The Problem of EVIL and The Judgments of GOD
GOD HAS SWORN that He will win the worship of every knee and the acclaim of every tongue. Before His bema, or dais, all must come (Rom.14:11). This is in full accord with His purpose to reconcile all to Himself at the consummation (Col.1:20). Then, after the unbeliever has been judged and vivified, it will be fully accomplished. But those who believe will come to this blessed end long before, in the former resurrection, when Israel's saints are raised, and, still earlier, when those of this secret administration are presented at the dais of Christ, and each gives an account of himself to God (Rom.14:12).
Hitherto we have stressed the grand purpose of God to save and justify and vivify all mankind and finally reconcile the universe. It may be well in the future to press to the attention of all who love God and revel in His Word this still more precious and fundamental truth. Not only will all His creatures obtain blessing, but HE will be glorified by all. God Himselfis the great Beneficiary of His marvelous operations. I sincerely hope that even those who refuse to believe His plain declarations concerning the blessing of all His enemies, will not deny that He will get the worship of every knee and the acclamation of every tongue, for His oath is back of it.
All will give account of themselves at the two great crises of the eons. For the unbeliever it will take place at the great white throne, after the present earth is swept away. For the believer it may come in the near future, between the evil and the good eons, in preparation for the millennium on earth or our removal to the celestials. In brief, it follows man's present existence in humiliation and distress, and precedes his future life in glory and bliss. And this is just what should be expected. So long as mankind fails to give God His due, there can be and should be no blessing worthy of the name. But when the race or any part of it comes to the full acknowledgement of the Deity, blessing is bound to overflow.
The dais will be the second great crisis in our experience. When we first believed, most of us were exercised concerning our sins. Faith in the blood of Christ relieved us of all condemnation. We were happy because our acts would not be reckoned against us. But what we are was not so satisfactory. Being still mortal, we soon found that we were not freed from sin's presence, and by no means delivered from its power. In order to please God we had to die to sin. Death and crucifixion are the means of escape from its thralldom now. But this will be reversed in the resurrection. Then we will enjoy life and glory. We will be rid of the very presence of sin and free from its power, because we will be immortal. The dais is the introduction to this. Our whole past will be put into the crucible for final assay, so that all the vexing and troublesome problems of the present will be settled, and whatever is of value will be preserved.
The key words which describe the dais are illumination, manifestation, requital and applause. These are closely connected with judgment, but the sting has been withdrawn. They are not due to God's indignation, as is the case with the unbeliever, but to His holiness, which insists on the removal of all that might be, a source of evil in the future. He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and reveal the counsels of the heart (1 Cor.4:5). The true value of our service lies in the motive back of it, not in its apparent success or failure. If it is done for His glory alone, it will not fail to find applause. But if it is centered in self, it will not survive the fire. Yet we will be glad to see it vanish.
It is helpful to note that the bema, or dais, occurs only in those portions of Paul's epistles which deal with conduct, in the second half of Romans and in Corinthians. It is not mentioned where the evangel is in view. It is concerned with the deportment of the saints, and does not affect their salvation. Justification is not of works, but the dais deals altogether with deeds. The gratuity in one is grace, the other is a test by fire. The judgment of Christ on the cross in the past settled for our sins, the dais of Christ in the future will reward us for our service. In our meditations may we always remember the vast contrasts between these great themes, lest we lose the joy of our salvation by basing it in the least degree upon ourselves.
Justification frees from all condemnation. It is not limited to our sins as unbelievers. It includes what we do as believers. The righteousness that is ours in Christ is divine. God transmutes our every act, by the alchemy of the cross, into a source of glory to Himself and blessing to His creatures. Yet this does not imply that we are sinless in ourselves, or that we should continue as before. By the illumination of God's Word we learn about ourselves and seek to shun evil and aim to do good. But we are much hindered by the flesh, which is still with us. This is a slow process, which is never completed in this life. In the resurrection, however, with our incorruptible bodies, the whole process is perfected before the dais.
Many, however, are inclined to dread that future test, especially if their conscience is not clear, or their relations to their fellow saints leave something to be desired. This is a wholesome fear, but let us be thankful that we are not called upon to endure the test in our present, mortal bodies. When we are presented before Him, we will be clothed with powerful, glorious frames, and will be able to endure the searching fiery flames. Moreover, we will welcome anything that will clear up all the differences and dissensions that have marred our fellowship while on earth. There is no one to decide our cause until our Lord Himself does so in that day.
The dais of Christ is not only concerned with the service of the saints in relation to their Lord, but one of its chief functions is to clear up the relations between the saints, in view of the future. After the dais there will be no need to bear and forbear, for immortality will incline us to do right, just as the dying process now makes us do wrong. There will be no need for grace in dealing with one another after that. All that will need settling is the past. God's searchlight will illumine all. Right and wrong will, be instantly apparent, and we will be glad to see our bad destroyed and our wrongs requited.
Any judging or setting of things right while we are in our mortal, soulish bodies is bound to be a painful procedure. The unbeliever will find it so at the great white throne. We would find it so if we should seek to straighten out everything in this life. It is not pleasant to realize that we have been in the wrong. The more sensitive our conscience is, the more miserable we feel at the thought of displeasing God or harming His people, or any of His creatures. It is a vast relief to look forward to a time when all will be cleared up by the only One Who is competent, and when our frames will be able to bear knowing the worst, because it will no longer be a soulish, or sentient body, but a spiritual organism competent and eager to cope with the matter once for all, in order that nothing be left to mar the future bliss.
Is it not evident that all differences of doctrine and deportment must be cleared up before we can enter fully into the service that awaits us in the future? Now our forbearance and grace and love needs exercise. But then all of us will be like Him, and nothing can come between us to mar our fellowship or service for the future. But our past needs to be fully purged, for our own sake as well as for that of our fellow saints. We must be illuminated as to our own mistakes, and the motives of all must become manifest. Now much is obscure and secret. Motives are misunderstood and misrepresented. All is largely superficial and artificial. Only God and His Christ can bring this into the open. And it will not be done, until we are presented before the dais. Until then we must act in grace.
There is only One Who can preside and decide between the saints in matters of conduct. Our Lord is alive and vitally interested in all that concerns His own. He alone knows the heart and evaluates the motives. After all, the relation of one saint to another and their treatment of each other is a minor matter compared with the attitude of each one toward God. So that, primarily, everything is being ordered so as to bring worship and praise to Him. That will be the principal purpose of His dais. All the conduct of the saints, whether good or bad, will contribute to this. There will be worship from all hearts when they see the glories of His grace in contrast to their fearful failures, and there will be praise exultant when they are commended for their good deeds, notwithstanding the forfeits for their bad. Then will be fulfilled what is written:
For to Me shall bow every knee,
And every tongue shall be acclaiming God.
SIN OR SINS NOT AT THE DAIS
Although neither sin nor sins are mentioned in connection with the dais, it is difficult for us to avoid injecting these. Indeed, is it not logical to reason that bad practices (2 Cor.5:10) must be sins? And if we shall give account concerning ourselves, would this not involve many mistakes? Such reasoning, even though it seems to be logical, is not wise, because it is not of faith. Faith would rather deduce that, since the word sin, or sins, is not employed of the dais, the character of our acts as viewed there must be different, and accord with the terms that are used. If this is so, then there is no such thing as the adjudication of sins at the dais, and the apparent contradiction vanishes.
If the different usages of sin and sins were clearly defined, it would help us to see why sin is not in view at the dais. A single mistake is a missing of the mark, or a sin. Several of them would be sins. But the singular, sin, or missing the mark, is also used as a name for the inclination, the tendency, which resides in our mortal flesh. It is usually called a "principle" or a "sinful nature," but these terms are vague and misleading, for human nature leads us to do what the law demands (Rom.2:14) and sin is unprincipled. Death, or dying, is what makes us sinners (Rom.5:12). We will not be sinners in this sense at the dais, because, at that time, we will be immortal and will have no inclination to sin.
Immortality not only makes us sinless at the dais, but makes us immune to the penalties due to sin, the affliction and distress which will be the portion of all the "dead" who stand before the great white throne (Rom.2:9; Rev.20:12). The body which we will then possess will be an incorruptible, powerful, glorious, spiritual body (1 Cor.15:42-44). The inflictions which will be the portion of the sinner must be kept within his endurance or his soul would leave his body and the suffering would end. But we would not find even the lake of fire, which is the second death, unbearable. Even if the sins of the believer had not been borne and put away by Christ's sacrifice, the judgment due to them could not be inflicted at the dais. The problem there belongs to another and different realm.
When we treat another badly, or are injured ourselves, this will be transmuted into a righteous act in God's great program through the sacrifice of Christ. But that does not requite us for our injury, nor does it recompense another for the bad that we have done. This injustice still remains so far as we are concerned, notwithstanding our relationship to God and Christ. Besides, many a good act and some whole careers devoted to the service of God, demand recognition and approval and reward, quite distinct from the glory which will be the portion of all the saints in this display of transcendent grace.
Good or bad, the lack of full faith, due to the activity of the flesh or to the wiles of the adversary on one hand, and faithfulness and the leading of God's spirit on the other, have caused unnumbered debts and deserts to be entered to the account of God's saints and servants, that have never been paid. All of these must be balanced, and the books closed at the dais, for there will be no further need to keep a record, seeing that there will be no evil or bad acts to enter, and the good will be rewarded without delay, for God no longer needs to hurt and humble us, for we will be able to please Him without hindrance.
REQUITAL AT THE DAIS
A clear conception of the special term requite will help us to understand more clearly the procedure at the dais of Christ. Its stem, in Greek, denotes FETCH. The woman who rubbed our Lord's feet with attar fetched it in an alabaster vase (Luke 7:37). In the middle voice, however, it corresponds with our recover or requite. It is not a term used in law courts connected with crime, but denotes compensation, reparation, rather than vengeance or retribution. I was told many years ago that the Chinese settled all their accounts every New Year's day. All debts were paid and accounts collected. No one went to jail. All were requited. The books were balanced, and the year was begun with a clean slate. I doubt that this was ever fully accomplished, nevertheless it may serve as a weak illustration of the dais.
ALL will agree that some of God's servants deserve a special reward for their deeds. Hitherto, those ancient worthies who died in faith were not requited with the promises, but they certainly will be rewarded in the kingdom (Heb.11:13). So also the elders who supervise voluntarily, not avariciously, models for the flocklet, when the Chief Shepherd is manifested, will be requited with an unfading wreath of glory (1 Peter 5:1-4). The Circumcision saints who do the will of God will be requited with the promise. In their case definite promises have been made to them, and these will be their requital. To some extent this is true of us also.
Justification before God does not requite those whom we have injured, nor does their justification requite us for wrongs which they have committed against us. Ideal were it if all such things could be fully adjusted in this life, but this would not accord with the character of God's present operations. He deals in utmost grace, and the very wrongs which we are called upon to endure are opportunities which we should seize for displaying His grace to others. If there were a competent tribunal and we would have all our wrongs redressed as they occur, that would lower our whole life to the level of the kingdom eon, in which God's righteousness is revealed.
The fact that there is no one capable of deciding what is right or wrong, or the proper recompense, makes it futile to settle such matters now. They would probably be appealed to the dais anyway, as most of us are inclined to judge that we are right and others are wrong, because we cannot see beneath the surface or read the counsels of the hearts. In another connection Paul warns against judging before the season. Even he, with the clearest conscience, refused to forestall that day. All of us must be manifested in front of the dais of Christ before there can be a correct requital of what has been put into practice through the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor.5:10,11).
It is worthy of note that one of the best manuscripts, Vaticanus (B) reads evil in place of bad or FOUL in 2 Cor.5:10. This confirms the thought that bad belongs in the same category with evil, rather than with sin. We have shown elsewhere that God creates evil yet does not sin. So it is with our bad or evil acts. It seems that they, when viewed in the light of that day, are used by Him to humble us and give us the experience of bad or evil, and the corresponding grace, which is needed to prepare us for our place in His purpose. I am thankful for the bad which comes to me, in a personal way, yet I realize that the exposure of my own evil and the loss it entails is just as essential as a firm basis for the future.
We should be most thankful if, in this life, we are able to requite for anything bad that we have done. It may mean a serious loss, yet all who have the spirit of God should not rest easy so long as they have injured a fellow creature. It may not be possible always to do this. I am sure no one would view the future glory with equanimity if anything of this sort still is against him. To requite all might be an intolerable burden now, added to our other infirmities. How gracious, then, is the postponement of requital until we are immortal, and well able to forfeit all that is necessary to square accounts with those who were associated with us in this life!
This publication may be reproduced for personal use
(all other rights reserved by copyright holder).