Where Judgment Begins (Part 2)
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” 1 Peter 4:17-18 NKJV
Judgment must begin first with believers—not for sin—but for rewards and to declare the deeds and works that they have done here are earth (Rom. 2:6; 1 Cor. 3:8, 14). Romans 8:1 say that, “[t]here is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
Ergo, sin doesn’t change a believer’s relationship with God but it can, however, cause a break in fellowship. Believers are responsible for continued and practiced sin (1 John 3:8). If a believer fails to judge his sin, confess it, repent of it, and turn from the sin, then he falls into the hands of a living God (Heb. 10:31). To fall in the hands of a living God is to be judged of God. When God judges His people for willful sin (Heb. 10:26), it is not for banishment but for punishment—chastening (1 Cor. 11:32).
The New Testament seems to outline three phases of judgment for the believer: (1) self-judgment (1 John 1:9; 1 Cor. 11:31; (2) chastening of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:32; Heb. 12:5-11) for the purposes of not condemning the believer with the world and for the believer to yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness; and, (3) physical death when self-judgment and chastening fail to work, the next judgment may be physical death.
Since judgment must begin first at the house of the Lord, it behooves believers to always be quick to judge themselves for sin; otherwise, a believer’s second state may be worst than the first. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20-22).