Friday, September 7, 2012

Are There Two Judgments?

Normally, I am not inclined to venture into areas of theology or doctrine, however, for some, these are areas of anxiety.  And so sometimes I do feel inclined to speak here, on these matters of which I know so little.
I heard a radio apologist the other day answering a call-in question about God’s judgment.  The caller to his show asked:  “If we are judged worthy of heaven or hell when we die, why are we judged a second time at the end of the world?”  
The apologist’s answer was long and touched on many things.  My immediate reaction, however, was that he missed something.  In hearing him say there is a judgment at a person’s death and a later judgment at the end of the world, I heard my mind echo the word: “Later??”  In partial answer to the caller’s question I would have also mentioned that a “later” judgment implies time, and in eternity there is no time as we know it.  Later is now in eternity, therefore are there really two “times” of judgment?
Oh, the great depth of that simple comment I thought about.  “There is no time in eternity.” How I wished I would have called in to that talk show!  Surely they would have marveled at my great wisdom.  Ah, yes, how wonderful I am, I mused.
And then for some “unknown reason” God reminded me --- again --- how simple-minded I really am, and opened my eyes to His depths.  I don’t know why my thoughts went back to that radio show question this morning while in chapel, but what came to my mind was a better answer than the one I had considered, and it came in the form of a parable:
You receive an invitation to a wedding at a friend’s house.  You gratefully acknowledge your plans to attend, and then you make sure you spend some time in advance, getting ready.  You get the appropriate clothes, a haircut (maybe a date), and of course, a present.  And when the day comes, you go to your friend’s house to attend his wedding.
He or someone he designates greets you at the door.  You are there.  At that point, to someone outside, it can truly be said of you that you are inside attending the wedding.  But inside, you know that nothing has really started yet.  The wedding march hasn’t played yet.  The bride and groom haven’t made their grand entrance yet.  The rest of the guests haven’t arrived yet.  You’re there, but you may not even have met the bridegroom yet, and if you have, he likely wouldn’t yet have been fully adorned in all his fine clothes.  You’re there at the wedding feast, but it really hasn’t started yet.
And it won’t start until all those invited VIP guests arrive.
Then the wedding party will really happen.  The bride and groom will be there, and all the guests will be there.  Together, and that’s when the party really begins.
And that’s heaven, and the first and second welcoming to the party.  You can call it two judgments occurring then if you wish, but I view myself as being judged, the real judgment of God, when I first receive the invite.  And then it’s up to me to choose to attend the party or not.  And that is MY judgment; I will judge myself, whether I attend the grand party or not.
I think the question by the caller about the two judgments arises from man’s never ending concerns about himself, the all important “I”.  Well, guess what?  You will not be the star of the final wedding banquet.  Most people don’t know if you’ll be there, and many don’t care.  Despite your self-importance on earth, there, you will not be the life of the party.  To these so concerned about what is happening to them on earth and even in heaven, I would respond:  Get over it.
I don’t care what you believe or don’t in regard to these matters, but as for me, I’m getting ready for the party.  Personally, I’m not much for fine clothes (I avoid black-tie affairs like the plague), but I WILL spend a lot of time trying to find just the right present to bring.  The Bridegroom knows me intimately; He’s known me all my life.  I bet He thinks He knows just what kind of gift I’m likely to bring Him, what He can expect of me --- or perhaps what He knows I expect of myself.  Boy, would I love bring Him something to make Him laugh and make Him smile in surprise --- to be more pleasing to Him than I’ve shown Him thus far.
I’m working on it.  He’s already judged me worthy in the only way I’m concerned about:  I’ve got my invitation.  Now if I can forget myself long enough (and radio talk shows), I can worry about pleasing Him when I come to His party.  Did you know, He considers me a VIP guest?  (Okay, so He considers you a VIP guest too, but at the moment, this blog is all about me!! ---- arrgghh, yet another thing for me to get over.) 

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