The time of one's judgment is the time of his opportunity for salvation, extending from one's calling by God until his death (or the resurrection). During this judgment period a person's mind is opened to understand God's way, and his actions and attitudes are being evaluated by God in the light of His way of life and His law. All human beings from all time shall have a full opportunity for salvation either now (for the Church), or during the one-thousand year reign of Christ on earth, or in
the Great White Throne Judgment. Those who shall qualify for God's Kingdom— the overwhelming majority—shall inherit eternal life, and those who deliberately reject God's way shall be consumed in the lake of fire.
One of the most awesome truths of God is that all mankind from all time shall have an opportunity for salvation—the attainment of eternal life in the Family of God. No human being is doomed forever simply because he has never heard of Christ's name or never really understood God's purpose and plan. God makes it adequately plain that He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9). He intends to give everyone a chance to know and understand
His truth and to have the opportunity to be with Him in His glorious Kingdom (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4).
Combined with this thrilling truth that all men shall have an opportunity for salvation is the fact that all men will not receive this opportunity at the same time. The time during which each individual is receiving his chance is the time of his "judgment." The term "judgment," as used in this context, is not restricted to passing sentence. It rather implies a process, a period of time during which a person's mind is opened to understand God's plan, and during which his
actions are under daily scrutiny by God in the light of that understanding. God is intimately concerned with His children, and works in their lives to produce the best ultimate results. The parable of the tares of the field shows that Christians start out as seeds and must grow until the harvest (Mt. 13:36-43). Of course, this judgment process shall in most people's lives cover a period of many years. It is only at the end of this period that God shall make the decision of whether or not that person shall
enter His Kingdom at the resurrection.
But judgment involves more than just making a "yes" or "no" decision, more than the simple determination of whether a person shall be granted salvation; for, indeed, the overwhelming majority shall make it. Judgment also involves the reward that God shall give to each person who qualifies. There are different positions and responsibilities in God's Family. As Jesus related in the parable of the pounds (Lk. 19:12-27), the servants who used their pounds profitably were all
given positions of rulership, but the level or degree of their position was directly proportional to how much they had accomplished. The parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30) shows that God rewards each person according to what he has accomplished in relationship to what he had to start with. The servant who started with two talents and made two received the same reward as the servant who started with five and made five.
God has divided His plan into three great judgment periods, each of which deals specifically with a different classification of persons. The first period of judgment began at the creation of man and shall continue until the return of Jesus Christ. During this era, God has not chosen to call the vast majority of persons, but rather a small group—"the elect" (Rom. 8:28ff). These "elect" have had their minds opened to understand God's truth and have been given God's Holy
Spirit in this age. For these persons—who compose the Church or "house of God"—the period of judgment is now. "For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God" (1 Pet. 4:17). Those whom God has called now are not called because of their own goodness or even because of an inner desire to serve God, but by virtue of God's mercy (Rom. 9:15-16).
God has not called the masses now because He wants man to learn by experience that his way apart from God is the way of death (Prov. 14:12). Those whom He does call now are called for the express purpose of preaching the gospel to the world as a witness (Mt. 24:14; 28:19-20) and to prepare to become rulers in God's millennial Kingdom (Rev. 5:10). All those who have qualified for God's Kingdom from Adam's time to the return of Christ shall be resurrected at Jesus' return. The end of this first
judgment period is thus marked by the first resurrection (Rev. 20:5-6).
During His thousand-year reign, Christ and the saints shall re-establish God's government on earth (Mic. 4:1-4) and shall reconstruct society so that in every way it conforms to God's holy laws. God shall also pour out His Spirit upon all those who will be alive during this time, and shall open their minds to understand the gospel and give them a chance for salvation. The millennium thus marks the second great judgment period of God—the time when the human beings who live on into the new
age (from the present age) and those subsequently born as their offspring shall have their opportunity for salvation.
After the thousand-year period, there is the "Great White Throne" judgment. This spectacular event epitomizes the time when all who have ever lived and died without having had a chance for salvation—never having heard about Jesus Christ and the plan of God, or never having had their eyes opened to truly understand the gospel—shall be resurrected from the dead to physical life (Rev. 20:ll ff). This time their minds shall be opened to a full understanding of God's laws and His truth.
Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves . . . And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken, and I have done it, says the Lord. (Ezek. 37: 12-14)
This third judgment period is the greatest of the three because it includes the innumerable multitudes of all humanity who have lived and died in ignorance of God's way.
Although God wants all to come to the knowledge of His truth and earnestly desires that all obtain salvation, it is nevertheless true that some few shall totally reject God and lose out on eternal life. Those who have adamantly rejected this truth—those who have committed the unpardonable sin by not asking God to pardon their sins--shall be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14). These individuals are those who would never repent of their sins and shall therefore be put out of their misery
by a merciful God. It would be cruel punishment for God to make a rebellious person live forever under His government when that individual has permanently rejected God's government in his life by his actions and attitudes.
God's fairness, concern and love for mankind is exemplified by the three judgment periods outlined above. His plan for salvation includes ample opportunity for all those who have ever lived and died to live a full physical life under God's laws, and then to qualify to enter His Kingdom, and, ultimately, to gain eternal life as full members of His Divine Family.
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