Judging and Judgment (6)
So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Matthew 19.28
Bitter but sweet
The Old Testament is, for some believers, a reverse edition of the book John was instructed to eat in Revelation 10.8-11. That book was sweet to the taste and went down easily, but it left a bitter feeling in John’s stomach. The Old Testament, at least for a growing number of evangelical Christians, doesn’t taste so sweet or go down so easily.
In fact, certain pastors today are teaching their people that the Old Testament is too hard to understand, is fraught with too many difficulties, and contains so much that runs contrary to the spirit of our age that we ought to just set it aside and not bother with it any more. It’s a bitter book, these pastors insist. Apparently they are not aware that this heretical view, claiming only a New Testament canon, was analyzed and soundly rejected by the martyr bishops and theologians of the late second century AD.
The heresy was called Marcionism then; it should be regarded as Foolishness today.
The Old Testament is indeed a difficult book, especially its record of the failings of the shepherds and judges God appointed to care for His flock. His instructions were straightforward: Feed the Lord’s sheep on the Word and Law of the Lord, and tend the communities of His people for righteousness and shalom.
But as we have seen, generation after generation of Israel’s judges failed in their calling. When they failed, the people failed as well, and the promised shalomof God failed to materialize with any degree of consistency. And yes, that can be a bitterly disappointing story.
But there is a sweet core to the bitterness of the Old Testament, and that is the continuing story – from Genesis to Malachi – of a promised Good Shepherd Who would come to bring a Kingdom not of this world and the shalom of God which surpasses understanding for all who believe in Him. And when He comes, Jeremiah explained, He would bring other shepherds with Him, and they would restore the Lord’s sheep to their folds, and cause them to be fruitful and increase, so that they fear no more, are dismayed no more, and rest in the glorious shalom of the Lord (Jer. 23.1-4).
It was just those shepherds Jesus was addressing in Matthew 19.28.
The day of judgment
Jesus plainly said that His disciples (cf. v. 25) would assume the role of shepherds and judges that generations of Old Testament rulers had failed to fulfill. He would give His Kingdom to them (Lk. 22.29) and the keys to open that Kingdom to faithful seekers everywhere (Matt. 16.19), and they would exercise judgment over the people of God for shalom.
Jesus clearly had in mind the Old Testament background of local judges and national kings, and He established the disciples as pre-eminent over all the affairs of His Kingdom. He would embolden them to lead the Church in bearing witness to Christ. He would employ them in starting churches throughout the Roman world and establishing within those churches elders and judges who, following the apostles, would work for the shalom of God’s people. He would inspire certain of them to write a new book, sweet to the taste but bitter in the outworking, because He knew His Word would be clear and thrilling, but it would lead to much strife and conflict in a world at war with God.
Jesus promised that the Word of His disciples – His own Word through them – would accomplish the needed judgment of His people, so that they could feast together with the Lord and one another, and inherit all the promised blessings of God’s eternal covenant (Matt. 19.29; Lk. 22.28, 29). That Word – the New Testament – would illuminate the sweet core of the Old Testament and shed light sufficient for understanding all God’s revelation as pointing to Jesus (Jn. 5.39).
This is all very clear. But what may not be so clear is the question of when Jesus intends to do this. When will He establish His Kingdom, with His apostles as chief judges, ruling by His Word over His people as they inherit the land and promised shalom of the Lord.
Our text offers two clues.
First, Jesus says this Kingdom of shalom, with the Word of the apostles ruling according to His Word and Spirit, would begin “in the regeneration.” I take this to mean, “in the day when the Spirit of God begins to regenerate those who believe in Jesus.” When the Spirit comes to work with the Word of God for life and shalom, then the regeneration will have begun (Jn. 6.63). The evidence of the book of Acts certainly concurs with this timing, as we find there the apostles in the role of chief judges of Jesus’ ongoing work of spreading the Good News, building His Church, and advancing His Kingdom.
The second clue supports this view as well. The apostles would begin judging Jesus’ people for shalom “when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory.” When Jesus ascended to heaven, He sat down at the right hand of the Father, as the Apostles’ Creed affirms, where He sits as supreme Judge over the world and all things.
Jesus is enthroned in glory. The day of regeneration has been dawning now for nearly 2,000 years (1 Jn. 2.8). And the Word of God through the apostles stands as the interpretive key to the Old Testament, which it unites to itself in Jesus as the final authority on all matters of faith and life.
The Church is being built on the foundation of the apostles andthe prophets – the New Testament and the Old. And we who have come to know the regenerating grace and power of our Lord Jesus are being fitted by that Word to judge the world (1 Cor. 6.1-3) and to bring righteousness, peace, and joy – the shalom of God – into every area and aspect of life.
We need all the counsel of God in all His Word if we are to fulfill our callings and mandate as Kingdom followers of Jesus Christ.
1. How does the New Testament help us in understanding the Old Testament?
2. Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable (2 Tim. 3.15-17), should we neglect anypart of Scripture in being fitted for the good works for which we have been redeemed (Eph. 2.10)? Explain.
3. The writings of the apostles are founded upon, refer frequently to, and affirm the writings of the Old Testament. Did the apostles set aside the Old Testament or the Law of God? Should we?
Next steps – Preparation: Review your practice of reading, meditating on, and studying the Bible. Are you gaining the benefit God intends from all His Word? How might you improve your time in the Scriptures?
T. M. Moore
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This week’s study is part 1of a 4-part series, To Judge the World. Each part consists of seven lessons and is available as a free PDF download at the end of the study. In the tag for part 7, we’ll give you a link to download part 1, Judging and Judgment.Why not line up some friends to study through all three parts of this series?
An excellent companion to this series is our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics. Here you’ll discover the basis on which Christians learn to judge with righteous judgment. You can order a copy by clicking here.And when you order, we’ll send you a free copy of Bricks and Rungs: Poems on Calling.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.
Time for Judgment
- T.M. Moore
- October 22, 2018
True shepherds and judges appeal to all of Scripture in their work.
Judging and Judgment (6)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.