Elementary Principles Study, Lesson 7.
Finally we have arrived at the sixth and final element in our series. In the previous lesson we discussed the resurrection, and now we are moving on to the teaching on eternal judgment. As we touched on in the last lesson, the resurrection and the judgment are connected to each other by their place in the afterlife. In order for there to be an eternal judgment, there must be a resurrection; where the resurrection leaves off, the eternal judgment begins. In our last lesson we looked at this chronology, finding that everyone will be resurrected prior to the judgment. Each of these two teachings are one half of the whole teaching on the afterlife.
We have been examining the six principles in Hebrews 6:1-2 with the assumption that they are referring to some type of external catechism, or period of instruction, for new believers. In a previous lesson, we briefly mentioned the fact that other similar types of catechisms conclude with a discussion of the end times or the afterlife. The example we looked at described the process for a new convert to Judaism. Right before immersing in water, the convert-to-be was re-briefed on assorted commandments and doctrines, concluding with the statement that the ultimate lot of mankind is in the World to Come rather than in this life. Scripture itself is organized in a similar fashion, with the book of Revelation taking its position at the end of the New Testament.
From a time-centered point of view, it makes sense to conclude a teaching in this manner. The logic is to teach about the end at the end. Additionally, there is an obvious practical reason to conclude a catechism with a discussion of the judgment. It supplies a final source of motivation to not grow weary in doing good. After hearing how to conduct oneself with holiness and faithfulness, the resurrection and eternal judgment form a basis for understanding the benefits of continuing to grow in faith and the abhorrence one ought to have at the prospect of going astray from the way of life.
The fact that there will be a final judgment obviously forms an important part of our faith. For this very reason, it is detrimental either to drop any discussion of this doctrine altogether or to wield it incorrectly. In this list in Hebrews 6, the teaching of eternal judgment is listed last. In the Didache, the doctrine of eternal judgment, while possibly hinted at throughout, is not stated at all in present copies, although it is likely that at one time there was such a teaching at the end. This placement is not because these documents are trying to hide or put off talking about this controversial subject, but because in order to be properly understood it must be preceded by the teachings pertaining to this life. The very concept of a judgment implies that there is a particular standard which the lives of the judged will be measured against. Without a proper understanding of righteousness and faith, the concept of an eternal judgment can easily be misunderstood.
Many are eager to shy away from speaking about the topic of eternal judgment. This obviously leaves a hole in our teachings. We must accept that if Scripture emphasizes the importance of this subject, then we also must emphasize it. On the other hand, many have used the prospect of eternal torment to emotionally lasso people into conversion or acceptance of certain beliefs/practices. Generally this has done more harm than good and possibly leads to an incorrect conception of God as one who exists only to usher us into our eternal inheritance. Faith is not born out of a fear of punishment, but it is strengthened by the recognition that the object of our faith is also our Judge. The great men and women of faith, when faced with difficult commands, obeyed because they loved God and desired to do His will, not because they were concerned they might go to hell.
Before we get too far, it would be a good idea to understand what we are talking about when we speak of eternal judgment. Sometimes we think of the word “judgment” as having a negative connotation, almost using it as a synonym of “condemnation.” The definition of the word itself does not necessarily carry this negative feeling. Judgment is simply the process of coming to a formal conclusion, usually of a legal matter. In Hebrew, the word we translate as “judgment” is mishpat, and it also carries this neutral stance (Leviticus 19:15, Deuteronomy 1:17).
Although judgment itself does not always mean something negative, there is obviously a danger in judgment: the prospect of punishment for a guilty party. In Scripture we do see the word judgment seeming to be a synonym of punishment, especially in speaking of the judgment of the wicked (Isaiah 34:5, Ezekiel 34:16). This type of use is probably the one we are most familiar with. Judgment in these contexts still is not necessarily negative in itself. Whether judgment is seen as good or bad largely depends on the verdict of the judgment and where we stand in relation to this verdict. For the wicked, judgment symbolizes punishment, but for the afflicted it means righteousness and justice.
It seems the problem we have with judgment is that we are afraid of what the verdict might be, and thus we fear the judgment itself. If the prospect of facing an earthly court or a temporary judgment in this world causes anxiety, how much more so does the concept of a final judgment which determines one’s eternal destiny!
Throughout Scripture we see talk of judgment both for good and for evil. As a preface to our discussion on the eternal judgment, it would be a good idea to study what Scripture says about judgment and justice in general before delving into the specifics of the final, eternal judgment.
Justice and Righteousness
Especially in the Torah, there is a very heavy emphasis on judgment in the neutral sense of coming to a decision. God had given the Torah as a means to guard His people Israel in the form of legally binding commandments. Obedience to the Torah was of more than spiritual or moral value: it also formed the structure of the legal system. As with any nation, the people of Israel needed to be given some form of judicial authority to resolve disputes and ensure a peaceful community. The Torah formed the basis for this system of judgment.
The Hebrew word mishpat, which we said earlier is translated as “judgment,” can also be understood to mean “justice.” We can see this by comparing English translations of, for example, Amos 5:15. In the King James Version, the first phrase in this verse reads, “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate.” The New King James Version chose to update the language as follows: “Hate evil, love good;
establish justice in the gate.” In our modern culture, the word “justice” is perhaps felt to have a brighter tone than “judgment.” In reality, justice is the goal of judgment. To establish judgment is to establish justice.
Justice is thus connected to the Hebrew word mishpat and the idea of judgment. Other sections of Scripture alternatively translate the word tzedek as “justice.” Usually tzedek is translated into English as “righteousness.” So, what is the connection between justice and righteousness? One way we could approach this connection is to explain that justice is righteousness in judgment. In other words, justice is the rightful punishment of the wicked and the rightful help of those who are being oppressed (Isaiah 5:15-17).
The fact that tzedek can mean both justice and righteousness shows that there is a common thread between the two values. Further evidence of this is that we often see the words mishpat and tzedek used together, a phrase usually translated as “justice and righteousness” (1 Chronicles 18:14, Job 37:23, Psalm 89:14). God’s will is that judgment will be used to further the cause of righteousness and justice.
Justice is one of the most widely-lauded virtues which mankind desires to uphold. Even those who don’t recognize that there will be an eternal judgment or that the Great Judge will take our behavior into account often feel a great need and desire to see wrongs made right. The reason we have this desire to see the success of judgment and justice is because we ourselves are made in the image of God, who says, “I, the LORD, love justice (mishpat)” (Isaiah 61:8). In another place He describes what this justice looks like:
The LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:17-18)
Often in Scripture, justice and judgment reach their highest aim when they seek to uphold fair treatment of the disadvantaged and the poor. In a society where adult males held the greatest authority, widows and orphans were often left without anyone to provide for their needs or defend them in justice. They were easily taken advantage of because of this fact. This verse in Deuteronomy tells us that those who are forgotten or left behind by society are most precious in God’s sight and He judges in their favor when they are wrongly oppressed. Since this was God’s ideal for justice, the earthly judges were supposed to maintain this standard as well. Their task was to be God’s representatives in regard to justice on the earth (Deuteronomy 16:18-20, 2 Chronicles 19:6, Isaiah 1:17, Jeremiah 22:3).
When justice was not upheld and Israel was consumed with sin and wickedness, God presented His case against them (Jeremiah 2:34-35, Hosea 5:10-11). If they continued on their path of lawlessness, then they would receive a guilty verdict and be punished accordingly, but those who remained as a remnant would return to God and establish His justice and His righteousness in the nation (2 Kings 19:30-31, Isaiah 10:20). Judgment for wickedness is not reserved for Israel alone, but we similarly see other nations condemned for their wickedness (Genesis 15:14, Isaiah 34:5).
Much of the Old Testament focuses on Israel as a nation, and thus we see that the prophesies predicting judgment were primarily directed to the entire nation rather than individuals. Just as God spoke of bringing judgment collectively upon the nation through wars, famines, and exiles, so too we see that since a nation is a group of individuals, God brings each person separately into judgment as well (Psalm 91:7-8, Ezekiel 33:18-20, 34:20-22).
Although the evidence we have seen so far makes it clear that God loves justice and that He executes judgment in this world, often it seems that the guilty go unpunished. Wicked men trample the poor and the disadvantaged at their pleasure, and they die with length of days and material comfort. Innocent people suffer greatly, and it sometimes seems that no one is there to save them. If God is just, and if He does involve Himself in human affairs, then why does He allow the wicked to prosper? And why does suffering that appears unjust occur in this way? We find similar sentiments expressed in Scripture (Ecclesiastes 3:16, 4:1, Jeremiah 12:1-2).
In the accounting of the story of Job, we find him and his friends debating the reason for Job’s sufferings. Job’s friends seem to take the position that because God is just, therefore any suffering in this life is deserved punishment for iniquity (Job 4:7-9, 22:4-5). They appear unwilling to accept the position that justice would not be done in this life, and so perhaps they did not believe that there would be a judgment after death. Since this is their firm belief, they assume that because of the great tragedy which has fallen upon Job, he must have acted sinfully or been the cause of unjust oppression. They believed that if he would only repent of these sins, he would immediately be restored (Job 11:13-17, 22:21-26).
Throughout their dialogues, Job maintains that they are wrong about the wicked always being punished in this life (Job 21:7-9). He also maintains that he has done no sin worthy of the hardship he is currently going through (Job 23:10-12). As we mentioned in our lesson on the resurrection, we see a possible acknowledgment of Job’s hope for a resurrection in Job 14:13-14. The reason he has this hope is because he longs to see vindication done for the current suffering he is going through, as well as other injustices which he sees on the earth. If justice is sometimes not accomplished in this life, and if God is fully just, then of necessity there must be some type of recompense after death.
Another perspective held by some was that if God appears to be leaving the wicked unpunished in this life, then surely their descendants will receive the punishment for their fathers (Job 18:16-19, 21:19-21, Psalm 37:28). This view was apparently well-accepted in the time of the prophets, to the point where a popular proverb arose: “The fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge.” In times of great suffering, the people of Israel tried to shift the blame for their punishment onto their fathers by claiming that they were being punished not for their own sins, but for the sins of those who were before them. God informs His prophets that this view of judgment is incorrect:
“What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, ‘The fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge?’ As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore. Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins will die.” (Ezekiel 18:1-4, cf. Jeremiah 31:29-30)
We have briefly looked at the teachings about judgment and justice found in Scripture. Now we will examine how these Scriptures were interpreted traditionally in Judaism.
Judgment in Judaism
As time progressed into the second temple period, there was still significant division and debate over exactly what relationship existed between God and His justice. The Sadducees were of the opinion that since there was no such thing as resurrection or an afterlife, there could be no judgment after death. Suffering in this life was not considered to be judgment of evil, and in fact the Sadducees tended to hold a “hands-off” view of God, where He was not active in judging individuals. Josephus, a Jewish historian from the first century, has left us with the following description of their thoughts on this issue:
The Sadducees… take away fate entirely, and suppose that God is not concerned in our doing or not doing what is evil; and they say, that to act what is good, or what is evil, is at men’s own choice, and that the one or the other belongs so to everyone, that they may act as they please. They also take away the belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in Hades. (Wars of the Jews 2.8.14)
The Pharisees and the Essenes, on the other hand, both understood that God’s hand was active in this world for judgment and that behavior in this life would be brought into account in an afterlife. We have already looked at some of the Scriptures which indicate individual judgment, and we have discussed the logic which makes an eternal judgment necessary. Since the Pharisees were the sect which thrived after the destruction of the temple, their doctrines about resurrection and judgment are those which are largely espoused by modern traditional Judaism.
An interesting peek into how the doctrine of judgment was interpreted in the first century is found by reading some passages from the Targum Jonathon. The Targum Jonathon is a paraphrase translation of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic. It differs from the Hebrew Scriptures in many places because it was intending not to make a literal translation, but to paraphrase or explain an idea found in the verses described.
For example, in the Hebrew of Deuteronomy 33:6, we read that Jacob blesses his son Reuben, saying, “May Reuben live and not die.” The Aramaic translation in the Targum Jonathon expands this, saying, “Let Reuben live in this world, nor die the second death which the wicked die in the world to come.” Obviously this translation reveals that the translator and the audience he was translating for understood that the wicked would be punished in the afterlife, and thus inserted this commentary directly into his translation of the text.
Here in this verse we see the phrase, “second death,” which we are so familiar with from the New Testament. As we saw in discussing the resurrection, the description of the judgment is vague, and this is also true of the second death. There doesn’t seem to be an explicit reference to this second death in the Hebrew Scriptures, and the rabbis variously interpreted this phrase to mean complete annihilation of the soul, a period of trial in the place of judgment followed by acceptance into paradise, or eternal punishment.
Another example of interpretation from the Targum can be found in Psalm 49:11, which, due to differences in the verse divisions, in our English versions is actually verse 10. In the English translation of the Hebrew we read, “For he sees that even wise men die; the stupid and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others.” The Targum, on the other hand, reads as follows: “For the wise will see the wicked, in Gehenna they will be judged; together fools and the stupid will perish, and they will leave their money to the righteous.”
Here we see reference to Gehenna, another term you may be familiar with if you have used a literal translation of the Scriptures. Frequently in the New Testament it is translated as “hell,” and the concept of Gehenna in Judaism is thematically similar to hell, being the place where the wicked are punished with fire. There are no direct references to Gehenna as a place of eternal punishment in the Hebrew Scriptures, but it is interesting that the valley of Hinnom (Hebrew ge-hinnom) is historically the location where children were passed through the fire to the pagan deity Moloch (2 Kings 23:10, 2 Chronicles 33:6).
An obvious question to ask is, how is it determined who will be sent to punishment and who will be sent to paradise according to the final judgment? In the Hebrew Scriptures, we see mention of a book of life or of the living (Exodus 32:32-33, Isaiah 4:2-3, Psalm 69:28). Some have understood this as a book of physical life, where those who God determines to continue to live are written in the book, and when they are blotted out they soon meet their demise. Others understand it to be the books in which are written the eternal fate of individuals (Daniel 7:9-10). It also seems as if there are different types of books which God records in, not only of life and of death (Jeremiah 22:30, Malachi 3:16-17). It is obvious that God alone determines who is written in this book of life, and as we have mentioned several times, there is a variety of opinions on who is entered into the book of life.
Now that we have laid somewhat of a foundation, we will be able to move forward and hopefully understand a little bit more about what makes this such an elementary teaching.
Judgment in the New Testament
In the New Testament, the teachings about the afterlife form a more substantial part. The teachings of Yeshua and the apostles are built upon the teachings found in the Hebrew Scriptures and the interpretations which were present in the first century. Much of the New Testament teachings are about how to prepare for the day of judgment, since the necessary context about this judgment was either already established or was unnecessary for understanding the concepts.
One of the teachings that the New Testament advances is that Yeshua, the Messiah and Son of God, is the one who will preside over the eternal judgment. We see this in John 5:22, where Yeshua explains that the Father “has given all judgment to the Son.” Paul, being familiar with this teaching and its foundation in truth, describes Him as “Messiah Yeshua, who is to judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1). The role of Messiah as judge is one which was foretold in the prophets (Isaiah 11:3-4).
Another important teaching confirmed by the New Testament is that all mankind will appear before God in the eternal judgment. The author of Hebrews states, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). In the epistle to the Romans, Paul attempts to dissuade the congregation from judging one another about matters of opinion. He insists that since “we will all stand before the judgment seat of God,” therefore we each will give an account of our actions to Him (Romans 14:10-13). The basis for not judging each other is that every one of us will face God in the judgment.
This teaching about human judgment in distinction against God’s judgment is important, as it is mentioned several times throughout the New Testament (Romans 2:1-3, 1 Corinthians 4:5). These Scriptures teach us that if we judge others, then we ourselves will be judged by the same standard we used against others. Yeshua says, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). Similar teachings are found in James 2:13 and 4:11.
In an earlier lesson we already discussed the importance of correction and reproof in the body of believers, and the above Scriptures do not negate that teaching. On the contrary, they uphold it and provide the opposite end of the teaching. On the one hand, we are not to ignore the sins of our brothers and sisters when they become evident to us. On the other hand, we are not to focus so much on the sins of others that we forget our own sins and failures. When we condemn others because of their sins, we are condemning ourselves also.
Yeshua concludes this saying about judgment by comparing it to a man who has a log in his own eye while pointing out the speck in another man’s eye. His command in this situation is, “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). In other words, before taking it upon yourself to be the judge of your brother’s behavior, first judge yourself and determine whether your interpretation of his behavior is correct. Recognize the greatness of your own shortcomings in comparison with what you see in your neighbor. When correction is necessary, do so in the manner of a brother or a son rather than as a judge (1 Timothy 5:1-2). It is only when this has been done in good faith that you truly are able to help remove the speck from their eye.
The common theme of these teachings is that we are not to take the role of judge upon ourselves in our daily affairs. There is one Judge who sees every motive and deed. He is completely just, and yet He is merciful to the undeserving. If we take pleasure in pronouncing condemnation on others as if we were an impartial judge, then what will God have to say to us on the day when He is before us as the truly impartial Judge?
Another clarification we find in the New Testament is about the book of life. The Hebrew Scriptures do not talk much about this book, and from the verses we looked at, it is possible to understand it only in the physical sense of life and death. The New Testament description of the book of life is more directly associated with eternal salvation:
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds… And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:12, 15)
We see a likely allusion to the book of life in the words of Yeshua recorded in Luke 10:20. His disciples had just returned from being sent out into the cities Yeshua was going to enter, and they were joyful because they were able to cast out demons. Yeshua replies, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” In another parable He speaks in a similar tone, saying that the ability to perform signs and wonders is not itself an indication that a person has their name recorded in the book of life:
Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-22)
After reading such Scriptures as we have examined above in the New Testament, some have wondered what the relationship is between judgment and our deeds. While we see repeatedly emphasized that through Yeshua we are “justified by faith” (Romans 5:1), and because of this we do not “come into judgment” (John 5:24), we also see passages that say the resurrected dead will be judged, “every one of them according to their deeds” (Revelation 20:13), and that “by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). We have already looked at some Scriptures which indicate that God will take our attitudes into account at the final judgment. How do we reconcile all of these statements?
In our lesson on the elementary principle of faith, we discussed the relationship between faith and deeds. We saw that faith and belief are inseparable from deeds. If faith does not bear fruit, then it is not truly faith. If belief does not lead us to leave the old body of sin behind, then it is only a mental facade: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (1 John 1:6). Faith requires obedience.
Scripture appears to support the argument that the eternal judgment is not only a binary decision about whether the resurrected dead will go to heaven or hell. The goal of the judgment is for all things to be taken into account. Notice in the verses we looked at in Revelation 20, that the names as well as the deeds of the dead are recorded in the books of life and death. If our names are written in the book of life, then we can be assured that we will spend eternity with the Lord, and if our names are not written in the book of life, then we will be thrown into the lake of fire. Being written in the book of life does not mean that we bypass the judgment altogether, however, for Scripture informs us that our deeds will be recompensed: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad”
(2 Corinthians 5:10). What this means exactly is unclear, but further support of this idea can be gleaned from Yeshua’s encouragement to “lay up treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21, Luke 12:33).
We are to conduct ourselves with the knowledge that both our good and bad deeds will be rewarded at the judgment, but this reward is not supposed to be what drives us. Yeshua draws a parallel between the behavior of His disciples and a slave who does a task for his master. The slave does not expect to be repaid lavishly for his labor, but does his duty: “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done’” (Luke 17:10).
Much more could be said about the eternal judgment based on the teachings found in the New Testament, but for the purposes of this study we will conclude here and move on to how all of what we have spoken of so far works with what we find in the Didache.
As we mentioned in passing earlier, although the Didache contains an end-times teaching in its final chapter, the document ends after talking about the second coming without going into the ensuing judgment. We quoted the ending section in our discussion on the resurrection. One of the last verses mentions that the first resurrection is only for the righteous to partake of, but the text as we have it today makes no mention of the resurrection of the dead unto judgment. Because of this and other reasons, scholars believe that at one point the Didache did contain a continuing dialogue, but because there are few complete manuscripts this ending cannot be reconstructed. The Apostolic Constitutions, however, does contain a continued dialogue after this mention of the resurrection:
And then shall the Lord come, and all his saints with him, with a great concussion above the clouds, with the angels of his power, on the throne of his kingdom, to condemn the deceiver of the world, and to render to everyone according to his deeds. Then shall the wicked go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous shall go into life eternal, to inherit those things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man such things as God hath prepared for them that love him; and they shall rejoice in the kingdom of God, which is in Christ Jesus. (Apostolic Constitutions VII, 32)
We can assume based on this text and on what we find in Scripture that the Didache originally ended in a similar way. Despite the lack of an end-times description of a final judgment in the Didache, there are several points throughout the text which are hinged upon the existence of, and make reference to, such a judgment.
Perhaps the first and most obvious is the structure of the document itself. As we have mentioned throughout this study, the Didache begins by explaining the way of life and the way of death. This contrast between life and death is obviously concerned with more than just physical life and death. The idea that the Didache attempts to convey is that by maintaining yourself within the contained instructions, you will do well in holding to your faith. If indeed your faith is true, then you will partake of the everlasting life which is found in Yeshua. If, however, you turn away from the hope you previously had in Yeshua and pursue your own fleshly desires, then you will find that your name is not written in the book of life.
Another interesting teaching which, although not mentioning judgment does seem to allude to the result of judgment, says the following:
Do not turn away someone who is in need; rather, share all things in common with your brother. Do not claim ownership, for if you are common partners in what is immortal, how much more so in what is mortal! (Didache 4.8)
Scripture records the fact that one of the ways in which the unity of the early believers was demonstrated was in communal living (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-35). Here the Didache gives an interesting justification for this lifestyle. Since we will all share together the eternal blessings of the world to come, shouldn’t we also share what God has given us in this world?
One last reference we will look at from the Didache is found in the section which gives a prayer to be said after meals: “We thank you, our holy Father, for the… eternal life that you have made known to us through your servant Yeshua” (Didache 10.2). It is only through Yeshua that we have access to the eternal life which He has promised all those who put their faith in Him and His righteousness. While the Didache is not focused on explaining theology and assumes the reader has already begun to believe in Yeshua, it is clear that He is at the center of all things. Without Him, we would be dead in our sins. Thanks be to God for the gift of salvation in Messiah Yeshua.
The conclusion of the list of elementary principles in Hebrews 6 takes us to the conclusion of time itself: the final, eternal judgment. It is fitting to end the list in this manner, and we have seen several examples that reveal there is a solid precedent for doing so.
The prospect of judgment can be a terrifying thing, and for good reason. We, however, can be confident because of Yeshua’s work that our names are indeed written in the Lamb’s book of life, and thus if we hold on to our hope we will spend eternity with the Lord.
Sometimes we stress the subject of eternal judgment to non-believers but neglect to consider it in our own walk. We have seen in Yeshua’s words and in the teachings of the Scriptures that the doctrines regarding eternal judgment are far more than just a tool for conversion. They provide us as believers with a place to fix our gaze. Justice does not always happen in this world, but justice will be found in the world to come. Our struggles and our toil will be remembered, and every tear will be wiped away. The seed we plant in this life will produce an abundant harvest, “for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9). We understand the judgment, and we understand that every act has consequences. “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11).
The eternal judgment is founded on the principles of justice and righteousness which the Holy Spirit enables us to shine forth in the world right now. God loves justice, and His desire is that those who worship Him would pursue it. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
Knowing this, may we always continue to do what is just and good in His sight, knowing that it is He who is working justice through us. May we never grow weary, but may we fix our eyes on the imperishable reward which He has promised to those who love Him. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)