Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment
Psalm 1:5 ESV
After giving a three-verse portrait of the blessed, the psalmist gave a terse contrasting image of the wicked. Unlike the blessed, they do not delight in and meditate upon God’s Word; thus, they are not rooted in eternal truth like trees beside streams of water as the blessed are. Rather, they are like chaff that the wind drives away. ‘Therefore,’ the psalmist continues, ‘the wicked will not stand in the judgment.’
While there can be any number of judgments that the LORD pours out upon the wicked in this life, the psalmist likely has the final judgment in mind, the day when “God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Elsewhere, Scripture calls this the Day of the LORD. Under the new covenant, we know it also as the return of our Lord, the second coming of Christ. John records his vision of that day:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated upon it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 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… And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.Revelation 20:11-12, 15
If the wicked were inanimate objects that were allowed to simply melt away, they would certainly do as the earth and sky will do on that day. But we humans are not objects to be erased and recreated. We are moral agents. Dust, yes, but dust animated by God’s own breath and formed in His image. Therefore, even as the earth and sky flee God’s mighty throne of judgment, all people will be summoned to Him to face judgment.
On that day, the blessed will stand before the great I Am and be welcomed into eternal joy, not through any righteousness of their own, but because their names are written in the book of life by the grace and merit of Christ. The wicked, however, will not be able to stand before the Holy One’s face. All of their sinful thoughts, words, and deeds will testify against them, and since they did not set their hope upon Christ, they will be taken down into death everlasting.
Although we may lament the prosperity of the wicked, let us keep the day of judgment ever before our eyes. In Psalm 73, Asaph began to envy the wicked, who seem to have no trouble at all, yet when he went to the sanctuary of God, he was reminded anew that the LORD establishes the wicked “in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin” (Psalm 73:16). As a Puritan writer noted, the fattened calf appears for a while to have everything that it could desire, yet it does not know that it is ripe for the slaughter. So, it is with the prosperity of the wicked; it only fattens them for the soon coming day of judgment.