The Mercy Factor in Judgement

This is written by Stephen Jones

There are those who believe that Jesus removed all judgment when He took our penalty upon Himself at the Cross. They say God put away the law at that moment. But Jesus Himself spoke of aionian judgment that was to come. And even after His death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, Paul speaks often of judgment that was to come. This even includes judgment upon believers, who will be “saved yet so as through fire ” (1 Cor. 3:15).

Many of us have shown that eonian judgment is not “eternal” in the sense of being never-ending, on the grounds that the word eonian means “age-abiding” (Rotherham) or “age-during” (Young). But some who teach this then do an about-face teaching the contradictory doctrine that there is no judgment at all. In my view, one either believes in eonian judgment, or no judgment, but one cannot believe both. For the record, I teach eonian judgment. It is limited to the ages of time and does not belong in a timeless realm of “eternity.” Nevertheless, there is a judgment, in which the evil works of man are “burned” in the “fiery law,” forming first Daniel’s “river of fire” and then John’s “lake of fire.” But divine justice has its eonian limits, even as the 49-year Jubilee and the 40 lashes in the divine law limited our liability for sin.

It is in this very limitation that mercy triumphs over justice, for if liability for sin were to continue beyond the Jubilee or past the 40 lashes, it would be counter-productive to the purpose of justice. God’s purpose for administering discipline and justice is to bring correction and restore the lawful order. It is not to punish endlessly.

The need for Justice ends, but mercy, which is rooted in love, never ends. If two athletes compete, they both may run together for a time, but if only one of them has never-ending stamina, you know which one will win in the end. Mercy cannot lose.