Commentary on "Final Events (1 Thess. 5:111)"
Day 2: Sunday, August 26, 2012 - The Two Sides of Judgment
Today’s lesson attempts to show that “judgment” has two sides: positive and negative. Author Paulien asserts that God judged Adam and Eve both positively and negatively; likewise Cain and also the primordial world that was destroyed by the flood. He also states that God negatively judged humanity at Babel, confusing their languages and scattering them, but the positive counterpart to that negative judgment was the call of Abraham to be a blessing to all those scattered people.
The lesson ends with the question, “How does the truth of Christ as our substitute in judgment make that judgment positive for us?”
The lesson opens with the passage of God’s judgment after the fall from Genesis 3:15-24:
 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”  And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;  thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.  By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.  And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.  Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”  therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.  He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:15-24 ESV)
Judgment is not “two-sided”. When “judgment” is used in reference to God and man, it is always a reference to God’s declaration of humanity’s guilt and to God’s punishment of that guilt. God judged the primordial world with a flood that eradicated all human life except for Noah’s family. The ark, God’s provision for them, was not part of His judgment. Rather, the ark was His mercy which Noah’s family was able to experience because Noah trusted God, and God saved his family.
God judged Adam and Eve’s sin; His promise of enmity between the serpent and Eve’s seed was not part of His judgment on them. Rather, it was His promise that He would provide redemption for them. Moreover, that promise was judgment on the serpent. In the case of Cain, furthermore, God did not positively judge Cain by marking him. That mark was not judgment; it was mercy. Cain was judged because he was a murderer; God showed him mercy by protecting him from others’ destruction of him.
Jesus said that when we believe in Him, we at that moment pass from death to life “and do not come into judgment” (Jn. 5:24). He also said that “he who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Jn. 3:18).
The Genesis passage with which the lesson begins bears observation. God judged the woman’s sin by increasing her pain in childbearing and by putting a power struggle into her relationship with her husband. He judged Adam’s sin even more profoundly: he would labor with pain because God cursed—not Adam or males in particular—but the ground. God cursed the substance from which Adam came. When he died, he would return to the ground. And from Adam on, every person born would be born of cursed “substance”.
In the midst of this incredible reversal of physical reality, Adam named Eve—and he gave her a name that had profound significance: mother of all the living. The “living” are those who receive eternal life. Jesus told His disciples to let the dead bury their own dead. He was referring to the spiritually dead. Eve is the mother of all the living; she is the mother of all who are God’s adopted children. On the contrary, when people place their faith in the Lord Jesus, they are no longer children of Adam; they are transferred to God’s family and come under the headship of the Lord Jesus. So, those who are spiritually living are children of God and children of Eve. It was her “seed”, Jesus, who was the only human ever born who did not have to be born again because He was born with spiritual life in Himself from conception. Eve bore the perfect Man, and she is the mother of all the living.
Ultimately, Jesus being our Substitute does not make God’s judgment positive for us. God’s judgment of humanity is that we are born dead, objects or children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). By nature we are condemned. Because Jesus took God’s wrath for sin, however, we pass out of death into life when we place our faith in Him and receive His blood as payment for our spiritual death and all our resultant sins. The fact that Jesus is our Substitute does not constitute a “positive judgment” for us. What Jesus’ blood does is to provide a means of grace for us. God’s forgiveness of us is not a positive judgment of us; rather, it is a positive judgment on the Lord Jesus. When we receive Him, we receive God’s acceptance of His Son. He hides us in Him (Col 3:3) and seats us with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2:4-6). Jesus as Substitute is an expression of God’s mercy and of His judgment on Jesus.
We will never be deserving of eternal life and of a future in the presence of a holy God. We will only receive that future if we are hidden in Christ. God sees Jesus when He looks at those who have believed in Jesus; He doesn’t see us. We receive Jesus’ personal righteousness as our identity; we do not become righteous because of Him.
God does not judge us both negatively and positively. Instead, He judges us justly: we are naturally dead and objects of wrath. Jesus, however, is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him (Jn. 7:18). When we believe in Him, God credits to us His favorable judgment of His own Son. It is never we who receive a “positive judgment”; it is the Lord Jesus who is positively judged. We are recipients of God’s grace when He credits Jesus’ perfection to us.
Copyright 2012 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised August 23, 2012. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Camp Verde, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
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