Is There a Judgment Day to Come?
The idea of a judgment day has caused dread in many minds, because traditional teaching has painted a gloomy picture of a twenty-four hour day during which earth's millions will be raised from the tomb to receive a final sentence. This crude conception is entirely out of harmony with God's inspired Word and shows the absurdity of forcing a literal interpretation upon figurative language. The term day, in scripture and in ordinary speech, is often used to signify a period of time other than twenty-four hours. Hence one might say, "things were different in my day", and the Bible speaks of "the day of temptation in the wilderness" (forty years long), and "the day of salvation" (the whole Gospel age). We learn from Psalm 90:4 that a day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and as St. Peter reminds us of this fact when speaking of the coming "day of judgment" we have good reason to believe that its duration is a thousand years. This judgment is in fact a vital feature of the Bible millennium, the kingdom of Christ.
Judgment is more than the declaring of a verdict. It includes the idea of a trial, and the world's judgment day is that period of time when they will be subjects of God's kingdom, learn of the salvation available through faith in Jesus, and experience conditions conducive to right living. In that day, "The knowledge of the Lord shall fill the earth, as the waters cover the sea." The judgment period will thus include instruction. It will also involve testing: "I, the Lord, search the minds and test the hearts of men. I treat each one according to the way he lives..." (Jeremiah 17:10). Correction for wrongdoing will also be a necessary part of the trial, administered lovingly in the best interests of each one (Hebrews 12:5-11). Hearty co-operation with kingdom conditions will be reflected in increased well being and the gradual perfecting of every human faculty.
The parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25) illustrates the separating of the obedient from the disobedient. That some, even under the most favorable conditions, will reject the opportunity to come into harmony with Christ's kingdom, and be proved incorrigible, cannot be doubted. On such, the sentence of eternal death is a merciful end to their unhappy condition. God does not consign any to eternal life in torment, but the wages of sin is death – permanent extinction – for those ultimately unworthy of life. The reward of the obedient will be everlasting life on earth, with the prospect of sharing in the plans and purposes of the Creator in the ages to come. "Let the earth rejoice ...at the presence of the Lord, because he comes to judge the earth," (1 Chron. 16:31-33).