JUDGMENT BEGINS WITH THE HOUSEHOLD OF GOD
Copyright © 1993 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
There is a difference between Divine judgment and Divine wrath. Divine wrath destroys. Divine judgment brings us to repentance. God leads every saint through much tribulation and suffering. Such suffering is a judgment on us, a separating of the good from the evil in our personality. Judgment begins with the household of God. It begins with the saints. It begins with those who are closest to the Lord. The Divine judgment is not a bad thing. It is a good thing, a blessing, a working of the grace of God in our life.
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (I Peter 4:17)
From this verse and those surrounding it we learn some important facts concerning the Divine judgment.
- We learn that the Divine judgment has been in operation since the Holy Spirit fell in the form of tongues of fire. The saints are to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with the fire of Divine judgment.
- We learn that the Divine judgment comes upon the saints first and then upon the world.
- We learn that the Divine judgment comes upon the saints in the form of a chastening of our flesh.
- We learn that the Divine judgment is so rigorous the righteous are saved with difficulty (I Peter 4:18).
In order to be saved we must maintain our confidence in Christ until we have come to the end of our testings and tribulations. We are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
There is an important difference between judgment and condemnation.
- Judgment is the separation of what is good from what is evil.
- Condemnation is the guilt and the disapproval of the Lord that are directed toward all persons, Christians included, who are transgressing God’s laws or His known will.
There is no condemnation resting on those who are abiding in Christ and walking in the light of God’s will. But numerous Christians do not abide in Christ. They know (or suspect) the will of God and are not doing it. They are under condemnation because they are working evil in the sight of the Lord (Romans 2:8; 14:23; James 4:17).
The current concept that Christians are not judged and rewarded according to their works as are other people arises in part from a misunderstanding of John 5:24, and in part from a misapplication of Paul’s arguments against the Judaizers. Paul stressed righteousness apart from the works of the Law until it is very easy to assume that faith can live apart from works of righteousness and that by some “magic” God does not see the sin and disobedience of the believers (Romans 3:21).
The following passage from the Gospel of John has caused numerous believers to believe that God will bring them to Paradise no matter how they behave.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)
It is not difficult to understand how a novice could interpret this announcement to mean Christians are not judged and rewarded according to their works as are all the other members of mankind. But the fourth chapter of First Peter prevents any such conclusion. We must look more carefully at the Lord’s statement and interpret it in the light of the writings of the Apostles.
There is condemnation resting on the whole world. The nations, living and dead, are awaiting the Day of Judgment.
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. (Romans 3:9)
They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (I Peter 4:5)
The Day of Judgment began with the coming of Christ. It commenced with those whom Christ chose to make spiritually alive in His day.
The Lord Jesus walked among the people of Israel. Of this multitude He selected some to pass from death to life.
“For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. (John 5:21)
Jesus spoke to the elect, the chosen: “If you hear My Word and believe in God you will not come into judgment but have passed out of death into life.”
Death and life can proceed only from judgment.
Christ is saying, “If you will put yourself in My hands, I will assume all responsibility for your guilt (made possible by His subsequent death on the cross, by the blood atonement). By receiving Me you have received the Resurrection and the Life. You already are alive eternally. You do not have to work for your salvation any longer. I am here. I am your Salvation!”
Does this mean the job is finished and we now are waiting to go to Heaven and reside there forever? Not at all! This is not what Jesus said; this is not what Jesus meant.
We do not work for our salvation but we certainly have to work it out!
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (Philippians 2:12)
Going to Heaven is not being discussed here (in John 5:24). The issue is eternal death versus eternal life.
For those who receive Him in sincere faith Jesus removes the condemnation resting on the whole world. In so doing the Lord Jesus, the Judge of all men, has made an initial judgment concerning those who have received Him. He has judged them to be worthy of eternal life and has given it to them.
After this what happens? For the remainder of their days the Lord Jesus works with His elect, chastening them (often severely) from time to time. They are not free to go about doing as they please. The Lord Jesus regards them as His personal property. As such He judges their behavior at all times, testing them continually and chastening them often and soundly so they will not come under the condemnation rests on the world.
For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:6)
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. (Revelation 3:19)
It is not the guilt of the faithful saints that is at issue, for their guilt was removed on the cross for all time. It is the sinful nature of the believers that is being judged. The saints suffer so their sinful nature may be driven far from them. As they suffer they learn to walk in the righteous, peaceful ways of the Lord.
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. (I Peter 4:1,2)
Has this been true in your case or have you never been chastened by the Lord? Or do you believe it is Satan who is causing all your troubles?
It is not Satan at all. Satan does not appear in the fourth chapter of I Peter except as an instrument to carry out the Lord’s will concerning His saints. Our fiery trials are, as Peter explains to us, the judgment of the Lord on us. They are not an expression of condemnation or a punishment for our sins. They are not a demonstration of Divine wrath but of Divine judgment.
so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure,
which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; (II Thessalonians 1:4,5)
“Manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God.” We suffer that we may be found worthy of the Kingdom of God.
There is a difference between Divine judgment and Divine wrath. Divine wrath destroys. Divine judgment brings us to repentance.
God leads every saint through much tribulation and suffering. Such suffering is Divine judgment on us, separating the good from the evil in our personality. Have you noticed that after you have suffered for a period of time it is much easier to live quietly and contentedly before the Lord?
The righteous experience many afflictions. They always have. But God delivers them out of all their afflictions as soon as the “silver” (redemption) and “gold” (Divinity) in them have been refined to God’s standard.
Every Christian will be baptized with the Holy Spirit and with the fire of God’s judgment.
“His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12)
The above verse parallels I Peter 4:17.
Christ has the winnowing (separating) fan in His nail-pierced hand. He will thoroughly purge His floor—His floor meaning His elect. Those who will permit the Lord to sift them will be saved (he who endures to the end shall be saved). But those who prove to be unworthy of the Kingdom of God, according to the Divine judgment, will be cast into the eternal fire.
Judgment begins with the family of God. It begins with the saints. It begins with those who are closest to the Lord.
The Divine judgment is not a bad thing it is a good thing, a blessing, a work of the grace of God in our lives.
Notice King David’s attitude toward Divine judgment. It ought to be the attitude of every saint whether of the old covenant or of the new:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties;
and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalms 139:23,24)
David is asking the Lord to judge him. It is a wise prayer.
Whenever Christ comes to His saints He judges us with His eyes of fire.
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; (Revelation 1:14)
Revelation 1:14 emphasizes a fact that must be brought to the attention of the Christian people of today. A number of Christian believers are not prepared to meet Christ.
Because of a misleading interpretation of the term “grace,” because of a faulty interpretation of the statement “the just shall live by faith,” and because of the assumptions included in the teaching of the so-called “pre-tribulation rapture,” numerous believers are woefully unprepared to meet Christ.
Today there is in the Christian churches a feeling, a consensus, an assumption concerning what Jesus is like, what His demands are, what His plan of redemption includes. After fifty years as an Christian believer we have come to the conclusion that this “feeling” and set of assumptions concerning the Gospel include a considerable amount of deception.
Because of this “sense” of what the Christian salvation is, a sense that accompanies the “believe only” and “rapture” teachings, many Christians have become silly and presumptuous. They are like little children with jam smeared on their faces.
How do the immature believers of our time compare in character with Abraham, with Job, with Daniel, with Jeremiah? How would their comments about “grace” impress Moses or Elijah or the Apostle Paul? Yet, he who is least in the Kingdom of God is greater than any of the prophets. He is greater because Christ has been formed in him as a result of a deep inner crucifixion and a patient, cross-carrying pilgrimage.
We are confused today. We are in deception. Christian theology, except for its foundation in the blood atonement and triumphant resurrection of Christ, is a maze of contradictions. We simply do not understand the new covenant. It is time for God to move, to bring His flock into fiery judgment. If He does not, a multitude of believers are not going to be prepared for the appearing of Christ.
Christ is a refiner’s fire. He is a strong soap, not a dainty, perfumed soap but a strong soap.
“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderer’s soap.
He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD an offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:2,3)
Whenever Christ receives us He washes the robe of our conduct. He does not limit Himself to forgiving our sins. He washes away our sins with fiery sufferings.
Redemption is not limited to the expression of God’s mercy in forgiving sinners. We have emphasized the forgiveness aspect of redemption out of proportion to its role in the new covenant. An enlarged justification has swallowed up sanctification. The new covenant primarily is the placing of the Law of God in our minds and hearts (Hebrews 8:10).
God is in the process of establishing righteousness and praise in the earth. God has saved us by His grace so we will behave righteously in His sight and in the sight of His creation.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
Divine grace accomplishes vastly more than the forgiveness of our sins. Divine grace finally succeeds in conforming us to the image of Christ and bringing us into restful union with the Father through the Lord Jesus. Such conformation and union are the goal of our predestination (Romans 8:28,29).
We do not lose sight of God’s mercy or His boundless love. Rather we thank God for His mercy. We apprehend His grace by marching forward in His Spirit to perfect, total victory over the world, over Satan, and over our own sin and self-seeking.
In the Scriptures, silver symbolizes redemption, that is, the freeing of us from the possession of Satan. Gold symbolizes Divinity. The Divine Life, the gold that is placed in us when we receive Jesus Christ must be refined by suffering.
The Fire that Christ Is purifies the “silver” (redemption) of our personality. It purifies the “gold” (Divinity) that God has placed in us. “Wood,” in the Scriptures, symbolizes the adamic, flesh-and-blood nature of human beings. The Kingdom of God is not flesh and blood (wood). The Kingdom is the “silver” and the “gold” that come to us from Heaven. The silver and gold, after they have been given to us, are refined through the purifying fires of judgment.
As young Christians we speak and sing of our faith. But as we grow older that faith is tested and refined until it is pure. We say Christ shall provide our every need. We believe it. But one day our belief will be tested in the fire. Only then is it pure enough for God to accept.
The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. (Psalms 12:6)
that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, (I Peter 1:7)
The Lord whom we seek is coming now. His fan is in His hand. He is baptizing with a baptism of fire those whom He chooses. Baptism with Divine fire is not an enjoyable experience but it brings us to the peaceable fruit of righteousness. It leads us into the knowledge of God as our Father. After we have been tested and refined we come forth as pure gold. Only our bonds are burned, as in the case of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:25).
Of all the needs of the Christian churches of today, the greatest may be for Divine judgment. If God can find a person who will separate the precious from the vile, who will distinguish between what is righteous and what is unrighteous, who will stand and announce to the present generation the righteous ways of the Lord, then God may be entreated for our land and not destroy it.
Therefore thus says the LORD: “If you return, then I will bring you back; you shall stand before Me; if you take out the precious from the vile [worthless], you shall be as My mouth. Let them return to you, but you must not return to them. (Jeremiah 15:19)
If any individual will step forth and show God’s people their sins, God will bless him and those who hear him. But such a prophet will be persecuted viciously by those who are making money from the flock; those who speak smooth words, pleasant promises, in order to gain a following. However, the Lord God always strengthens and protects His prophets even when the rest of the people perish.
And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall; and they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you; for I am with you to save you and deliver you,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 15:20)
One man is more powerful than a nation if he will stand with the Lord and explain to God’s people the difference between holiness and uncleanness, righteousness and unrighteousness.
The Day is coming when many Christians will flee in terror from the Lord. They did not realize He was not dancing to their piping or playing their religious games.
The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” (Isaiah 33:14)
How many of us are ready to “ever be with the Lord”? Are we certain we want to be that close to Jesus? Do we want to be that close today?
Who will stand in His burning Presence? The answer is the same today as it was in the days of Adam and Eve. God’s eternal moral law never changes.
God does not change. New-covenant “grace” is not a means whereby the sinful and rebellious can stand in the Presence of the consuming Fire of Israel and not be judged for what they are and what they do. Divine grace that operates through faith is the means whereby the sinful and rebellious can become righteous, holy, and obedient to God, being able to live and move and have their being in the Divine fire.
He who can stand in the Presence of God always has been and always shall be:
He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, he who despises the gain of oppressions, who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, and shuts his eyes from seeing evil: (Isaiah 33:15)
The person who behaves righteously, who speaks the truth, who does not take advantage of the weak, who cannot be influenced by the wealthy, who will not listen to gossip, who does not delight in wickedness—he is the person who is accepted of God. If we follow the Lord Jesus with all our heart He makes us to be this kind of righteous individual. Such righteousness of personality and behavior is the mark of the new creation. Now we are ready to “ever be with the Lord.”
But the person, Christian or not, who behaves unrighteously, who speaks lies (and there are many Christians who do), who takes advantage of the weak and poor, who seeks to please the wealthy and influential, who tolerates and participates in gossip and slander, who tolerates and participates in evil—that individual is abiding under the wrath of God. He is the enemy of God.
He may profess to be a Christian. He may attend a church that holds to the inspiration of the Scriptures. He may be correct in all points of theology according to the Statement of Faith of his Christian church. He may proclaim “grace” from the housetops. But he is a sinner. He is under Divine condemnation because of his wicked behavior. He is under greater condemnation than the individual who never has heard the Gospel of the Kingdom.
The Christian preachers may denounce the teaching of the preceding paragraph but they are in deception. The Christian churches have been destroyed morally and spiritually because of the ignorance of their preachers and teachers concerning what the Apostle Paul meant by the grace of God.
It is what we are and do, not what we believe or profess, that concerns God primarily. Truly receiving the Lord Jesus Christ causes change to take place in the human personality. We are transformed in personality and behavior.
We cannot see the Lord or have fellowship with Him until we become holy. Only the pure in heart can see God, not those who are “saved by grace” but the pure in heart.
Christ always and forever teaches us to be holy as He is holy, to be pure as He is pure. He always leads us in paths of righteousness, of holiness, of obedience to God. If we learn these lessons from Christ we enter eternal life in the Presence of Almighty God. Righteousness and holiness are the signs of eternal life and are eternal life! If we do not learn our lessons, if we do not bear the fruit of righteousness and holiness, we are cut out of the Vine, out of Christ.
God does not wear blinders with respect to the behavior of His saints. God does cover our sins by the blood of Jesus so the Lord Jesus may have the opportunity to bring us to repentance and to convert us. But the Divine atonement is more than a covering. It is the redemption of what we are in personality and behavior until we become fit for the Presence of God.
The Christian salvation is not limited to forgiveness. Salvation includes transformation. Salvation is our deliverance from the person and ways of Satan and our entrance into the moral image and Person of Christ. Forgiveness is permission to enter the plan of salvation.
Those who are lost have not only lost the right to be admitted to Heaven, the real horror is that they have lost the opportunity to become heavenly. Untransformed individuals would be terrified were they forced to be exposed to the Glory of God in Heaven. To be lost is not predominately to be denied entrance to Heaven, it is to be lost to God’s plan of redemption. It is to be lost to God!
The saints are judged much more strictly than the peoples of the world. Jerusalem always receives double chastisement for her sins.
“Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:2)
Christian grace is not a means whereby a rebellious, fleshly human being can walk arm in arm with God (unless that human being is walking in all the light he has received thus far). “If we (Christians) say we have fellowship with him (God), and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (I John 1:6).
Christian grace is not the Divine excuse for devilish conduct. This is why the saints are being judged now. The judgment is our preparation for life with God.
What will happen to the person who walks in righteousness before God?
He will dwell on high in Christ at the right hand of God.
The human being who has been made righteous in personality and behavior by the fact of Christ entering him, is impregnable. He shall stand through every assault, every shaking. God is with him because in Christ he is living as God wants people to live. God hears those who do His will, who serve Him.
“And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” (John 8:29)
If God walks in fellowship with His only begotten Son on the basis of the Lord Jesus’ obedience to Him, how much more must we strive to please the Lord? If Christ’s relationship to His own Father depends on His perfect obedience, are we, who are filled with inherited and acquired sin, to go about in an overconfident attitude because of God’s goodness? Will we, who have received the light of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, not be chastened severely until we no longer are condemned along with the world (I Corinthians 11:32)?
The righteous individual will be fed in the days of famine. Neither he nor his family will be required to beg bread. This is the promise of the Almighty to the righteous (Psalms 37:25).
Waters from the River of God flow into and out from those who walk righteously and speak uprightly.
He will dwell on high; his place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; bread will be given him, his water will be sure. (Isaiah 33:16)
Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3)
But the wicked shall never enjoy the waters of eternal life.
For you shall be as a terebinth whose leaf fades, and as a garden that has no water. (Isaiah 1:30)
The blessings of God do not flow from an isolated, theological “faith” but accompany the righteousness that proceeds from an obedient, transforming faith—a faith that lays hold upon God and walks in His Presence constantly; a faith that always looks up to God in hope and trust concerning every aspect of personality and actions. Faith that does not produce righteous behavior is dead. Righteous works are the life of faith and reveal the existence of faith. Faith apart from holiness and works of righteousness is the “faith” of demons.
The Scriptures inform us that God blessed Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Daniel on the basis of their faith. Would God have blessed Enoch if he were a liar and a thief? Would God have blessed Noah if he were living in adultery? God did not comment on Noah’s faith, He took note of his righteousness (Genesis 7:1). Did Abraham oppress the poor and needy? Was Daniel a gossip? Yet these are the heroes of “faith,” of Hebrews, Chapter 11. If they had been unrighteous men they could not have been known for their faith.
The Apostle Paul gave to us the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. How long would Paul have walked with God if he were a cheat, a liar, a man who took bribes, a fornicator, a covetous, drunken sorcerer? Paul’s destiny would be outer darkness rather than a crown of life no matter how much he professed faith in Christ. He would have disqualified himself from eternal life.
“They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” stated the Apostle Paul (Galatians 5:21).
Judgment always begins with the household of God. Let us judge our own behavior to make certain “that we lose not those things that we have prepared, but that we receive a full reward.” (II John 8).
(“Judgment Begins with the Household of God”, 3234-1)