Monday, September 5, 2016

The Great Assize

This sermon is about the final judgment…the Great Assize, and how each of us will one day stand before the greatest judge.
Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.  For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will declare allegiance to God.’” Romans 14:10-11(NLT)
Have you ever had to stand before a judge as the accused?  The only time for me was as the responsible adult representative of a minor child who had made a really dumb choice. 

It is a very solemn thing; it’s entirely sobering and makes every nerve ending you have come alive as the bailiff summons you to stand before the one who will make decisions about your future.

It’s also a pretty humbling moment if you live in a small town and even the judges know you.  I mean, how much more embarrassing could it be than having no hole to crawl-in when the hushed courtroom silence is broken as the judge, in front of a roomful of small town citizens, begins the conversation with, Good afternoon, Rev-er-end Brownworth! 

In retrospect, that kind of humiliation is a picnic compared to the reality of what Scripture’s Great Assize, the Great White Throne Judgment is all about.  Paul the Apostle says we will all stand before that judgment seat some day. 

You may now shudder instead of saying amen!

Apostle John was shown the great courtroom in the vision recorded in Revelation:

And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it.  The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide.  I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne.  And the books were opened, including the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books.  The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead.  And all were judged according to their deeds.  Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire.  This lake of fire is the second death.  And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.   Revelation 20:11-15

when will this judgment happen?

There are only two possibilities about when we appear before the judge:

1.     We will stand there after we die, or…
2.     We will stand there when Christ returns.

But either way Scripture declares we will all stand before the throne.

Now, not everyone believes this; there are those today who declare, even from pulpits where, supposedly, God’s Word is faithfully preached, that God welcomes everyone, and there is no such thing as punishment; this is called universalism and it ignores the plain truth stated over and again in the Scripture that there is no grace for those persons who refuse to stand before God confessing their sin.

The principles upon which God created this universe include the balance of opposites; without “up” there is no “down”.  Without “cold” how can you have “hot”, and, indeed, if there is no sin to be forgiven, how can there be forgiveness; what do you forgive, if not sin? 

No – the grace of God also tells us quite plainly of the judgment of God for those who reject Him.

where will this judgment happen?

The fact that Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians indicates believers join Christ in the air would have us conclude that it is there or perhaps in heaven near the throne of God.

My personal view is that it will be a mobile court.  Scripture indicates that there will be nothing of a “defense” for those who have rejected Christ.  I take that to mean the evidence of their deeds done in the body will convict them utterly. 

Scripture[ii] says that during this judgment the accused will see his or her words, actions, and even the intention of their hearts for every sin ever committed.  This will require a mobile court. 

For instance, if you’re Adolph Hitler, you will move from the bunker in Berlin to Auschwitz and to scenes of atrocities in Poland and the laboratories where human experiments were done on the mentally ill. 

If you’re Sadaam Hussein you will see the many thousands of executions in Baghdad, and the cowardice of a hiding hole outside Tikrit. 

And if it’s me…or you….everything will be revealed at the seat of the Assize; God, who is omniscient, (all-knowing) is going to replay the security camera footage of all time in every place:

For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.  Matthew 10:26(NLT)

John Wesley fleshed-out in his 1758 sermon on the judgment what it will be like to stand in front of the throne of God in that day:
And in that day shall be discovered every inward working of every human soul; every appetite, passion, inclination, affection, with the various combinations of them, with every temper and disposition that constitute the whole complex character of each individual. So shall it be clearly and infallibly seen, who was righteous, and who unrighteous; and in what degree every action, or person, or character was either good or evil.[iii]
This is without question one of the most worrisome parts of the Great White Throne assize; the judgment comes from He who is omniscient, knowing everything from actions – to words – to deeds and even the intentions of our hearts! 

what will the judgment cover?

Again, Wesley, who preached his “Assize sermon” before the magistrates who had come to Bedford, England to conduct trials:

Here [meaning, now, on planet earth, in our court systems] a man is questioned concerning one or two facts, which he is supposed to have committed: there we are to give an account of all our works, from the cradle to the grave; of all our words; of all our desires and tempers, all the thoughts and intents of our hearts; of all the use we have made of our various talents, whether of mind, body, or fortune.  In this court [here and now], it is possible, some who are guilty may escape for want of evidence; but there is no want of evidence in that court.  All men, with whom you had the most secret intercourse, who were privy to all your designs and actions, are ready before your face.  So are all the spirits of darkness, who inspired evil designs and assisted in the execution of them.  So are all the angels of God; those eyes of the Lord, that run to and fro over all the earth, who watched over your soul, and labored for your good, so far as you would permit.  So is your own conscience, a thousand witnesses in one, now no more capable of being either blinded or silenced, but constrained to know and to speak the naked truth, touching all your thoughts, and words, and actions.  And is conscience as a thousand witnesses – yea, but God is as a thousand consciences!  O, who can stand before the face of the great God, even our Savior Jesus Christ![iv]

Who indeed is rich or powerful in the grave?  And who is it that can change one word of the Great Assize?

Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached in the late 19th century a sermon on this Great Assize,

But to the ungodly how terrible.  They are to receive the things that they have done; that is to say, the punishment due,—not every man alike, but the greater sinner the greater doom; to the man who sinned against light a greater damnation than to the man who had not the same light,—Sodom and Gomorrah their place, Tyre and Sidon their place, and then to Capernaum and Bethsaida their place of more intolerable torment, because they had the Gospel and rejected it—so the Lord himself tells us.  And the punishment will not only be meted out in proportion to the transgression, but it will be a development of the evil actions done in the evil consequences to be endured, as every man shall eat the fruit of his own ways.  Sin, after the natural order, ripens into sorrow.  This is not a blind fate, but it is the operation of a divine law, wise and invariable.  Oh, how dreadful it will be for the malicious man to have for ever to gnaw his own envious heart, to find his malice come home to him, as birds come home to roost, to hoot for ever in his own soul; for the lustful man to feel lust burning in every vein, which he can never gratify;—for the drunkard to have a thirst, which not even a drop of water can allay;—for the glutton who has fared sumptuously every day, to be in hunger perpetually; and the soul that has been wrathful to be for ever wrathful, with the fire of wrath for ever burning like a volcano in his soul; and the rebel against God for ever a rebel, cursing God whom he cannot touch, and finding his curses come back upon himself.[v]

Spurgeon’s description of Hell finds little support in this day.  It is this preacher’s humble opinion this is so because we are moving quite definitely towards that time where the Bible declares a great apostasy will overcome common sense and right thinking. 

Apostle Peter warned:

But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you.  They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them.  In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality.  And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered.  2 Peter 2:1-2(NLT)


·       Right will be proclaimed as wrong and intolerant

·       Righteous living will be seen as bigoted and judgmental. 

·       Kindness will be seen as weakness;

·       Bullying and sadistic treatment of those who cannot defend themselves will be seen as strong leadership.

In short, Christian values will, in the eyes of the world, be turned upside-down.

Paul warned Timothy:

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.  2 Timothy 4:3(NLT)

The Great Assize, the Day of the Lord, Judgment Day is coming.  It may not be in our lifetime; it could begin before I finish this sentence.  The question we must deal with is:

how shall we live with this?

You live with this by embracing the truth that Christ can be either your Assize, your judge in the hereafter, or He can be your Savior now.  You just cannot have it both ways.

The simplest verse of Scripture even many unbelievers can quote is:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish, but have eternal life.  John 3:16(KJV)

The strength of that one Scriptural truth is that God does not want to be your judge; he wants to be your savior.  He wants to redeem you from the judgment, so instead of hearing these words:

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:  Matthew 25:41(NLT)

…you will instead hear these words

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  Matthew 25:34(NLT)

Great Assize…or Great Savior and friend.

You have a choice – so says the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen



[i] Title image:  By Ralph Hammann (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] Matthew 12:33-37
[iii] John Wesley 1758 Sermon, The Great Assize Clem P. Guthro, Ed. ©1999 Wesley Center for Applied Theology
[iv] Ibid.
[v] The Spurgeon Archive, The Great Assize, sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle, 1872

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