Who’s Left To Judge?

Over the course of the last few years my understanding of the nature and character of God has really been changed, simply because I have embraced the fact that God is like Jesus. One of the primary revelations that has come to me is the fact that through Jesus we can recognize that God’s sense of Justice is very different from our human sense of Justice. We generally think of Justice in punitive or retributive terms of a Judge delivering a verdict of guilty or not guilty, and of passing a sentence of punishment upon a criminal, whereas Jesus shows us that God’s Justice is entirely restorational in its intent. This comes across in Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5:38-48, but it also in the teachings of Jesus throughout the Gospel of John, which I will focus on here. Note that for the purpose of this study I will focus on two Greek words: KRISIS is the noun meaning “judgment,” and KRINO is the verb meaning “to judge.”

In the Gospel of John we find an interesting series of statements given by Jesus that really mess with our ideas of “final judgement” if we insist on understanding it in a punitive/retributive sense, of all humanity standing before the throne, waiting for a final verdict of either redemption or eternal damnation. If that is what you believe then how do you make sense of this?

Jesus plainly says that God the Father judges no one:

“The Father judges (KRINO) no one…” John 5:22a

Now just think how that statement was received by the Jews in His day. Talk about controversy, this was incredible because for the Pharisees God was all about judgment and, given that we become what we worship, “judgment” was exactly what they modeled! Even today a “Pharisee” is a label for someone with a self-righteous judgmental attitude. How in the world could Jesus say that God the Father does not judge? If this was true then the Pharisees were out of a job! God doesn’t judge? That’s inconceivable! What about justice!? What about all those evildoers out there!? This is outright heresy! But then Jesus takes it a step further and goes on to say that the Father has given all judgment (KRISIS) to the Son:

“The Father judges (KRINO) no one, but has given ALL judgment (KRISIS) to the Son.” John 5:22

“For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And He has given Him authority to execute judgment (KRISIS), because He is the Son of Man.” John 5:26-27

Now it is one thing for me to say that the Father isn’t going to judge anyone, but then another to say that He has GIVEN THAT JOB TO ME! Yet that is the message that Jesus, a simple Galilean peasant, delivered to the Jews in Jerusalem shortly after one of their religious festivals (John 5:1). These are the kinds of things that Jesus spoke that implied that He was equal with God (5:18), that made many want to see Him killed!

So there we have it. Jesus was walking around Israel saying, “I’m the judge now! Do what I say or you will regret it!” And this is how Jesus became the King of the Pharisees… right?

Well, it is true that Jesus promised that those who followed Him would NOT face judgment:

“He who believes in Him [Jesus speaking of Himself] IS NOT JUDGED (KRINO)…” John 3:18a

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and DOES NOT COME INTO JUDGMENT (KRISIS), but has passed out of death into life.” John 5:24

As good Christians we all take a sigh of relief here knowing that because we have prayed the prayer of salvation and follow the bible and trust in our faith, then we no longer face the threat of retribution from God in the afterlife…

Wait, I mean retribution from Jesus, right? Because Jesus said that ALL JUDGMENT was given to Him. Um… I guess that’s right…

Since we love Jesus… He will love us back and… He won’t harm us on Judgment Day…

But for those who don’t love Jesus, who don’t respond positively to His gift of salvation… Well, these people are in terrible danger! Yes, God doesn’t judge, but Jesus DOES! Is that really how it works? Then why does Jesus say that He WAS NOT sent into the world to judge the world, but to save it?13427907_10156895080950167_844602898840619598_n

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:17

Why didn’t Jesus just come right out and say, “Verily, verily, I say to you, follow me and be saved, but if you don’t follow me I will punish you later. God loves you so much that He has sent me to save you from myself when I come back in the future.”

Really? Is that the Good News that we are called to preach? Jesus came to save us from JESUS?

What if I told you that according to Jesus, He will not even judge those who REJECT Him?

Sounds like heresy, right? Well here it is:

“If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I DO NOT JUDGE (KRINO) HIM; for I did NOT come to judge (KRINO) the world but to save the world.” John 12:47

Now of course some of you sharp biblical minds out there may try to explain this by saying,

“Jesus did not judge THEN, but He will judge in the FUTURE! I have a list of Scriptures for you, Pete!”

Yes, yes, I do recognize that, and I do recognize that this list of statements from Jesus becomes more complicated when read in context, but before we move on let’s just assess the gravity of what we have discovered and allow Jesus to speak in the way that I truly believe that He intended us to “get.”

Concerning the statement about non-believers above, “I do not judge (KRINO) him…” you should know that the verb KRINO is in the future, active, indicative tense. It is not present tense. Jesus is doing much more than saying, “for the present time I will refrain from judging you,” leaving the future open. No, in this short statement He really is re-affirming the fact that He was NOT sent to this world to judge, but to SAVE, now and forever!10441909_203498346684111_230116445336347562_n

So we see that Jesus has taken us on a journey from “God doesn’t judge” to “God has given ALL judgment unto me” to “those who hear and obey my words will not be judged” to “You know what guys, I will not even judge those who reject my words, either now or later.”

Can you see how deliberate Jesus is in distancing Himself from the “high judgmentalism” of the Pharisees? Now we can see that it is EXACTLY like it was at the aftermath of the incident in John 8 with the woman lawfully accused of adultery:

Now there is no one left to judge!

So how does this impact our understanding of Judgment Day? Are we ready to pull out other Scriptures from the New Testament that SEEM to blatantly contradict what Jesus was so eager to teach us about Divine Judgment in John’s Gospel? That’s generally what everybody seems to do, and what happens is that the “outlandish” statements that Jesus makes in John’s Gospel are simply ignored. We develop our theology in such a way that says essentially God shows up at the end of the story as a cosmic omnipotent Pharisee, carrying a big bag of rocks, facing a huddled group of powerless sinners, and then letting loose with retributive punishment that some believe even lasts for eternity.

I don’t think that this picture is true. I think there is a better way to understand God’s idea of Justice while at the same time recognizing that there IS a Final Judgment and ultimately God WILL make everything right, and through Jesus the end result will be the utter defeat of Sin and Death and Hell.

As it says in the Gospel of Matthew (12:18-21), Jesus was sent to announce Justice (KRISIS) and He will ultimately “lead Justice (KRISIS) unto Victory!” However, this victory of God’s Justice comes without breaking the bruised read, or blowing out the dimly burning flame.

There is much more to be said, and many challenges and arguments remain, but for now this short little study is meant to lead into the possibility that, rather than PUNITIVE, the Justice of God is somehow wonderfully, mysteriously, perfectly RESTORATIVE in its final result, which I think is something that is captured and related beautifully here by the Apostle Paul:

“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. 1 Corinthians 4:5

Now that is Good News!


12 thoughts on “Who’s Left To Judge?

  1. Well I can see why you might say that. Would you also say that Revelation doesn’t line up with what Jesus says in John? Somewhere along the line we need to re-evaluate how the two sources harmonize. I think the answer lies in recognizing that God’s kind of Justice is radically different than the kind of Justice the Pharisees were familiar with and expecting to fall upon “sinners.” I’ve opened up a line of thinking, and I recognize that it is not simple. Reading those statements by Jesus in context and alongside other “judgment” texts raises some challenges. But keep the heart of Jesus front and center and I think we can learn a lot together. I invite you to keep digging and asking questions!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well Peter, great plug for universalism. An old old argument constantly whipped out and, if carefully exegeted, thoroughly dismantled. Terribly poor exegesis, old boy. And for your information, scripture does not contradict itself, so all of those other scriptures that “others may whip out” for rebuttal that go contrary to your point are not contradictions but a fuller view of God’s word.
    For example, your usage of John 12:47 to prove that even Jesus does not judge is fallicious and juvenile exegesis. Let me quote John 12:48 “The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that i have spoken will serve as judge, for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak.” Here, it is plain to see, that far from these verses implying, as you cleverly say, that no one is left to judge, they in fact clearly state that (1) that there is a judge (2)the basis of this judgement is the words that Christ spoke, and (2) these words were given to Him by His Father. Isn’t it amazing what context will do. Try to resist the impulse to cherry pick Peter. It’s a common malady, and we can all fall prey to it, especially if we are emotionally invested in a particular paradigm.
    You yourself spoke the truth and then denied it. No, Jesus, in His incarnation, did not come AT THAT TIME to judge the world, but to offer salvation through His death and resurrection. There will come a time, however, (see rest of bible) when He will be involved in judgement, this being both a perogative of his humanity and divinity, being both perfect righteous God and perfect righteous man.
    Now perhaps there will come a time, a time that we probably can’t conceive of or understand, when the God of the universe may “start all over” so to speak. Scripture does speak of a new heavens and a new earth at some unspecified time in the future (from our perspective), and I personally take no joy in thinking about individuals eternally separated from God, but unfortunately for you and I, scripture says otherwise.I mean, if eternal and everlasting punishment and separation is not really eternal and everlasting, then we have no biblical basis to believe eternal and everlasting life is either.
    You can’t just go picking what you like, yanking verses out of context, and attempting to rewrite thousands of years of biblical understanding. I mean, sure, you can, but then you become a heretic and founder of your own cult, regardless of your sincere intentions and emotive desires. In our sinful, darkened state, we must resist the “hands across the world” or “we are the children (of God)” urges and stick plainly to the teaching of scripture. Honestly Peter, I would rather warn people of eternal judgement and be wrong then to placidly walk through a humanity facing judgement and spread a message of false hope. Jesus didn’t die to set an example. He died to pay for the sins of all who would believe in Him. It was punitive. If God could be punitive towards His only Son, i’m not sure i see where you, I, and others should receive a pass. If the death of Christ wasn’t for the avoidance of judgement for those who believe, it seems a terrible waste of perfect human flesh. If all are eventually saved, then it ultimately served no purpose. And if His sacrifice is applied equally to all, even to those who deny Him, then it only serves as a helpful suggestion, not a life saving sacrifice. Do better next time.

    Like

  3. Peter I have read your material for years and just over the last few I see you as being pulled many directions. You are starting to cherry pick and are losing the full scope of The Bible. I really worry about you with some you are surrounding yourself with. You may just reject this post but I hope and pray you will soon begin to take a deeper look.

    Like

  4. Well thanks for all the warm (fiery) comments! Yes I expected to draw controversy, and as I said in my post things get more complicated if we look at these statements from Jesus in context or if we compare them with other “judgment” passages in Scripture.

    But I just want to warn once again, that we should not use these Scriptures to overturn, reject, or ignore what Jesus said. For instance, Jesus clearly states, “I do not judge the one who disobeys my teaching” in John 12:47. So why then does He turn right around in verse 48 and say, “My word judges you”? We need to hold on to BOTH statements, otherwise we portray Jesus as a hypocrite or trickster simply trying here to cleverly shirk responsibility for judging. Is he trying to sound NOT like a Pharisee, but then acts like a Pharisee at the end? No, the answer that I suggest is that THERE IS A SENSE in which Jesus does not judge anybody, and this is the punitive or retributive sense. This is the form of judgment most familiar to the Pharisees. Jesus was not a Pharisee, and neither is His Father.

    However we must also recognize that there are other forms of judgment. These are the forms that we need to pay attention to, because it seems like everything Jesus says in John about judgement is flatly contradicted elsewhere in the New Testament, IF, and note the strong word IF here, IF the only type of judgement we can imagine is punitive/retrubutive.

    For instance:

    Jesus says in John 5:22 that the Father judges NO ONE. Yet other passages in the New Testament clearly state that the Father DOES judge men (Romans 2:16, 14:10 (non-KJV), 1 Peter 1:17, 4:5, Revelation 19:1-2, among others).

    Jesus says in John 3:17 and John 12:47 that He does does NOT judge. Yet other passages in the New Testament clearly state that Jesus DOES judge men (Matthew 12:18,20, Romans 14:10 KJV, 1 Corinthians 4:5, Revelation 19:11, among others).

    Jesus says in John 3:18 and John 5:24 that those who believe in Him will NOT face judgment. Yet Peter, Paul and the book of Revelation declare that EVERY MAN, regardless of their redemptive status, WILL be judged (1 Peter 1:17, Romans 2:3,6, 14:10, 1 Corinthians 3:13, Revelation 20:12).

    So what is going on in the Gospel of John? How can we harmonize these apparent contradictions WITHOUT eliminating the intention behind the words of Jesus spoken through John’s Gospel? As I stated in the blog, I do believe that there is a day of final judgment. Scripture is clear about that. What is NOT clear is the NATURE of that judgment, or the DURATION of it.

    My firm belief is that the final judgment of sinners is of limited duration, with a restorative purpose. I believe that the concept of “eternal punishment” that we find clearly written in English translations of the Bible is a mis-translation and a slander on the loving character of God. Allow me to explain, and share a resource that supports this line of thinking.

    The biblical word that is translated as eternal in most English bibles is the Greek word “aionios.” I will simply tell you straight that “eternal” is a mis-interpretation made popular by Augustine in the 4th Century AD, who was not even a competent Greek scholar. He spoke Latin and he supported the merger of the Catholic Church with the Roman Empire. Worldly empires survive only with violence and to justify violence Augustine argued that God was eternally violent too, afflicting unbelievers with eternal punishment in the afterlife. He translated the Greek word aionios into the Latin aeternus from which we get ETERNAL, and in this way kolasin aionion from Matthew 25:46 became translated as “eternal punishment,” and every other instance of aionios relating to the afterlife became translated into English as “eternal” as well.

    This is how bad theology put a condition on the “unconditional love of God” and turned the God-who-is-love into a two-faced monster. This is how the Savior also became portrayed as the ultimate and final Destroyer, offering “love” with one hand, but wrath with the other for all those who refuse the “free gift.”

    So what does the word aion/aionios/aionion mean anyway, if not eternal? The word means “pertaining to an age” and means different things in different contexts but it should NOT be translated as “eternal” in the sense of “unending time.”

    There is another Greek word that has the specific and precise meaning of “unending time” and that is the Greek word aidios, properly translated in Jude 6 as “eternal.” This word NEVER appears in context of human punishment in the afterlife, despite the fact that such an occurrence would have solved this ongoing debate regarding “eternal torment” decisively.

    For those who are open to the possibility that the New Testament teaches ONLY a doctrine of limited punishment in the afterlife, I suggest the study linked below. It contains only the intro to the subject, as well as an appendix on the word “aidios.” However it also contains a link to the full study that covers the etymology and lexicography of the word AION-AIONIOS as well as its usage throughout the Old and New Testaments, its usage by Jews in the Greek world, its usage in the Greek classics, and its usage by the early Greek church fathers.

    You will not find a more exhaustive study on the New Testament Greek word Aion-Aionios anywhere out there, and its clear conclusions will give you freedom to love God and your neighbor with all your heart. Suddenly all the beautiful statements from Scripture will make perfect sense, with no infernal “but” attached.

    God is love.
    Love never fails.
    His mercy endures forever.

    For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, NOR THINGS TO COME, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    (Romans 8:38-39)

    Here is the link to that study: http://www.redmoonrising.com/Aionios.pdf

    Like

  5. Wow, Peter
    I’ve been reading you for years, and you always are right on with something that is being highlighted to me at that time.

    Thank you for the Good News! The older I get, the more I realize that I have to stay open to hear what God is really saying, rather than hang on to old paradigms.

    The more that I’m able to let go of the doctrines of men, the more in love I am with Jesus, and want to know him more and more.

    He draws us to him with his lovingkindness. The flesh can’t comprehend such grace.

    Keep being open and keep challenging us to think higher thoughts! I, for one, am all ears.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Again Peter, you show some poor choices inv your exegesis. First let me comment on your statement to the effect that Augustine interpreted “eternal” the way he did to justify or endorse the violence of the Roman empire is laughable at best and sad at worse. He translated as he did based on his knowledge of the language of the time. No scholar has ever shown that Augustine manipulated biblical words to endorse the joining of the church with a secular (in reality) empire. One of the greatest areas in biblical exegesis, as shown brilliantly by James Barr, is using etymological meanings to proof text your point. A word by itself NEVER determines the meaning of a verse or passage, but must be taken in context. Also, if your point is correct, which it isn’t, then eternal life does NOT mean forever, just a long time. So then we who believe will live just for “a number of ages”. Is this what you believe? Your etymological conclusion would seem to demand it.
    There are far, far more passages that speak of God’s judgement for those who reject him than speak specifically of His “love” for His own. The ploy here is to position these two concepts as in opposition to each other. You chose the minority samplings, refer to the majority as “those other scriptures”, and then act as if there is some contradiction to reconcile. There is none. They do not oppose, they complement or expand each other. While I am glad you acknowledge other verses that argue against your point, your primary error in this post is the common one used today in this debate. You focus on the “Love” of God as if it is the primary attribute of the Godhead. God does not “have” love, He IS love. It is His fundamental essence. And it is accompanied by JUSTICE, RIGHTEOUSNESS, GOODNESS, OMNISCIENCE, OMNIPOTENCE, etc. The Godhead isn’t separated into portions that contain his attributes or essence. He is equally ALL that He is. He will be a JUDGE as much as He will be LOVE. This applies to all other attributes. He is perfect, complete, and is, for lack of a better word, the maximum possible of all His attributes. To elevate one attribute over others is an attack on the very simplicity and nature of the Godhead.
    Why you think one must pursue a word study of a greek word to become obtain the “freedom” to love others with all your heart is a non-sequitor, in addition to being nonsense. Why the length of God’s judgement on unbelievers should have the slightest effect on our loving our neighbors begs an explanation. Whether hell last for a thousand years, a million years, till the end of time as we know it, or is a purgatory should have no effect on the Holy Spirit’s convicting and convincing us to spread the good news of the gospel. In fact, logically the belief that God will eventually bring all into His fold, including Hitler or Satan, seems the least motivating perspective of all. I mean, everyone wins, right? And remember, it’s IN JESUS CHRIST that we are never seperated from the love of God. It’s in His life, death, and resurrection that we are sealed by this love. It’s in Christ and what he did that our citizenship in heaven abides. There is nothing in scripture that suggests anything resembling a purgatory, nor varying sentences for unforgiven sins followed by quick disposal.
    Your followers like to trumpet their freedom from the “doctrines of men”. The real value or uselessness of such statements is determined by what they mean by that phrase. It may come as a shock, but the Scriptures were written by men. The doctrines formed were formed by men using scriptures written by men. There is no doubting that we humans have often distorted the bible, and false teachings constantly showed up. Yet Paul warns us about doctrines of demons, spread by men (and now women), distortions of God’s word and the traditions given to us by godly followers of Christ, very many that gave their lives to preserve His truth. It’s not that traditions are inherently evil. It is when the traditions of MEN overrule the traditions and doctrines that the bible provide us with.
    If your point has to be proven by casting one body of scripture against another, encouraging your readers to “chose” one block of verses as weightier than another, or “more true”, then you are already in error.
    Let me ask you a question, Peter. If scripture, in your mind, clearly stated without your ability to find anything you could remotely interpret as counterpoints, that God does indeed judge and condemn (actually they condemn themselves) humans to eternal (meaning forever) torment with no respite, relief, or annihilation, would you worship this God? It’s only a hypothetical question, as you obviously believe scripture apparently contradicts itself, but indulge me. Do you find this God that i propose objectionable? Unworthy of love, adoration, or worship?
    Thanks for your indulgence. Though i don’t agree with your methods or conclusions, i certainly endorse your right to expression and courage in sharing. Be blessed.

    Like

  7. If there is an ultimate punishment for some hard cases, I believe it is death as scripture states. Death as in gone forever–put out of your misery. I do not believe God says he would sentence someone to an eternal life of torture, but death for eternity.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s