Posts Tagged ‘Rom. 2:6’

So I’ve been thinking more about how justification relates to the final judgment, and vice versa.

Many in Reformed circles today seem to hold to a certain and distinct judgment according to works which takes place after the resurrection of the dead for both believers and unbelievers alike. Romans 2:6-14 is used to support these thesis.

However, it seems that there is a strong case for an alternative understanding where the final judgment is concurrent with the resurrection itself. Thus, all those who are raised immortal on the Last Day are ipso facto judged righteous already and need not enter any further judgment according to works.

What is more, rather than grounding (or basing) this final declaration on the works of the believer (which can’t seem to be avoided under the first understanding) this second view maintains that the final vindication is grounded entirely on the merits of Christ received through faith alone.  Not only is one vindicated upon the event of one’s bodily resurrection/glorification, but this declaration-by-resurection is already anticipated and made certain by one’s present justification before being raised.

Needless to say, this understanding has tremendous pastoral significance. One needn’t suffer any lack of assurance or dread of a final judgment as if one’s works in this life would have to pass muster before the holy judgment seat of God. Rather, one rests confidently in the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ imputed to us, through which alone we stand righteous before the Father.

The strength of this view shouldn’t be underestimated, possessing such noble advocates as Hodge, Bavinck, Vos, and Douglas Moo. But what particularly sets it apart is it’s connecting the eschatological with the soteriological.  In other words, it recognizes the profound interrelationship between justification and the resurrection on the Last Day.  It takes to heart the old adage that eschatology precedes soteriology. Yet this understanding seems to be quite lacking in the first view.

Vos touches on this:

Here lies precisely the point where eschatology and justification intersect. By making both the negative element of the forgiveness of sin and the positive element of bestowal of the benefits of salvation unqualified, the Apostle made the act of justification to all intents, so far as the believer is concerned, a last judgment anticipated. If the act dealt with present and past sins only, leaving the future product in uncertainty, it could not be regarded as possessing such absoluteness, and the comparison with the last judgment would break down at the decisive point. – Vos, Pauline Eschatology, p. 55, quoted in Fesko, Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine, p. 319.

Similarly, J. K. Beale observes:

Justification too is a doctrine that pertains to the last judgment concomitant with the destruction of the cosmos. This doctrine can be viewed purely in legal terms, whereby Christ bore the eternal wrath of God as our penal substitute so that we could be declared righteous. When we see justification in the light of inaugurated eschatology, we see that the final judgment that unbelievers will face in the future has been pushed back for believers to the cross in the first century. Believers have already passed through the great judgment when Christ suffered the eternal last judgment for them on the cross. – Beale, “New Testament and New Creation” in Biblical Theology, p. 167, quoted in Fesko, p. 319-20.

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