Friday, April 21, 2006

Yeshua the Judge

I was recently asked what the gospel of John teaches about Yeshua judging.

In verse 5:22-30, Yeshua introduces one theme about life and death which is later elaborated in scripture: on the day when the Book of Life is opened and read, the Father will do no judgment about life and death. By that time judgment will already have been done through people's works, and apparently it is the Son who is given the honor, in Revelation 20:12-13, to read who is written in the Book of Life.

Verses 5:22-30 also teach that accepting Yeshua and his words will result in positive judgment on the Day of Judgment. More about this later...

In verses 8:10-11, Yeshua does not judge a woman caught as an adultress. The context is about hypocrisy, including that the woman was apparently framed, for the man she was with was not also taken even though the Torah perscribes both equally to death. So this lesson seems to be that Yeshua reserves the right to judge, but will only do so fairly. He would rather let free a (repentant) criminal than judge unfairly.

Most scholars agree that verses 8:1-11 are a latter addition to the original text, apparently inserted in the middle of a discourse given on Hoshannah Rabbah (7:37) or Chanukah. These would be the natural time to start a discussion by making a metaphor about light (8:12). The reason for the inserted text appears to be a clarification of the awkward use of "judging" in verses 8:15, 16, 26, and 50. Yeshua is not currently judging, but he will, and will do so fairly because his judgment will be based on what the omniscient Father has seen.

Verse 9:39 adds to what verses 5:22-30 taught about criteria for judging. One criteria the Father will observe is how people react to Yeshua. After all, anyone not willing to now kneel before the King of the Kingdom of God has no assurance the he or she will be able to do so and enter the Kingdom of God after death. This reaction might be quite inconsistent with their previously established track record of understanding spiritual truths. And verses 12:46-47 later explain that Yeshua's teaching serve the same purpose for those who never meet Yeshua personally. (Verse 5:24 claims there is a way to accept Yeshua and his words properly and be assured of a positive judgment, while Romans 2:14-16 and Hebrews 11 contain examples showing there can be other criteria for judgment besides whether people accept Yeshua.)

In verse 12:31, Yeshua says that "the world" is judged, and then clarifies that he means that Satan is about to loose influence. Later scriptures clarify that all who have the evil inclination are, knowingly or not, serving Satan and prevented from participating in the Kingdom of God. Death is one cure. But those who accept Yeshua's new covenant are made innocent of the evil inclination, and can participate in the Kingdom of God before they die.

Verses 16:8-11 hint at a theme elaborated on elsewhere, that participating in the Kingdom of God will be clear to see because of how the Holy Spirit affects those who do participate in the Kingdom of God.

In summary, Yeshua is not the kind of judge who must decide on a verdict. All verdicts on that day will be from what the Father has seen and written in his Books. Yet Yeshua is part of judgment in three ways: (1) how people react to his life and his words will be one criteria of judgment, (2) he will have the honor of reading the names in the Book of Life, and (3) his covenant allows us to effectively experience the Day of Judgment early and enter the Kingdom of God now.