Het Oordeel; K. Schilder

The judgment begins in the house of God (1) ~ 1 Peter 4: 17a.


This morning your attention is asked for a forgotten teaching: the teaching of common disgrace, the common judgment.

I speak to you of:
The present persecutions of the congregation is the beginning of the judgment of God:
1) They come with God’s judgment.
2) They begin with God’s house.
3) They appear on God’s time.

1) Its substance: God’s judgment.
2) Its beginning: the house of God.
3) Its time: God’s time.


A Christian sees things with different eyes than a worldly person. He lives from a different principle. He also gives a different name to events.

We also see this in our text.
It was a time of persecution when Peter wrote this letter, oppression for the congregation of Christ.
They were times of judgment.
But Peter says: “it was the time of the judgment. The world said these are judgments from people. But Peter says it is the judgment of God.
Allow me a few words of explanation.

These were difficult times for the congregation of Christ. That they had to endure oppression appears from every part of this letter. This letter is written to the Christians in Asia Minor, except for Cilicia. Apparently their situation was far from easy. On the contrary it had intensified in recent times. They had become increasingly at odds with their un-Christian surroundings.

They had not become martyrs yet, to the fullest extent, were not paired up with the bloody sacrifices. There was no mention yet of prison sentences or of forfeitures. Yet the persecution of the congregation was multiplied (chap. 1: 6). They were beleaguered by the slander Christians had to put up with. They were a bad air in society and were reproached on account of the name of Christ (4; 14, 2: 12, 3: 16, 3: 9, 4: 4). The hate was stirring up against them from all sides. Society was fully charged with the electricity of hate against Christians. It was whispered that they had all kinds of frightful customs, too shameful even to mention.

The Christians were held in contempt for being enemies of the state. Christian slaves could never do right even if they did their best to serve their heathen masters. They were suspected of harboring the secret desire to disturb the order of society so they could become lords instead of slaves.

For, didn’t people hear them talk of a freedom, by which they were liberated? Didn’t they deem themselves exalted above earthly pleasures and to be the highest among the children of men? The world claimed that their talk of freedom was a cover for their malice (2: 16). Indeed they considered them capable of every evil. Christians were the first suspects when crimes such as manslaughter, murder, stealing were committed (4: 15). Therefore they were again and again dragged before the magistrate and if the court president was of an ill temper; better hide. Then lady Justice removes her blindfold and if she knows that such a despised Christian stands before her, condemnation is certain.

And the servants, the slaves amongst the Christians found that arbitrariness all too often resulted in what their enemies wanted. Yet for these underprivileged, for the oppressed, those who are still less than the working class, the bible always has a special word. Also in this letter from Peter. Read chapter 2: 18, 19, and 20; Servants (better Slaves), Peter says. And he says, they endured grief, suffering wrongfully (verse 19), beaten (verse 20). See, that is graphic. Imagine such a slave as bound to a whipping post. The Word is confirmed in that man, who was so afflicted, that the servant is not more than his Lord. Christ Jesus was scourged Himself. So too His servants. They are beaten for the name of Jesus Christ.

And what now already overtakes the slaves is a sign, an all too threatening prophecy of more severe suffering.

As a matter of fact, arbitrary action, also against free Christians already is; is now already being multiplied. It did not stop with humiliating and slanderous language. Everyone should prepare themselves that they must suffer, also bodily, for righteousness sake (3: 14). And if that is God’s will it will happen!

Understand; it was the time of the judgments from the world. But Peter says no! I see it differently. It is the time of the judgment of God.

In all these oppressions, in all the torture, in all the misery I do not just see a judgment, but the judgment. For it is the time that the judgment of the house of God begins.

The judgment. Peter looks through a different set of glasses than the man of the world. They claim that they are preeminent. That they are the party that deals.

However Peter does not think so. Here it is clear that he has to do with the judgment of God. For in the same verse he asks; what will the end be of those who are disobedient to the gospel of God?

The judgment ends with those who are ungodly; therefore it is clearly meant as a visitation over sin. As an exercise of punishment against the godless. Peter even calls it THE Judgment! For him the essence of the matter is ultimately world judgment. And in this he is correct. You must not think that Peter meant that God comes now already to destroy the world. No! Yet, he already sees that judgment, also in the sorrows, the terrors of his day. That is seen well.

We should not separate the last judgment from everything that happens in the world before that time. No. God’s judgment is one. There is only one world judgment. That began with Cain, and will end in the days of the anti-Christ. It is a great court trial, a great unending legal proceeding. A drama with various perpetrators. It is like a thunderstorm. Distant rumblings, with intermittent pauses, announce its coming. Sometimes it is quiet, fearfully quiet. And nature waits, the birds are silent, the grazing cattle huddle with their heads together. Suddenly there is another, a new crash, but close. Again a pause; no thunder, no lightning. But the clouds are massing, the sky remains disturbed, the heavens keep wheeling. Listen, another crash - closer.

Ever again those pauses, ever again new rumblings, but always closer; till suddenly…, a tremendous downpour, suddenly - that crashing thunder clap, making the windows rattle and suddenly - a dull crackling blow, the lightning bolt that sets your house on fire, that takes your life. The thunder breaks loose over your head.

The judgment is the same. The intermissions can be long, but it is never quiet. God is preparing His thunder constantly. Again repeatedly anew come the thunder claps. It is one storm that goes over the world. Every world misery, every torture of the children of man, every tumult, every quiver of the world, every clap of fear and woe is a revelation of the judgment, the great world judgment day. God’s great war campaign against world sin. God’s mighty battle against His proud enemy. There are not just calamities, but actually there is only one calamity, the judgment of God.

Isn’t that a great thing for Peter to grasp? We, along with most people shred history apart into bits and pieces. We compartmentalize them into time periods and time slots. Peter says there is only one thing that is kept busy, that is the judgment.


But maybe you ask; what has that to do with the forgoing?
The tribulations of the congregation, ~ what have these to do with world judgment?
The pious, certainly they are not among the godless?
The gospel has surely not become an evil message?
Do those bought free fall under the judgment anyway?

You are right certainly. Yet it appears Peter has turned the gospel of grace around.
He says to the congregation of Jesus Christ that if tribulations break out over their heads, do not distance yourself from them with a bible text or an edifying word. Do not say that it does not affect us. But know that it is the judgment, Gods campaign against sinners and against sin. And that judgment begins with the household of God.

See here my second thought: the judgment begins with God’s house. That is His starting place.

Is it not so that the house of God is the congregation, the Church, the property of Jesus Christ? Well now, the judgment begins with that congregation.

Do not be amazed about this. A moment ago we compared the judgment to the gust of a thunderstorm. Well, what does lightning reach for first? Not for a deep valley but for the high mountain.

Not for the hut under the tower, but for the high point of the tower. The higher you are standing the quicker the lightning from above will come at you. So it is with the congregation. She is a city on a hill, she is a beacon at sea, she has been placed on elevated ground. Therefore the lightning of God first seeks the household of God. First in the heights, then the fire again shoots to the depths.

The house of God. Do you shake on your foundation, when you hear that word? You, you are the first target of the lightning bolts of God’s wrath. Once again, do not avoid it. That is certainly the judgment talked about here.
Do not grind down the sharp points from this sharp word. Do not attempt to combat the bitterness with the sweet which God has not prepared.
We can so easily say it is only purging, it is only a means for testing, it is only sanctification through suffering.
And you are right. The suffering of the congregation is to that end. But that is not the matter here, here is talk of judgment and nothing else!

Judgment begins, commences with God’s house. Take note, it does not come over that house, it does not end in that house, but it begins with it. For in that house are so many servants of Satan. There is often a séance of devils in that house. People often bring sacrifices to Moloch In that house of God, to the world deity of this age, to the hellish powers.

And if God goes out to attend to sin, well, must He then not begin with His congregation?
Because the sins in her midst must be, for Him, a greater abomination than those of the world.
Whatever abhorrence occurs there in His house angers Him more terribly than whatever occurs outside of it.
Therefore he lets His judgment come to His congregation from the very first, so that there the purifying effect of His punishment removes what must be banished.

And if you perhaps still doubt what Peter’s intention is, then think again to what was read before in Ezekiel 9. Peter had thought back to it as well. He borrowed his introduction of the judgment beginning with the house of God, from Ezekiel 9.

What is said there? It is a terrible chapter. The prophet has a vision of destruction by fire and by sword. He mentally envisions the Lord commanding seven angels to go around Jerusalem in order to destroy the ungodly.

The overseers, the watchers, the invisible spiritual watch of the city, are the angels! They approach seven at a time. They must go out to destroy, with there weapons in hand.
But there is one distinct from the others. He has no sword but carries an inkwell, and writing tools. He is head of the seven angels. Apparently he is indicated as the angel of the LORD. He received a different commission, not to destroy but to preserve.

He must apply a sign on the foreheads of all those who still weep over the apostasy, the sign of the cross, a cross laying on its side. Those who receive this sign are spared. But destruction comes to the rest who do not have the sign of the crosses. They must eradicate whatever is godless, but spare whatever fears the LORD. Read Ezekiel 9 verses 5b and 6; “to the others he said ‘go after him through the city and kill‘,! Do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old and young, and maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary!”

Begin at My sanctuary! Isn’t that an amazing command? Not starting just in the immediate vicinity outside the sanctuary! No, right in the holy place itself!

They also faithfully followed this terrible order . The judgment was that severe! The command was so irrevocable that they even had to purify the temple by blood. They were not given the time to bring the people in the temple who did not receive the sign outside to be put to death there.

Normally it was unlawful to spill blood in the temple, but now it is allowed. Purify the sanctuary! No delay will be tolerated.
And so it happens. And they began with the elders who were before the temple (verse 6).

The elders (the old men), that is to say the chief, the significant, the notables of Jerusalem. They were standing before the house, that is in the forecourt. They had come there to worship the sun. Named in chapter eight verse 16, there were about 25 men who had turned their backs to the temple with their faces to the east bowing before the sun.
With their backs to the temple; therefore they did not see who and what emerged from the temple. They were in God’s house certainly, but with their backs to God’s holy place. That certainly was their sin.

Because whoever comes into the temple must look with their faces toward the holy of holies, toward God’s presence. But these did not.
Therefore they were struck down. These sun worshippers were taken down.
The forecourt was filled with the slain.
Finally after the house was purified, when first the godless were washed away, those who did not have the sign, only then did the angels of destruction go outside the sanctuary.
Only then they went into the city to destroy.
They had first begun at the house of God!

Peter kept that picture in view when he wrote these words. He borrowed the words of his text from that vision. Begin from My sanctuary! Actually there are more of these pictures in the Bible. The same thought we find, albeit less emphatically, in Jeremiah 25 verse 29. The prophet accepts a cup with a drink prepared by God.
The cup is given to make dreary, anxious and afraid; for it is the wine of God’s ominousness. The whole world must drink of it; the king of Egypt, of Uz, of the Philistines, Askelon, Gaza, Ekron, Asdod, Edom, Moab, Mede, Sidon, Dedan, Thema, Buz, Arabia, Zimri, Elam, and in the north, Sesach.
But first those of Jerusalem the inhabitants of Judah. It said emphatically: “for behold, I bring calamity on the city which is called by My name”. Here again the same thought is to begin with the house of God, with the city of God.

Yes, we read it more distinctly in Jeremiah 49 verse 12: “For thus says the Lord: behold, those whose judgment was not to drink of the cup have assuredly drunk. And are you the one who will altogether go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, but you shall surely drink of it”!

In short, it all points to the fact that it is a Scriptural idea ! Judgment always begins with God’s house. It is a fixed law, which God never deviates from. When it comes to purifying He begins at His sanctuary, because that is where purity first originates.

Stand still by that truth, seriously!

The judgment means sifting. It will make division! It means banishment of what does not belong in the congregation.
Look, we are so dogmatic, that we often only have ears for preaching about the downfall of the world. We like to read about what the text continues with: “what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?’
But Peter said that before we lift the veil covering hell, in order to allow the godless a glance into it, we must first do so for ourselves as congregation. Judgment will end with the world. But it starts with God’s house. Start at the beginning.

Now I know that Peter speaks about the suffering of the Christians, of carrying the cross, the persecution. These will not harm those who have been signed with the writer’s inkwell.
Yet the wrath of God remains against the sins in God’s house. He also uses these oppressions to remove them. We have to taste that wrath of God, also in our suffering!
God’s wrath is not against His house but against the sin in His house. His wrath not against you, but against the sin in you.

How do you bear up under that truth? Did you understand that there is a certain revelation of wrath in all suffering? Also in the suffering of God’s children? Also judgment in the suffering of the congregation? No judgment against your person, but against your sin.

Look, we could so easily disassociate ourselves from it. Don’t!
Then, when you have first seen it, that God also hates sin in His own, only then comes comfort in the suffering, then comes perception. This perception, that it is a cleansing. So it becomes grace!

It is a reason for abasement for the congregation. She cannot end it with a mere gesture. She has to deal seriously with God’s wrath. All personnel of the temple are responsible for what happens in the forecourt. For that reason alone she well might bow down in the dust.

Now comes the riddle:
Why didst thou break its walls asunder?
All who pass by its fruits can plunder. (Ps. 80: 5)

That’s how it always will be: every oppression, every anxious time is the most trying for the house of God.

Normally God uses people for that purification. We should not forget that. Angels come to execute judgment in Ezekiel’s vision and they knew exactly who carried the sign of the cross. They knew very well who served God and who did not.

That is a vision! It is not that way in reality. In real life people are used and they specially like to go after those who do carry the mark. But if they are struck by the sword of men then they are spared from the sword of the angels and God’s purpose is reached that way. His congregation is purified.

It will also finally be that way on the last day. Then also the judgment will begin with the house of God. Whoever has lived in the congregation will be punished first and most thoroughly. All these things are mirrored throughout time. Again and again the maxim applies: judgment begins from God’s house.


So we come to our third thought; the starting time: the time of God.

Peter says, at this moment the time is ready for it. Now is the appropriate opportunity. The time determined in God’s counsel.
He is not saying that this is the time for it coincidently.
No, the time in which Peter lived was for him the time, he must suffer under such a judgment, also over God’s house.
And he then also warns his people.
Now it is only the people who trouble them, later it will the authorities.
Now it is still chiefly slander, enmity by words. Later however comes the sword, enmity by deed.
Now they are only wished to the stake or scaffold. Later they will be brought there.
Now it is still only slaves who are struck. Later it will come over everyone.

You see; Peter prepares them for what will come. And it is far from him to suggest that it will not be so bad.
Do you know why he speaks so?

Well, he knows the world. Just read chapter 5 verse 13: “She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you”. Apparently this letter was written from that Babylon. And Babylon here is not the fallen city at the Euphrates and Tigris, not the city where Nebuchadnezzar once reigned. You must understand this spiritually; it is Rome, the world city, Nero’s residence.
For in the same verse Mark is his son figuratively, so in the same sense Babylon is also figurative.

Rome! He calls it Babylon! Because in Scripture Babel is symbolic of the world power hostile to God. Babel speaks of great power, but also of bitter enmity. So, if Rome is Babel, it means that it will be a bad time for the congregation. Because this same Babel, or Rome, is a great power in Asia Minor, where the readers of this letter live. Babel exalts itself.
Hostility raises its head, it is the time! It is the time!

But that is not the only thing. The signs of the approaching evils lie not only within the world powers, but within the congregation itself. Incidents are exposed which make it necessary for God to purify with mighty winds that which is impure, to wipe out what is wrong.

The congregation itself gives reason for grievance. That Christians themselves provide reasons for complaint is clear from many developments. Instances of thievery become public. There were slaves who took their masters property for themselves. It even happened that one brother defrauded others in business matters and dared to threaten and trample upon them. (Eph. 4: 28, Titus 2: 10, 1 Thes. 4: 6). In short, things were happening which were punishable by a worldly judge.

Consequently consider Peter’s warning made earlier in verse 15: “but let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.” There were sometimes arrogant characters amongst them, who, after their conversion pushed themselves forward as unconsecrated pastors meddling themselves in everything. No, says Peter, if you must suffer then you do not suffer as a Christian but as a criminal.

There is a natural aversion of the world against the church, but the sins that are there in the world also appear in the congregation. This could not remain so; therefore it is the time!

Peter’s prediction did come about. And it was the time.

This letter was written in Rome, for Peter had gone there when Paul left Rome after his first imprisonment. Peter wanted to strengthen the Jewish Christian congregation there. He had come there in the fall of the year 63, or early in 64 A.D. He was not able to labor there for long, perhaps a year, or even half a year, because late in the year 64 he fell in the gardens of Rome as a sacrifice to the wrath of Nero. He was crucified, not upside down which is pure imagination, yet crucified. He was girded by another and brought where he did not desire to go. It seems as if he felt it coming : it is the time. So he wrote and a few months later the time was ready for him. Peter was crucified in the gardens of Agrippina and Domitian, now Nero’s property, amidst the mocking laughter of lascivious hetaeras, of drunken courtiers, of a grinning Nero!

And it didn’t just stay that way. Persecution broke out everywhere. Paul was later beheaded in the same city on the Via Ostensis. They were oppressed everywhere.
The judgment of the house of God had come and started. There was separation.
Many turned their backs to the congregation and went back to the contemporary world.
There was only a small flock left, refined, who would rather die than deny their Master.
Thus came purification and these times have now returned!
These times could be at hand for us!!

Today it is as in Peter’s days.

Babylon exalts itself. The world’s hate increases. In the (last four war years, 1st WW) last wars the bitter envy against everything Christian became more antagonistic. Socialism and anarchy raised their heads. Who will predict what the world will do shortly.

Sin becomes greater in the congregation! We also run into danger of suffering, not as Christians, but as evil doers!
Would you deny that also in the congregation shameful things have happened?
Infringement of government measures, so that another must suffer on account of it. If the socialist or anarchist grinds his teeth behind his sand truck, and if you walk by with a fine conscience, examine yourself before God, examine your conscience as to why he does so. Is it only because you are a Christian? Or is it because you also drive up the prices, avoid distribution laws, and by your gross egotism steal the bread from out of his mouth?
Is that suffering as a Christian or as a malefactor?

It is as in Ezekiel’s days; the mark was on the foreheads, but not on the doorposts.
Did that come to your attention? Twice in Holy Scripture, in the Old Testament, we find the sign of protection. The blood of the lamb on the doorposts in the night of the exodus from Egypt. The destruction passed by. In Ezekiel’s vision the sign was on the foreheads.

The sign on the doorposts had significance for the whole family.
But the mark on the foreheads only for the individual.
So it was in Paul’s day: not families, but individuals still carried the sign. One Christian did, the other did not. These were sorrowful circumstances.

So it is in our congregation.
So it is outside of it.
Where are the families who press the blood on the doorposts? You could count them!
The sign is carried on foreheads more and more, individually, not as family.
There are those who sigh, cry out.
But not communally, family life is being broken.

Therefore also it is the time, it can not delay!
Again the judgment must begin with the house of God.
Do we see that, also now?
Do we consider it, also now? Do we also act accordingly? Is the sign on our doorposts? We should not be satisfied with the sign being only on foreheads.

We must connect Ezekiel with Exodus! Doorpost and forehead.
Covenantal preaching and personal faith! Family and individual!
The judgment comes!
Only then will it be seen who still cry out and weep on account of the abominations.

Are you among them? Or will the judgment wash you away too? Do not say: I am in the house of God and so I am safe. Oh no! It is good to be in God’s house but the question is: in which direction is your countenance turned? Think of those old men Ezekiel speaks of in chapter nine. They were also in God’s house. But they stood with their backs to the sanctuary, with their faces toward the world god.

It can still be this way. Many are in the church, but stand with their back to God and their face directed to the gods of the age.

Have you come so far as to turn your face toward God’s sanctuary?
Only then will you receive a mark of protection.
Only those who weep over the abominations will receive it.
Complete security is assured only by that mark.

Office bearers may well be very careful. The first to fall were the old men! The nearer to the holy of holies the nearer to judgment! If we also stand with our backs to the sanctuary, who can become holy? Indeed, who are they who never stand with his face toward the sun and their back to God?

No one. Only one: Jesus Christ, who has came to the city, into the forecourt, into the temple. The command rang out; look to the sanctuary. Do not look to the east! And the east becomes lighter and the sanctuary ever darker, more threatening. Yet He remained obedient and therefore salvation is in Him, for looking to Christ is looking to God.

Young people, a distinct word for you. Would you leave? Look you have a place with the house of God. You also come here to make an offering. You also come here to close your eyes, or at least, you are present. You are taken up in God’s house.

I would warn you. I would not fill you with a vain hope. I will say to you: it is the time. It is the time now, it is the time before we know it. The time the judgment begins. And it will begin with the house of God! Do you know that?

God will cast off all that refuses Him. He will start at the house of God.

It is a glorious thing to stand in God’s house, if you love that house, if you belong to it. But it is terrible if you fake it.

What do you want? To stay? But the command will sound: kill them, kill men and women, kill all, who are in My house and who do not weep over the abominations.

What do you want now? To flee? To avoid the judgment that proceeds over that house? But then Peter’s words resound: ‘what will the end be of those who disobey the gospel?’

Look, that is now the worst of it. You can separate yourself from your baptism, tear yourself away from the church, it helps not at all. Judgment begins with the church, but it ends with those outside of it. The lightening goes through the church but it completely destroys the house of Satan.

Therefore say; (Ps. 142: 3, BoP)
They in my way have laid a snare.
I look, but none sees my despair;
I find no place of refuge near,
No friend to whom my life is dear.

And when you are there, then I will point out to you the way of salvation.

Look, when the lightening strikes the tower, it will touch some weathered stones and knock them down; splinter some moldy timbers, but the tower still stands. Why? Because there is a lightening rod! Return to God’s house. But then with repentance and sorrow. The lightening bolt of God’s wrath was shattered against Jesus Christ who acted as lightening rod for all sinners, so they could come out free.

Lightening searches the heights! And therefore the house of God! And when it strikes through the mountains it will break all the trees, shrivel every plant that has no depth of root. But the rock remains! Come and hide behind that Rock, Jesus Christ. There is safety, also in God’s house.

Look, when fire comes into God’s house it will consume everything which can be consumed: wood, hay and stubble. Yes, stubble! But deep under that house is the foundation Jesus Christ. The fire cannot reach there. Proceed to the depths. Come to Jesus Christ. Then you will not only say ‘I find no place of refuge near’, but also: (Ps. 142: 1, Bop)

With all my voice to God I cry;
I call upon the lord most high.
When cares with gloom encompass me,
The path I take is known to Thee.



(1) Sermon held on Sept. 22, 1918 in Vlaardingen.

(2) Text ~ 1 Peter 4: 17a
Read ~ Ezekiel 9
Sing ~ Ps. 60: 2, Ps. 149: 3, Ps. 101: 2, 6 Ps. 93: 4, Ps 142: 1, 2, 3 (B.ofP.)

Translated by John van Laar (2015)