But after your hardness and impenitent heart treasure up to yourself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation…
In the previous verses we saw how the goodness of God is too often received; how there are many who despise the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering. It is especially to such persons that St. Paul addresses his account of God's righteous judgment from the fifth verse to the sixteenth. Those who despise God's goodness have a great fact to face. Those who live as if there was no God, who evade his commandments, who evade his offer of salvation, cannot evade his righteous judgment. As there is one event to all in the universal certainty of death, so we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. It is good even for Christians to be reminded of the judgment to come. We live too little under its power. We realize too imperfectly that one day we shall have to give an account of our stewardship. We realize too imperfectly our responsibility toward those around us. How little we enter into Paul's views of the judgment, when he said, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Corinthians 5:11)! The subject of God's righteous judgment is an important one both for Christian and for sinner.
I. THE JUDGE. He is a righteous Judge. It is most important that, in thinking of the judgment, we should think of this aspect of God's character. "The righteous judgment of God" (ver. 5). We are not to think of the judgment as necessarily a terror in itself. It is, what the laws of human society ought to be, a terror to the evil-doer, but a praise to them that do well. If we think of the judgment with terror, the fault lies, not with God, but in ourselves. God is a righteous Judge. His judgment is a righteous judgment. There are some who cherish hard thoughts of God, who think of him as a stern and relentless Judge. For such hard thoughts there is no foundation anywhere in God's dealings with men. His character is what we should call a character of perfect fairness. His judgment will be perfectly fair. There may be some one who will say, "I did not know that such a course of action was wrong; I had not the Law of God to guide me." St. Paul meets just such a case: "As many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law" (ver. 12). The judgment will be entirely according to our opportunities and privileges. If God condemns us or inflicts punishment upon us, it will only be because we deserve it. Every man will get a fair hearing. "There no respect of persons with God (ver. 11). Every man will get a fair chance Those who have the Bible in their hands cannot say that they have not had a fair chance. We have all got the offer of salvation. We have all heard of the love of Jesus. We have all heard the invitations of the gospel What could God have done for us that he has not done? He has done all he could do for our salvation, when "he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." He has done all he could, so long as man remains a free agent, to warn us to flee from the wrath to come, to win our hearts to himself. He is slow to anger, plenteous in mercy, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; and yet he will by no means clear the guilty. He gives us every chance, that by his goodness he may lead us to repentance. It may be observed here that the idea of righteousness is so bound up in the idea of the judgment of God, that St. Paul uses one word in the original to express what we describe by two words - "righteous-judgment."
II. THE PERSONS JUDGED. That judgment no one can escape. "Who will render to every man according to his deeds" (ver. 6). Many escape here on earth the just reward of their deeds. Gross crimes are perpetrated, and the murderer escapes the just sentence of the law; the defrauder and the betrayer and the slanderer occupy positions of respectability in life. But they go down to the grave with their sins upon their soul, to pass on into the presence of that tribunal from which earthly rank and earthly wealth can purchase no escape. As the apostle tells us in the eleventh verse, "there is no respect of persons with God." God looks upon the heart; he looks upon the motives; he looks upon the character. Thus regarding men, thus judging them, he sees but two classes. What are these? The rich and the poor? No. The learned and the unlearned? No. The Christian and the heathen? No. The Protestant and the Roman Catholic? No. In God's sight it is character and conduct - not country, or class, or creed - that divide men. St. Paul speaks of the two classes thus: "Every soul of man that doeth evil" (ver. 9), and "Every man that worketh good" (ver. 10). Or, again, he describes them, "Those who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality" (ver. 7), and "Those that are contentious [or, 'self-seeking'], and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness" (ver. 8). To one or other of these classes every one of us belongs.
III. THE EVIDENCE. Here again we see how righteous will be the judgment of God. There will be no circumstantial evidence needed, however strong its chain of many links may often be. There will be no need to depend on the testimony of others. There will be no danger of the Judge being led astray by the impassioned pleading or the fallible logic of a human advocate. Our own deeds will be there to speak for themselves. "Who will render to every man according to his deeds. Ah, how solemn is the thought that we are now writing the evidence by which we shall be judged on the judgment-day! In the red sandstone there are found, in some places, marks which are clearly the impressions of showers of rain, and these so perfect that it can even be determined in what direction the shower inclined, and from what quarter it proceeded - and this ages ago! So also scientific men have been able to trace out from the fossil remains, buried for ages in the earth, the shape and characteristics of animals whose species are long since extinct. So our deeds leave their record behind them, and that record in the judgment-day will testify to what our character was when we were here on earth. The judgment-day will be a day of revelation (ver. 5). It will reveal the righteous judgment of God. It will unveil many mysteries in God's dealings which we did not understand before. It will reveal the true character of men. Then God shall judge the secrets of men" (ver. 16). Then shall all hidden things be brought to light, all deceits discovered, all hypocrisies unmasked. Then, too, shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Their character, often here hidden under a cloud, often misunderstood, often misrepresented, shall then be vindicated for all eternity and before all the world. "The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." This also makes God's judgment a righteous judgment, that the evidence shall be the evidence of men's own deeds.
IV. THE RESULT OF THE JUDGMENT. To some will be given eternal life (ver. 7). That will be to those who have lived according to the light they had. No mere profession will save us. Neither will our own good works save us. But our works are the evidence whether or not we are believers on the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; those whom God's goodness has led to repentance; those who have kept his commandments; those who have not been weary in well-doing, but "by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality;" those who have denied themselves, and taken up their cross and followed Christ; they "shall have right to the tree of life, and shall enter through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14). To others - oh, what a dark future! "Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish" (vers. 8, 9). God's judgment is a righteous judgment. "He that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption." The apostle speaks of "treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath" (ver. 5). That is what every one is doing who goes on in the path of unbelief, impenitence, disobedience, godlessness. What folly to lay up a treasure like that! - C.H.I.
Parallel VersesKJV: But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;