In His final public appeal, Jesus said “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). The Jewish nation among whom He lived was generally comprised of unbelieving and hard-hearted people (John 13:37-41). Some in their innermost thoughts recognized the truth of who Jesus was, but were too afraid of the religious rulers to commit to Jesus (John 12:42-43). But a few did believe in Jesus, recognizing that Him as the mirror image of the Father in heaven, God’s mouthpiece that declared His glory to the world (John 12:44-45, 49; cf. 1:14). Notice two important truths Jesus highlights in regard to the consequences of rejecting Him and His word:
- There is a judge — Many in our world today will say that no one should judge another. There are some who do not believe in God and thus imply that there is no ultimate standard or meaning behind any act. Many others say they believe in God, but reject or suppress any notion of God judging. However, all of us act as if there is an ultimate standard of judgment. We argue that we should be good people, treat others fairly, show love, reduce suffering, et cetera. Why? If there is no one sitting at the bench of the great tribunal of the universe, or if the one occupying the bench is so unconcerned with justice that he even rewards the disobedient, then why are we so concerned about people living the right kind of life? If all moral values and ethical practices are subjective, then why would anyone have the right to tell anyone else that they ought to do anything? But deep down we act like there is a standard because in reality there is a judge. We cannot live as if our affections, beliefs and actions have no meaning. The reality is they do matter and we will be judged concerning them.
- There is a last day — In John 12:48, Jesus declares final judgment is coming. There will be a “last day” in which the physical world will cease to exist and all souls will enter into spiritual, timeless destinies (1 Corinthians 15:52-53). Time is linear. Jesus shows that it is in his statement here, and the apostle Paul argued against the Greek notion that time is circular by preaching that the world is drawing to a close and the time to repent is now (Acts 17:31). The universe had a beginning when a mind, greater and beyond the universe, a personal agent, created the universe in time. This personal agent is God who is timeless (Psalm 90:2). The Father and the Son were already there in the beginning when God spoke the universe into existence and time started (John 1:1-3; Genesis 1). God is the beginning and the end (Revelation 1:8; 22:13). The last day is coming (Romans 13:11-14). All things will not continue as they have since creation; the physical world will be dissolved (2 Peter 3:4, 10-12).
With these two truths clearly affirmed by Jesus Christ, the ultimate question is whether or not one is receiving His word. The only way to stand in the judgment is to receive Jesus and His word; no amount of talent or achievements will suffice in the last day (Rom. 14:4). Receiving in John 12:48 is more than intellectual acknowledging of the truth. It is a reception of the truth that becomes the dynamic of our lives. Jesus is the Son of God and the rightful Lord of our lives. His word is received when it is believed and obeyed. When we engraft Jesus’ word into our lives, it is able to save our souls (James 1:21). Will you stand in the judgment of the last day?