God’s Word for You
1 Peter 1:17 Judgment Day
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, February 28, 2022
17 If you call on the Father who judges impartially, according to the work of each person, conduct yourselves during the time of your pilgrimage in reverence,
Peter’s mention of calling on the Father is probably one of the rare references to the Lord’s Prayer outside the Gospel accounts. “God,” we remember, “tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true Father and that we are his true children, so that we may pray to him as boldly and confidently as dear children ask their dear father” (Small Catechism III,2). God invites us to ask for his blessings, and one result is that we want to live according to his will. Peter calls this lifetime “the time of your pilgrimage,” that is, a paroikia (παροικία) or “brief stay among strangers.” It’s a reminder that we are strangers here; heaven is our home.
Peter says that the Father “judges impartially, according to the work of each person.” The Last Judgment will be based on faith. Since good works are truly only possible where there is faith, then faith and its resulting good works make up the sum total of the Christian life.
Regarding the Last Judgment, we confess when we recite the meaning of the Third Article: “On the Last Day he will raise me and all the dead and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.” These things we know from Scripture:
1, The last day is the day of judgment. Jesus refers to it this way (Matthew 11:22-23, 12:36-37; Mark 3:29; John 5:29). That time will be the end of the world. “It will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town” (Matthew 10:15). “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord… on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people” (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
2, Jesus Christ himself will carry out the judgment. Although judgment clearly belongs to the Father, the righteous Judge (Psalm 9:8), he has committed this to Jesus Christ (Acts 10:42; 2 Timothy 4:8).
The standard of judgment is nothing else but the gospel. Most religions think that judgment (if they think of the judgment at all) as being subject only to the law. But Jesus says: “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word (the gospel) which I spoke will condemn him on the last day” (John 12:48). And Paul says: “God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares” (Romans 2:16).
Unbelievers, who reject the gospel, place themselves entirely under the judgment of the law. “Do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set” (John 5:45). And another witness: “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law’” (Galatians 3:10, quoting Deuteronomy 27:26). And of course, their damnation is a foregone conclusion: “Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).
3, All people must appear in this final judgment. “We will all stand before God’s judgment seat” (Romans 14:10) and give an account of ourselves before God (Romans 14:12). “All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:32). This is summarized by Luther in the meaning of the Third Article as we saw above: “He will raise me and all the dead.” And we remember that the fallen angels will be judged as well: “God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment” (2 Peter 2:4).
Something to remember here is that believers will not have their sins published. “You have put all my sins behind your back” (Isaiah 38:17); “You will have compassion on us and hurl all our iniquities into the depth of the sea” (Micah 7:19). So believers will be judged according to the gospel, that is, by God’s grace they will be accepted and saved. But then, Scripture tells us, believers will also be witnesses to God’s righteous judgment and in some way participate in the judgment. Paul asks: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Do you not know that we will judge angels?” (2 Corinthians 6:2,3). Not that we will pass sentence. But we may (a) serve in some way as judicial assistants to Christ the judge, (b) publicly approve the sentence of the judge (Quenstedt, “by casting their own vote”), (c) by testifying about the kindness and generosity shown to us by the godly and about the other good works of the godly, and (d) by condemning the ungodly, the evil angels, the devil, and the Antichrist, by the example of the constancy of our faith in Christ. (See also Matthew 19:28, 21:41-42; Luke 22:30; 1 John 4:3-4; 2 John 1:7-8).
4, Scripture tells us that the judgment, based on God’s righteousness, will also explain many secrets of world history and “many puzzling inequalities of this time” (Hoenecke’s phrase). When Christians stand in fellowship against false teaching, contending “as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you, this is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved” (Philippians 1:27-28). Also, the mystery of “the crown of righteousness… to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). And most notably there is Asaph’s mysterious prophecy: “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies” (Psalm 73:16-20).
5, On judgment day the present universe will be destroyed, to give place to the new heaven and new earth. “The foundations of the earth… will perish. They will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded” (Psalm 102:25-26). “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat” (2 Peter 3:12). And of course “we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13).
Our pilgrimage on earth anticipates all of this. We know that this end will come, that Judgment Day will take place, and from there we will enter into eternal life with God forever. We want to keep our eyes on the prize of paradise. Naturally, we live each day as if today might be the day. God keeps filling up his kingdom, soul by soul by soul, until the day will come when every soul is accounted for, and then the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised, all of our cares about the present life will drop away and be gone forever, and we will take our first steps in the soft green grass of heaven.
Pastor Timothy Smith