Two Sides of Judgment
“Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!’ … He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness” (Ps. 96:10-13).- Psalm 96:10-13
The judgment of God is a scary prospect for the impenitent, but in the meantime He is patient with them, at least until that day on which He will vindicate His holiness (see Gen. 15:12–16; Rom. 2:1–11). At that time, the impenitent will receive the full force of His fury, which is what sinners deserve when they do not rely upon the gracious atonement Christ offered on the cross.
On the other hand, the Lord’s judgment is perhaps the most blessed prospect for those who put their confidence in Him. After all, the Almighty not only issues judgment against sin but also judges in favor of righteousness. Men and women who have trusted in the promise of God to save them through His Son Jesus are declared righteous (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:15–16), and so the Father finds in their favor. Because they are declared righteous at the moment of conversion, God will vindicate His people on that final day, revealing to all creation that He has graciously dealt with them, having provided them with a righteousness not their own but that of His one and only Son.
This coming vindication explains why the psalmist rejoices in today’s passage. Knowing that he will experience the positive side of divine judgment and enjoy salvation, he calls for the entire world to rejoice in anticipation of that final day. He looks forward to the day when all creation will rejoice as God’s reign is revealed in all its fullness (Ps. 96:10). On that day, “He will judge the world in righteousness” (v. 13), which to the Hebrew mind includes both the judicial declaration of the Lord and the renewal of the entire cosmos. All things will be put right, and perfect order will be restored in the universe.
At present, even though Christ Himself is upholding and sustaining the universe (Heb. 1:1–4), He is, for the most part, patiently allowing sinners to go their own way; consequently, things are not as He originally created them. Yet when He returns to consummate His kingdom, He will put His creation back in order, and those who have been declared righteous in Him will enjoy life in a perfect world. As Matthew Henry comments, “Let it be told that Christ’s government will be the world’s happy settlement.”
Every believer should be looking forward with excited anticipation to the day of final judgment. On that day, we will be vindicated as the people of God and revealed as those who have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ. All who thought we were foolish for following Christ will themselves be revealed as fools, and we will experience and enjoy the renewal of the universe forever.
Passages for Further Study
1 Thessalonians 5:1–11