Does God Reserve All Judgment until the End of the Age?
Someone wrote me maintaining that the LORD doesn’t judge anyone during this current church age—whether non-believer, believer or nations—and cited Jesus’ Parable of the Weeds for support. Let’s read the parable:
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. (25) But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. (26) When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
(27)“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
(28)“ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
(29)“ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. (30) Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”
Here’s Jesus’ explanation a few verses later:
“The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. (38) The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, (39)and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
(40) “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. (41) The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. (42)They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (43) Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
In light of this parable, the brother argued:
So Jesus is basically telling us that Judgment (of people and nations) is withheld until the end because to judge now would hurt the wheat (the righteous). This is a fundamental principal that Jesus proclaimed.
However, I do believe in the law of sowing & sowing and, as such, see the American Civil War as the USA reaping what it sowed with respect to the horrible sins committed through slavery.
While he’s right about the law of sowing & reaping, he’s wrong about the LORD withholding all judgments until the end of the age. His error can be traced to three hermeneutical infractions:
He makes the mistake of applying this parable to the entire world when Jesus’ very opening words reveal that he was referring specifically to the Kingdom of God, hence, the church. This is substantiated by Jesus’ explanation in verse 41:
“The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil (practice lawlessness).”
Notice Jesus says that the angels will “gather OUT OF HIS KINGDOM” and not “gather out of this world.”
Moreover, the interpretation that the parable applies to the entire world—all races, nations, religions throughout history—would render the story nonsensical. For instance, those who cause sin and do evil have been around in abundance since the time of Cain or before. The field is the world where God has planted something new, His church of “called-out ones” (i.e. genuine believers). The enemy, however, didn’t waste time in planting bad seed in the church. We observe a ready example of this counterfeit seed in the New Testament itself—the churches in Galatia where the Judaizers “bewitched” the believers with their “different gospel” (Galatians 1:6-7 & 3:1-6).
Again, the parable addresses Satan’s attempts to corrupt the church by mingling his children with God’s children, in some cases making it next to impossible to distinguish the true from the false, mostly due to the mask of religiosity; that is, putting on the outward veneer of “Christian” religion without the genuine heart of true Christianity. The Pharisees and Teachers of the Law masquerading as godly followers of Judaism is a good biblical example.
So the man’s mistake is one of context since the context of the parable makes it clear that Jesus was talking exclusively about THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (referred to as the “kingdom of God” in the other three Gospels). We must always remember the hermeneutical rule: “Context is King.”
2. Failing to Interpret Scripture with Scripture
The man also fails to interpret Scripture with Scripture, which is another hermeneutical rule. How did he fail to apply this common-sense rule? He makes the claim that, apart from the law of sowing & reaping, God is withholding all judgment until the end of this age while ignoring several New Testament passages that clearly show otherwise. Let’s look at these passages:
1. Herod Agrippa was king in Israel from 41-44 AD. God showed Herod much patience and mercy even though he was a pompous persecutor of the church, but when he imprisoned Peter and put James to death, as shown in Acts 12:1-5, Herod’s days were numbered and he was dangerously nearing the limit of God’s tolerance (see 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 to get my drift). When Herod arrogantly accepted praise that was only due the Most High during a political speech he was swiftly wiped off the face of the planet by “an angel of the Lord” (Acts 12:23). What can we make of this? God showed this wicked political ruler much patience and mercy, but when Herod foolishly chose to spurn God’s awesome grace, time after time, the Sovereign Lord withdrew his mercy and decisively executed stern judgment. This occurred in the New Testament era, the “age of grace.”
2. Herod’s judgment & execution was in reference to a political leader, an unbeliever, but there’s also an example of God’s judgment & execution of confessing believers, Ananias and Sapphira:
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. (2) With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
(3) Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? (4) Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
(5) When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. (6) Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
(7) About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. (8) Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
(9) Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
(10) At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. (11) Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
This strict judgment for lying in the midst of the assembly of God resulted in some healthy fear in the church (verse 11). “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom.”
Bear in mind that, as Peter pointed out in verses 3-4, Ananias and Sapphira could’ve done whatever they wanted with the money they got from selling their property. It was their money to do with as they willed. Instead, they wanted people to be wowed with how generous and self-sacrificial they were by saying they were offering the entire amount to the church.
3. Then there’s the judgment that came upon a certain group of Jews who were hindering the spread of the gospel and severely persecuting the church:
For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews (15) who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone (16) in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.
1 Thessalonians 2:14-16
These particular Jews displeased God greatly because of their hostile attacks on Christians; hence, Paul says they heaped up their sins “to the limit,” resulting in God’s wrath coming upon them. This suggests that there’s a limit to the LORD’s tolerance of sin, particularly of those who hostilely attack his servants with no care of repentance. Once such people exceed this limit they naturally provoke God’s judgment—in this age. This was the case with aforementioned Herod Agrippa where Herod’s pomp and unjust acts reached the limit of God’s tolerance and thus judgment fell (Acts 12:1-5, 21-23).
This is a consistent theme in Scripture. For instance, in the pre-law era God refused to take the Amorite’s land from them and give it to Abram’s descendants until the sin of the Amorites reached its full measure (Genesis 15:16). This shows that the LORD deals with all people patiently and fairly, whatever the era. Only when the Amorite’s stubbornness and immorality reached the limit of God’s tolerance did judgment fall. Then they were vomited out of the land.
Yes, God is “kind to the ungrateful and wicked,” as Jesus pointed out (Luke 6:35), meaning he is patient and merciful, giving even the worst of sinners repeated opportunities to repent. But when it comes to those who maliciously attack his servants and who refuse to repent even though the ones they attack respond humbly in peace, blessing and prayer, there’s a limit to the LORD’s tolerance. And when God’s mercy is repeatedly spurned His judgment will ultimately fall. Christians “leave room for God’s wrath” by simply walking in love toward their persecutors, which is obedience to the law of overcoming evil with good (Romans 12:19-21). This includes tough love, by the way. Hopefully, malicious individuals will come to repentance, but—if not—God’s wrath will most certainly fall when their sins reach the limit of his merciful tolerance. This was obviously the case with the Judeans in the above passage and Herod, as well as Judas Iscariot, who was “doomed to destruction” (John 17:12).
As far as Judas goes, he was “seized with remorse” after his murderous treason to the point of giving back his blood money and admitting his sin (Matthew 27:3-5), yet this did not indicate repentance. True confession/repentance unlocks God’s forgiveness and brings inner peace. Judas clearly had no such peace and therefore hanged himself. This brings to mind Paul’s contrasting of godly sorrow and worldly sorrow: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). We can conclude that Judas had reached the limit of God’s tolerance; his remorse was too little too late. His heart was hardened by the “deceitfulness of sin” and he had gone beyond the proverbial point of no return. This is a sober lesson to any who would spurn God’s patient mercy and maliciously attack God’s peaceable children with no concern to repent. Keep in mind that those who oppose the church and persecute Christians are, in effect, persecuting the Lord himself (Acts 9:5), not to mention the fact that returning evil for good is a particularly heinous transgression in God’s eyes, as shown in Proverbs 17:13. I fear for such people.
4. Severe judgment came upon a supposed prophetess and her followers at the church of Thyatira. Notice Christ’s stern judgment:
“I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. (21) I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. (22) So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. (23) I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.”
Wow, so much for the idea that Jesus Christ is some effeminate milksop. This passage sends those who regard Christ as “gentle Jesus, meek and mile” and nothing more into cardiac shock, LOL.
Despite the Lord’s strict judgment we clearly observe mercy and patience in his words: (1.) He graciously gave “Jezebel” time to repent of her immorality before stern judgment fell, but she was unwilling; and (2.) those who committed adultery with her would “suffer intensely” only if they failed to repent. (“Jezebel” was obviously not her real name, by the way, but rather a symbolic one given by the Lord).
All these biblical examples took place in the New Testament era, the “age of grace,” plainly showing that the idea that God won’t make severe judgments until the end of the age is false.
A Balanced View of God
The main reason I’m sharing this teaching is balance. Some Christians over-emphasize God’s love and mercy to the point that the Almighty’s some cuddly teddy bear in the sky, while others over-emphasize his judgment and wrath to the point that He’s some merciless ogre who can’t wait to obliterate humanity. To lean toward one extreme or the other is wrong because God isn’t one or the other.
Observe how a BALANCED believer like Paul acknowledged both sides of God: “Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you will be cut off” (Romans 11:22). The LORD was able to use Paul so mightily because he was always BALANCED with what he taught and preached about God. He never swung to one loony extreme or the other.
A General Truth, Not an Absolute Truth
The judgment & execution of Ananias and Sapphira shows that Jesus’ parable about the weeds (or tares) reveals a general truth, not an absolute truth: It’s generally true that judgment of people within the church will wait until the Judgment Seat of Christ or White Throne Judgment, but it’s not absolutely true.*
* You can read about the Judgment Seat of Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 & Romans 14:10,12, which concerns the judgment of believers; and about the White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20:10-15, which concerns unbelievers. For more on the Judgment Seat of Christ see this article.
Even though Jesus gave instructions on how to discipline unrepentant carnal people in the church (Matthew 18:15-17), some fleshly people are able to elude this due to the mask of religiosity (i.e. legalism) or favor/kinship with church leaders or, sad to say, they may even be church leaders. Hence, their judgment will be put off until the end of the age, generally speaking, which is when Jesus said his angels “will gather OUT OF HIS KINGDOM all who offend and who practice lawlessness, and they will be cast into the furnace of fire,” i.e. the lake of fire (Matthew 13:41-42 & Revelation 20:11-15).
The reason God withholds judgment and allows the “wheat” and the “weeds” to grow together in the kingdom until the end of the age, generally speaking, is to prevent collateral damage in this “present evil age,” as the parable suggests. And also no doubt due to His great patience and mercy. “Collateral damage” is more than just loss of lives since any severe judgment has repercussions, both positive and negative.
Why did this man ignore all this evidence of God judging gentiles, Jews and confessing believers in the New Testament? Either because he’s unaware of these examples or because they contradict his developed theology. More likely the latter because, after sharing these examples with him, he responded: “Nothing that you have written changes my opinion.” My answer: Knowingly ignoring relevant and clear passages is tantamount to cutting them out of the Bible, which is a serious offense according to God’s Word (Deuteronomy 12:32, Proverbs 30:5-6 & Revelation 22:18-19).
3. Reading Too Much into a Parable, a Symbolic Story
The man’s third error was to read too much into a parable, which is a symbolic story of (usually) mundane things used to convey spiritual truths. For instance, the Parable of the Weeds conveys truths about the establishment of the church, the righteous in Christ (the good seed), the attempts of defilement by the devil and the damning judgment of counterfeits (the weeds) at the end of the age. A simple story of a field, seeds and wheat/weeds could never explicitly convey these truths in the absolute sense, so we naturally look for the general truths the parable conveys and then look to more literal passages in the Scriptures for greater detail.
The man holds this parable and his erroneous interpretation that it refers to the entire world throughout history and not specifically to the kingdom of God during the church age as the doctrinal standard by which the whole of Scripture must submit. As such, he ignores explicit HISTORICAL truth from the New Testament that contradicts his interpretation of truth conveyed in a SYMBOLIC story!
“I Couldn’t Disagree More”
This was what he said in his closing statement, but whether he agreed or disagreed was irrelevant. What matters is what is true based on a balanced, unbiased and thorough study of God’s Word, which is truth, i.e. reality, the way it really is (John 17:17). Being “unbiased” includes throwing sectarian biases out the window, whatever they may be. Why is it that this is what really matters? Because it’s only THE TRUTH that can set us free. Jesus Christ, who is the truth, plainly said so (John 14:6 & 8:31-32). Erroneous interpretations based on flawed hermeneutics cannot.
The idea that God withholds all judgments until the Judgment Seat of Christ or White Throne Judgment is a false doctrine. This error feeds the common view that God’s just a lovable teddy bear in the sky during the current age of grace—that He would never resort to stern judgment beyond the law of sowing and reaping. The unmistakable passages covered above clearly show otherwise.
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