Chapter 20

Believers And The Judgment Seat Of Christ

For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of God. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, to me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Rom. 14:10b-12)

In this passage, Paul declared that all Christians must appear before the Judgment Seat of God. In 2 Cor. 5:10 he said, "For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad." As explained before, I believe the "judgment-seat of God" and the "judgment-seat of Christ" refer to the same thing.

Every Knee Shall Bow and Every Tongue Confess

Showing the Roman brethren that judgment belongs to God and not to men, Paul quoted Isa. 45:23, which declares that to the Lord every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to God. In order to understand this passage properly, one must examine it in its original setting. In vs. 23 this one God and Saviour, still addressing the remnant of the nations, speaks of an oath which he has made in righteousness to the effect that to Him every knee shall bow and every tongue swear. Since this prediction is spoken to the living nations which survive the Great Tribulation, obviously the bowing of the knee and the taking of the oath here foretold mean acknowledging the authority of this Saviour and swearing allegiance to Him.

The message of which the verse under consideration is the conclusion begins with Isa. 44:24 and runs to 45:25. The introductory paragraph consists of 44:24-28. The first verse of this section speaks of God as the Creator of the universe and His control of the same, whereas the following one speaks of His providential workings among the nations. Then in vs. 26 the prophet declares that God reveals Himself through Israel and her messengers and fulfills every promise. The two concluding verses of the chapter foretell the special providential ministry which Cyrus the Great, the Persian, would perform two hundred years hence--namely, releasing the captives from Babylon and issuing the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and its Temple. In 45:1-7 Isaiah showed that God would prepare the way for Cyrus and would make his way straight, enabling him to carry out His eternal plans and purposes as they affect Israel at the time of the Babylonian captivity.

Cyrus is called the Lord's anointed, though he did not know God. This naming of Cyrus and designating the work which he would accomplish is parallel to God's calling Jeremiah to his prophetic ministry before his birth. The Lord's outlining the special work which Cyrus would do two hundred years hence, would be, when the prediction was fulfilled completely, absolute and positive proof to the nations of the world that Jehovah is God and that it is He who is steering the course of history towards one great consummation.

The restoration of Israel brought about by Cyrus, which occurred in the sixth century B.C., served the prophet as the background upon which he painted the future grand and glorious restoration of Israel, when she will be brought from the four corners of the earth and rehabilitated in her own land.

Hence in an ecstatic manner, in verse 8, the prophet called upon the heavens to rain down salvation and righteousness. This divine interposition in the affairs of men will result in the springing forth of righteousness out of the earth. In vss. 9 and 10 the prophet pronounced a woe upon the critics of the Lord who find fault with God's overruling, providential care of the human family. Having shown the insolence of these critics of the divine government, the prophet in vss. 11-17 continued his description of the glorious restoration of Israel in the future. When this promise is fulfilled, the labor of Egypt and the merchandise of Ethiopia and the Sabeans will be given Israel. The nations at that time will come in great humility and will acknowledge to Israel that God is in the midst of her. God will fulfill the promise to Israel concerning her final blessed state in the land of the fathers. The fulfillment of this prediction is essential to the carrying out of the eternal decrees, for, according to verse 18, God created the earth "not a waste" but formed it that it might be inhabited.

According to Ps. 115:16, "The heavens are the heavens of Jehovah; but the earth hath he given to the children of men." No sooner had God placed man upon the earth than the devil came with strategy and lying, and led him to disobey God. This act of rebellion temporarily delayed the plan of God with reference to the earth and its being inhabited. By his disobedience man forfeited his right to dominion over the earth, which was given to him and which is recorded in Gen. 1:26-31. But the Lord will not permit Satan's connivings and man's disobedience to thwart the eternal councils. Eventually He will come back to that same, original purpose concerning the earth's being inhabited.

As is seen by the conjunction for in Isa. 45:18, the statement that God created the earth not a waste but to be inhabited is an explanation of vs. 17, which declares that "Israel shall be saved by Jehovah with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be put to shame nor confounded world without end." This grammatical connection shows that Israel's being saved in the future and restored to the land of the fathers at the conclusion of this age is but the unfolding of the eternal plan of God.

In vs. 19, therefore, the prophet could say with all assurance to Israel that the Lord did not say unto her, "seek ye me in vain." On the contrary, when the Almighty gave her the invitation to seek Him, He was speaking in righteousness. By the time we reach vs. 19, the prophet has given the full vision of Israel restored and the establishment of the glorious kingdom of God upon the earth.

Verses 20-25 are a paragraph spoken from the standpoint of Israel's being already reinstated to divine favor and in her own land. These verses also assume that which is repeatedly declared in many passages of the prophets--namely, that the judgments of the Great Tribulation will purge the world of the bulk of humanity, only a small remnant of the nations surviving this great ordeal. Our same prophet foretold the fiery trials of this great day of Jehovah, as is set forth in Isa. 2:12f.

In vs. 20 the prophet addressed those "that are escaped of the nations." This statement shows that he was carried forward to the post-Tribulation days and was addressing those who survive the fiery judgments of the day of the Lord. In this paragraph Isaiah began to impersonate the Messiah and to invite the surviving nations to a great convention in order to reason with them. In the latter part of vs. 20 he showed the futility of idol worship. Following this statement, Isaiah called attention to the force of predictive prophecy that has already been fulfilled:

Declare ye, and bring it forth; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath showed this from ancient time? who hath declared it of old? have not I, Jehovah? and there is no God else besides me, a just God and a Saviour; there is none besides me. (Isa. 45:21)

To what does the demonstrative "this" refer? In this connection, it can refer to nothing except the prediction that Cyrus, in releasing the captives and giving orders for the reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, simply would be carrying out what God, approximately two hundred years prior to that time, had foretold.

The fact that the prediction was fulfilled literally is a guarantee of its divine inspiration. The restoration from Babylon under Cyrus was typical of Israel's final restoration from the nations and of her being regathered and established in the homeland, never to be removed there-from. Thus the pictures of the two restorations blend. In fulfillment of Isaiah's impersonation and prediction, King Messiah, after He comes to the earth and mounts the throne of David, will neither force the will nor coerce the people by His omnipotence. Rather, He will reason with them from the standpoint of fulfilled prophecy.

In vs. 22 we see the loving, kind invitation Messiah will give those who are escaped of the nations to come unto Him that they may be saved, for He is the only God and Saviour of humanity. In vs. 23 this invitation is strengthened by the prediction which is to the effect that He has sworn by Himself and that the word has gone forth from His mouth in righteousness: "Unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." This confession will be, in substance, that King Messiah is divine and the Saviour of the world. Each one making it will swear allegiance to Him to become a loyal subject. In vss. 24 and 25 the universal opinion obtaining that day will be that in King Messiah are righteousness and strength and that in Him the seed of Israel is justified.

This same picture of the people who have survived the Great Tribulation and who come and bow in humble submission to the Messiah is set forth in Ps. 72. In vs. 6, we see Messiah coming down from Heaven to earth. His arrival here will be to the world what the showers are to the mown grass. According to vs. 7, in His days the righteous will flourish and there will be abundance of peace. He will have dominion, according to vs. 8, from sea to sea and from the River unto the ends of the earth. Then shall all the peoples remaining upon the earth with their kings come and render loving homage to Him (vss. 9-11).

The Application to Rom. 14:10b-12

At length I have discussed the setting of Isa. 45:23, which Paul quotes in Rom. 14:11 to support the proposition that all Christians must come before the judgment seat of God. In this examination we have seen that the original passage which foretells the universal acknowledgment of the Messiah as Saviour refers to the conversion of the world to King Messiah when He sits upon His throne of glory during the Millennial Age, but in the Roman letter Paul applies this passage from Isaiah to Christians appearing before the Lord to be judged. Will the saints have to wait until Christ sits upon His throne in the Millennium to receive their rewards, since the promise in the original context refers to that time? On this point one cannot be dogmatic.

We shall learn as we study the parable of the talents and of the pounds that the saints will not enter into possession and realization of their rewards until He sits upon His throne of glory. Since our Lord spoke the parable of the talents in connection with the Rapture of the Church, it is quite likely that they will appear before the judgment seat of Christ after the Rapture and before they return to earth with Him for the glorious reign. The order of the discourse in Matt. 25 seems to indicate that such is true.

If this position is correct, it is in perfect harmony with Isaiah's passage. At the present time the believers bow in humble submission before the Lord Jesus Christ and acknowledge His authority and accept His salvation. When He sits upon His throne of glory in Jerusalem those remaining upon the earth at that time will also acknowledge His divinity and authority, and will swear allegiance to Him.

In Phil. 2:5-11, this great passage on the humiliation and the exaltation of Christ, Paul referred to Isa. 45:23: Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (vss. 9-11).

In this passage the apostle was looking forward to the time when all intelligent human beings shall recognize and acknowledge the lordship and authority of Jesus Christ. The angels in Heaven, men upon the earth and demons in the underworld shall all acknowledge His sovereignty.

But of what time was Paul in this passage speaking? This question is answered by a reference to Heb. 1:6, which affirms that "When he again bringeth in the first-born into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him." When Jesus returns to earth again, there will be a general and universal ascription of praise and worship to Him as Lord and Saviour.

This same thought is set forth in Rev. 5:13,14 in anticipation of the coronation of the Lord Jesus as King of the world at His coming. Everything in the universe is here represented as rendering to Him divine worship and adoration. In this passage John simply echoes the general praise set forth in Ps. 148.