The saints shall judge the world? - Nothing can be more evident than that the writers of the New Testament often use ὁ κοσμος, the world, to signify the Jewish people; and sometimes the Roman empire, and the Jewish state; and in the former sense it is often used by our Lord. When, says he, the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, then shall ye sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Matthew 19:28. It is supposed that he refers to the same subject as that mentioned here - the saints judging the world; and that St. Paul has his words in view in what he says here to the Corinthians. By judging the twelve tribes of Israel, some have imagined that having authority in the Church is merely intended; but Dr. Lightfoot contends that the words referred to the coming of our Lord to execute judgment on the Jews, and to destroy their state; and that the doctrine of the apostles, not themselves, was to judge and condemn that most disobedient people. The place before us is generally understood to imply, that the redeemed of the Lord shall be, on the great day, assessors with him in judgment; and shall give their award in the determinations of his justice. On reviewing this subject, I am fully of opinion that this cannot be the meaning of the words, and that no such assessorship as is contended for ever will take place; and that the interpretation is clogged with a multitude of absurdities.
2. It would be absurd to suppose that thrones should be erected for the purpose of saints sitting on them to give their approbation in the condemnation of the wicked; of what use can such an approbation be? is it necessary to the validity of Christ's decision? and will not even the damned themselves, without this, acknowledge the justice of their doom? I therefore think with Dr. Lightfoot, that these words of the apostle refer to the prediction of Daniel, Daniel 7:18, Daniel 7:27, and such like prophecies, where the kingdoms of the earth are promised to the saints of the Most High; that is, that a time shall come when Christianity shall so far prevail that the civil government of the world shall be administered by Christians, which, at that time, was administered by heathens. And this is even now true of all those parts of the earth which may be considered of the greatest political consequence. They profess Christianity, and the kings and other governors are Christians in this general sense of the term.
Do ye not know - The object of this verse is evidently to show that Christians were qualified to determine controversies which might arise among themselves. This the apostle shows by reminding them that they shall be engaged in determining matters of much more moment than those which could arise among the members of a church on earth; and that if qualified for that, they must be regarded as qualified to express a judgment on the questions which might arise among their brethren in the churches.
The saints - “Christians,” for the word is evidently used in the same sense as in 1 Corinthians 6:1. The apostle says that they knew this, or that this was so well established a doctrine that none could doubt it. It was to be admitted on all hands.
Shall judge the world - A great variety of interpretations has been given to this passage. Grotius supposes it means that they shall be first judged by Christ, and then act as assessors to him in the judgment, or join with him in condemning the wicked; and he appeals to Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30, where Christ says that they which have followed him should “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” See the note at Matthew 19:28. Whitby supposes that it means that Christians are to judge or condemn the world by their example, or that there shall be Christian magistrates, according to the prophecy of Isaiah Isaiah 49:23, and Daniel Daniel 7:18 - Rosenmuller supposes it means that Christians are to judge the errors and sins of people pertaining to religion, as in 1 Corinthians 2:13, 1 Corinthians 2:16; and that they ought to be able, therefore, to judge the smaller matters pertaining to this life. Bloomfield, and the Greek fathers, and commentators, suppose that this means, that the saints will furnish matter to condemn the world; that is, by their lives and example they shall be the occasion of the greater condemnation of the world. But to this there are obvious objections:
(1) It is an unusual meaning of the word “judge.”
(2) it does not meet the case before us.
The apostle is evidently saying that Christians will occupy so high and important a station in the work of judging the world that they ought to be regarded as qualified to exercise judgment on the things pertaining to this life; but the fact that their holy lives shall be the occasion of the deeper condemnation of the world does not seem to furnish any plain reason for this - To the opinion, also, of Whitby, Lightfoot, Vitringa, etc. that it refers to the fact that Christians would be magistrates, and governors, etc. according to the predictions of Isaiah and Daniel, there are obvious objections:
(1) The judgment to which Paul in this verse refers is different from that pertaining to things of this life 1 Corinthians 6:3, but the judgment which Christian magistrates would exercise, as such, would relate to them.
(2) it is not easy to see in this interpretation how, or in what sense, the saints shall judge the angels, 1 Corinthians 6:3, the common interpretation, that of Grotius, Beza, Calvin, Doddridge, etc. is that it refers to the future judgment, and that Christians will on that day be employed in some manner in judging the world.
That this is the true interpretation, is apparent for the following reasons:
(1) It is the obvious interpretation - that which will strike the great mass of people, and is likely, therefore, to be the true one.
(3) it is the only one which gives a fair interpretation to the declaration that the saints should judge angels in 1 Corinthians 6:3. If asked “in what way” this is to be done, it may be answered, that it may be meant simply that Christians shall be exalted to the right hand of the Judge, and shall encompass his throne; that they shall assent to, and approve of his judgment, that they shall be elevated to a post of honor and favor, as if they were associated with him in the Judgment. They shall then he regarded as his friends, and express their approbation, and that “with a deep sense of its justice,” of the condemnation of the wicked. Perhaps the idea is, not that they shall “pronounce” sentence, which will be done by the Lord Jesus, but that they shall then be qualified to see the justice of the condemnation which shall be passed on the wicked; they shall have a clear and distinct view of the case; they shall even see the propriety of their everlasting punishment, and shall not only approve it, but be qualified to enter into the subject, and to pronounce upon it intelligently. And the argument of the apostle is, that if they would be qualified to pronounce on the eternal doom of men and angels; if they had such views of justice and right, and such integrity as to form an opinion and express it in regard to the everlasting destiny of an immense host of immortal beings, assuredly they ought to be qualified to express their sense of the smaller transactions in this life, and pronounce an opinion between man and man.
Are ye unworthy - Are you disqualified.
The smallest matters - Matters of least consequence - matters of little moment, scarcely worth naming compared with the great and important realities of eternity. The “smallest matters” here mean, the causes, suits, and litigations relating to property, etc.
After the judgment of the wicked dead had been finished, at the end of the one thousand years, Jesus left the city, and the saints and a train of the angelic host followed Him. Jesus descended upon a great mountain, which as soon as His feet touched it, parted asunder and became a mighty plain. Then we looked up and saw the great and beautiful city, with twelve foundations, and twelve gates, three on each side, and an angel at each gate. We cried out, “The city! the great city! it is coming down from God out of heaven!” And it came down in all its splendor and dazzling glory and settled in the mighty plain which Jesus had prepared for it. EW 291.1
Then Jesus and all the retinue of holy angels, and all the redeemed saints, left the city. The angels surrounded their Commander and escorted Him on His way, and the train of redeemed saints followed. Then, in terrible, fearful majesty, Jesus called forth the wicked dead; and they came up with the same feeble, sickly bodies that went into the grave. What a spectacle! what a scene! At the first resurrection all came forth in immortal bloom; but at the second the marks of the curse are visible on all. The kings and noblemen of the earth, the mean and low, the learned and unlearned, come forth together. All behold the Son of man; and those very men who despised and mocked Him, who put the crown of thorns upon His sacred brow, and smote Him with the reed, behold Him in all His kingly majesty. Those who spit upon Him in the hour of His trial now turn from His piercing gaze and from the glory of His countenance. Those who drove the nails through His hands and feet now look upon the marks of His crucifixion. Those who thrust the spear into His side behold the marks of their cruelty on His body. And they know that He is the very one whom they crucified and derided in His expiring agony. And then there arises one long protracted wail of agony, as they flee to hide from the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords. EW 292.1Read in context »
At the general conference of believers in the present truth, held at Sutton, Vermont, September, 1850, I was shown that the seven last plagues will be poured out after Jesus leaves the sanctuary. Said the angel, “It is the wrath of God and the Lamb that causes the destruction or death of the wicked. At the voice of God the saints will be mighty and terrible as an army with banners, but they will not then execute the judgment written. The execution of the judgment will be at the close of the one thousand years.” EW 52.1Read in context »
Opening Church Difficulties to Unbelievers—When troubles arise in the church we should not go for help to lawyers not of our faith. God does not desire us to open church difficulties before those who do not fear Him. He would not have us depend for help on those who do not obey His requirements. Those who trust in such counselors show that they have not faith in God. By their lack of faith the Lord is greatly dishonored, and their course works great injury to themselves. In appealing to unbelievers to settle difficulties in the church they are biting and devouring one another, to be “consumed one of another” (Galatians 5:15). 3SM 299.1
These men cast aside the counsel God has given, and do the very things He has bidden them not to do. They show that they have chosen the world as their judge, and in heaven their names are registered as one with unbelievers. Christ is crucified afresh, and put to open shame. Let these men know that God does not hear their prayers. They insult His holy name, and He will leave them to the buffetings of Satan until they shall see their folly and seek the Lord by confession of their sin. 3SM 299.2Read in context »