I am looking at Romans 8, but Pastor Jack Hibbs pointed out that the context begins in chapter seven, and, therefore, I am starting here in Romans 7.
But first, a notation.
Paul, immediately, in Romans 7:1, tells us,
“You shouldn’t have any trouble understanding this, friends, for you know all the ins and outs of the law – and how its power touches only the living.” [The Message]
Why would he be comfortable saying such a thing? After all, we religious think the entirety of the NT was written to Gentiles.
That is the problem, as these letters that became books were not written exclusively to Gentiles but to Jews. We Gentiles only gain an inroad through adoption. And in case you are new to adoption, you probably, and correctly picked up on the fact that as someone new to the family, you do NOT have the freedom or all the insights necessary to play the sarcasm game, as so many around you may be playing, merely because it’s fun to them.
With a stepson, which I loved dearly, there was a time I picked him up from church. The problem, many of those young boys had seen me as a single guy and did not, by habit, respect my authority or position with my stepson. One of the boys declared, I am riding shotgun, which means up front in the passenger seat. My stepson climbed into the back middle where the uncomfortable hump was. Once they were dropped off and he climbed back into the shotgun position, I let him know that as far as anyone was concerned, he was my son, and the shotgun position was always his, but he could temporarily give it up if he wanted to. He smiled and said he was good.
Did you catch what happened there?
God has done the same thing for us. As a follower of Christ, the rights of sonship are always and entirely ours. Of course, if we choose, we can relinquish some of our rights, but once our relationship became established, it was NEVER meant to change.
Regrettably, we give up our rights for various reasons and never take them back. These are the times when we because we are ashamed, think that God no longer loves us when the reality is that we are the ones who have created the rift between the Father and us.
Paul relates how locked in we were to our marriage contract, where the bond was only supposed to be breakable by death.
“For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives; but if the husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if she is joined to another man while her husband is living, she will be called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is free from the law—so she is not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man.”
(Romans 7:2-3 TLV)
Because we are in Christ, who died and took the bondage of that law with Him to the cross, we, too, have died to the laws of Moses and are no longer subject to the demands of death.
“In the same way, brothers and sisters, you have died to the laws in Moses’ Teachings through Christ’s body. You belong to someone else, the one who was brought back to life. As a result, we can do what God wants.”
(Romans 7:4 GW)
Having been involved with what a brother-in-Christ called his man cave. I learned there that “Christian” freedom from the law allows us to offend any and all with our swearing.
Sorry, but that is NOT the case because the Holy Spirit restrains us through the law written upon our hearts.
The Amplified Bible translates verse four in this manner.
“Likewise, my brethren, you have undergone death as to the Law through the [crucified] body of Christ, so that now you may belong to Another, to Him Who was raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.” (AMP)
Read like this; it is a monumental, life-changing statement. So let’s break it down.
- You have undergone death.
But death to what?
- The Law.
The law, where all ten commandments, boiled down to loving God and ceasing to be selfish.
- Because you are in Christ and died with Him, you have been released from the demands of death associated with the law.
This is possible because we are the body of Christ.
- Consider this, dead men can’t sin.
By human understanding, since we have died, there is absolutely no way to make us pay for past sins.
- But we have two problems that we, on our own, cannot solve.
First, only our flesh dies. So, though humanity can no longer extract payment for wrongs done by dead people, the spirit lives on forever, and Satan’s demons, like relentless bounty hunters, stay in pursuit thanks to Adam’s treasonous act in the garden, an action that gave Satan dominion over us and the right to punish/torture the human spirit eternally.
Wow, that sounds hopeless, and it would be if Jesus had not gone to the cross on our behalf.
A moment of truth. I have been playing a game called “Red Dead Redemption.” You are periodically called on to rescue the passengers and/or the driver of a stagecoach from robbers. The problem is that you cannot tell who will kill you from a safe distance as you ride in danger close. For me, the most uncomplicated resolve is to shoot everything and hope for the best.
More often than not, that technique does not work out well, and I become a wanted man with a monetary bounty posted for capturing or killing me. Next is a series of attacks from three or more cowboys, riding wildly and shooting at me. If they kill me, it’s just a game, and I am restored to life in a couple of minutes, but I restart from the last point of sanity, free from debts and penalties.
The second problem is not that Jesus went to the cross and died, bringing about a blanket of forgiveness for not just you but all of humanity. The problem is that this act merely made forgiveness available; you must take the next step by accepting that He died for you and then receive Him as part of your life.
Why should that be a problem?
That forgiveness covered the debt that is part of the law that God set forth, including death for those who did not obey the law. However, God knew we couldn’t pay the price demanded; that is why God’s wrath was placed upon the Son.
God, because of the actions of His Son, will NOT judge anyone for their sins.
Okay, but we get blasted constantly about judgment as we will stand before the Bema seat of Christ.
“But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you too, why do you look down on your brother? For we all will stand before the judgment seat of God.”
(Romans 14:10 TLV)
The phrase judgment seat is the Greek word bēma said twice. It means a raised step, much like we see in the Olympics when they pass out the trophies for achievement. It also carries the connotation of a place where the judges sit.
Revelation 20:12 conveys the idea that we will be rewarded for the deeds which we have done. I am not a good gambler and generally do not see the odds as being in my favor; therefore, it is best for me to accept Jesus Christ as my savior; this is my assurance of a place with the Father in heaven.
Matthew 25 shows the dead (although it tells us that the nations are called to the throne) before the great throne, where Christ sits as the great shepherd.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. The people of every nation will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. “
(Matthew 25:31-32 GW)
He comes in His glory, and all the angels are with Him.
We like to say there are only two comings of the Lord. One would be when he comes back for His church in the clouds.
“For the Lord, Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 NASB)
He does not, at this point, come down to touch the earth, and there is no immediate reference to a white or glorious throne. It is highly probable that this is where the bema judgment comes into play. Almost as if it is a private matter, where you are called into the manager’s office for whatever reason.
Ignoring the fact that He already came to earth once, as a human having been born. The next time He physically comes here will be with vengeance. Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; and Revelation 1:7 all speak of Him coming on the clouds with all the saints and angels.
“But keeping silent, Yeshua did not answer. Again the kohen gadol questioned Him, “Are you Mashiach, Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Yeshua, “and you shall see ‘the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Powerful One’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven’!”
(Mark 14:61-62 TLV)
There is solid, circumstantial evidence that Jesus will physically return to earth.
“Then Adonai will go forth and fight against those nations as He fights in a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which lies to the east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a huge valley. Half of the mountain will move toward the north and half of it toward the south.”
(Zechariah 14:3-4 TLV)
Alright, when does this happen?
Seven years after, the church, which we saw in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, is removed from the earth.
A disturbing but dramatic piece of evidence tells us that Israel, through the seven years, will suffer tremendous attacks. Only a third will survive.
Then it will happen—it is a declaration of Adonai—that in the entire land, two-thirds will be cut off and die, but a third will be left in it. This third I will bring through the fire. I will refine them as silver is refined and will test them as gold is tested. They will call on My Name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will answer, ‘Adonai is my God.’
(Zechariah 13:8-9 TLV)
Remember that Matthew 25 tells us that He brings all the nations before Him to this glorious, great white throne.
Who do the Jews consider the nations to be?
Everyone outside Judaism, or more simply, anyone who is NOT a Jew. Your logic sort of breaks down when a passage, such as we see in Zechariah 13:8-9, tells us that in that day, the day when there is only a third left alive that call themselves Jews. The question then arises.
What does God call the two-thirds that have died? And why ask a question like this?
Ah, because the related narrative comes from Revelation 20, verses 11 through 15.
“Then I saw a great white throne, and the One seated on it. The earth and heaven fled from His presence, but no place was found for them. And I saw the dead—the great and the small—standing before the throne. The books were opened, and another book was opened—the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what was written in the books, according to their deeds.”
(Revelation 20:11-12 TLV)
Matthew told us He sits on a glorious throne, while the Revelation, which is, by the way, all about Jesus, has Him sitting on a great white throne.
Is there any difference?
Not at all, because our focus is on the one seated and what He does.
Matthew tells that He calls all nations before Him; however, in Revelation, we are told that only the dead are brought to the throne.
Stop here for a moment.
Genesis tells us that humankind is created in God’s image. Just try to imagine what that looks like. If you were to answer honestly, you would have to say, I have no idea. Scripture tells us that God is spirit and associates that understand by telling us how to worship Him in our spirits.
Since the spirit is eternal, as God is, then does it ever really die?
The answer is NO. So death, then, to the spirit, is eternal separation from the life of God, and that, my friends, is the definition of death as far as God is concerned.
So while the body, or as Paul put it, this tent, is taken down, the spirit goes on forever.
Ah, but will it live with the Father in heaven, or will you foolishly pursue Satan and his lies, as he will be thrown into the lake of fire permanently.
If, as we have come to understand, the nations are NOT the remaining Jews, but are, by God’s standard, those outside of a willful and loving relationship with Jesus, then are all of the nations effectively dead unless something changes. Fortunately, for those that live through the thousand-year reign of Jesus (as He sits on this glorious, white throne,) there will be Jewish evangelists preaching the good news of Jesus Christ, and many from the nations will continue to come into relationship with the Father.
By the way, all from the nations will be forced to come to the new Jerusalem and participate in Succoth and bow before Jesus.
So, when this final judgment takes place, what has transpired?
- Seven years of God’s judgment upon the nations and Israel have transpired.
- Vast numbers of people have died.
- Israel has sustained two major attacks along with the daily upheaval that we see.
- The thousand years have been completed.
- Satan has been released for a “short period of time” and has gone about deceiving the nations – after a thousand years, this number is great, and they have gathered together to attack the Holy City, God, and God’s people.
- God brings fire down on all these involved, and they are now dead.
I pointed out how Matthew only refers to them as the nations; he does not explain how they are all dead. How far back in time this collection goes is NOT spelled out for us. The Revelation considers them all dead. With the Revelation, our immediate context for death, which I spelled out above, puts an immediacy upon them, but we cannot assume that, therefore, these, too, can go back to at least the death and resurrection. It may not be logical to pursue the dead beyond the cross as Jesus preached to the captives and released an unknown quantity.
Jesus, in Matthew 25, splits the crowd into two groups. Some are deemed sheep, while others are designated as goats. The sheep are given entrance into the kingdom of heaven. There seems to be a moment when everything comes to a stop, as the sheep, almost as it in unison, say what did we do to deserve this kindness and mercy?You see, they don’t even recognize what they did. Jesus, the merciful shepherd, tells them,
“For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’”
(Matthew 25:35-36 TLV)
The “Tree of Life Version” labels what we see in Matthew 25 as “the final judgment.” The simplest of minds should understand that the great white throne is the final judgment. So don’t be deluded merely because the terminology is different.
In Matthew, Jesus/God is merciful to some, while in Revelation 20, beginning with verse 11, we are only shown dead people and an angry God/Jesus. Context is the key to understanding that these two are the same, and the account in Revelation 20 is focused more on those who only moments before had tried, once again, to overthrow God.
If a person stands before the white throne judgment seat, for what will he be judged?
Those who make it to that point will be judged based on what they did with the Son, Jesus. That is all there is.
How is that possible, you might ask?
To properly answer your question, you need to set your fallen human nature aside; I know that is impossible, but try.
All sin went to the cross with Jesus, past, present, and future. That covers all of it.
So what is left?
So I must ask.
- Did you ignore Him there on the cross?
- Did you ignore all that He did there?
- Did you know that Jesus went into hell, preached to the captives there, and set them free?
- Do you realize that Jesus, like the brass serpent that Moses was commanded to put on the pole, caused you to live by taking away the death when you looked at Him?
- Did you know that He is your only salvation?
- Do you know that you can be His simply by sincerely asking Him to come into your life?