Thursday, August 9, 2012

Early Christianity: Jesus is Judge

            Judaism recognized judgment as ultimately a divine prerogative. God is described as “the judge of all the earth” (Genesis 18:25). As Creator, God has the power and prerogative to do with humans as he pleases based on their behavior (Genesis 3; Jeremiah 18:1-12). Throughout the Old Testament God issues judgment in the form of punishment and vindication. By the time the Jewish Messiah appeared, many Jews believed a resurrection and final judgment awaited humans (Daniel 12:2; John 11:24).
            Jesus taught that all judgment had been entrusted to him by the Father (John 5:22). This is fitting since, as a human, Christ personally experienced the pull of temptation (John 5:27; Luke 4:2; Hebrews 4:15). No other member of the Godhead has experienced temptation (James 1:13). The same Jesus who was judged by sinful humans will one day judge us all (Matthew 25:31-32; Acts 10:40-42; 17:31; Romans 2:16; 2 Timothy 4:1).
            Ante-Nicene pastors continued to preach that Jesus will judge humanity, just as Jesus himself taught. Barnabas says of Jesus “when He has raised mankind, [He] will also judge them.”[1] The anonymous author of the very early text known as 2 Clement tells us to “think of Christ, as of God, as of
the Judge of quick and dead.”[2] Even when Christ is not explicitly mentioned, the earliest Christians were strongly committed to the dogma that God will judge the human race.[3]

[1] “And He (since it behoved Him to appear in flesh), that He might abolish death, and reveal the resurrection from the dead endured [what and as He did], in order that He might fulfill the promise made to the fathers, and by preparing a new people for Himself, might show, while He dwelt on earth, that He, when He has raised mankind, will also judge them.” Barnabas V, ANF I p. 139.
[2] “Brethren, we ought so to think of Jesus Christ, as of God, as of the Judge of quick and dead.” 2 Clement,  J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers , 44. Polycarp, Philippians VI, ANF I p. 34
[3] “These are the last times. Henceforth let us have reverence; let us fear the long-suffering of God, lest it turn into a judgment against us. For either let us fear the wrath which is to come or let us love the grace which now is – the one or the other; provided only that we be found in Christ Jesus unto true life.” Ignatius Ephesians XI, Ibid., 44.