The Apostles’ Creed: The Living and the Dead

Who is it that God will judge? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Our next stop in our look at the Apostles’ Creed is that God will judge the living and the dead. Recently while I was out somewhere, I saw someone with a tattoo that said “Only God can judge me.” My thought upon seeing that is “That should ultimately terrify you.” People might think they can escape all judgment here and no one has any right to say anything about them, but wait until they get to where they will see God.

That God judges the living and the dead shows that no one can escape this event. When it comes to the final judgment, we will all stand before God and give an account. Death is not a way to escape the reach of God. No one can ultimately escape it. God will call everyone in the world to accounts, from the small to the great.

This would also be a message of hope for those in the Roman Empire at the time who were suffering. If Jesus is Lord, then He will indeed judge the world. The one who once sat in the place of receiving judgment will instead turn and be the judge of Pilate. The one who was condemned by members of the Sanhedrin will instead now condemn those members of the Sanhedrin.

The judgment will also be fair for all. Many times, we have this idea that getting into the Kingdom of God is like a theological exam. If you answer all the questions right, then you get in. If you don’t, then it really doesn’t matter to talk about all the good that you’ve done. You’ve ultimately failed at your lot in life and you will be judged. To many, this strikes them as unfair.

In reality, what God does is entirely fair. God sets the same standard for everyone else. That standard is perfection. You can either accept the score someone gave on your behalf, namely Christ, or else God will judge you by the only thing that He has left to judge you by, and that is your works. If they’re not absolutely perfect, then you’re out.

Now it’s not enough for some to say Jesus is the antidote to that because then comes the obvious rejoinder. What about people who have never heard about Jesus? In this case, my answer is simply we have no definitive answer on this. We do know from Scripture that God is good and God is just. My best response to this is that as Scripture says, the judge of all the Earth will do right. (Genesis 18:25. Psalm 98:9) God will judge each person I believe who never heard about Jesus by the light that they had and He knows where their heart is and how they would have responded.

Until then, we have our marching orders. We are to fulfill the Great Commission. Christ did not give us a plan B. He did not tell us what will happen when we do not fulfill our assignment. If you are concerned about those who’ve never heard, the ultimate thing you can do is to make sure that they hear, by either being a missionary yourself or supporting those who are.

We don’t know when the judgment will occur ultimately, but let it influence you in everything you do. One day you will be judged.

Are you ready to give an account?

In Christ,

Nick Peters

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6 Responses to “The Apostles’ Creed: The Living and the Dead”

  1. Giles Says:

    Well here’s a question. Who will do the judging? We are told by Paul that Christians will judge the world. And by Jesus that some of those judged will be accounted sheep. That being so the question as to whether non Christians can be saved seems to answer itself in the affirmative. Or am I missing something?

  2. labreuer Says:

    In reality, what God does is entirely fair. God sets the same standard for everyone else. That standard is perfection.

    I’d like to offer a potential challenge to this conception. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and is ultimately a challenge to particular doctrines of justification and sanctification which have God seeing Jesus when he looks at us—something that doesn’t really seem to fit scripture as a whole. A good verse to center around is Ezekiel 18:30:

    “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.

    There are [at least] two ways to interpret this judging:

         (1) God will judge each person’s specific actions against his perfect standard.
         (2) God will judge each person by his/her own standard.

    I know that (1) is a very common stance, but I want to suggest that (2) is more scripturally defensible. Take Matthew 7:1–2, for example. There, Jesus is explicitly saying that the standard which we use to judge other people will be used to judge us. It is as if God has structured reality to enforce symmetry, a symmetry which punctures hypocrisy. James 2:12–13 is another example: if you show no mercy, you get no mercy. Symmetry. Or take Mt 6:15: in order to be forgiven by God, you must forgive, yourself.

    Now, there is a way for (2) to curve back to (1). That is: attempts to rigorously follow some finite standard pushes us toward ever more complex standards (as we find errors in any given finite standard), such that we gradually point toward Christ. This makes sense of Romans 10:4‘s “Christ is the telos of the law”. A major benefit of (2) is that it allows a tractable way of moving toward (1), of being conformed to the infinite person of Jesus Christ. It makes sense of Romans 2:14–16 in a way that (1) just doesn’t seem to. It allows any and all lawfulness to point to God.

    Does this make sense?

    • apologianick Says:

      I could go with that. In the end, each person will still fail to live to their own standard, but it could also be both.

      • labreuer Says:

        An advantage of looking at it in the way I presented is that one gets the “successive approximation” nature of science, which I see as the only way to be on the path to comprehending something—or someone—infinitely complex. It also has the promise of doing away with criticisms of how one can possibly know one has figured out God’s perfect standard—the answer is that one has not, but merely has a method—critically aided of course by personal interaction with the Trinity.

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