A 2-Stage, Populous Distinct, Chronology of Judgment
The Old Testament
To further understand the aforementioned stages of redemption via the workings of judgment, a close study is necessary. Thus, beginning with the Old Testament, what can be said? The apostle Peter’s summary of Old Testament Church History is of due consideration. In 1 Peter 4:17-18, the apostle Peter gleaned from Biblical Church History a definitive statement on the scarcity of salvation, and, apparently, he reckoned it as a present day reality in his own time. For him, Biblical Church History was contained in the pages of the Old Testament; hence, for us, evidently, the chronology of judgment whereby God judges the Church first and the World second has not changed now that we are in the New Testament. Peter explained,
“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the House of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” – 1 Pet. 4:17-18
What is judgment, you wonder? Contextual to Peter’s reference, judgement in the Old Testament was the establishment of righteousness in a geographic region and among the population of people contained therein. All acts pertaining to this establishment were acts of judgment. In Volume I, it has been proven that salvation and righteousness do result in separation, hence there must be something and someone to separate from, right? Indeed, for since the world began from the lineage of Adam and Eve, a fallen seed has been allowed by God to exist. The two, the holy seed (the Church) and the fallen seed, were both allowed by God to exist in one general place --- “the World”. This means that the articles of separation required by Law were limited to a specified region and people. If the divine command of separation had no limitation to it, then the saints would need to “go out of the world” to truly be separate from the World (1 Cor. 5:10), right? But The Doctrine of Separation prescribed by scripture and fulfilled by saints throughout Church History was demonstrated thus: There was and is only one earth, and the two peoples allowably existed alongside one another but NEVER mixed with one another, according to scriptural command. Even so, righteousness was understandably established, expected, and demanded within and among the godly seed (the Church), but what happened among the fallen seed existed that way since the first reprobate of the Church, named Cain, who started the ungodly lineage on the day he fell from grace and was cast away from the Church (Gen. 4:14). Therefore, there was a specified region and an exclusive people among whom judgment flourished. Notwithstanding, everywhere and everyone else who dwelt outside of this holy domain did live radically different lifestyles. This ancient separation, seen in Exodus 33:14-16, Deuteronomy 4:1-10, 4:32-34, and Psalm 147:19-20, did definitively introduce and from thenceforth make possible the difference between the people and behavior which is “of the World” and “of God”, as referenced by Jesus Christ at the dawn of the New Covenant (John 15:19, 17:6, 14-16) and confirmed by the Epistle of John as a practice of the Church (1 Jn. 4:4-6).
“And He said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he said unto Him, If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.” – Exodus 33:14-16
“Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the Land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. Your eyes have seen what the LORD did because of Baalpeor: for all the men that followed Baalpeor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from among you. But ye that did cleave unto the LORD your God are alive every one of you this day. Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the Land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this Law, which I set before you this day? Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons; Specially the day that thou stoodest before the LORD thy God in Horeb, when the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.” – Deut. 4:1-10
“For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it? Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? Or hath God assayed to go and take Him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?” – Deut. 4:32-34
“He sheweth His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for His judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the LORD.” – Psalm 147:19-20
“If ye were of the World, the World would love his own: but because ye are not of the World, but I have chosen you out of the World, therefore the World hateth you.” – John 15:19
“I have manifested Thy Name unto the men which Thou gavest me out of the World: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word…I have given them Thy word; and the World hath hated them, because they are not of the World, even as I am not of the World. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the World, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the World, even as I am not of the World.” – John 17:6, 14-16
“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He [Jesus Christ] that is in you, than he [the Devil] that is in the World. They are of the World: therefore speak they of the World, and the World heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” – 1 John 4:4-6
Can you now understand why friendship with “the World” was and is an intolerable sin (James 4:4), my reader? As long as these two peoples remained unmixed and separated one from another, in the New Testament or the Old Testament (in their respective senses), this meant that judgment was thriving within the Church. I say again, judgment thrived within the Church but not without, because judgment was necessary wherever holiness and separation was necessary. For example, when and if these two peoples were mixed, or if there was a danger that they would be mixed, judgment was executed in as much as was necessary to re-establish the separation of the righteous and the wicked once again (for exhaustive examples of this, see “The Glory of God Departing & Returning to the Church”). The presence of sin and sinners within the Church happened through backsliding saints or invading foreigners. Judgment in such times was, and always will be, the separation of the godly from the ungodly, the righteous from the wicked, the light from the darkness, and the clean from the unclean. Thus, when the Church (the Israelite Nation) was found fighting against and destroying a foreign nation or people who were not a part of the Church, this happened because of their relationship to the Church. The judgment executed upon the foreigners was instigated and accomplished in relationship to the Church in some way, as a defensive or offensive judgment upon the world in protection of the Church.
These judgments were not The Judgment of God upon the World, commonly known as Final Judgment. Rather they were judgments on behalf of the Church, which limits the scope of execution. This differentiation is important because, if the judgment by which God judges the Church did fall upon the World, the world would come to an end! In other words, if the divine standard of righteousness required by God from the Church was, likewise, required by God from the World (the heathen peoples who have been allowed to live in the world since Cain) …all the heathen peoples would cease to exist! This means that all sinners would cease to exist in the world like as they did, do, and must cease to exist in the Church! If those judgements which reign within did reign without, there would be no more sinners in the world, therefore whatever judgment did overflow without on behalf of those within cannot be constituted as The Judgment of God upon the World (a judgment which does now linger until the time appointed by the Father, as referenced by the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 4:17-18).
You see, my reader, what God is most concerned about is if the sinner is a threat of pollution to His people, the Church, hence “judgment must begin at the House of God” (1 Pet. 4:17). Think of it! Sinners have already been allowed by God to populate and pollute the whole world, but there was one place and people among whom God would not allow this pollution to take place and it was the Church! Why? This is the place where God’s immediate presence dwelt in Kingship and present-tense Dominion! Therefore, for judgment to begin at the House of God (1 Pet. 4:17), this signifies the unhindered and unlimited enforcement of God’s will upon the Church. This being the case, that God has set forth an unalterable purpose of judgment which will eradicate all sinners out of the Church, let the World beware! For what “begins at us”, the Church, will in turn fall upon the entire world of heathen peoples! Evidently God judges the Church first (in the beginnings of judgment) and the World second, but if He judges the World by the same standard through which He first judged the Church, alas! “Where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” Indeed, WHERE!? They shall be no more.
The exclusivity of judgment rendered to the Church can be thus exemplified, my reader. Can you see the case and point of Peter, in 1 Peter 4:17-18?
If the swords which hunted all idolaters to kill (Ex. 32:25-29) were commissioned to pass through the World like they passed through the Church encamped at Sinai, behold! All the ungodly and sinful heathen peoples of the World would perish under the blades of Levites, none remaining!
If “the fire of the LORD” which broke-forth within the Church, all Israelite complainers to burn and consume (Num. 11:1-3), did break-forth upon the World with the same infuriation, behold! The fire of the LORD would drink-up the great deep and devour every nation, tribe, and tongue in existence (Amos 7:4-6)!
If the plague of the LORD which did poison the sustenance of the Church, every lusting Israelite to kill (Num. 11:33-35), did also plague the sustenance of the World for every lusting worldling to slay, behold! Carcasses would fill the World with the stench of rotting flesh because none would remain alive to bury their dead! Among the Church, “they buried the people that lusted” (Num. 11:34); not so among the World!
All of this is to say, in other words: If every rebel of the World was in the hands of an angry God like as the LORD did execute vengeance upon the rebels of His people first of all (Heb. 10:30-31), then on the day that 600,000 Israelites were reprobated by oath (Num. 14:26-35) the multiplied millions of worldlings that existed in the World would have been wasted! This would mean the end of the World, my reader!
And, again, if every puffed up and proud-speaking worldling did utter their words in the ears of the Living God, by near proximity, I mean (Num. 14:28, 2 Kings 19:28), like as the LORD heard and responded to every proud speech of backsliding Israelites (Num. 16-17), behold! Like the earth swallowed down Korah, Dathan, and Abiram quick into hell, and like a fire did break-forth and consume the 250 princes that did challenge the LORD, every man of the World would be both swallowed and everlastingly burned by the unquenchable fires of hell!
Upon the execution of such standards of righteous judgment, the Church cried out: “Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish” (Num. 17:12)! But it wasn’t true, my reader. They lived. At the enforcement of judgment which begins with the Church (“judgment must begin at the House of God” – 1 Pet. 4:17), indeed, a small remnant was and is spared alive, but when this judgment is enforced upon the World none live! The aforementioned historical events wherein the LORD executed judgment within the Church do illustrate this, certainly, but the LORD did fashion an exemplary judgment upon the Church, firstly, and a turnaround judgment upon the World, secondarily, which serve as a paramount example above all others. What was this judgment upon the Church? It was the Assyrian and Babylonian Captivities.
As far as Old Testament is concerned (since the days of Noah), the wrath of God was never so invigorated in all of Church History except at these two points and the 70-year period that ensued. Forerunning these two judgments, the Assyrian and Babylonian Captivities, the hottest infuriation of wrath was threatened on at least 4 separate occasions (Ex. 32:7-10, Num. 14:11-12, 16:21-22, 45). The significance of these almost annihilations was detailed by the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 20:1-32, and for good cause. For, a detailed study of Israel’s close encounters with the wrath of God as it pursued a total annihilation of them, and then, finally, when the Captivities came upon them, did reveal The Doctrine of Election in Sovereign Mercy granted undeservedly to the Church (Isa. 1:9, Neh. 9:31, Lam. 3:22; for exhaustive proof of this, see “The Near Annihilation of God’s People”, “I Am Weary With Repenting”, and “Mercy On Whom I Will Have Mercy”). This progression of wrath is very important because, even though GOD sincerely attempted and justly pursued a total annihilation of Israel, the Church, He could not do it! God repented. It was written,
“For the LORD shall judge His people, and repent Himself for His servants, when He seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.” – Deut. 32:36
“For the Day of vengeance is in Mine heart…therefore He was turned to be their enemy, and He fought against them.” – Isaiah 63:4, 10 [Heb. 10:30-31]
Even though Israel’s wickedness infuriated justice to require a total annihilation of them, wrath was restrained! And in the process of executing a near annihilation of the Church, firstly, through the Assyrian and Babylonian Captivities (using “the World” to judge the Church), the LORD accomplished a secondary turnaround judgment upon the World which executed a total annihilation! That judgment which was first attempted upon the Church, and restrained, was afterward executed upon the World without restraint! This is the essence of what Peter recalls, by saying, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the House of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear” (1 Pet. 4:17-18)? Illustrating the 2-stage, populous distinct, chronology of judgment referenced by Peter, it was written,
I am very sore displeased
with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and
they helped forward the affliction. Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am
returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the
LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.” – Zechariah
“Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle. And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.” – Jeremiah 25:9-12
“For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.” – Jeremiah 30:11
“Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the LORD: for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished.” – Jeremiah 46:28
at the House of God” à Near Annihilation (scarcely
“Where Shall the Ungodly and Sinner Appear?” à Total Annihilation
My reader, for a more exhaustive study of this chronology of judgment upon the Church and then the World, and how it relates to the working of repentance in the children of God, see “The Goodness of God Leadeth Thee to Repentance”. For now, let the following verses suffice as evidence to Peter’s assertion recorded in 1 Peter 4:17-18. The LORD was not sparse in His declarations which defined the happenings of Church History. It was written,
Israel 1st à
Assyria & Babylon 2nd à
utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come
not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at
the ancient men which were before
the House.” – Ezekiel
My reader, do you remember how many of the Prophets did present their holy complaints to the Lord, being in an agony, because the heathen were “at ease” (Zech. 1:15) in “prosperity” (Ps. 73:3) while Israel was “plagued” (Ps. 73), judged, and brought low? Habakkuk does encapsulate the same complaint very well, when he said: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest Thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest Thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he” (Hab. 1:13)? Again, Jeremiah says, “Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: Thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins” (Jer. 12:1-2). God’s answer is clear: Chastening is meant for the salvation of a remnant that was to be “plucked out of the fire” (Zech. 3:2). In the midst of the fires of annihilation, it is there that God is burning, smelting, and refining, making ready a people that would go through with Him unto the end; thus He says in Isaiah 48:10, “Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10). Do you see how all of these judgments are meant for the salvation of a select and chosen remnant? Speaking in reference to this, the NT affirms, “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the World” (1 Cor. 11:32).
The Day when God’s judgment will engage the entire world to establish justice and judgment has been, to say the least, highly anticipated by the saints of every age! The saints have prayed for and sung about what the prophets foretold since the days of Enoch, and this testimony forced all the peoples of the earth to reckon with the finality of coming judgment. What finality? “Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD” (Psalm 104:35), the psalmists sung! You see, my reader? The songs of Zion and the prayers of saints did exhibit a love for the beauties of holiness which were exclusively enjoyed by those who dwelt within the Dominion of God’s Kingdom, the Church, because it was an isolated and set-apart place where “the wicked [were] cut off from the earth” (Prov. 2:22)!
“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the World that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the Day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” – 2 Peter 3:5-7
According to Peter, there is a single Day of Judgment like that of the ancient day, referenced by Peter, which wiped out all sinners from the earth until only the Church remained, and the tarrying of this Day is observable by the words, “kept in store” and “reserved”, because the finishing lap of judgment is appointed for a specified purpose, here called, “the Day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:7). In other words, this is the Day in which ungodly men shall utterly perish and thenceforth cease to exist in the land of the living! Even so, “The ungodly…are like the chaff which the wind driveth away” (Psalm 1:4).