“All rise…. this court is now in session. The honorable Judge…presiding.”
Is court in session or not? Why are prosecutors everywhere?
We’ve all heard of lawyers being absent from the courtroom, and we’ve heard either the defendant or the plaintiff missing the trial, but how many times have you heard of the Judge not being present, not being there by choice, not being there because he considered the trial a miscarriage of justice, not being there because he disagreed with the penalty that the prosecutor wanted the defendant to receive? You probably never heard of such an occurrence. Judges don’t miss trials. If court is in session a judge is present.
Many Christians think that court is now in session. They believe a “heavenly courtroom” exists and is in session with God as the presiding judge. In this courtroom God, the Judge, is handing out guilty or non-guilty verdicts, and the punishment for the guilty is eternity in Hell’s fire. In this courtroom the guilty are declared innocent, or righteous, because of their belief in Jesus Christ. As a result of their belief in Jesus, the Judge not only declares them not guilty (even though they are clearly guilty of sin), the Judge also considers them righteous, giving them the righteousness of Jesus Christ. As a result, they are acquitted of the penalty of Hell’s fire and get heaven as a free gift as though they were really not guilty all along. This is traditionally called in theology Justification.
And with this mindset and doctrine in hand many Christians are actively acting as prosecutors.
Is this even Biblical? Is this court really in session or is this a mock trial of man’s own creation?
The traditional orthodox teaching on justification indicates that for man’s first sin, whether you think of it as eating of the fruit along with Adam and Eve or you believe it occurs differently, but infallibly for every individual, we are all doomed to an eternity in Hell’s fire.
That is a brutal concept.
If it were Biblical, which it is not, I would have no hesitation in believing it, assuming that God would reveal to me, maybe after death, why it was a righteous act on His part. I have held this exact belief for roughly the first thirty-five years of ministry. But when I began to test the things that I had been taught, I became unsettled and hesitant to hold onto some of those long-cherished tenets any longer.
More of this logic…
The opposite of justification (and salvation as well) is condemnation. Now that is an interesting conundrum to untangle at another time. Condemnation, we are told, is God’s declared sentence of Hell. So if justification is the opposite, then it would be God’s declaration of heaven because man’s sins have been removed and a perfect righteousness has been given to him. Remember: we are taught that this sentence, this condemnation, is pronounced upon man’s first sin. What would that have been? A great
many Christians have been convinced that condemnation fell upon each one of us when Adam ate the fruit in the Garden. Supposedly, we were present in Adam, and we agreed with him in his choice to eat the forbidden fruit. So, when he fell, we all fell. When he was condemned, we all were condemned. Many other Christians, denying the scenario that I just described, believe that a person’s fall happens when he first sins during his earthly life. Obviously, that happens at a very early age (maybe it has something to do with the “terrible twos” of each toddler!). As a result, there has been a debate throughout church history on the age of accountability because there are few who want to assign a person to hell because he sinned as a very small child. That seems extreme to almost everyone. Regardless of where one sets the age of accountability, the assumed and agreed upon consequence for that sin is the same for all persons: he is assigned to hell for all eternity even for a white lie, or for intentionally trying to mislead someone, or for becoming impatient, or angry, or depressed, or fearful, or anxious, or for giving any other response that was not in faith (Rom. 14:23; Heb. 11:6). For the many who hold this traditional teaching, court is now in session. They believe the “heavenly court” is where God is daily deciding the eternal fate of mankind; rendering not guilty verdicts to those who believe in Jesus and justifying those (declaring them righteous in standing before Him).
Truth is…this court does not even exist, so the court is not in session.
The courts of this land are supposed to be rule by God’s law, not man’s. One day they will be, and it will be all over this earth in every nation consistently. But for now, God is allowing man to exchange His standard for judgment for the best that man can produce. And as he suffers the consequences of his foolish ideas, he finds that he creates for himself one problem after the next.
God’s court is NOT in session.
At present God is not showing up for man’s mock court case because the case in question was never His idea, nor does the penalty being asked for reflect His will or standard for judgment. In Biblical justification man is typically not forgiven, and he is never given a free pass, call it imputed righteousness if you like, to avoid the judgment that he justly deserves. Contrary to popular thought, justification in the Bible always evaluates what is present in a person’s life.
Let me repeat that. In true Biblical justification what is being evaluated is a person’s present life. Justification does not forgive what is present, if it is evil, and replace it with good, Christ’s righteousness. Whatever man has done is evaluated by God as either good or worthless. If it is good, God declares it to be what it is already: good or just or right! If it is worthless, God declares it to be what it is already: namely, something that falls short of His glory or standard of righteousness. But never is an evil deed forgiven and accounted as a righteous deed because of what someone else might have done for him (i.e., Christ’s death for sins).
Surprising as it may be, what has become the standard orthodoxy of Christendom is strangely unsupported in the Bible. If we could find some straightforward, literal and explicit statements it would be very different. But the truth is those explicit statements do not exist. God the Judge of the whole world does not send anyone to hell for one sin. He doesn’t send anyone to hell because of myriad sins either (for every Christian has that many). He doesn’t send anyone to hell because he has
failed to trust in Jesus. None of these positions can find the least support in the Bible. It is time we all checked these facts out for ourselves. Every time we are ready to send a person to hell for any of these issues just named, we should be aware of the fact that God is not in the courtroom and won’t sustain our objections to another’s plea of being tried unjustly.
God wants to declare all of our activity righteous, but the only way for that to happen – no matter what we are doing – is for us to be responding by faith.
Are you living by faith? That is the only thing that pleases God (Heb. 11:6).
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