Monday, 16 December 2019
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:17
Peter has been speaking of suffering – either for doing good or evil. Now he speaks of the consequences of our earthly conduct which leads to suffering if it is because of evil-doing, meaning judgment. And so, he begins with, “For the time has come for judgment.” The word translated as “for” gives the sense of “because,” or “for it is.” More literally translated then, the words say, “…because it is the time of the beginning of the judgment” (YLT).
Those who die in Christ will be judged by Christ. Our conduct in this life is what defines what our judgment will be like. There are no second chances, and there is nothing that can be amended after we die. What we do now is what our judgment will be based on. Peter then continues with, “to begin at the house of God.”
In other words, God’s judgment is directed first towards his own people who are in His own household, meaning those who are in Christ and who are sons of God through adoption. Paul speaks in the same manner in his epistles concerning the household of God, such as –
“…but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15
Paul speaks of the household of God in 1 Corinthians 3:16, and etc. It must be noted that Scripture speaks of one such household, not two. The lie of hyperdispensationalism is that God is giving out two different gospels to two different groups of people, and which then leads to two different households. Scripture does not teach this false doctrine. There is one gospel and those who believe it are adopted into God’s one household.
Peter says that judgment will begin at this household of God. This is a judgment, as clearly revealed in Scripture, not for salvation or condemnation, but for rewards and losses. This is then made evident by his next words when speaking of unbelievers. He says, “and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
The obvious first meaning of this is that those who are saved cannot lose their salvation. Judgment will be rendered upon God’s people. There is one end, and it is the same for all of them, despite the individual judgment being different in terms of rewards and losses (see Paul’s words of 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 & 2 Corinthians 5:9-11).
There is then another end for those who are not believers. It is a judgment for condemnation. Peter’s words then take that premise and basically say, “If there is condemnation for all who do not believe, then how great will be the judgment upon believers. They have believed and yet they have either lived properly or they have squandered their time here. God is not a cosmic pushover, and we need to be ready to face this awesome and terrifying moment.”
What Peter has done is repeat a concept which reaches back into the Old Testament – that judgment begins at the house of God. In Ezekiel, during the time of the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian exile, we read this –
To the others He said in my hearing, “Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. 6 Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were before the temple. 7 Then He said to them, “Defile the temple, and fill the courts with the slain. Go out!” And they went out and killed in the city.
8 So it was, that while they were killing them, I was left alone; and I fell on my face and cried out, and said, “Ah, Lord God! Will You destroy all the remnant of Israel in pouring out Your fury on Jerusalem?”
9 Then He said to me, “The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great, and the land is full of bloodshed, and the city full of perversity; for they say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land, and the Lord does not see!’ 10 And as for Me also, My eye will neither spare, nor will I have pity, but I will recompense their deeds on their own head.” Ezekiel 9:5-10
God didn’t spare those who sinned against him then; He didn’t spare them at the destruction of the second temple. Further, those who were saved were still exiled from the land because they were a part of God’s corporate judgment on Israel. The severity of God’s judgment is not to be overlooked or dismissed. What we do has real consequences which must be considered. All will be presented before God for judgment.
Life application: What would make anyone think that the God, who is unchanging and perfect in all His ways, would suddenly do “something different?” Rather, God has judged, and He promises to continue to judge all wickedness. And His judgment begins at His house. The religious leaders who are filled with bloodshed, greed, and perversity will receive both the first and also the strictest judgment. The Bible records that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Let us prepare ourselves for that great Day when we stand before the Lord now. Let us live by faith, and let us live in obedience to His word.
Lord God, You are filled with love and compassion, but You are also Holy and righteous. You cannot tolerate sin and we know You will judge all wickedness. We pray for the faithless religious leaders – that they will repent and turn to You before they are swept away. May You be exalted by their conversion to the truth of who You are, so that those they lead will also come to a saving knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.