What’s this about judging the world and judging angels?
In 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 Paul writes “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Do you not know that we will judge angels?” To what is he referring here?
Paul is scolding the Corinthian Christians for taking disputes among themselves to heathen law courts for resolution. “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” He asks. “How much more the things of this life!” (v.3). “…Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?” (v.5). To take these disputes to unbelievers to resolve is a shame to the Corinthians and a dishonour to Christ.
But wait a minute – What is this judging of the world and of angels to which Paul alludes? In what way are we to “judge the world”…and “judge angels?”
That we will have some role in the judgment of men and fallen angels is further made clear in these passages:
Jesus promised His disciples,
“Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matt. 19:27,28)
Jude, citing from the Jewish First Book of Enoch, writes
“See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude v.14, 15)
Paul prays for the Thessalonians,
“May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” (1 Thess. 3:13).
I remember one summer I had a job with a landscaping company. It was probably the hottest, most physically demanding job I ever held, working up to 14-hour days – but I loved it! Food and drink were never so rewarding and sleep never so enriching as during those days.
One day we were working near a convenience store offering ‘all-you-could-drink’ refills on their super-large soft drinks. During lunch break my workmates hatched a plan: we would each order up a drink, pour it into the large cooler we carried in the truck, and then collect refills, thus storing up refreshments for the rest of the long, hot day ahead. I felt this was deceptive and refused to participate. The rest of the guys were upset with me because I now made them all look more suspicious. Four parched guys might conceivably down six 40oz sodas, but three? Hmm.
“Throw in your lot with us, We shall all have one purse.” (Prov. 1:14) shouts this world. But when we don’t, the world is aggravated. Why? Because righteousness condemns unrighteousness not necessarily by accusation or denouncement, but simply by its presence.
Matthew Henry says as redeemed saints we are privileged “…to approve and applaud the righteous judgment of Christ both on men and angels. …[to] see his proceeding against the wicked world, and approve it.” Our presence with Christ at the judgement will serve as a host of witnesses with Him that His judgment is just.
In my own mind I see our participation in Christ’s final judgment in a vicarious manner, much like we participate in prayer in church as someone at the podium “leads us in prayer.” We agree, affirm, and participate together with the one front and center. Before God our prayers are just as much true prayers as that of the one leading us.
Perhaps in this like manner we will participate with Christ in judging the world and angels. What an awesome privilege!
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