Sunday, October 25, 2009

Both God and Jesus have roles in judgement

I've noticed there is some confusion among some people based on the completeness of the authority given to Jesus by God to judge all of humankind. Here is a quick way to help you to understand precisely what God does and intends.

Yes, Jesus has complete authority to judge, which he will do at the Second Coming. The Book of Revelation explains that through the eyes of the Apostle John, who is taken to heaven in vision to see some of what will happen in the final days leading up to the Apocalypse and Christ's Return. God remains on his heavenly throne while the world passes away and Jesus judges all, the living and the dead.

However, until that time comes, people have individual lives and they live and they die. Each person is judged on their death by God himself. How do we know this? Again, turn to what seems to be my most cited scripture, Luke 16, where Jesus describes what happens to a rich man who goes to hell.

"There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores...When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames" (Luke 16:19-20, 22-24).

Now, remember that Jesus has a greater point to make in telling this story, this actual event that has happened, so you must read it for both 1) the main point and 2) any other insight one can glean since everything that Jesus said is saying it "as it really is."

Notice that the rich man does not say, "Abraham! HEY! What in the world am I doing in hell? I was a great guy!" The rich man knows exactly why he is there so he does not bother to ask for an explanation, which he already knows (and in fact is gazing on the very reason, his neglect of the poor, suffering and dying Lazarus). This is because God judged that man as he woke up in hell. It's not like there's a kind of courtroom or waiting room where God calls people in and judges each one in a neutral spot in turn. One wakes up from death in the place where one is sent, with the knowledge of God's judgement. Period. The angels escorted the poor man Lazarus, carrying him to heaven. God's judgment was apparent by the fact the angels were taking him to heaven. Likewise God's judgement was apparent and the facts about "why" given into the spiritual heart and mind of the person who ends up in hell. So the first thing that careful reading and trusting that Jesus is precise and truthful and complete in all things reveals is that people die and wake up in either heaven or hell, knowing exactly why they are there, which only God can provide.

The second thing you notice is that Jesus did not say at any point that he, Jesus, was the one who judged Lazarus or the rich man. If that were the case he would have said so, since Jesus' complete ministry is to be open, freely sharing the facts of the Kingdom of God, and he would have told the disciples if he, Jesus, were the one who was already judging each person who died, even before he was alive as Son of Man on earth and before his crucifixion and resurrection. That would have been an extremely important fact to share in the Gospel and Jesus would have done so if that were the case. Indeed, it would have been mind boggling for the disciples to hear that even before Jesus was born to Mary on earth that he was in heaven judging each person who died! So even though Jesus is of course of God and thus eternal, when he speaks of his role of judge and authority to judge whether one goes to heaven or hell he means at the Second Coming.

So when Abraham explains why the rich man cannot have a drop of water, Abraham is not breaking the news to him about why he is in hell, Abraham is explaining the unchangeable rules and conditions, that no aid or comfort will be given to those in hell.

"Abraham replied, 'My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours" (Luke 16:25-6).

Do you see? If Jesus had judged the rich man, Jesus would have told the disciples that "And I told him during judgement exactly how many times he had ridden past the poor bleeding hungry and dying Lazarus while riding on his horse and then I had told him each and every one of his sins and that's why he's in hell." But Jesus did not do that....God himself did that. Another way that you can understand that it was God and not pre-born Jesus doing the judging is that Jesus mentions that angels carried the poor man Lazarus to heaven, and everyone realizes that God sends angels to do his bidding. For example, when Jesus is praying before the betrayal in Gethsemane, God sends an angel to comfort him; Jesus does not summon angels. He could do so but he never did so, as Jesus and God work in harmony in all things. It is in the Second Coming where Jesus sends angels and judges. Until then it is exactly as it has always been, which is that God himself renders personal individual judgment and the sending of a soul to heaven or hell upon that person's death.

So to continue the reading, the rich man now asks for permission to send Lazarus (and can you see that he still does not "get it," I mean, he's in hell for how he neglected Lazarus in the first place and he's still trying to order Lazarus to go on his errands... the road to hell is pride, pride, pride...) to warn his brothers. Again, if you carefully read this you can glean an important insight. The rich man is not so much wanting to share the sins that got him into hell, but, and this is important, he wants to tell his brothers how bad and final the suffering of hell is!

"He said, 'Then I beg you, father, send him [Lazarus] to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment'" (Luke 16:27).

See? It is the horror of hell in its actuality that spurs the rich man to want to warn his brothers. It's not a genuine repentance since he is still trying to get the very poor miserable "beneath his notice" Lazarus, even as he's glorified to heaven, to go back to earth and do his bidding! So it's not like the rich man didn't "realize" "why" he was in hell since he wasn't judged until Abraham "explained" it to him: he knew full well all along since the story does not start out with "Hey! What's that poor bum Lazarus doing in heaven while I've found myself in hell? What gives?" He immediately hits up Lazarus, through Abraham, for a drop of water. This is how you can infer from what Jesus relates are the facts that people are transported, waking up to find themselves in either heaven or hell with full understanding of how and why they were judged to go there by God. Jesus tells the disciples this actual portrayal of heaven and hell and two people who go to their judgement respectively to make the broader point about what God expects regarding charity, but also to explain how the reality of heaven and hell "works." This is why Abraham explained not only the "why" of why he would not given the rich man even a drop of water or send warning to living five brothers, but also the mechanism, the physics, of heaven and hell, where the great chasm prevents any crossing in either direction. So Jesus was providing a moral and lesson in the telling of what actually happened in this case of the judgment of two men, but also describing for the disciples, who of course needed to know, how the reality of hell and the divide between heaven and hell "works."

Since that is Jesus' intention, if Jesus were "already" judging individual human beings upon their death, he would have said so. To use the expression "it goes without saying" that the disciples understood that God had simultaneously rendered/conveyed judgment to each person and had them conveyed to their place of eternity, either heaven or, of course, hell.

So yes, Jesus has all authority and he will Judge. But do not fall into the trap of thinking that upon personal death (not the End of Days when all will die and rise again for judgement) that when one dies one goes into kind of a waiting room area where one can argue one's case in front of stereotype "forgiving and easy going" Jesus. One is BANG! in heaven or hell, receiving simultaneously judgement and full knowledge of the why's from God himself. Simultaneous with being conveyed by the angels to heaven Lazarus would have received the light of God praising him for his belief and comforting him for his suffering with reward in heaven. Simultaneous with waking up in hell, the rich man would have received full knowledge of the why's of his condemnation and judging by God, which we know because as Jesus relates, it's not like the rich man was puzzled at seeing that "loser" Lazarus in heaven with Abraham. No dialogue is wasted in him asking why that is, because he wakes in hell fully knowing how and why God judged him. No, he's just shocked at how truly unbearable, unrelievable and eternal that hell actually is. It is that shock of suffering that makes him want to warn his brothers that ignoring that dirtbag Lazarus and other poor losers like him is a bad idea. In other words, by how the dialogue progresses you can see that if hell were in theory not such a bad place, but not heaven, this guy would never have bothered trying to warn his brothers, since he still doesn't "get" how unrighteous and unjust he was to Lazarus through his neglect. He's solely motivated by how dreadful that hell is and how he truly can't order the peasant around to do his bidding like he did on earth.

That's why, to remind you of a few postings ago, pride is the downfall of MANY who go to hell. Pridefulness, especially putting one's self before God's priorities, IS a grievous sin and merits hell, regardless of the other "good deeds" or whatever.

When one decides that Jesus is one's Lord and Savior, it is not so you can show a membership card to Jesus, because he's not the one checking at the door upon death: it's God. This is why Jesus repeatedly explains he is the "way." Jesus is not saying that he is judging people's entry into heaven. Remember when James and John's mother asked Jesus if he would have them sit at his right and left hand in his kingdom? What did Jesus say? He said that was up to God. Jesus promised them to go prepare the places for them in heaven. Jesus did not say that he would be the judge when they die. Jesus is the way in the sense that if one trusts him to not only save but to be LORD over one's life, then one will pass judgement from God. It is at the End of all Days, at the Apocalypse, at the Second Coming, that all who lived and died in all humanity will resurrect and be judged by Jesus. Until that time each individual person's death and rendering of judgement to heaven or hell is in God the Father's hands.

Finally, another way you can understand this is to recall one of the most insightful, but most subtle and unnoticed, of all the writings of St. Paul.

And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).

You see? Here Paul is reminding the readers that the Holy Spirit also partakes in the final judgement! What he is basically saying that if Christians are "All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling...along with all malice" (Ephesians 4:30-31) then these Christians risk losing, by giving sadness and grief to the Holy Spirit, the seal which will get them redeemed. This is powerful and serious stuff, people. Again, this is why I must caution you not to allow a kind of video image of Jesus in the waiting room giving easy judgement upon a person's death to delude you that it's not something that can't be lost. One can accept Jesus as one's Savior but if one does not also follow completely his "way" and indeed, going further, grieves the Holy Spirit, if Jesus is not truly Lord, then one is not prepared to be judged favorably by God, who does the judging based on 1) one's belief and 2) one's righteousness, through the guidance and filter of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Paul is warning good believers of the early Christian community that they can lose the seal of redemption if they grieve the Holy Spirit through the actions as listed above.