When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory–Mat 25:31
Preaching on the Judgment
One always notices in time of revival that a great deal is preached about the Last Judgment. In our ordinary pulpit ministration it is not so. I think most ministers hesitate to face up to these awful truths, but always, both in past centuries and today, when there is a revival of God‘s Spirit, as a moral motive power you find prominence on the Last Judgment. Over against the inequalities, the injustices, the apparent unrighteousnesses of this world, mankind almost naturally has postulated a judgment to come. I suppose there is not a savage faith without some glimmering of it; and in the religion of old Egypt there was no picture more familiar than that of the Judgment Hall, and somebody standing holding a pair of scales, and in one side of them the human souls.
The Judgment Is Going to Be at the End of Time
One wants, then, to find what our Lord had to say about this deep instinct of the human heart. We find it here. Laying aside the imagery–one can never be quite sure when or not the curtain is the picture–but trying to lay aside the imagery and trying to get at the truth which our Lord wanted to teach, I think we discover this. First of all, our Lord makes it perfectly plain to us that this judgment is going to be at the end of time; when the Son of Man cometh in His glory and His holy angels with Him, then–and whatever be our thoughts of eschatology, and whatever be our views of the millennium, I think it must be clear to all of us that what our Lord meant was that the great judgment is not to be until the story of time is at an end. Now a little reasoning will just show you how necessary that is. For instance, nobody can be perfectly judged in this life, just because life is not static; life is a thing of movement. Our blessed Lord never judged a man by what he might be at the particular moment, but rather by the trend of what he was going to be. You take the parable of the Pharisee and Publican praying in the Temple. At that particular moment the Pharisee really thought he was better than the Publican, he had done far more good, but in the broken heart of the poor penitent the Lord saw such possibilities for tomorrow that He pronounced blessing. John Newton was a slave trader, and if at any hour in his earlier life you had judged him you would have condemned him to the lowest pit. But Newton was converted, became a well-known minister, and won multitudes of souls for Christ. You see, you can never judge him while his life is moving. Again, is it not equally clear to you that you can never judge a man just when he dies, because when a man dies his influence does not die; it may go on from age to age. You take, for instance, a case like Mr. Quarrier. Mr. Quarrier with all the passion of his heart loved these little orphan children, and then he got the Homes built at Bridge-of-Weir, and there he laboured till he died; but the Homes did not die. Year after year, generation after generation, perhaps to the end of time, they are going to go on blessing the orphan children. If you want to sum up the total influence of Mr. Quarrier you cannot judge him till the end of time. You take a man whose influence is bad: a man who writes a bad book, it may be an obscene novel, spawn of the press, it may be a book deliberately designed to overthrow faith. The man writes it and gets his bread by it, and he dies; but the book does not die. Year after year it may go on corrupting, degrading, and lowering, and not till the ripples have broken on the shore of eternity is the whole story of the man’s influence known, and our Lord, who is always so reasonable, says that when the Son of Man comes, when times is done, when your influence has gone to its uttermost limit, then we are going to be judged.
The Judgment Is Going to Be Final
The next thing our Lord tells us here is that the judgment is going to be final. I want you to listen while I read over quietly these words–not of mine, but of Christ: “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous unto life eternal.” If there be anybody here who knows Greek, he will know that the word for “everlasting” is the same word as the word for “eternal,” and therefore if you and I believe that the life we are going to live beyond is one that never ends, you can only interpret the words of Christ as meaning that the punishment is never going to end. I want you to think of that. It is perfectly true that men have tried to get out of it by giving another meaning to that word “eternal.” They have taken it to mean “age-long”: that is, lasting through the next period to this, though beyond that no one knows what happens. There is no hope that way. All through the Bible–St. Paul, St. John, the writer of the Hebrews, the Revelation–the word means “never ending.” So it means in classic Greek, so it means in Plato. It is not I, it is the Lord who says, and says it with a passionate intensity, “Where the worm never dieth, where the fire is never quenched.” It is not I, it is the Lord who says, “These shall go into everlasting punishment, and those into everlasting life,” and how the Lord, with His big heart of love, tender to everybody, even to the beasts, how the Lord could combine that with such an awful prospect, is something we have never fathomed to this hour. If you want to say, “I do not believe in everlasting punishment,” remember you are at perfect liberty to say it. If it is your judgment, then it is yours, but please observe you can never quote the authority of the Lord Christ for that. It is awful to think that His authority is on the other side. You have got to face up to that. I suppose the two difficulties men have felt when they have allowed themselves to brood upon this matter are these. First, we say, we have all said, How could anyone be happy in heaven, how could the saints of heaven sing their song if they knew that there were souls–even one soul–suffering in hopeless misery? To that there is no answer. But is not it possible that a little light may be drawn from what we see in this present world? Are not there people in Glasgow who are perfectly happy, thoroughly enjoying themselves, and all the time within a stone’s throw there are men and women in hopeless misery? You see it can be done, and if you answer, as I have no doubt the keener among you would answer at once, that these are worldly people, these are not the inhabitants of heaven, my experience is, it is generally worldly people who talk like that. The saints rather bow the head and say, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”