The Dais or “Judgment Seat”
of God and His Christ
OUR RELATIONSHIP to God and that to our fellow men should be kept entirely distinct in our minds when considering the dais. There is nothing between us and God to require such a session, but there is much between us and our fellows that needs to be settled by the illumination of that day. We grope in comparative darkness in regard to each other, and misjudge one another. Not only must our false and fleeting doctrines face the fire, but our good and bad or evil practices, as regards our fellows, must be requited. Many a matter have I left in the hands of Christ to be dealt with in the light of that day (2 Cor.5:10).
We have been justified before God by the work of Christ, but we are not justified among men by our own works. One was settled long ago and is everlasting. The other cannot be determined until our course is run and we are presented at the dais. We are to judge nothing before the time because the spring of human actions and its complexities are hid from us and are beyond our adjudication. Besides, no judge is competent to sit on a bench where he himself is brought to trial. Let us not judge now, but wait for the day of requital, when all will be rewarded in the light of perfect knowledge, and without the least danger of sin or mistake.
PAUL NOT JUSTIFIED
Who is more insistent than Paul that we are justified gratuitously by God’s grace? Yet, when it comes to the dais, although he is conscious of nothing against himself, he insists that he is not justified by this (1 Cor.4:4). Such a contrast should show us the great difference between what is ours before God because of what Christ has done, and what is ours in relation to those with whom we come into contact by reason of our own actions. Moreover, if Paul did not justify himself, how can anyone else think of such a thing? We are all too prone to think we are right, and to demand that others acknowledge this publicly. We are not satisfied with the righteousness we have from God, but we want one of our own to flaunt before men, especially if our conscience is clear. A clear conscience is no criterion today.
(As I am revising this, a letter comes from a brother who has had some differences with others as regards his service. To me he seemed to be in the right. Nevertheless he now writes, thanking God that He has humbled him, so that he wrote to the others, asking their forgiveness! No wonder he is having such marvelous results in his efforts to make known God’s grace and glory!)
It is not the easiest thing in the world to bear with injustice and calumny. Personally I can do it, but when it harms others or the work I am strongly tempted to set matters right. As an example, I have just heard that two fellow helpers, to whom I had given large sums of my own hard-earned money, and for whom I had ventured much in order to provide them with a living, are circulating a rumor that I am using the funds of the Concern in order to gamble in business! And some of my dearest friends are swallowing the slander, notwithstanding the fact that I have given thousands to the work, as well as my own home, during the last few years. Besides, the materials bought in the venture doubled in value, and have saved the Concern a considerable sum.
Self-righteousness in view of our fellows is due to our ignorance of the flesh and to darkness as to our mortal state. Our condition is such that even a man like Paul prefers not to press the matter, but to leave it to the illumination of the dais, when we shall be immortal and free from infirmity and failure. The probabilities are that the most righteous act we have ever achieved was tinged with self and sin. By all means let us not seek to justify ourselves or demand that others recognize our righteous acts or character. Let us postpone all this until the gloom of our dying state gives place to the glory of eternal life, when all will be manifest, and self will have no cover under which to hide.
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.
REQUITAL FOR GOOD
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.
Let us take one example which concerns all who use the Concordant Version. A certain Greek scholar, who enjoyed quite a reputation in this country, thinking that the Concordant was the Emphatic Diaglott, wrote a stinging criticism, accusing us of following Pastor Russell. Although he was shown his error, he made no public correction. One of the leaders of the Fundamentalists spread his slander. Since then others have taken it up. It recently reappeared in the publication of an eastern Bible Institute. A western magazine, devoted to prophecy, republished it lately. The organ of the Fundamentalists has also repeated the slander. And so it will probably go on until all concerned stand before the dais of Christ. We have no means of stopping this slander, nor of estimating the loss to our ministry. But we rest serene, knowing that all will be made good in due time. The eventual loss will not be ours, but theirs.
No doubt all these men consider that they have done a good service for God in exposing the Version. They think that they are right. The possibility that they may be wrong does not occur to them. The thought of being gracious is far from them, even though they all profess to be saved by grace and some of them use the word to characterize their work. We might sit in judgment on them and ask, why did not the great scholar publicly right the wrong he had done? Why do others repeat his slander without making any effort to determine the facts? When the evidence is produced, why do they not retract? Is it right to repeat any accusation without the evidence of two or three witnesses? The sad conclusion cannot be evaded, that they have no hesitancy in doing wrong in the service of God, because of the good they think will come of it.
None of these men have done anything even approaching the systematic examination of the Originals which is the basis of the Concordant Version. Justice demands that they do this before they presume to take the place of a judge and teacher of those who have. None of them have even taken the pains to examine the evidence which is spread before them, beyond comparing their conclusions with tradition. The later ones try to shift the responsibility on others who have slandered us before, without examining their findings. The motive behind it all is clear. The great truths that have been recovered do not agree with the traditions they have received, hence the basis must be discredited.
What should we do about it? Shall we demand our rights? Is it not right to defend God’s truth, dug out of the rubbish of tradition by so much drudgery and toil? Shall we sue these slanderers and obtain large sums with which to publish abroad the great truths which we have discovered? But how do we know that we are right? Even if the Version is right, our actions are not right if we do not act according to it. We are not to seek justice before unbelievers. And it would be judging at a time when grace reigns. It would cause much ill-feeling contrary to the peace which should prevail among the saints. It would be premature and need to be done all over again at the dais. Our conscience is absolutely clear, but that does not justify us. In fact, we want no justification of our own. Even if acknowledged by men, it could never stand before God, or the illumination of the dais.
When we look at it in the light of God’s purpose and the object of this administration, we can see that such deplorable deception is right in God’s sight. At present He is displaying the transcendence of His grace to the universe. It is marvelous grace that he offers to sinners of the nations in the evangel. But how can he show grace by means of His saints? Should their conduct not be such that no grace is needed or possible? Alas! In view of their light, they seem to be sometimes more deserving of condemnation than before, especially in the treatment of their fellow saints who are more faithful than they. It may turn out that some evangelistic reformers of the unsaved are greater sinners than those whom they denounce, because of their greater light.
Let us remember that God’s Word demands apostasy at the end of this administration. Consequently there must be a withdrawal from the faith and opposition to the truth. To be effective, especially in its last phases, we must expect to find this among the very ones who proclaim themselves defenders of the faith. Such is Satan’s stratagem, and such is God’s plan. Those who say they see are far more guilty in these last days than those who are blind. And these may be the most brilliant exhibitions of God’s grace. In the vicious violation of the grace to which these self-constituted defenders of the faith were called, the universe will see the most guilty of mankind, but, at the same time, the supreme examples of His favor.
REQUITAL FOR BAD
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!
A. E. Knoch
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