A Prehistoric Final Judgment?
by Doug Sayers
***Editor’s Note: Doug is the author of “Chosen or Not?” which is available for purchase HERE.
Historic Christianity has always insisted on a Final Judgment Day. It is a biblical no-brainer. Many of Jesus’ lessons and parables ended with a final separation of those who are rescued and those who perish. There will be a “settling of accounts” based on God’s eyewitness record of every private (and public) thought, word, and action. I can bear witness to the biblical claim that this truth was written on my young heart, even as one who was not raised in a Christian home. I knew that God saw everything… and some nights it was hard to fall asleep. (Rom 1, 2) The very thought of being subject to this kind of perfect scrutiny is enough to make you want to put on some fig leaves, run, and hide. It may even lead to a feeble and truth suppressing denial that there is such a God and day of reckoning. But, alas, there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Heb 4:13)
We each get judged for that which we did (or did not) do, as a function of that which we did (or did not) believe.
One of the more glaring flaws in the Calvinistic understanding of salvation is it’s emasculation of the final judgment. Calvinists, typically, place great emphasis on being chosen by God, before He made the first man, but only offer occasional and dutiful lip service to the final judgment. The reason should be obvious. Their system marginalizes the final judgment.
In the Calvinistic system, God’s eternal decree, allegedly made before the foundation of the world, would have irresistibly fixed the final outcome for every person ever born (or conceived). There would be no difference between the number of sinners chosen for salvation and those who are actually found “in Christ” at the end. Likewise, there could be no alteration of the outcome for those individuals not chosen before the foundation of the world. Those born elect could not be anything but saved at the final judgment and those born reprobate could not be anything but damned… in their system of understanding. This is not an explanation of, so called, hyper-Calvinism. It is an accurate description of real historical Calvinism. (See the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 3…)
A good Calvinist would not call this divine prehistoric election the “final judgment” but an honest one would admit that it is what immutably determines the outcome of the final judgment. Perhaps, you can agree that too much speculation about God’s omniscience can lead to trouble.
This should not need much explanation for those who understand Calvinism (aka: the Reformed view).
In the Reformed view, those who would be chosen for salvation, before time began, would inevitably be given the irresistible help needed to become a genuine believer, be born again, enjoy a changed life, and be welcomed into glory. They could not possibly be condemned at the final judgment. Likewise, those allegedly not chosen would not be given the irresistible help needed to become a genuine believer, be born again, enjoy a changed life, and be welcomed into glory. In “orthodox” Calvinism these folks could not possibly be saved; Jesus did not make a definite atonement for their particular sins. They will be punished forever for unbelief that they could not prevent. Since they were not elect they could not have avoided committing the sins that would damn them. They were refused the grace that would enable contrite faith in the Truth and the practical sanctification that comes with it. They would be born into this world with no option other than doing that which infuriates God, and this, with no hope of a remedy. It’s like punishing a rock for being hard or shooting a short guy for failing to be tall.
In the Reformed system, the final judgment would merely be the official pronouncement of the results of God’s prehistoric choice. That which actually occurred in our lifetimes would be fixed, thus irrelevant. As if this “Christian fatalism” is not bad enough, we should remember that in the Calvinistic view God’s prehistoric choice of who would be forgiven (and who would not be forgiven) was “unconditional.” It would not have been based on anything that anyone, born after Adam, would ever actually do (or not do); neither was it based on anything that anyone would (or would not) actually believe. It would, essentially, be a judgment over nothing. But you can’t have a judgment over nothing. By definition, judgments have to be over something. This is why Calvinist George Whitefield would insist that God would be just to damn us to hell even if we never actually sinned once in our entire lifetime! (See: Method of Grace)
Holding people accountable for unpreventable sins and irresistible unbelief is a hallmark of real historical Calvinism. Calvinists would rarely state this so clearly, but as coach always says: it is what it is.
In my years as a Calvinist, I found that this is where one must simply hunker down behind the sovereignty of God, turn a deaf ear to the objections, and trust the guys on my bookshelves. Calvinists simply don’t have a cogent and biblically satisfying answer to this slander of the righteous judgment of God. Their fabricated view of the “imputation of Adam’s guilt,” contradicts Romans 5:13 and 4:15 on how God imputes the guilt of sin. Calvinistic reprobation robs hell of its justice because there is absolutely nothing that the damned could have done to prevent going there.
The Bible teaches that those who perish will be without excuse because God had given them enough grace for the faith He required. (Rom 1, 2; Micah 6:8, Ps 19, Job 38…)
How much better it is to simply teach that God has sovereignly decreed that we each will play a crucial and effectual role in our own eternal destiny and there is no such thing as a sinner that God doesn’t love and desire to forgive. How much better to teach that God has provided every descendant of Adam the grace needed to humble themselves and trust Him, in spite of the devastating consequences of the fall. This is especially true, now, since the Living Bread has come down from heaven.
“If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)