Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 22, 1971
NUMBER 49, PAGE 3a,5b

Death And Judgment

Vaughn D. Shofner

When the inspired writer declared, "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27); the second proposition injected terror into the fear which the first proposition had produced.

Our Creator has supplied the wants of satisfactory pleasures in the world, and it is therefore natural to love life. And the dread of the untried, unknown experience beyond the impenetrable drapery of death causes us to have a greater desire to live and a greater fear of the departure. But to go from a bed of infirmity to a tribunal of justice; to look through the languors of a mortal malady to torments that have no end; these are just causes for intelligent beings to fear death.

"Judgment" is actually the sentence, or decision of a judge, and the idea of such a sentence is the manifestation of discrimination by speaking "right" words regarding the actions of the one on trial. It therefore demands a knowledge of and respect for an intelligible standard of right and wrong.

"Conscience," by its meaning and as it acts, is closely related to judgment, for it is actually one's decision regarding his behavior. The word literally means "with knowledge," regarding the condemning or condoning the actions engaged in, and of necessity must be done according to an intelligible system of right and wrong, which is known and accepted.

The final judgment is based on principles which deal with humanity's dependence, the fact that there is a system of supreme laws designating right and wrong, and the innocence or guilt of those on trial.

AlI human beings are subject to a supreme Being, to whom they owe their existence, and who holds their destiny in his hands. As we establish the being and attributes of Almighty God, by the order of the seasons, the arrangements of the various bodies of the universe, the harmony of the members of our bodies, and all the other works of nature which favor the existence and perfections of God the Creator, and at the same time demonstrate the dependence of his creatures on him.

There is a system of supreme laws to guard and guide the creatures made in the image of the Creator. The laws of the physical realm, the perfections of a first cause, are for the benefit of humanity, and must be respected in order to reap the blessings. Likewise, God's revealed laws are for the benefit of mankind, and must be respected in order to be able to favorably face that great tribunal. That there is something right, and something wrong is affirmed on every hand.

Gentle reader, that innocence exists is a necessary conclusion, and that there is guilt is also a conclusion we can not ignore. Dependent as we are on the order of the Creator's perfections, the person of sense can easily see that violation of any of those perfections will unalterably disturb the order of things and produce malignancy. As we are forced to accept this proposition in the physical way, reason and revelation announce the same for us in the spiritual way.

Friend, what I have already considered is proof of a need for and the justice of judgment after death. And we shall be judged as having lived under an economy of light. We shall be judged by what is in the gospel itself, not by the ideas of innumerable books, which are rashly decided and boldly stated as addenda to God's revelation. Whatever is not revealed therein has absolutely no exonerative power at the trial which we shall undergo.

We shall be judged under an economy of suitable relations; and thus the virtues which God requires of us are proportioned to the faculties that he has given us to perform them. Let us not enfeeble this maxim with the idea that all duty is beyond our power, but our day would be nearer a peaceful fellowship throughout the brotherhood if men would apply this principle as they engage in the work of the church.

This very law of proportion, kind friend, which will regulate a part of the judgment for us, will overwhelm the wicked with misery. It is always an aggravation of a misery to think that we might have avoided it. This sort of reproach is as a poison that envenoms our sufferings; and this, I am persuaded, will constitute one of the most cruel torments of the damned. We therefore have no need of the light of the fires of hell to discover the miseries of a condemned soul! We have no need of knowledge of the weight of the chains of darkness, because the criminal's own reproaches of himself are all that we need to get a clear idea of his condition!

I am sure, gentle reader, that the fact that we shall be judged as having lived under an economy of mercy is capable of granting as much comfort as anything from which we obtain comfort, and it should arouse the indifferent sinner from his fatal security. All the sentiments of pity, compassion, mercy and love that can be expected in a tender parent, we will find in the great Judge who will pronounce our final doom. But the passions produced by the knowledge of this mercy must not be lifted to the place of virtue, for the Judge at that inflexible bar had respect for the will of the Father, and as a man he loved and kept each law therein, that the mercy might be ours.

The mercy of God as revealed in his will, has certain bounds, and may we consider it as it is, joined with the other perfections of his nature. When we place it where it is not in harmony with the other perfections of the Almighty God, we make it inconsistent in itself. So, let us, Christian friend, continually revolve in our hearts these ideas of death and judgment; and may we use them to calm those fears which the necessity of dying and being judged often excite in our souls. Happy indeed is the person, who in all his trials and temptations has been prepared to derive consolation from this seemingly terrible truth, "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment!"

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