The Doctrine of a Future Judgment Confirmed by the Resurrection of Christ
Acts 17:31
Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained…

I. AN EXPRESS DECLARATION OF GOD concerning a future and general judgment. He hath appointed a day wherein He will judge the world. It must be owned that the natural proofs of a judgment to come, had it not been made an article of our faith, are very strong and cogent. The promiscuous distribution of the blessings and evils of this life to wicked and good men. The triumphs of injustice, and notorious oppression of right, and that not for a short time, but for a course of many years, have been all along made an argument that the Judge of all the earth will one day do right, and justify the wise though unsearchable methods of His providence in this world, by rewarding the innocent and bringing the successful and presumptuous sinner to condign punishment. And indeed there is nothing more true or certain in fact than what Solomon observes (Ecclesiastes 8:14, etc.), But though this and several other proofs, which are drawn from natural religion, of a judgment to come should be allowed not only highly probable, but very evident, it must be owned, notwithstanding a great happiness to mankind in general, that God has been pleased to make this natural principle an article of our Christian faith. For by this means those who are not able to reason justly on the nature of things, or to carry on a long train of proofs, are convinced of the truth of a future judgment upon the authority of God.

II. THE JUSTICE AND EQUITY WHEREWITH GOD WILL PROCEED IN JUDGING THE WORLD — "He hath appointed a day wherein He will judge the world" in righteousness. The justice of the proceedings at that day will appear in this, that God, in rewarding and punishing men, will make a more visible distinction between the wicked and the good than He ordinarily does in this life. Herein also lies the justice of the great and last court of judicature that no partial record shall be had to any persons on account of their superior quality, fortune, or other advantages in this world. To show the impartial execution of justice at that day, we have a particular enumeration of the men of the earth who have abused their power, their authority, or wealth to sinful ends. and a very lively image and the horror of despair which will then seize them (Revelation 6:15-17).

III. THE DESIGNATION OF THE PERSON WHO IS TO BE OUR JUDGE. "That Man whom He hath ordained." It might perhaps have been thought more suitable to the awful solemnity of the last day, and the dignity and glory wherein Christ will then appear, if He had been described in the character of Judge as the Son of God, the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, or in those other magnificent terms wherein He is so often spoken of in the prophetical writings. But still it is more suitable to the state and condition of mankind, and His tender compassion towards them, that when He speaks of coming to judge the world He should rather give us an idea of His human than His Divine nature. For indeed, when we consider the infinite persecutions of the Divine nature, and at what an infinite distance our sins have separated us from it, had the eternal God Himself, without the interposal of a Mediator, thought fit to convene the world in judgment before Him. Alas! the best of men would have been so oppressed with the thoughts of His glory, and their own demerits, that they must of necessity, even under their best grounded hopes, have sunk into great despondency of mind. He that has assumed our nature, and done and suffered so much for us in it, will certainly show all the lenity and tenderness to it which the terms of evangelical obedience will admit.

IV. We have here a very particular and extraordinary circumstance to convince us of THE TRUTH AND CERTAINTY OF CHRIST'S COMING TO JUDGE THE WORLD, and that is by His resurrection from the dead. The miracles which were done by our Saviour throughout the whole course of His ministry carried a sufficient proof and attestation along with them of the truths which He taught, for no one could have done those things which He did in the most open and public manner without the assistance of a Divine power. Now this being one great article of the religion He came to preach and establish that God has appointed a day wherein He will judge the world, it may be said, What need was there of any further witness to confirm this article? Or why, when it was sufficiently confirmed before, was there so great stress laid on the resurrection of Christ for the proof of it? But still there was something peculiar in what related to the resurrection of Christ which rendered it an argument of the truth of His religion more proper to persuade the generality of men and to convince gainsayers than the rest of His miracles. For —

1. He bad Himself appealed to this testimony as one great proof and characteristic of His Divine mission and authority (John 2:16). And therefore, besides that His resurrection was a miraculous and extraordinary event, exceeding the powers of nature, it was an argument of His being inspired with a prophetic Spirit, and that God, who alone appropriates to Himself the knowledge of future events, was in this respect also with Him.

2. The caution which the Jews used to prevent, if possible, the resurrection of Christ, gave the greater force to the arguments we draw in proof of our holy religion from it. So that His very enemies, who would fasten so chimerical an imputation upon Him, must confess at least that His resurrection could not be effected by it, but that He was raised by a power truly Divine.

3. Again, whereas it might have been objected that His other miracles were done before people of obscure and mean circumstances, before a company of illiterate Galileans, and the credulous multitude upon whom it is no difficult matter for men of parts and dexterity at any time to impose; though this objection is easily answered, from the public manner of our Saviour's working His miracles, and His propounding them afterwards to the examination of His greatest enemies, the Pharisees, yet in His resurrection the very ground of these surmises is quite removed. There could be no artifice used on so remarkable and extraordinary an occasion.

4. There is something in the very nature of the thing itself apt to persuade men, from the resurrection of Christ, that the doctrines which He taught were true, and that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. For though every miracle is above the ordinary course and powers of nature, and supposes certain changes of bodies which cannot be accounted for according to the established order of things; yet where all the bodily powers of a man are rendered incapable of acting, and all the springs of life are entirely broken, it still seems less conceivable how He should either be able to work any change upon other bodies, or to restore His own body again to life.Conclusion:

1. If God has appointed a day wherein He will judge the world, let us have it often in our thoughts, and carefully practise the duties preparative to it.

2. If God has appointed a day wherein He will judge the world in righteousness, then it highly concerns us as we expect to stand in judgment before Him, to take care that we live and die in a holy and righteous state.

3. Since our Blessed Saviour, in speaking of the last judgment, is pleased more peculiarly to style Himself the Son of Man. This consideration will mightily fortify all true penitents against those black and desponding thoughts which are sometimes apt to arise in the minds of very good men. How great or numerous soever our sins have been, yet if we have humbled ourselves before God, and truly repented of them, we know that the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to expiate their guilt.

4. As by the resurrection of Christ we have a more full and express assurance of a future judgment than we could have had from the mere light of reason, let this consideration excite us to walk worthy of so bright and glorious an evidence. Let us resolve to live, not as persons that have some probable notions and conjectures about such a thing, but as men who fully and in earnest believe that we must one day appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in the body according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

(R. Fiddes, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

WEB: because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he has ordained; of which he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead."

The Day of Judgment
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