Church of God, New World Ministries

The Fundamental Doctrines - Part Six

“Eternal Judgment”

To the religious the foreboding threat of “eternal judgment” portends a fearful apprehension of a stern judge condescendingly looking down from a majestic throne upon a quaking skeleton of a person who is barely able to keep his knees from knocking against one another.

To those ‘modern sophisticates” not given to religious “superstition,’ the archaic threat of “eternal judgment” is scornfully looked upon as an ancient remnant out of man’s distant past, a useless appendage, a shriveled-up relic of a bygone age.

Yet in clearly listing “the principles of the doctrine of Christ” in Hebrews 6:1-2, the Apostle Paul concludes these absolutely foundational principles of God’s Word with the phrase “eternal judgment. “Eternal judgment” seems to do everything to the modern mind except portray what it really is.

Disregarding for a moment the fine distinctions between the Hebrew words translated “eternal” (olam, ad)  and the Greek word (aionios), let’s for a moment consider what the English word “eternal “ means. How can we express it? A line that has no end, the progression of time forever?

How can the human mind ever conceive of anything without beginning and without end? Let your mind wander in space or in time – then in both. Consider the earth, the solar system, the sun, our Milky Way galaxy (in which the earth is but tucked away in one small corner), the galaxies within our local galactic structure, and then the universe of galaxies on beyond, all engrossed in endless eons of time.

In order to appreciate eternity, let’s understand infinity – since eternal is similar to the mathematical concept of infinity as applied to time. There is a basic mathematical fact that says the number divided by infinity is zero. All other fractions, say 7/8 or 1/1000, for example, change as you change the quantities in either the numerator or the denominator.

But if you put infinity in the denominator of any fraction, you can choose whatever number you want for the numerator – a million, a billion, even a  googolplex (the number one followed by writing zeros until you get tired ) and the fraction still equals zero. Even with an immense number in the numerator, the infinity completely cancels its.

No matter how big you make a number, you can never approach infinity. You can multiply the number of grains of sand on all the beaches by the number of drops of water in all the oceans by the number of electrons in the entire universe, and you still are not even getting close to infinity! Anything compared to infinity is but nothing!

The physical is finite, no matter how long, no matter how large. What God offers is eternal beyond the physical, incredibly beyond, incomprehensibly beyond! Physical events and time spheres no longer have meaning. When eternity is considered, a million years spent on each planet in the entirely of the universe becomes but a moment.

Nothing in the physical creation even approximates eternity. Nothing physical is eternal, nothing physical will ever be eternal. Eternity by its very nature, by the enormous vastness inherent in the word itself, transcends the physical. This is what God offers us! Eternity. Beyond the physical.

The human mind can almost comprehend the meaning of eternity. This is remarkable by itself. We can begin to conceptualize eternity. We can think of that line with no beginning and no end: we can think if the unending vastness of time that occurred before our birth and will go on after our death.

We can consider eternity, but we cannot fully comprehend it. Whenever we try, we become frustrated. Our brains balk, our gray matter turns into soup. We can understand just enough to understand that we can never understand it. That’s the uniqueness of the human mind – almost-- but not quite able to comprehend. It’s there – eternity is there-- but just out of our reach, just beyond our grasp

Is it coincidental? Isn’t it strange that what our Creator holds out to us as the ultimate goal of human life, eternity – is something we are almost able to comprehend, but yet with the awesomeness of mystery still surrounding it?

Even assuming the entirety of the universe is as old as cosmologists tell us – some 10 to15 billion years old, the totality of this time (as compared to our short 70-year old life spans) is but a few fleeting seconds in the endless vastness of eternity. It is far less than one small grain of sand compared to the multiple billions of tons of sand on all the beaches surrounding all oceans in the entire world.

Eternity as a concept defies the boundary reaches of the human mind; almost, in a manner of speaking, the interface between the physical and the spiritual. Because nothing physical is eternal. The physical by very definition is subject to change and decay.

To those of us who are extremely busy every day of our lives (whether commuting to work, putting in a hard day at the office, getting our exercise, coming home at night, having dinner, playing with the children, perhaps going out to a party or a movie and coming home to bed, a real packed day in a very busy week) a year: 365 days, is an awfully long time.

And yet the reality of eternity is always there. It never leaves us; it is just overshadowed by what may seem to be the more pressing needs of the moment: How much do eggs cost now? Will I have enough gasoline next Sunday? Will I be promoted on my job: What movie shall we see this weekend? When are the in-laws coming to visit? How are the children doing in school? Who is going to win the Super Bowl?

Yet, all the while, the absolute reality of the eternity of time that will follow your death is ever-present and ever-real. If you don’t feel its pressure, you are deluding yourself. If you do feel its pressure, you could go insane.

But we are not left without hope. The Creator God, the God who created us, who designed our human minds, able to almost comprehend eternity, has given us the knowledge, the knowledge that has had to be revealed, of what eternity can mean to human beings. Wouldn’t it have been diabolically sadistic for a benevolent Creator to have designed the human mind able to almost comprehend the existence of eternity, and yet have designed the human spirit unable to attain its mastery? What mental cruelty! What a travesty it would have been if such were the case! But as Paul described in this culminating doctrine of God’s Church – eternal judgment – God in His Word take us beyond, takes us to reality, takes us to sanity, and takes us to eternity.

To an American populace fed by a Watergate-saturated media, a people who have learned to collectively disregarded their superiors, “judgment” is something that no one else can do to you. To those steeped in the “heaven-hell Churchianity” so long offered as the biblical model, “judgment” means a decision reached after carefully considering every sin that you have ever committed from the first time you ever hit your baby brother or talked back to your parents until your last, wheezing gasp of an old man or woman about to expire.

How many sins do you think you have committed in your life? How long would it take someone to read a detailed account of every one of them?

Let’s assume the average person sins about once a day, and since God says a sin is a sin, we’ll include all the “little” sins as well as the horrendous ones. Consequently, in the average lifetime, the average person might sin roughly 25,000 times. (Granted, some of these sins would take longer explanations, covering three or four pages of written material to describe the exact situation; other of these sins might just take one to two lines, explaining why you “had” to utter that unfortunate word in that unforeseen circumstance.)

Now, facetiously assuming that in the future God would have to consider the lives of, let us say, ten billion human beings, and giving God the benefit of the doubt that He could go through all the intricate details of every single sin in the fleeting instant of one second, it would still take God roughly (and this, of course, is extremely rough) 100 millions years to fully analyze the totality of everybody’s sins. And, of course, God couldn’t make a “judgment” until he did such. Or so we might be led to believe.

Isn’t it strange that when we hear the word “judgment” we automatically feel bad? We have a negative, depressing mood overwhelm us. Why does the word “judgment” evoke such a reaction? Is this what God intended His Word to portray? Is this what Paul meant in Hebrews 6:2, when he spoke of eternal judgment?

If the judgment referred to is the harsh, severe rendering of a decision based upon everyone’s sins, and considering the fact that the enormous word “eternal” is used to describe this judgment, human existence itself could indeed be considered the breakable toy of a sadistic monster--God who has enjoyed playing a colossal cosmic joke on all of His hapless creatures.

But, thank God, our God is the real God! And the judgment of this world’s religions is as fallacious as it is foolish.

When we read of “judgment” in the Bible, we should experience waves of elation and joy, great excitement, enthusiasm and expectation concerning the fantastic events awaiting us in the future.

To give what must be a very weak analogy: Think of the graduation day after four years of high school or college. That’s the day when, after thousands of hours of hard work and classes, homework, periods of nervous exhaustion, tension and concern, finally, after all that, a person has made it! He has completed the course; he has achieved the goal. Following each graduation, every individual has won some new place. For example many high school students have been accepted at the colleges of their choice; many college students in the medical, dental, law or professional or graduate schools of their choice. There are generally few failures; although some each year do fail. But graduation for the vast majority is a very happy time, a time of confidence, achievement, success and joy.

So it will be with God’s judgment. Only God’s “graduation day” will be from far more than a few years of study; it will be from a lifetime, and the rewards will be far greater than any diploma or promotion, because from God’s graduation the reward will eternal.

The “judgment” is really a decision, a decision that our Creator, your personal Father in heaven, the very God who gave you breath and life, the Being that hears your prayers and loves you more than any father loved any son, made for your benefit. The judgment is when God decides or informs you of His decision of what, where, and how you will be spending eternity. And for the vast majority, this will surely be the greatest moment in their entire lives, incomprehensibly greater than everything they have done before!

The marriage supper in Revelation 19:9 and the breathtaking new heaven and new earth of Revelation 21 can only begin to hint at the magnificent reality that God has planned for all human beings.

As God the Father has structured all spiritual and physical reality, there are many areas of responsibility in the future that are needed to be filled by individual human beings. This is why Christ said in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” The universe is a big place, and eternity is a long time. God has a lot to do (even though we may not know much about it now – see Heb. 2:8-9) and He has created us to become sons to help Him administer all reality forever.

How does God decide what individual responsibility or position (or whatever God chooses to call it) each of us will have in the future? He knows and loves us personally, and will choose the best possible situation for every one of us. We will surely each have our own specific areas of responsibility, our own personal likes and dislikes, we will not be like statues in a garden, or candles in a monastery, set merely to adorn or make God feel better. We will be real personalities doing real jobs, individually and personally.

Our Father, your Father, knows you personally; He knows the type of work, recreation and situations that you enjoy the most. He has designed reality to give you everything that you have always wanted. But you have a responsibility also. You have to qualify. You have to attain the requirements for ‘graduation” – and, as you do attain these requirements, God will determine how well you have done and give you your reward in direct proportion to how successful you have been. As Christ said in Matthew 16:27, referring to that time of His spectacular return to earth:  ‘And then he (Christ) shall reward every man according to his works.”

How long does it take God to “judge” an individual? Does He quickly come to a decision in a few minutes, upon being given the “pluses” and “minuses” of your entire life? Or is judgment a process?

I Peter 4:17 states that “the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” In fact, judgment and development of the people of God today must take place in order that God may, during this age, develop a group of people to assist him in “judging,” in ruling, in developing, in encouraging the vast multitudes of people to be taught in the millennium following the return of Christ.

And what of the multitudes of untold billions who have long since died and who have forever been forgotten, from those who died in the Noachian Flood or perished from the Black Death to those who were vaporized in the atomic-bomb blast over Hiroshima? Are these people lost and forgotten? Is there a “judgment” reserved for them?

Remarkably and incredibly, the biblical “plan of salvation” – which is a religious-sounding term-- indicates the process by which the Eternal Creator works with the human beings He created to bring them into the God Family. This opportunity will eventually be made available to everyone. That means everyone who has ever lived, from a fifth-century newborn baby that died after two weeks of a labored life in some backward province in China, to old men who have lived beyond 100 years of age in the Caucasus of Central Russia.

     All who have not been called of God in this life will eventually have that opportunity as fully and completely as anyone has ever had the chance, all will have their chance, their first chance, in the future.

But what of you, those who are readers of this website, who listen to our sermons and read our articles, what about you? Many of you will not be in future groups that will be called of God. God only gives one chance to every individual; but that chance must be a real chance.

When a person knows and knows that he knows that there is a God in heaven. When they learn that God inspired the Bible and has opened that person’s way to be baptized and receive God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and be put into God’s Church, then, in all probability, he has had his chance.

This website is being sent to those people with whom God is dealing. This does not mean that every person reading our articles or listening to our sermons is being called of God. But there is both a fearsome responsibility and an incredibly magnificent promise to all who read the articles and listen to sermon after sermon.

We have both an opportunity and a responsibility: an opportunity to be called of God now in this age, to help do His work of witnessing to and warning the world, and an awesome responsibility to commit ourselves and our lives to God now.

When Peter stated that judgment must begin at the house of God, he was directing his comments to those whom God was calling. If Peter were alive today, he would have written those words in this article.

There is no way for one human being to convince another to “join” God’s Church: there is no argument, no clever phraseology, no emotional pitch, by which one human being can really convert another. There is only one way a human mind can be converted. There is only one way for a human being to become a truly begotten son of God. That is, very simply, if God and Christ calls you, gives you their Spirit to work with you, grants you repentance, makes you see the enormity of your sins, makes you know that they have their Church available and calls you into it.

We cannot convince you of anything. The decision you make is entirely up to you. God will not force you to do anything. He is interested in building character, and character can only be built through decisions made on a completely freewill basis.

So please don’t interpret anything we have said in this article as an attempt by us to convince you, or to allow you to convince yourself, that you should “join” the Church of God. That’s not our purpose. It never was our purpose; it cannot be our purpose.

What we try to do is to simply communicate with those people whom God is leading to His truth, to His Work, to His Church, explaining the doctrines of God’s Church.

How do you know if God is calling you? There is no “sure-fire” method. You cannot know from any analysis of your blood. Examining your brain waves won’t help, nor will an electrocardiogram. Only God knows for sure, but you can certainly get a pretty good idea.

Are you moved deeply when you read your Bible? Do you really begin to see the plan of God as outlined from Genesis to Revelation? Do you hunger and thirst for every spiritual article and sermon you read and hear. Are you fascinated and excited by the spiritual concepts you see expounded and explained?

And what about your own personal life? Do you see yourself as God sees you? Do you feel, on one hand, excited and enthralled at the prospect for the future, at the reason why God created you: and, at the same time, do you see yourself as a worthless worm, a disobedient fleshy being that desperately needs to be forgiven of his sins by his Savior?

Finally, do you yearn for the opportunity to associate and fellowship with people who have similar feelings of your own, people who read our articles and listen to our sermons, who are themselves thoroughly captivated by the opportunity to participate in this Work of God by both prayer and financial support? If God is calling you, it is your responsibility; for “the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” And, once we thoroughly understand the basic fundamental principles of the doctrines of Christ, let us follow Paul’s admonition, “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection…”(Heb 6:1).

 
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