After the first sin in Eden, Adam and Eve were barred access to the tree of life “lest”, said Yahweh, “they eat of it and live for ever”.

Refinement and Perfection

 Clearly implied is the Lord’s concern that they should become immortal in their then imperfect moral state.

The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that we need to be morally perfected before being physically perfected. The former requires a lifetime of formative pressures; the latter is accomplished in “the twinkling of an eye”. Even given this, it still remains that there could easily be failings and weaknesses of which we are totally unaware. As the apostle Paul says, “For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord” (1 Cor 4:4).

So for the righteous, the judgment becomes more than a simple selection procedure: it involves the analysis of character, bringing to light faults they may not have been aware of, or weaknesses they may not have completely overcome. When these are addressed the final refinement and improvement of the character is complete.

The prophet Malachi describes judgment as a refining process. “Who may abide the day of his coming and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver and he shall purify the sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver.” (3:2,3).

When we appear before the Lord, the manifestation of the God of judgment, the “torch” will be applied to our character, after the manner described in the words of Malachi to Israel. This moment of “intense heat” and rigorous scrutiny will do no harm to the noble and pure qualities we are now striving to develop; only to those impurities which tarnish our character rendering it susceptible to corruption. The attributes which prove to be of gold, silver and precious stone quality will survive, while the unprofitable dross will be consumed. Job likened the beneficial effects of trial to the purifying of precious metal: “when he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, cp Prov 25:4). We each need to ask ourselves: How much of value and substance will be left at the end of the process?

By this means, Yahweh will fully prepare the men and women whom He selects to be rulers and priests of the millennial Kingdom. They will readily recognise their failings and join with David in his declaration of the absolute justice of God (Psalm 51:4): “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest”. When they do this, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). At the same time, those who have set their hearts to understand, chastened themselves and, as Daniel, poured out their confession to Yahweh, will be commended (Dan 10:12). In this way, the righteous are perfected preparatory to their immortal role and at the same time the justice of Deity will be totally upheld.

What Will It Be Like?

 The initial reaction to standing before the majestic presence of our Lord will be an overwhelming sense of unworthiness and smallness before him.

Just to stand in the presence of such a noble and perfect man would be enough to make us acutely conscious of our inadequacies. For the first time, the full impact of God’s absolute righteousness and our own utter inadequacy will strike us. There will be things of which we are bitterly ashamed. We will loathe ourselves in the presence of one so pure, noble and perfect. There is no doubt the experience will be thoroughly humbling for us. Even men like Daniel and John, whom we could imagine might justly expect Divine commendation, were prostrated in awe before the angelic presence. The full realisation of our sin and incomplete belief will flood our minds: we will want to cry with that father of long ago, “Lord, I believe: help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

All this will only serve to magnify our gratitude when we hear the words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant:…enter thou into the joy of thy lord” . What a wonderful and gracious plan the Father has in mind for those who love Him. What unbounded joy and unspeakable gratitude will pour from the hearts of the redeemed who, confessing their unworthy state, are met with an answer of peace from their Maker.

There is no loyalty like that which undying gratitude commands. The gratitude welling up in the hearts of the accepted servants will bind them to their just Master for eternity!

Fear or Love?

 If we appreciate the purpose of the judgment, the events as they unfold in the very near future will have meaning and logical direction for us. When we consider the purpose of the judgment as the final step in the perfection of the saints for rulership, we can personally relate to it. There is a necessity for us to evidence our desire for this exalted role, by diligent application to developing the necessary qualifications now. Yahweh will certainly be able to perfect our characters at the day of judgment, if the qualities He seeks are present as a basis to work on. However, He can do nothing with those who have made no effort while they had the opportunity.

After their transgression, Adam and Eve endeavoured to hide themselves from the searching eye of their Creator, painfully conscious of their sin, acutely aware of its effects and apprehensive of the consequences of Divine inquiry. If we love Yahweh and daily strive to please Him, always being aware of our weaknesses, then we will be able to stand before our Creator with open heart and a ready answer, without the fear, shame and concealment of our first parents.

However, we must come to know the love of God by experience in our lives now. We cannot wait until the judgment to reveal it. This is why the Apostle John says: “And we have known (Greek ‘gnosis’) and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment:…There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment (‘restraint’ or ‘reticence’ – Diaglott). He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:16-18). In the Greek text, John’s studied contrast between love and fear is clearly apparent. Love allows for frankness and openness: fear causes reticence and restraint. Complete love will banish fear and its effects.

Those who know Yahweh only as “an hard man” (Matthew 25:24) will feel uneasy, fearful and reticent to speak at the throne of judgment. Tragically, they do not know nor understand their judge and consider his demand to “be perfect” as unreasonable. All their life they have hidden their failings with “fig-leaf” excuses (see Matthew 5:48 and 2 Corinthians 13:11).

Those who have grown to know and love their Heavenly Father will have nothing to fear at the day of judgment. They will have no delusions about their shortcomings, but they know and love the judge before whom they stand and will not hesitate to frankly confess their dependence on His unbounded love. They will have contemplated the reassuring words of the Lord spoken to the disciples, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

There is no doubt that the judgment is at the door. Those who are ready can look toward the judgment with feelings of joyful expectation, balanced by respect and veneration at the prospect of standing before their Maker.

The faithful servants of a just Master will answer his call without fear: “Here am I, Lord!”.