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Thou Most Worthy Judge Eternal

Judge—it’s a serious title, and one that does not evoke pleasant thoughts. It’s certainly not the first word we think of when we hear the name “Jesus.” But we do not understand Jesus rightly if we neglect knowing him as our judge.


It is not always realized that the main New Testament authority on final judgment, just as on heaven and hell, is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Rightly does the Anglican burial service address Jesus in a single breath as “holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy Judge eternal.” For Jesus constantly affirmed that in the day when all appear before God’s throne to receive the abiding and eternal consequences of the life they have lived, he himself will be the Father’s agent in judgment, and his word of acceptance or rejection will be decisive. Passages to note in this connection are, among others, Matthew 7:13–27; 10:26–33; 12:36–37; 13:24–50; 22:1–14; 24:36–25:46; Luke 13:23–30; 16:19–31; John 5:22–30. The clearest prefiguration of Jesus as Judge is in Matthew 25:31–34, 41: “The Son of Man . . . will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations [everybody] will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another. . . . Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance. . . .” Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire.’”

The clearest account of Jesus’ prerogative as Judge is in John 5:22–23, 26–29: “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. . . . The Father . . . has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man [to whom dominion, including judicial functions, was promised: Dan 7:13–14]. A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (RSV). God’s own appointment has made Jesus Christ inescapable. He stands at the end of life’s road for everyone without exception. “Prepare to meet your God” was Amos’s message to Israel (Amos 4:12); “prepare to meet the risen Jesus” is God’s message to the world today (see Acts 17:31). And we can be sure that he who is true God and perfect man will make a perfectly just judge.

—J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 144–145.

These last few posts have presented Jesus as quite fearsome, and fearsome he is. But there is more to the story of “Jesus as Judge.” Next time . . .

Posted 2008·12·30 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Christology · J I Packer · Justice (of God) · Knowing God

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