“Let the heavens rejoice … the earth be glad … the field be joyful, and all that is therein: … all the trees of the wood shall rejoice before the Lord. For he cometh … to judge the earth … with righteousness, and the people with his truth.” —Psalm 96:11-13
The teaching of the Bible pertaining to a future day of judgment for all mankind is both reassuring and hope-inspiring. It is consistent with the invitation in our text for all to rejoice that the Lord comes to “judge the world with righteousness and the people with his truth.” The Apostle Paul affirmed the coming of this day when speaking on Mars’ Hill. He told the people that God has appointed a day in which “he will judge the world in righteousness” by Jesus Christ, and that he had “given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”—Acts 17:31
The future judgment day which the Lord has provided in his plan of salvation is more than a time when rewards will be given to the righteous and punishments meted out to the wicked. It will also be a period of probation, during which the people will have an opportunity, based upon full knowledge of the issues involved, to choose between obedience to the Lord and disobedience, between righteousness and unrighteousness.
This means that the judgment day is not an ordinary day of twenty-four hours, but, as the Bible teaches, an entire age, a thousand years long. It is, in fact, the same thousand years during which Christ will reign over earth, for he will be judge as well as King. The faithful followers of Jesus during this age will be associate kings with him during that thousand years, and they will also share with him in the work of judging the world.—Rev. 20:4; I Cor. 6:2
These beautiful and harmonious teachings of the Bible are concealed by the erroneous view that the eternal destiny of every individual is irrevocably decided by God at the moment of death. There is no scriptural support for this thought (except as it relates to those who accept Christ, and consecrate their lives to divine service, in this Gospel Age).
On the contrary, Jesus definitely stated that those who do not accept his teachings are not judged now, but later. “If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not … the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” (John 12:47,48) How beautifully this harmonizes with the promise in our text that in that happy judgment day of the future the people will be judged by the “truth,” for the words of Jesus are certainly the truth.