“But they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (I Peter 4:5).
I have heard many testimonies from people about their faith in Jesus Christ. I have often given my own, personal testimony of my conversion of faith in Christ as my Savior and Lord. During those occasions, Jesus may be referred to as one’s friend, guide, or some other descriptive and biblical term. However, I rarely hear people speak of Jesus as Judge. Yet, this is how Peter describes Jesus in I Peter 4:5.
The verse is a contrast to what Peter has said in I Peter 4:3-4. He again specifically speaks about unsaved people who are surprised and then malign former friends who now follow Christ. His words in vs. 5 are not only an encouragement to the believer but also a warning to the unbeliever.
Peter refers to the unsaved with the phrase “but they.” Ultimately, the unsaved will no longer be surprised and slander those they know who no longer want to participate in sin. Rather, they will be doing something else with their speech. What is that?
They will actively give an account sometime in their future. The word account (λόγος; logos) is a statement or a reason for what they have done here on earth. The word literally means, “To give an accounting of an account.” Peter says the unsaved will give an accounting for the sum total of their lives; perhaps lived as the apostle described in I Peter 4:4. To whom will they give this accounting? To Jesus, who is ironically identified as the Logos in John 1:1-14. In effect, Peter is saying that the unsaved will give an accounting of the accounted sum total of their lives here on earth to the Sovereign Accountant of the universe.
Jesus is the one who is ready (ἑτοίμως; hetoimos) and prepared to judge (κρίνω; krino) and make a legal decision not only regarding the living but also the dead. Jesus will judge the spiritually living regarding their service for Christ (I Corinthians 3:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10). This is referred to as the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. The Savior will evaluate the service of the saved.
But Jesus will also judge the spiritually dead at the Great White Throne Judgement recorded in Revelation 20:11-15 which says, “11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
One theologian explains it this way. “Those who have spent their lives in indulgence and idolatry will someday give account (apodōsousin logon, lit., “give back a word or an account”; cf. Matt. 12:36; Luke 16:2; Acts 19:40; Heb. 13:17). Peter warned that these people must one day face the One who is ready (i.e., willing) to judge. No one will escape this final judgment of the words and works of his earthly life, when Christ will judge both the living (zōntas) and the dead (nekrous) (cf. Acts 10:42; Rom. 14:9; 1 Thess. 4:15; 2 Tim. 4:1).”
Are you ready to meet your Judge? Whether we are saved or unsaved, we will stand before the Lord who will judge the living and the dead. Are you to be judged for your service for Christ, who is your Savior and Lord, or are you to be one who will be judged for your sinful rebellion as an enemy of the Lord (Romans 5:10)?
If you are a believer in Christ, ask God to help you evaluate your service so that it pleases and glorifies the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ, repent of your sin and receive Jesus Christ as your Savior (John 1:12-13). Do so today!
Soli deo Gloria!