Unlike people who suffer for doing what is right, whoever continues in unabated sinful behavior will give an account to God. Peter made several important points about the Lord in His role as judge.
1 Peter 4:1-6 Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same understanding —because the one who suffers in the flesh is finished with sin — 2 in order to live the remaining time in the flesh no longer for human desires, but for God’s will. 3 For there has already been enough time spent in doing what the Gentiles choose to do: carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you don’t join them in the same flood of wild living—and they slander you. 5 They will give an account to the one who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this reason the gospel was also preached to those who are now dead, so that, although they might be judged in the flesh according to human standards, they might live in the spirit according to God’s standards.
- First, God is the one who will judge. While the phrase one who stands is a single Greek word, it does not eliminate the truth that no one is eligible to judge but the Lord. Even believers are not in a position to judge one another (Luke 6:37). God is the Righteous Judge who will render justice on the works of human beings, whether they are good or evil.
- The second truth of Peter’s statement demonstrates that God is ready to judge. Paul declared we all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). However, unbelievers will have a more stringent time at the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-12). God’s judgment for people who have rejected His law and His Son will be severe, while His reward for His followers will be blessed (11:18). In each case, God’s judgment is impartial, not showing favoritism or partiality toward any person or people group (1 Pet. 1:17).
The idea that God stands ready speaks to His impending judgment. We cannot presume on God’s patience and continue in sin with impunity. James warned that “the judge stands at the door” (James 5:9). At any moment God could bring judgment on the entire world through Christ’s second coming or on any individual through death.