lady justice

Down through the ages there has been a parade of great empire builders, great monument builders, great conquerors, great administrators, and great leaders-all these so labeled by the world’s standard of “greatness”:

      The Egyptian Rameses the Great

      The Persian Cyrus the Great

      The Macedonian Alexander the Great

      The Greek/Seleucid Antiochus the Great

      The Roman Pompey the Great

      The Idumean/Judean Herod the Great

      The Roman/Byzantine Constantine the Great

      The Frank Charles the Great (“Charlemagne”)

      The Russian Peter the Great

      The Russian Catherine the Great

      and many others called “the Great.”

Among the truly noble and great ones, the holy men of God called prophets, some of the top ten could consist of the following:

      Adam the Great

      Enoch the Great

      Noah the Great

      Melchizedek the Great

      Abraham the Great

      Joseph the Great

      Moses the Great

      Isaiah the Great

      Peter the Great

      Joseph Smith the Great     

and many others. For example, Abraham (3:22) saw many of the noble and great ones, and Joseph F. Smith saw the great and mighty ones (D&C 138:38), the noble and great ones (138:55).

In the end, looking all through history, the only real, appropriate one to receive the title “the Great” would be the Savior of us all: “Jesus the Great.” But that sounds silly. There is no human vocabulary, no titles or acclamations that adequately describe Him.

Of course the Lord Jesus Christ is great in every sense of the word, and everything He has done for us and given to us is great, as the scriptures attest:

      The Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God (Deut. 10:17)

      Who is so great a God as our God? (Psalm 77:13)

      Great is our Lord, and of great power (Psalm 147:5)

      Great is the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 12:6)

      Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty (Revelation 15:3)

      What great things the Lord hath done for us (1 Nephi 7:11)

      Jesus Christ, the Great I AM (D&C 38:1; also 29:1; 39:1)

      Great is his wisdom (D&C 76:2)

      Great and marvelous are the works of the Lord (D&C 76:114)

      The great sacrifice of the Son of God (D&C 138:13)

The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob recorded these ecstatic and exultant expressions:

      O how great the goodness of our God (2 Nephi 9:10)

      O how great the plan of our God! (9:13)

      O the greatness and the justice of our God! (9:17)

      O the greatness of the mercy of our God (9:19)

      O how great the holiness of our God! (9:20)

This is devotional literature at its finest. Jacob is proclaiming with all the reverential vocabulary he can muster that God is great. “O” is awe!

As New Testament writers testify, the Creator and Lord of all the earth, Jesus Christ, is greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11), greater than Jacob (John 4:12), greater than Abraham (John 8:53), greater than Jonah (Matthew 12:41), greater than Solomon (Matthew 12:42), greater than the Temple (Matthew 12:6), and greater than the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8). He is, indeed, “the greatest of all” (D&C 19:18).

We can sing, proclaim, and bear witness, with full purpose of heart, “How great Thou art!”

The final court scene: our arraignment before the great God

Several years ago, in honor of the graduation of my son-in-law from Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark Law School, I studied all the terms I could find in the scriptures related to the great court scene of the Final Judgment: “Advocate”; “arraign”; “bar”; “judge”; “the last judgment”; “Jesus Christ, Judge”; “judgment seat”; “throne”; and “tribunal.”

As Bible-readers are aware, there will be an arraignment of all humankind before the God of heaven. John the Revelator wrote: “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12).

The Book of Mormon adds: “Out of the books which have been written, and which shall be written, shall this people be judged . . . and behold, all things are written by the Father; therefore out of the books which shall be written shall the world be judged” (3 Nephi 27:25-26).

According to the many scriptures I examined, there are two different, perhaps complementary, scenes. The first is the presentation of every soul before the bench of the great Judge, who is the Son of God. The second is the presentation of every soul before the Father, with our Savior as our Advocate, pleading our case before the Father. Here are some details of the two scenes:

Scene 1: Every child of God standing before the great Judge, the Firstborn Son of God.

“All people, and all kindreds, and all nations and tongues shall stand before God, to be judged of their works” (3 Nephi 26:4). The bench or rostrum before which all will stand is called in the scriptures:

      judgment bar                 2 Nephi 33:15; also Mosiah 16:10; Alma 12:12 – and we

                                          will all have to pass this “bar exam”

      judgment seat               Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; also Book of Mormon

                                          title page; 2 Nephi 33:7; 3 Nephi28:31; Mormon 3:20, 22;

                                          6:21; 7:6; Ether 12:38; Moroni8:21

      throne                           all will “stand before the throne of God, and be judged” –

                                          2 Nephi 28:23; also Jacob 3:8

      tribunal                         “Can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of

                                          God with your souls filled with guilt . . .” – Alma 5:18

The words “stand before” are frequently used throughout scripture to describe our physical position before the Judge.  And who will be the Judge? He is variously entitled in holy writ. All will “stand before the bar of God” (Mosiah 16:10); “they must appear before the judgment-seat of the Holy One of Israel” (2 Nephi 9:15)-and who is the Holy One of Israel? “Ye must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ” (Mormon 3:20).Further clarification is given of the exact identity of the Judge: “the Son of God . . . will come to redeem his people, and . . . shall suffer and die to atone for their sins; and . . . he shall rise again .

. . that all men shall stand before him, to be judged” (Alma 33:22). “I AM Alpha and Omega, Christ the Lord . . . and the last great day of judgment . . . I shall pass upon the inhabitants [of the earth], judging every man according to his works” (D&C 19:1, 3). The Beloved John gives the most direct statement in scripture about who our Judge will be: “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22).

Scene 2: Every child of God standing before the Father, with our Savior as our Advocate, pleading our case before the Father.

Jesus Christ explained that all children of God shall be “lifted up by the Father, to stand before me [the Son], to be judged . . . I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged . . . whoso repenteth and is baptized . . . if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world” (3 Nephi 27:14-16). Jesus “hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men . . . For he hath answered the ends of the law, and he claimeth all those who have faith in him . . . wherefore he advocateth the cause of the children of men” (Moroni 7:27-28). “As many as have believed in my name, for I am Christ, and in mine own name, by the virtue of the blood which I have spilt, have I pleaded before the Father for them” (D&C 38:4). And again, He declares, “I am your advocate with the Father” (D&C 110:4).

An advocate is one who pleads another’s cause and intercedes on behalf of that person. In this great, final Court scene the Savior announces His intention to defend the righteous: “Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him-Saying [and here is the Savior’s argument, His case for us!]: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life” (D&C 45:3-5).

There is one seeming discrepancy in the identification of the great and eternal Judge. Most passages of scripture, as clearly noted above, specify the Son of God as the ultimate Judge, but there are two passages that seem to suggest that more of the Gods are involved: “These are they [candidates for the celestial kingdom] whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all” (D&C 76:68). And while describing the future resurrection and restoration of the body and spirit of each child of God, Alma declares: “This restoration shall come to all . . . every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame . . . and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God [or Godhead], to be judged according to their works” (Alma 11:44).

Most scriptural comments on the Final Judgment identify Christ, the Son of God, as the great Judge, but Alma seems to suggest that all three members of the Godhead are involved. This seeming contradiction may be resolved by understanding the different but united roles of all the Godhead in all stages of the plan of salvation. The Son of God was the grand Creator of all things in our “heavens and earth,” although all creations are also attributed to the Father; they are the Father’s creations, but He accomplished them by and through His Beloved Son.

So, who is the real Creator, the Father or the Son? The answer is, yes. The Father is the Creator of all things, but the Son actually performed the creative labor, so the Son is the Creator. On this earth, the Father’s words are declared to all His children, but all the words come through the Son, and through the Holy Ghost. In the next life, the Father is the great and final Judge, but He has committed all judgment to His Son, so the Son is also labeled the great and final Judge.

During this scriptural study I noticed two interesting and ironic “asides”: “The Lamb of God . . . was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world” (1 Nephi 11:32). In the next stage of our eternal existence, that scene will be totally reversed. The world will be taken by the Lamb of God, and the Son of the everlasting God will judge them.

Also, John recorded that Pontius Pilate “brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat” (John 19:13). That scene will also be reversed. Jesus will one day bring Pontius Pilate forth, and He, the most just and merciful Judge, will sit down in the judgment seat.

What days in Court those will be!