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Holman Bible Dictionary

Judgment Day

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Time of God's punishment and refining of the evil in the world, especially of the final, history-ending time of eternal judgment. The expression “Day of Judgment” appears several times in the Bible as a frightful day of dread (Hebrews 10:27 ) connected with the wrath of God (Hebrews 12:29 ) and can only be overcome through mature faith in Christ (1 John 4:17-18 ; compare Romans 8:33-34 ; 2 Timothy 4:8 ). Closely connected with the second coming of Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 ), it is a part of the end-time events connected with the close of human history.

Several biblical terms are closely related to the concept of the judgment day. These refer to the wrath of God, judgment, judging, condemn, punishment, penalty, vengeance, judgment seat, destruction, and ruin.

Old Testament Background The idea of the judgment day reaches back into the Old Testament concepts of divine judgment and the day of the Lord. See 1 Chronicles 27:24 ; 2 Chronicles 24:18 ; 2 Chronicles 29:8 ; Amos 3:2 ; Amos 5:18 ; Hosea 13:9-11 ) as well as her wicked rulers (1 Samuel 15:1 ; 2 Kings 23:26-27 ; 1 Chronicles 13:10 ; 2 Chronicles 19:2 ). Other individuals became the object of God's wrath: Moses (Exodus 4:14 , Exodus 4:24 ; Deuteronomy 1:37 ); Aaron (Deuteronomy 9:20 ), Miriam (Numbers 12:9 ), Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2 ). Surrounding nations and their rulers became objects of God's wrath (Psalm 2:5 ,Psalms 2:5,2:11 ; Psalm 110:5 ; Isaiah 13:3 ,Isaiah 13:3,13:5 ,Isaiah 13:5,13:9 ,Isaiah 13:9,13:13 ; Jeremiah 50:13 ,Jeremiah 50:13,50:15 ; Jeremiah 51:45 ; Ezekiel 25:14 ; Ezekiel 30:15 ).

His wrath is fierce (Exodus 32:12 ; Ezra 10:14 ), is kindled like a fire (Psalm 106:40 ), and waxes hot like molten wax (Exodus 22:24 ; Exodus 32:10 ). A day of wrath was spoken of as a specific time in which God would act in temporal judgment (Job 21:30 ; Proverbs 11:4 ; Ezekiel 7:12 ; Zephaniah 1:15 ,Zephaniah 1:15,1:18 ). God's wrath came to be so closely identified with divine action in judgment that its character as an emotion in the being of God receded into the background.

Also significant is the concept of God as Judge rendering judgments. The Hebrew mishpat brings together the ideas of judging and ruling into a single concept focused in the authority of God as Sovereign over the nation of Israel and over creation. Thus He instituted divine law and renders righteous verdicts based upon it as well as enforcing its requirements ( Genesis 18:25 ; Psalm 89:27 ; Psalm 96:10 ,Psalms 96:10,96:13 ; Psalm 98:9 ). Associated with this is the promise of a day when God will exercise His judgments with awesome power in the Day of the Lord (Isaiah 24-26 ). The eschatological interpretation of this day is most evident in Daniel 7:22 ,Daniel 7:22,7:27 ; Daniel 12:1-3 .

Intertestamental Period This orientation became more prominent in Jewish writings in the interbiblical period (Enoch 47:3; 90:2-27; 4Ezra 7:33; 12; Baruch 24 ; Testament of Benjamin 10:6-8; Judith 16:17 ). Judgment Day follows the resurrection of the dead and determines the eternal destiny of the righteous (either Paradise in Heaven or on a renewed earth, or life in the heavenly Jerusalem or in the heavenly Garden of Eden come down to earth) and of the wicked (Gehenna or some other place of eternal punishment) based on their obedience/disobedience to the law of God. Both Jews and Gentiles are included. Also angels will be judged as well as humans (Jubilees 5:3-16; Enoch 10:6; 16:1; 19:1; 90:20-27). God is usually pictured as the Judge although sometimes the Messiah is charged with this responsibility (Enoch 45:3; 69:27-29).

New Testament Development The New Testament builds on the foundation of the Old Testament and utilizes the language and imagery of the Jewish writings to present the full revelational picture of Judgment Day. As in the Old Testament, divine judgment is both a present and a future reality. Jesus' first coming represents a divine judgment (John 3:19 ; John 9:39 ; John 12:31 ). Sinful humanity presently stands under divine condemnation (John 3:36 ) and experiences in part now the wrath of God (Romans 1:18-32 ). The people of God are chastised for their waywardness (Hebrews 12:4-11 ; Proverbs 3:11-12 ), but that final divine verdict of judgment is yet to be carried out in a future day (1 John 4:17 ; John 5:24-29 ) by the Son of Man Himself (John 12:48 ; John 5:22 ). Thus human activity in this life basically determines the verdict rendered in this future judgment.

In the great white throne judgment scene (Revelation 20:11-15 ), the basis of judgment is first from the book of life (Revelation 20:12 ,Revelation 20:12,20:15 ) and then from the books of works (Revelation 20:12-14 ). One's relationship with Christ is that determiner of eternal destiny (John 3:36 ), but one's faithfulness to Christ is crucial to a genuine relationship with Christ (James 2:14-26 ; Matthew 7:21-23 ; 1 John 2:3-6 ). Very similar in emphasis is the parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-56 ). Pious deeds of devotion done to those in need stands as the distinguishing criterion between the sheep and the goats and settles their eternal destiny (Matthew 25:46 ). Paul's discussion in Romans 2:1-16 underscores that demand for obedient commitment to Christ as well. The concept of retribution for good and bad is also applied to believers ( 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 ; 2 Corinthians 5:10 ), but the specifics of rewards and punishments are not stated. However, the New Testament is absolutely clear in declaring the certainty of Judgment Day from which no one will escape (Acts 17:30-31 ). Thus comes the apostolic call to repentance and faith. See Day of the Lord ; Day of Christ ; Second Coming; Last Things; Hell ; Heaven .

Lorin L. Cranford


Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Judgment Day'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/j/judgment-day.html. 1991.

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