For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead."
is his purpose concerning us? That one infinite God, "in whom we live, and move, and have our being," who holds our destiny in his sovereign hand, - is it his intention that the lamp of his lighting, the human spirit (Proverbs 20:27), shall go out utterly at death, or that that spirit shall shine in another sphere? And if so, what are to be the conditions of that life beyond the river? The reply is -
I. THAT GOD WILL CONTINUE TO US OUR EXISTENCE IN ANOTHER STATE, AND WILL JUDGE US FOR OUR. ACTIONS HERE. "He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world." We do not suppose that time hereafter will be measured as it is now, and that the "day" of the other life will correspond with "a day "of our present experience. But the time will come in the future life when "we shall appear before the judgment-seat." God has "appointed unto man once to die," and "after this the judgment." Clearly enough, in the thought and purpose of God, this life is only the commencement of our existence, the probation period on which the long results of the eternal world depend. So far from this being the be-all and end-all of humanity, it is but the preface to the large volume that succeeds; it is but the river which runs down to and is lost in the sea.
II. THAT GOD'S JUDGMENT OF US WILL BE ONE OF PERFECT RIGHTEOUSNESS. "In righteousness."
1. There will be no trace of partiality, no smallest shade of favoritism; none will fare the better, none the worse, for class, or sex, or parentage, or nationality.
2. Regard will be had to all the particulars of human action. "God will bring every work into judgment with every secret thing" (Ecclesiastes 12:14): all thoughts - the "work" of the understanding; all feelings - the "work" of the heart; all choices - the "work of the will; as well as all words - the work" of the tongue; and all deeds - the "work" of the hand.
3. Respect will be had to all that enhances or lessens responsibility; to all special privilege and opportunity on the one hand, and to all privation and disadvantage on the other.
III. THAT GOD WILL JUDGE THE WORLD BY HIS SON, OUR SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. "By that Man," etc., even the Son of man, to whom all judgment is committed (John 5:22), who will have authority to execute judgment "because he is the Son of man" (John 5:27). Christ will be our Judge. His special relationship to us eminently fits him for that supreme position.
1. He is the Lord of our nature.
2. He knows our nature perfectly (Hebrews 4:15).
IV. THAT GOD HAS GIVEN US STRONG ASSURANCE OF HIS DIVINE PURPOSE. "Whereof he hath given," etc. We have an assurance of such intention in:
1. Our own consciousness of ill desert and incomplete retribution. We feel that sin demands condemnation and punishment, and that our own individual guilt has not received its due penalty. For how much and how many things do we deserve the reproval of the Divine voice, the infliction of the Divine hand!
2. Our observation of the course of abandoned and wicked men. How many are they who go down to the grave with (as it assuredly appears) unpunished sins on their soul!
3. The general apprehension of mankind.
4. But the assurance of God's purpose is in the language and the life of Jesus Christ; more especially in the fact of his resurrection, preceding, predicting, and ensuring our own.
(1) How foolish to treat as if it were the whole of our career that which is no more than the commencement!
(2) How wise to live in view of that great day of account!
(3) How needful to be rightly related to the supreme Judge! - C.
Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will Judge the world in righteousness.I. THERE SHALL BE A DAY OF JUDGMENT.
II. WHY THERE MUST BE A DAY OF JUDGMENT.
1. That God may execute justice on the wicked. Things seem to be carried here in the world with an unequal balance (Job 29:3; Malachi 3:15). Diogenes, seeing Harpalus, a thief, go on prosperously, said [that] surely God had cast off the government of the world and minded not how things went here below (2 Peter 3:3, 4). Therefore God will have a day of assize to vindicate His justice; He will let sinners know that long forbearance is no forgiveness.
2. That God may exercise mercy to the godly. Here piety was the white which was shot at (Romans 8:36). God will therefore have a day of judgment, that He may reward all the tears and sufferings of His people (Revelation 7:9).
III. WHEN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT SHALL BE. It is certain there shall be a judgment; uncertain, when (Matthew 24:36). And the reason is —
1. That we may not be curious. There are some things which God would have us ignorant of (Acts 1:7). "It is a kind of sacrilege," as Salvian speaks, "for any man to break into the Holy of holies, and enter into God's secrets."
2. That we may not be careless. "God would have us live every day," saith Austin, "as if the last day were approaching." This is the use [which] our Saviour makes of it (Mark 13:32, 33).
IV. WHO SHALL BE THE JUDGE? The Man who is God-man. We must take heed of judging others; this is Christ's work (John 5:22) There are two things in Christ which do eminently qualify Him for a Judge —
1. Prudence and intelligence, to understand all causes that are brought before Him (Zechariah 3:9; Hebrews 4:13). Christ is "a Heart searcher"; He doth not only judge the fact, but the heart, which no angel can do.
2. Strength, whereby He is able to be revenged upon His enemies (Revelation 20:10).
V. THE ORDER AND METHOD OF THE TRIAL.
1. The summons to the court (1 Thessalonians 4:16).(1) The shrillness of the trumpet. It shall sound so loud, that the dead shall hear it.(2) The efficacy of the trumpet. It shall not only startle the dead, but raise them out of their graves (Matthew 24:31).
2. The manner of the Judge's coming to the bench.(1) It will be glorious to the godly (Titus 2:13).(a) Christ's person shall be glorious. His first coming in the flesh was obscure (Isaiah 53:2, 3). But His second coming will be "in the glory of His Father" (Mark 8:38).(b) Christ's attendants shall be glorious (Matthew 25:31).(2) Dreadful to the wicked (2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8).
3. The process or the trial itself.(1) Its universality. It will be a very great assize; never was the like seen (2 Corinthians 5:10). Kings and nobles, councils and armies, those who were above all trial here, have no charter of exemption granted them. They who refused to come to "the throne of grace" shall be forced to come to the bar of justice. And the dead as well as the living must make their appearance (Romans 20:12); and not only men, but angels (Jude 1:6).(2) Its formality. Which consists in the opening of the books (Daniel 7:10; Revelation 20:12).(a) The book of God's omnisciency (Malachi 3:16).(b) The book of conscience. Men have their sins written in their conscience; but the book is clasped (the searing of the conscience is the clasping of the book); but when this book of conscience shall be unclasped at the great day, then all their hypocrisy, treason, atheism, shall appear to the view of men and angels (Luke 12:3).(3) Its circumstances.(a) Impartiality. Jesus Christ will do every man justice. The Thebans did picture their judges blind, that they might not respect persons; without hands, that they might take no bribes. Christ's sceptre is "a sceptre of righteousness" (Hebrews 1:8). He is no "respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34).(b) Exactness of the trial. It will be very critical (Matthew 3:12). Not a grace or a sin but His fan will discover.(c) Perspicuity. Sinners shall be so clearly convicted, that they shall hold up their hand at the bar, and cry, "guilty" (Psalm 51:4). The sinner himself shall clear God of injustice.(d) Supremacy. Men can remove their causes from one place to another, but from Christ's court there is no appeal; he who is once doomed here — his condition is irreversible.
VI. THE EFFECT OF THE TRIAL.
1. Segregation. Christ will separate the godly and the wicked as the fan doth separate the wheat from the chaff, as a furnace separates the gold from the dross.
2. The sentence.(1) The sentence of absolution pronounced upon the godly (Matthew 25:34).(2) The sentence of condemnation pronounced upon the wicked (Matthew 25:41). The wicked once said to God, "Depart from us" (Job 21:14); and now God will say to them, "Depart from Me." "Depart from Me, in whose presence is fulness of joy."
3. The execution (Matthew 13:30). Christ will say, "Bundle up these sinners; here a bundle of hypocrites; there a bundle of apostates; there a bundle of profane; bundle them up, and throw them in the fire." And now no cries or entreaties will prevail with the Judge.Conclusion:
1. Let me persuade all Christians to believe this truth, that there shall be a day of judgment (Ecclesiastes 11:9). How many live as if this article were blotted out of their Creed! Durst men swear, be unchaste, live in malice, if they did believe a day of judgment?
2. See here the sad and deplorable estate of wicked men.
(T. Watson, A. M.)
I. First, AN ASSERTION OF A JUDGMENT TO COME. He will judge the world. For the more clear apprehension of the full importance of which it is to be noted that there are two pares of Divine Providence. The former, that by which He takes notice of the actions of men in this life; the latter, that by which He brings men to account in the other world. Which two branches of Providence do mutually infer and prove each other. For on the one hand if there were no such thing as a wise eye of God that strictly observes the actions of men in this world, it were impossible there should be any judgment to come, at least not a judgment in righteousness; for how shall He judge that doth not discern? And on the other hand, if there were no judgment to come, it were to no purpose for God to concern Himself about the affairs of mankind here below. Now this doctrine is the soul and spirit of all religion, and the sinew of all government and society. It is the soul of all religion, for what doth the belief of a God signify (although we should imagine Him to be never so great, glorious and happy) if He will not trouble Himself with government; in short, if He will neither reward nor punish; virtue is then but an empty name. And it is the sinew of all government; for it is certain that plots may sometimes be laid so deep that no eye of man can discover them. And there may be such a potent confederacy of wicked men, as that they shall outface human justice, in which case, what shall keep the world from running into confusion, and becoming an hell upon earth, but the discerning eye and steady hand of Providence?
II. The second observable in my text is, THAT THERE IS NOT ONLY A JUDGMENT TO COME, BUT THAT THE DAY OF IT IS DETERMINED. "He hath appointed a day wherein," etc. To adjourn to no certain time is, I think, to dissolve the court; and to appoint no day is to disappoint the business; the Almighty, therefore, hath appointed an express and solemn time for this great transaction. And indeed it is worthy of observation, that in all the great passages of Divine Providence He hath passed such an immutable decree upon them, that the time of their event can be no more casual than the very things themselves. So Exodus 12:41, the servitude of the children of Israel was determined to four hundred and thirty years, and the text tells us "that when the four hundred and thirty years were expired, even the self-same day departed all the host of the Lord out of the land of Egypt." Again 2 Chronicles 36:21, God had decreed to punish the nation of the Jews with seventy years captivity in Babylon, and precisely upon the expiration of that term, when the Word of the Lord spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah was finished, God put it into the heart of Cyrus to proclaim them liberty.
III. The third observable, namely, that as the day of judgment is set, so THE PERSON OF THE JUDGE IS ALSO CONSTITUTED AND ORDERED; "He will judge the world by that man whom He hath ordained," etc. And as all circumstances of time, place, and persons, are evidences of fact, and assurances of the principal business, so doth this particular designation of the Judge further confirm the certainty of the judgment. And not only so, but it also opens to us the great depth of the Divine goodness, especially upon these two considerations.
1. In the first place, it is wonderful decorous and becoming the Divine Majesty, and righteous towards the person of our Saviour, that He who humbled Himself to take our nature upon Him, and therein to fulfil exactly the Divine law, should in reward of this obedience and humiliation be exalted to be the Judge of the world, which He died for (Philippians 2:9).
2. Again, secondly, it wonderfully displays the Divine goodness towards us, that He should be appointed our Judge, that hath been, and yet is in our nature, that hath felt our infirmities, conflicted with the same temptations, and that withal had so much love to us as to die for us. That the Divine Majesty will not oppress us with His own glory, nor employ an archangel to pass judgment upon us, who as He hath had no commerce with a body of flesh and blood, cannot have sufficient compassion of our infirmities.
IV. In the fourth particular of my text, HE HATH GIVEN ASSURANCE UNTO ALL MEN IN THAT HE RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD. But how doth that assure us of this great and comfortable point? It is true the resurrection of our Saviour did denote Him to be some great and extraordinary person, but that is no sufficient argument that He shall be Judge of the world; the evidence therefore lies in this, our Saviour, Christ Jesus, whilst He was in the world, had often declared that He was appointed by God to judge the quick and dead, and appealed to His resurrection as the great proof of this.
V. There is one particular more in my text that deserves especial consideration, and that is THE MANNER OF THIS JUDGMENT, OR RATHER THE MEASURES THIS JUDGE WILL PROCEED BY AT THAT GREAT JUDGMENT AND THAT IS IN RIGHTEOUSNESS; He will judge the world in righteousness. Now in order hereto, we must first settle the Scripture notion of this phrase "righteousness" or "in righteousness." And that which I first observe to this purpose is this: Nowhere in all the Scripture doth righteousness signify rigour. I say there is no such use of this word in Scripture, when applied to God's dealings, no, nor yet when it is applied to men; a severe, harsh, rigorous man is so far from being a righteous man in the style of Scripture, that He is quite under another character. But to come home to the business, the full of my observation touching the Scripture notion of the phrase in my text is this, that δικαιοσύνη, or righteousness, is always used there in a comprehensive sense, so as to take in not only justice and uprightness, and impartiality, and the like, but also goodness, kindness, equity, clemency, candour, and mercy. "In righteousness shall He judge the world, and the people with equity (Psalm 98, last verse). Where, as world and people are equivalent expressions, and interpret each other, so are righteousness and equity made to be expressive of each other. Now agreeably to this notion, I will, by the guidance of the same holy Scripture, endeavour to represent the measures of that great day.
1. Christ Jesus, the Judge of all the world, will not at the last day proceed arbitrarily with men, but according to known laws; that is, He will not absolve and save any merely because He hath decreed so to do (Revelation 2:23; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Indeed in this world God doth deal by prerogative, and dispenses the means of grace as well as other favours, as He pleases, from whence it comes to pass, that greater advantages are conferred upon some people than other, but this is not the case at the end of the world, when God comes to demonstrate His justice and righteousness. And besides, wherefore is the Judge said to be the searcher of hearts, if He proceed proleptically upon bare resolution or determination? Why is He said to separate the sheep from the goats, if He make a distinction without a difference? Why is it called a fiery trial if there be no discrimination; and in a word, if He save and damn by prerogative?
2. The Judge of the world will not be partial, or use any respect of persons; that is, He will neither acquit nor condemn any man or men whatsoever, in consideration of external circumstances. As for kindred and family, the Jews were wont to bear themselves in hand with their lineage and descent, that they were Abraham's seed. God will sooner exert His omnipotency in the most improbable miracle that ever He wrought, than admit an unholy person into heaven upon the pretence of kindred and consanguinity. And as for sect and opinion, it is notoriously evident that there is no opinion so orthodox, nor party so canonical, but an evil man may be of it, and at that day nothing will pass current for the sake of the public stamp upon it, but according to the intrinsic value; for all shall be weighed in the balance of the sanctuary. To this head I refer also, that this righteous Judge is capable of no fondness or indulgence, will be wrought upon by no flattery, will value nothing that men can either do or suffer for Him without an holy temper, an habitually pious and virtuous life, and such qualifications inherent as fit a man for the kingdom of heaven.
3. So just and righteous will be the proceedings at this great tribunal, that as no man shall be saved for the righteousness of another, so neither shall any man be damned for the sin of another, but every man shall bear his own burden. Whatever it may please the Divine Majesty to do in this world, where His inflictions are not so properly revenged or the expletion of justice, as methods of mercy to reclaim men from sin; yet most certainly at that day the sons shall not bear the iniquity of the fathers, but every man shall bear his own burden, and the soul only that sinneth shall die.
4. This Judge of all the world will at that great day candidly interpret men's actions, and make the very best of things that the case will bear. Now touching this the tenor of the whole gospel assures us that our merciful Judge will not watch advantages against men, will not insist upon punctilios, but principally looks at the sincerity of men's intentions (Matthew 25:34). But that which I principally note in this place is the benignity of His interpretation, for when the righteous say, "Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered," He replies, "Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least of these," etc., as if He had said, I know the sincerity of your intentions, and I take notice of the virtuous temper from whence those actions of yours proceeded; 'tis the heart I value more than the thing done, or the opportunity of doing.
5. The admirable equity of the great and final judgment is this, That the glory and happiness of good men in the other world shall be increased proportionably to the measures of their difficulties, sufferings, and calamities here in this world. The apostle tells us, "That as one star differeth from another in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead."
(J. Goodman, D. D.)
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
(T. De Witt Talmage.)
Whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.I. AN EXPRESS DECLARATION OF GOD concerning a future and general judgment. He hath appointed a day wherein He will judge the world. It must be owned that the natural proofs of a judgment to come, had it not been made an article of our faith, are very strong and cogent. The promiscuous distribution of the blessings and evils of this life to wicked and good men. The triumphs of injustice, and notorious oppression of right, and that not for a short time, but for a course of many years, have been all along made an argument that the Judge of all the earth will one day do right, and justify the wise though unsearchable methods of His providence in this world, by rewarding the innocent and bringing the successful and presumptuous sinner to condign punishment. And indeed there is nothing more true or certain in fact than what Solomon observes (Ecclesiastes 8:14, etc.), But though this and several other proofs, which are drawn from natural religion, of a judgment to come should be allowed not only highly probable, but very evident, it must be owned, notwithstanding a great happiness to mankind in general, that God has been pleased to make this natural principle an article of our Christian faith. For by this means those who are not able to reason justly on the nature of things, or to carry on a long train of proofs, are convinced of the truth of a future judgment upon the authority of God.
II. THE JUSTICE AND EQUITY WHEREWITH GOD WILL PROCEED IN JUDGING THE WORLD — "He hath appointed a day wherein He will judge the world" in righteousness. The justice of the proceedings at that day will appear in this, that God, in rewarding and punishing men, will make a more visible distinction between the wicked and the good than He ordinarily does in this life. Herein also lies the justice of the great and last court of judicature that no partial record shall be had to any persons on account of their superior quality, fortune, or other advantages in this world. To show the impartial execution of justice at that day, we have a particular enumeration of the men of the earth who have abused their power, their authority, or wealth to sinful ends. and a very lively image and the horror of despair which will then seize them (Revelation 6:15-17).
III. THE DESIGNATION OF THE PERSON WHO IS TO BE OUR JUDGE. "That Man whom He hath ordained." It might perhaps have been thought more suitable to the awful solemnity of the last day, and the dignity and glory wherein Christ will then appear, if He had been described in the character of Judge as the Son of God, the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, or in those other magnificent terms wherein He is so often spoken of in the prophetical writings. But still it is more suitable to the state and condition of mankind, and His tender compassion towards them, that when He speaks of coming to judge the world He should rather give us an idea of His human than His Divine nature. For indeed, when we consider the infinite persecutions of the Divine nature, and at what an infinite distance our sins have separated us from it, had the eternal God Himself, without the interposal of a Mediator, thought fit to convene the world in judgment before Him. Alas! the best of men would have been so oppressed with the thoughts of His glory, and their own demerits, that they must of necessity, even under their best grounded hopes, have sunk into great despondency of mind. He that has assumed our nature, and done and suffered so much for us in it, will certainly show all the lenity and tenderness to it which the terms of evangelical obedience will admit.
IV. We have here a very particular and extraordinary circumstance to convince us of THE TRUTH AND CERTAINTY OF CHRIST'S COMING TO JUDGE THE WORLD, and that is by His resurrection from the dead. The miracles which were done by our Saviour throughout the whole course of His ministry carried a sufficient proof and attestation along with them of the truths which He taught, for no one could have done those things which He did in the most open and public manner without the assistance of a Divine power. Now this being one great article of the religion He came to preach and establish that God has appointed a day wherein He will judge the world, it may be said, What need was there of any further witness to confirm this article? Or why, when it was sufficiently confirmed before, was there so great stress laid on the resurrection of Christ for the proof of it? But still there was something peculiar in what related to the resurrection of Christ which rendered it an argument of the truth of His religion more proper to persuade the generality of men and to convince gainsayers than the rest of His miracles. For —
1. He bad Himself appealed to this testimony as one great proof and characteristic of His Divine mission and authority (John 2:16). And therefore, besides that His resurrection was a miraculous and extraordinary event, exceeding the powers of nature, it was an argument of His being inspired with a prophetic Spirit, and that God, who alone appropriates to Himself the knowledge of future events, was in this respect also with Him.
2. The caution which the Jews used to prevent, if possible, the resurrection of Christ, gave the greater force to the arguments we draw in proof of our holy religion from it. So that His very enemies, who would fasten so chimerical an imputation upon Him, must confess at least that His resurrection could not be effected by it, but that He was raised by a power truly Divine.
3. Again, whereas it might have been objected that His other miracles were done before people of obscure and mean circumstances, before a company of illiterate Galileans, and the credulous multitude upon whom it is no difficult matter for men of parts and dexterity at any time to impose; though this objection is easily answered, from the public manner of our Saviour's working His miracles, and His propounding them afterwards to the examination of His greatest enemies, the Pharisees, yet in His resurrection the very ground of these surmises is quite removed. There could be no artifice used on so remarkable and extraordinary an occasion.
4. There is something in the very nature of the thing itself apt to persuade men, from the resurrection of Christ, that the doctrines which He taught were true, and that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. For though every miracle is above the ordinary course and powers of nature, and supposes certain changes of bodies which cannot be accounted for according to the established order of things; yet where all the bodily powers of a man are rendered incapable of acting, and all the springs of life are entirely broken, it still seems less conceivable how He should either be able to work any change upon other bodies, or to restore His own body again to life.Conclusion:
1. If God has appointed a day wherein He will judge the world, let us have it often in our thoughts, and carefully practise the duties preparative to it.
2. If God has appointed a day wherein He will judge the world in righteousness, then it highly concerns us as we expect to stand in judgment before Him, to take care that we live and die in a holy and righteous state.
3. Since our Blessed Saviour, in speaking of the last judgment, is pleased more peculiarly to style Himself the Son of Man. This consideration will mightily fortify all true penitents against those black and desponding thoughts which are sometimes apt to arise in the minds of very good men. How great or numerous soever our sins have been, yet if we have humbled ourselves before God, and truly repented of them, we know that the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to expiate their guilt.
4. As by the resurrection of Christ we have a more full and express assurance of a future judgment than we could have had from the mere light of reason, let this consideration excite us to walk worthy of so bright and glorious an evidence. Let us resolve to live, not as persons that have some probable notions and conjectures about such a thing, but as men who fully and in earnest believe that we must one day appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in the body according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
(R. Fiddes, D. D.)
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