A Day of Reckoning Is Guaranteed
OVER 1,900 years ago a man who was well educated in the law of his nation expressed his belief in a future day of reckoning. He did so on foreign soil before the court of the Areopagus in ancient Athens. The man was a Christianized Jew, the apostle Paul.
For a while his audience listened to what he had to say about God. But, then, with reference to the Creator, Paul made this startling declaration: “Because he has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and he has furnished a guarantee to all men in that he has resurrected him from the dead.”—Acts 17:31.
The apostle was unable to continue speaking, for ridiculers began to raise their voices. However, the truths that he had expressed were the means by which the Almighty God opened up the hearts of some who heard Paul’s defense. As the apostle left, these persons “joined themselves to him and became believers.”—Acts 17:32-34.
We may ask: Who is the man by means of whom God will judge the inhabited earth? Why can we be confident that justice will be executed? How sure is the guarantee respecting a day of reckoning?
The man whom God has chosen is the Son who emptied himself of his heavenly glory and then by divine power began to develop as a perfect baby in the womb of a Jewish virgin named Mary. (Luke 1:30-35; Phil. 2:7) This Son came to be known as Jesus Christ.
Regarding his judicial authority, Jesus declared: “The Father judges no one at all, but he has committed all the judging to the Son.” (John 5:22) “I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative; just as I hear, I judge; and the judgment that I render is righteous, because I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.”—John 5:30.
A JUDGE WHO CARES
As to the kind of judge Jesus would be, it was stated prophetically: “He will not judge by any mere appearance to his eyes, nor reprove simply according to the thing heard by his ears. And with righteousness he must judge the lowly ones, and with uprightness he must give reproof in behalf of the meek ones of the earth.” (Isa. 11:3, 4) Jesus Christ will not be impressed by an imposing personality or outward handsomeness or attractiveness. He can look beyond surface appearances, discerning the real heart motivation of the individual. (Rev. 2:23) Clever words and arguments will not prevent him from arriving at the facts of the case and rendering an impartial judgment. No matter how lowly persons may be, Jesus Christ will deal justly with them. “Their blood will be precious in his eyes.”—Ps. 72:14.
We have every reason to be confident in the complete impartiality of Jesus’ judgment. He proved his concern for humankind by the greatest act of self-sacrificing love, willingly laying down his life. Calling attention to what he would do in this regard, he had told his disciples: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.”—John 15:13.
AN EXALTED JUDGE
Of course, a dead person could not act in the capacity of judge, and the apostle Paul made it clear that God’s appointed Judge had been resurrected from the dead. This resurrection stands as an unchangeable guarantee regarding the future day of reckoning. It is no ordinary guarantee. Upward of 500 witnesses saw the resurrected Son of God. So that there would be no question as to the reality of the resurrection, Jesus Christ spoke with his disciples, asked them to feel him and ate food in their presence. (Luke 24:36-43) The Bible reports: “By many positive proofs he showed himself alive after he had suffered, being seen by them throughout forty days.” (Acts 1:3) Because the proofs were undeniable, the disciples courageously bore witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the face of physical abuse, reviling and the threat of death.
Not only were disciples of Jesus Christ witnesses concerning his resurrection, but they were also witnesses as to his ascension to heaven. Ten days after this ascension about 120 disciples received the evidence that the Son had been exalted to the right hand of his Father. What proof did they receive? Before his ascension, Jesus Christ had instructed his disciples: “Do not withdraw from Jerusalem, but keep waiting for what the Father has promised, about which you heard from me; because John, indeed, baptized with water, but you will be baptized in holy spirit not many days after this.” (Acts 1:4, 5) Therefore, when, on the day of Pentecost in 33 C.E., approximately 120 disciples received the promised holy spirit and were empowered by it to speak in foreign languages to Jews and proselytes who had come to Jerusalem from distant places to attend the festival of Pentecost, those disciples knew that the Son was with the Father.
That is why the apostle Peter could declare to thousands on that day: “This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses. Therefore because he was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promised holy spirit from the Father, he has poured out this which you see and hear.”—Acts 2:32, 33.
THE SURE EXECUTION OF DIVINE JUSTICE
The well-attested events that took place in connection with Jesus Christ in the first century stand as an unchangeable guarantee that a day of reckoning for all the nations must occur. It was to this day for executing divine justice that faithful disciples of Jesus Christ looked forward with eager anticipation. The Christian apostle Paul pointed to this in one of his letters to the Thessalonians, writing:
“It is righteous on God’s part to repay tribulation to those who make tribulation for you [believers], but, to you who suffer tribulation, relief along with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus. These very ones will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction from before the Lord and from the glory of his strength, at the time he comes to be glorified in connection with his holy ones and to be regarded in that day with wonder in connection with all those who exercised faith.”—2 Thess. 1:6-10.
The coming of Jesus Christ in the capacity of executioner of divine justice will begin a time for righting all wrongs. God through Christ will judge even “the secret things of mankind.” (Rom. 2:16) While we do not know the day and hour when that longed-for day will be here, we do have God’s guarantee that it will come and that it is drawing ever closer. This should stir us to live in harmony with his guarantee. But what does this require of us?