11 minutes reading time (2154 words)

Judgment vs. Sentence

Is It Condemnation or Determination?

Someone must bring about an accusation to produce a situation in which a judgment must take place. No one brings an accusation of innocence and demands a judgment. Remember, the word judgment refers to an act of determination as opposed to a declaration of guilt or innocence. However, the accuser that requires judgment or determination does so by bringing an allegation of guilt.

The act of judgment weighs the evidence that is presented and applies wisdom to make a determination of the truth of a matter. Man does not always get it right because the evidence may be lacking, and the full extent of the circumstances and the heart motives are not necessarily known. However, through His Word, God never gets it wrong. He knows the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

The process of accusation of guilt originates in various ways. Certainly, accusations come about from observation of someone disobeying some civil or criminal statute or law. Other accusations come about from investigation of a crime as following clues and evidence may lead to a suspicion of guilt, resulting in an accusation against someone. These two examples result in a situation where a judgment is made based on established human law. Still other accusations come from those who may feel that they have been wronged emotionally or through some relationship. This type of judgment comes out of a perceived breach of a personal code of conduct.

There is still a more basic source of accusation that demands judgment. It is a source that originates in the spiritual world. It is of a higher order and has greater significance than human law because this source affects the entire world. This source is one that we investigated in Ideolatry. Chapter 10, when discussing Job. However, the book of Job is not the only place that discusses this source. It is also seen in Revelation 12:10.

Revelation 12:10

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

The accuser spoken of here is Satan (Lucifer, the Devil). His pervasive nature is evident in the text as it explains that his accusations come day and night, implying that they are continuous and unceasing. He is active until he is cast down by God in the final confrontation. However, this verse in Revelation also tells us before whom the accusation is brought. The human system of law requires that the accusation be brought before a judge to render a judgment. Then, a determination of guilt or innocence is made. If guilt is determined, a verdict is rendered and a sentence proclaimed. The spiritual realm differs in that the end point of all accusations is God. In the Old Testament, He is considered the judge of everything, the One who determines guilt and innocence.

However, the course of judgment changed with the arrival of Jesus on earth and was sealed with His death, burial, and resurrection. The Gospel of John provides the evidence that God, the Father, has passed the responsibility of judgment to His Son, Jesus Christ as described in John 5:18-23.

John 5:18-23 (NKJV)

Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”

Spiritually speaking, the responsibility to judge sin has been delegated to Jesus, undoubtedly because He paid the penalty for every sin. However, sin is still the core issue for breaking human law, since the laws of man share their foundation with the laws of God. Sin breeds the conditions that call for judgment because it results in accusations of guilt.

Following His resurrection, Jesus came to the disciples, passed the Holy Spirit to them and told them that they were invested with the authority to hold or release a person from sin. This process of determination or judgment was given to Jesus, and He passed to men the authority to judge or determine sin as is stated in John 20:19-23. However, Jesus added something to the authority for making a judgment regarding sin. He authorized men to have the power to forgive and overlook sin as well.

John 20:19-23 (NKJV)

Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

An extreme example of this transference of authority is evident in the account of a husband and wife who owned property and sold it for the common benefit of their fellow believers. This couple had the authority and power to do what they wished with their property, but they made a private agreement between themselves to lie to the disciples and to God. Together, they planned the deception. The event unfolds in Acts 5:1-4.

Acts 5:1-4 (NKJV)

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

Peter had discernment from the Holy Spirit concerning the depth of the deception of Ananias and Sapphira. He also had the choice and the responsibility to deal with the deception once it was revealed to him (see Ideolatry, Appendix Chapter 21).He judged the situation and made the determination that Ananias and Sapphira were both guilty of deception and lying to God. Peter took the responsibility that was given to him by Jesus in John 20:23 and made the choice that he would neither overlook nor forgive the sin of Ananias and Sapphira.

The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was directed straight at God, and Peter knew it through wise discernment and the counsel of the Holy Spirit. He uncovered the sin and held them accountable for it. Jesus said in Matthew 12:30-32 that there is a lot that man can do and be forgiven for, but there is a point of no return.

Peter probably knew that the severity of the sin of Ananias and Sapphira involved the one unforgivable sin, a point of no return, which is blasphemy (Strong’s NT:988) against the Holy Spirit. It qualified because it was a unified lie of conspiracy and deception against the Holy Spirit.

“blasphemy” - Strong’s NT:988, blasfhmi/a blasphemia (blas-fay-me’-ah); from NT:989; vilification (especially against God): KJV - blasphemy, evil speaking, railing.

The resulting death of Ananias may seem a bit harsh, especially in light of the grace that is given to us through Jesus, but some actions harden men’s hearts from receiving forgiveness. Peter did not pronounce a sentence of any sort upon Ananias. He only confronted him with the deception and told him that he had lied to God, not to men. The physical cause of the sudden death of Ananias could have easily been from a heart attack as he was overwhelmed with the weight of his own sin. We can only suppose that the callousness of the sin and the conspiracy with his wife left Ananias in a state where there was no repentance as seen in Acts 5:5-6.

Acts 5:5-6

And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.

Perhaps Peter might have had a moment of compassion for Ananias that would have led him to forgive the sin. However, there is no evidence that Ananias even asked for forgiveness. He knew his sin, and he knew that he was found out. He was likely aware of other situations in which evil befell those who tried to deceive God. In 2 Kings 5:20-27 (see Appendix Chapter 21), the greed of a man named Gehazi led him to lie to God and a prophet, and he was turned into a leper. Maybe he remembered the account of Esau relayed in Hebrews 12:14-17 and was overcome with hopelessness in his situation.

Hebrews 12:14-17 (NLT)

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears.

Peter handled the confrontation with Sapphira differently in Acts 5:7- 10. He simply asked her a question to confirm what he already knew about the conspiracy. He chastised her for her part in the deception and informed her that her life would be immediately required. Neither Ananias nor Sapphira is recorded as seeking any repentance.

Acts 5:7-10

And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.

And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.

Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.

Sin cannot stand in the presence of the Holy Spirit whom Peter states is equal with God in Acts 5:3-4. The shock of the discovery of their deception directed toward God was too much for them to survive. Neither Ananias nor Sapphira could stand in the presence of the Holy Spirit and Peter with the weight of their sins of deception and blasphemy.

This action by Peter was that of a judge. Peter, a mere man, was responsible for the determination of innocence or guilt. He pronounced the verdict after the evidence was made known and then imposed the sentence. Ananias died spontaneously, but Peter pronounced the sentence of death on Sapphira. He did not kill them, and neither did God. It was their sins of deception and blasphemy, directly in the face of the Holy Spirit of God, which took their lives from them.

May God richly bless you in all that you do! - Dr Rich Masek 


I invite you to read Chapter 21, Who Is Judging You? from Ideolatry - God Is Not Your Problem - The Character and Nature of God to learn more about God's plan for your life. 


 Available in digital formats for Kindle, iBooks, Nook and Generic eReaders

You can read about more subjects from Ideolatry below.

Why I Wrote Ideolatry
Did The Jews Kill Jesus?


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Monday, 14 October 2019

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