attitude of being responsible to no-one for our actions is increasingly prevalent. Most interestingly, however, when the Apostle Paul describes it, he links it with unbelief about the resurrection:

"What does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (1 Corinthians 15:32).

Clearly, then, the promise of resurrection from the dead should affect the way we live our lives. It is the reward God has promised to those who attempt in their lives now to follow in his ways and commandments. It is therefore necessary for us to understand what hope there is for man at his death.

Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes, reviewing the works of man and their ultimate value, declared that:

"All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked" (Ecclesiastes 9:2).

His description of the death state is equally succinct:

"For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten" (Ecclesiastes 9:5).

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