There’s a fascinating story in the Bible about a time when the devil showed up at God’s front door. The devil wasn’t there to be friendly and nice. He had a beef to settle with God. The Bible doesn’t tell us the devil’s complaint, but from God’s response we can be quite certain of what Satan had in mind. God said, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8).
“ ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face’ ” (verses 9–11).
So God said, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands” (verse 12). That’s how it happened that in one day Satan destroyed all of Job’s oxen, donkeys, sheep, camels, and the servants who were tending them. Satan even killed Job’s sons and daughters! A few days later, God gave Satan permission to touch Job’s body, and the poor man was covered with excruciating boils from head to toe. Job was understandably upset! Much of the rest of the book that goes by his name is a recounting of Job’s questions about God’s fairness.
The title of this article—“When We’ll Judge God”—may have startled you. After all, God is the One who will judge us. How dare we judge Him? The problem is that we all judge God from time to time. Job resolved his questions about God, but the basic question he asked is universal: Is God fair?
Have you been struck with cancer or some other life-threatening disease? Have you ever lost a job? Did your house burn down? Was your child killed in an automobile accident caused by a drunken driver? These are the kinds of issues that prompt the anguished question, Why, God, why?
When we ask that question, we’re in essence judging God. And I propose that God doesn’t mind that! In one Bible passage, He said, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). That’s God inviting us to reason with Him.
God created us humans in His image (Genesis 1:27, 28). This means that in some ways we are like Him. And one of those ways is our intelligence. We can ask questions, examine evidence, and draw conclusions. And God invites us to do that about Him. God asks us to judge Him!
Paul said that God wants to “demonstrate his justice” to us (Romans 3:26). He doesn’t ask us to just blindly accept the idea that He’s fair. He asks us to evaluate the evidence and draw our own conclusions. Some people will persist in their belief that He’s unfair; and while He’s disappointed, He allows them to relate to Him accordingly.
Christians talk about Judgment Day as though there’s a day coming when God will judge us. However, I propose that the opposite is also true. A day is coming when you and I will have the opportunity to check out God! And when we do, we’ll discover that God has been very fair in all His dealings with the human race.
God’s great Judgment Day is divided into three parts.
A pre-Advent judgment
Daniel 7:9, 10 gives the clearest biblical description of the pre-Advent judgment. This passage begins by picturing God dressed in white, sitting on His throne, and surrounded by millions of angels. Then Daniel says, “The court was seated, and the books were opened” (verse 10).
These “books” are not for God’s benefit, for He knows everything. They’re for the angels, whose minds are more limited than God’s. The angels have heard all of Satan’s accusations against you and me and God. So before bringing us into heaven, God will give the angels an opportunity to review the records so they can see for themselves that He’s been fair in all His decisions about us.
According to Daniel, this judgment will take place in heaven. But when? Daniel tells us that it will precede the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom at Christ’s second coming:
“ ‘The court [or judgment] will sit, and his [Satan’s] power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him’ ” (Daniel 7:26, 27).
A millennial judgment
Revelation describes a 1,000-year period that we call “the millennium.” A careful study of Revelation 20:1–6 makes it clear that Jesus’ second coming and the resurrection of the righteous will occur at the beginning of the millennium.
Jesus told His disciples that He planned to go to heaven to prepare a place for them, and “if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). This means that believers will spend the millennium in heaven with Jesus.
One of the activities that will engage the attention of these believers during the millennium will be judgment. Jesus told His disciples that “at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28).
Similarly, Paul said that a time is coming when “the saints will judge the world” and “we will judge angels” (1 Corinthians 6:2, 3). And in Revelation, John said that during the millennium he saw “thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge” (Revelation 20:4).
The purpose of the judgment during the millennium, like the judgment by the angels prior to Jesus’ return, will be for you and me to examine God’s decisions from the record books of heaven so that we can understand that He has been absolutely fair in all His decisions. This will be particularly important for those of us with loved ones who are not in heaven with us. We’ll want to know why, and the record of their lives will show us. We may also wonder why certain people are in heaven—and heaven’s record books will reveal that too.
A postmillennial judgment
Revelation 20 also describes a judgment that will occur after the millennium. To understand this judgment, we need to be aware of a few more details about the millennium itself.
We’ve already seen that the millennium begins with the second coming of Christ, when God will resurrect His people and take them to be with Him in heaven. The wicked who are living on the earth at this time will all be destroyed (2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9; 2:8; Revelation 19:17, 18). So, with God’s people in heaven and the wicked all dead, the earth will be depopulated.
The first three verses of Revelation 20 tell us that Satan will be chained and cast into a great abyss during the millennium “to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years [are] ended” (verse 3). Since the righteous are in heaven and the wicked are all dead, there will be no nations on earth for him to deceive.
However, at the end of the millennium, the wicked will be raised to life. This will give Satan an opportunity to deceive them again (verses 5, 7). Jesus foretold this resurrection and told us why it would occur: “A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28, 29).
The word translated condemned comes from the Greek word krisis, which also means “judgment.” Revelation confirms that the wicked will be resurrected for the purpose of judging them: “I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. . . . The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (Revelation 20:12).
This postmillennial judgment won’t be for God’s benefit, since He made up His mind about sin and sinners ages ago. The loyal angels and the redeemed have already reviewed God’s decisions, so this judgment is not for their benefit. The reason for the postmillennial judgment is to reveal to the wicked why God is just in condemning them to eternal death.
Why all this judgment?
Why does God go to such lengths to reveal the reasons for His decisions to everyone, even to the wicked? Because He wants to be sure that every human being understands that He’s been fair in all of His decisions about us.
Someday every angel and every human being will kneel and confess that God is right, that all His decisions have been fair (Romans 14:10, 11). He chose not to destroy Satan and the other rebel angels right away, not because He intended to let them live forever, but because He wants everyone to understand—before He destroys them—why He must do so.
Revelation says that following the postmillennial judgment of the wicked, “death and Hades [will be] thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14, 15).
Someday you and I will have an opportunity to review all of God’s decisions. And when we are through we will bow down and confess that God is right and Satan wrong. So, if someday, why not now?