“And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.”Acts 10:42
“Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8
For me, and perhaps many of you, when I think of a judge, I’m picturing someone in black robes sitting behind a bench, looking dour, and waving a gavel. Certainly a judge is someone with great authority, worthy of honor, and eminent in their knowledge of the law, but there tends to be a negative tinge to that image in my head. That stereotypical judge is also judgmental, cold, and legalistic, and if the People’s Court or Judge Judy are any indication, I suspect many of you have a similar image in your heads. So why spread the word of Christ as judge? The passage in Acts is equating news of Christ’s identity as judge with proclaiming the gospel, so how is this “good news?”
Of course, in the ancient world, there was no modern separation of powers. The person who acted as judge was the one who had power to rule. Think of “judges” like Gideon or Ehud, and think of Solomon famously resolving the parental dispute between two women by offering to cut the baby in half. The judge in the ancient mind was ultimately the king, so the announcement of Christ as the “righteous judge” is a proclamation that Christ is king.
So perhaps Christ as king sounds like good news, but how does the judging function of His reign give us comfort?
We rejoice in Christ as judge because the judge is ultimately the one who sees justice done. The world has been in bondage to sin since the first Adam, and “the whole creation has been groaning” (Romans 8:22) since that time, yearning for its redemption. What comes with the judgment of Christ? Look to Revelation 20-21. As all of the dead are judged, death itself is undone and cast into the pit, and this judgment is a necessary prelude to one of the most comforting and glorious announcements in Scripture:
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3b-4)
So in this advent season, let us give thanks for the coming of the King, the righteous judge, the one with the authority to pass judgment over death itself, and the one who delivers His people from every sorrow into everlasting joy and peace. Amen.