(1 Pet. 4:17) Will Christians be judged?

CLAIM: Peter writes, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God” (1 Pet. 4:17). Does the Bible teach that Christians will experience judgment?

RESPONSE: The Bible nowhere teaches that Christians will experience the wrath of God in judgment (Rom. 8:1). In 1 Peter 4:17, this Greek word for “judgment” (krima) can also refer to physical judgment or discipline. For instance, Paul uses this word in this way in 1 Corinthians 11:32, where God is physically disciplining the believers because of sin in their lives.

The suffering can’t be going to hell, because the contrast is with the non-believer (vv.17-18). The “judgment” must refer to suffering—whether self-inflicted (v.15) or from persecution (v.16, 19). Since the context of this passage is persecution—not the final judgment, Peter must have this same physical connotation in mind. Carson explains,

Several explanations have been advanced, but the most credible is that the word for “judgment” (krima) in this context refers not to condemnation and punishment, as it often does (e.g., Rom. 3:8; Gal. 5:10; 2 Pet. 2:3), but rather to the process of judgment, “the action of a judge” (BDAG 567).[1]

In the context, Peter is trying to compare Christian suffering with those who are persecuting Christians. At the end of this verse, he writes, “If it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” In a sense, Peter is saying: “If you think what is happening to us is bad, wait until you see what happens to them!”

[1] Beale, G. K., & Carson, D. A. (2007). Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament (1041–1042). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos.