Sunday, June 14, 2009

Rick Phillips

Over at Ref21, Rick Phillips has a blog post on the Judgment of Believers in the Westminster Standards. He points out the potential incongruity between WCF 33:1 which says that "all persons that have lived upon the earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds, and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil," and his own view that the final judgment includes: "1) the biblical representations of believers on the last day involve no depictions of chastisement or shaming, but only reward and praise; and 2) believers will appear at the final judgment after they have entered into their glorified states via the final resurrection, which occurs prior to the final judgment, and the idea of judgment is incongruent with believers' glorified state." I call this the "rubies and sapphire" approach since the purpose of the final judgment is only to determine how many jewels you get in your crown. The biggest problem with this view is that it doesn't comport with passages like 1 Cor. 3.12-15:

(12) Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— (13) each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. (14) If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. (15) If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (ESV).

More satisfying, and what Phillips juxtaposes his own view to, is what R.C. Sproul says: "we will still undergo an evaluation. Christ will examine our lives and determine our degree of obedience and sanctification." I'd obviously like to fill that out a bit more in light of Rom. 14.10, 2 Cor. 5.10, and parts of Matthew and Revelation. But it seems clear to me that the final judgment of believers is not simply to determine how many Aussie opals you get in your crown, but whether your faith is indeed authentic (for many will cry out "Lord, Lord" and be turned away) and to determine if you built your ministry on the foundation of Jesus Christ.


Steven Coxhead said...

For an OT perspective on this issue, see Mal 3:16 - 4:3. The day of judgment will see God making a distinction between the covenantally righteous (i.e., those who fear and serve God) and the wicked (i.e., those who don't serve God). The righteous will be spared (3:17), but the wicked not so (4:1). In other words, a person's orientation to the covenant (or equivalent for those outside of God's gracious covenants) is one factor that will be assessed by God on the day of judgment. In fact, the OT view is that salvation is reserved only for the covenantally righteous (see Ps 15; 24:3-6; 37:27, 29, 34, 39; Ezek 18:5-9, 21-22), but the wicked will not share in this salvation (e.g., Ps 39:38). Jesus' teaching about the separation of the sheep and the goats in Matt 25:31-46 also suggests that there is a link between obedience (i.e., a positive orientation to Jesus, the King of the covenant) and the inheritance of eschatological salvation.

Steven Coxhead said...

I note that Paul also teaches that there is a link between obedience and the inheritance of eschatological salvation. See Rom 6:22; 8:13; 1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 6:7-8. As for the Apostle Peter's view, 2 Pet 1:10-11 is pretty clear.

How does the righteousness of Christ then fit into all of this? The OT system of atonement was only efficacious for the covenantally righteous, and that principle carries across into the new covenant arrangement as well. Or as John puts it: It is only as we walk in the light (i.e., as we are committed to the covenant relationship with God) that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Note also Heb 10:26-29. On the day of judgment, God will also be concerned with upholding the sanctity of the blood of the covenant.