The judgment seat of Christ can be viewed in many different ways. This two part article by Brother Robert Roberts presents a well articulated reflection upon an event that surely faces all of us. It was written in August 1868 when “The Christadelphian” magazine was in its infancy and when the writer himself was 29 years. old. The article reveals a depth of scriptural understanding on the subject for one so young!

To behold the Son of God

In accordance with the words we have been sing­ing, we have just now to behold our High Priest by faith. It would be a very great stimulus to our profession if we could, for one moment, enjoy the privilege which many of the disciples in the first century enjoyed; if we could but for a moment see our High Priest. This privilege we are denied, and so far, we are at a disadvantage; but our very disadvantage may work glorious things for us in the future. We draw consolation from the words of Jesus to Thomas, “blessed are those who have not seen [me], and yet have believed” (John 20:29). We look forward with consolation to the prospect of seeing him, after believing. We shall see him, then, as the disciples saw him not. They saw him in his humiliation; they companied with him in the flesh for 3½ years; and there is no doubt he was great company even then: for the testimony of his enemies was that he spake as never man spake. We can quite understand the strong feelings of affection that would be developed in the breasts of the disciples, by keeping the company of such a man for such a period.

But they did not understand him as we understand him, and as we shall understand him when we see him; for they did not comprehend the full bearing of his mission, nor the full richness of his nature. They did not understand fully who he was; they believed that he was the Son of God, and they believed that he was the Lamb of God, appointed to take away the sin of the world; but as to the way in which that was to be done, they evidently had no conception; for we find that when Jesus apprised them of the then imminent event by which the work was to be accomplished, they remonstrated against it. They did not understand him when he said he was to be taken away from them, and when he spoke about being delivered into the hands of the Scribes, Pharisees and Gentiles; and being mocked and spat upon, and despitefully entreated, and put to death, and that he would rise again the third day. It is said that they understood none of these things. Their attitude on several occasions would shew that they had not risen to the full appreciation of the Master whom they loved and served; nor the position which they themselves occupied in relation to him.

When God intervenes

You will remember that on one occasion when Jesus sent two of his disciples to a certain village, to prepare the way for his advance journey, the people in the village would not allow him to pass through; and the disciples, James and John, whom Jesus surnamed Boanerges, or Sons of Thunder—which suggests that they were fiery men, of zealous mind and prompt action—asked him if he would allow them to do as Elijah once did, call fire down from heaven to destroy the rebellious. Jesus said “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of,” that is, the spirit to which they were related—the calling to which they had been called. They knew what their individual spirits were; but Jesus meant to say that they did not comprehend the spirit of their calling; for he said, the Son of Man had not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. The disciples, however, were right to a certain extent. The destruction of the rebellious is a divine purpose. Christ came to save men’s lives, but it is also true that he is coming to destroy them. The disciples were wrong in the sense of being premature, and, perhaps, wrong in the particular motive that actuated them. Christ did not come to destroy men then, but he is coming to destroy them; for it is one of the most emphatic testimonies concerning him, and one that occurs very often, in a variety of forms, that he is the instrument by which God’s vengeance is to be inflicted on the world. He is to tread the winepress of God’s anger, to plead with all flesh, and give them that are wicked to the sword. He is coming to destroy men’s lives, and there will be such a time of destruction, both of life and property, as the world has never known.

When God enters upon the scene, to work upon the area of the whole world, as He will, you may depend upon it that something, of which we have no conception, will mark such a great interposition. We have only to look for confirmation of this to what He did on a small scale, whilst bringing His people from Egypt. This will give us some notion of what He will do when He takes them out of every nation under heaven. The Egyptians were subjected to continual and all manner of suffering. At one time, swarms of flies afflicted them; at another, loathsome frogs corrupted the land by their abundance; at another, the forces of heaven would contend visibly against the people, kill­ing their cattle in the field, destroying their crops and killing all those persons who did not, on the intimation of Moses, withdraw to the protection of their houses; and, to wind up the dreadful tragedy, we find that a whole army was buried in the Red Sea. That is a small illustration of what God does when He intervenes. It was not a matter of favouritism towards the children of Israel, and partiality against the Egyptians, for we find that the Israelites themselves, whilst wandering in the wilderness, were the objects of repeated acts of divine anger. The Israelites were, of course, a mere rab­ble of slaves when they came out of Egypt, untutored idolators. We learn from subsequent prophets that in Egypt they worshipped idols, and that they brought the institutions of Egypt into the wilderness, and for forty years carried their idolatrous gods with them. Well, we find that a whole generation of them perished in the wilderness; but before that generation died out, what repeated manifestations of God’s displeasure took place. The people were incessant in their rebellion against Moses, and had not Moses been kept up by divine power, it would have been impossible for him to have maintained the leadership of so intractable a people, or to have consummated the object of the exodus. The people would have destroyed Moses and Aaron, and all connected with them, and would have straggled back to the land of the flesh-pots; but God repeatedly intervened just at the critical moment, and destroyed great numbers of them; and on one occasion a great company was swallowed up by the earth, with their wives and children and all that they had.

A time for judgment

So then we can form some conception from what God has done, of what He will do in the greater time to come, when a greater work is to be done; for it is a far greater work to break the power of all nations than to break the power of one; to teach all the world than to teach one people. God’s object, in the Egyptian tragedy, was to teach Israel and all nations that there was a God: and that work was achieved, and effectu­ally achieved. The Jews at the present day are standing witnesses of the effectiveness of what God did, for it is simply a moral impossibility to eradicate from the Jewish mind the belief in their God. Three thousand years have passed away, and still we find this faith in full and tenacious possession of every Jewish mind. The work was done most effectively, and the work in the age to come will also be done most effectively; but it is a more important work, and will involve more potent machinery; for God is to coerce the power of all men, and He has to write for Himself a name in the minds of untutored millions, and not the least difficult to manage of those untutored millions will be the civilized millions. These have in them a sort of intellectual insubordination that will constitute a greater obstacle than the ignorance of barbaric races, who will readily give way before what will irresistibly be done. So the disciples were quite right in thinking that it was part and parcel of God’s dispensation in Christ, that his power should be made manifest; only, they were before the time. Everything is right in its place; out of its place, everything is wrong, and it was wrong that they should attempt any acts of judgment at that stage of affairs; and it is quite wrong for us to perform acts of judgment in our state of affairs.

The object of discipline

It is part of our calling at the present time that we are not to resent, that we are to suffer, that we are to be passive like Christ. We are not to vindicate ourselves, but to suffer wrong, take it patiently, put our trust in God. Some people think it strange that God’s will should be that we should suffer wrong. If they would think a little, the difficulty would disappear. It is God’s will that we should suffer wrong, not because it is right that wrong should be inflicted, but because it is good for us to endure. God is very angry at wrong being done, but for our sakes, He permits it at present. It is part of the trial by which He is preparing a people who shall be capable of wielding power judiciously when the time comes for Him to transfer the power of the whole world to the hands of Christ’s people. We know that nobody is fit to rule except those who have suffered. Put authority into the hands of a novice, or one who has not learnt wisdom and mercy by suffering; and the result is, caprice and tyranny. Those who have been at the bottom, as it were—those who have learnt by adversity the varied needs, the varied rights, and let us add, the varied wrongs connected with existence; those who have been disciplined to endurance, and patience, and self-denial, by suffering—those only are fitted to rule; not those who impatiently pull the shoulder from the burden, who impatiently speak fiery words and do fiery deeds. We can have this principle exemplified on a small scale as well as upon a large one. It has effect upon our little affairs now. God will judge us in reference to the things belonging to us, and within our power, whether large or small. If we are, in a small scale and in trifling matters, short-tempered, and speak impatiently, and do obstinate things, we are not fit to be entrusted with the rule of others. So that the object of the discipline to which we are subjected at present, is in great part, that we may be tried, prepared and educated to patience and submission, by the evils of the present, in order that we may be fit to undertake the merciful and judicious work of ruling men for their own benefit, when the time comes.