The Judicial System in the Kingdom of God

In speaking about rights, we immediately stumble into conversations about justice and injustice. We have no choice but to inspect institutions and structures of implementation and the great conceptions of justice that guide it all.

In some ways, I've been writing backwards because I started with individual rights without mentioning in great detail its context amongst people and a judicial system. Personal rights have no meaning unless in relation to a society or a community. This is different than saying they do not exist! God gave us human rights, but its great purpose is found in understanding community or a Kingdom. Let's look at that.

Justice Attributes Rights

John Rawls, one of the most important legal philosophers ever, once said that

"A set of principles is required for choosing among the various social arrangements which determine this division of advantages and for underwriting an agreement on the proper distributive shares."

This might sound confusing but it isn't. What is being said is that justice is made up of a set of principles that govern how all people will be treated. This in turn can be speaking of human rights that a community recognizes and wants an institution to protect. Hence justice is the protection of those rights.

So a Kingdom or community not only recognizes particular rights but also ascribes some legislative rights to its members. Like maybe the right to appeal a judicial verdict. This is a right we see both in the Kingdom of God and some kingdoms or communities on the earth. But there are some sharp contrasts in the "set of principles" that make up what justice means.

Justice Across Kingdoms

Justice does not look the same in the Kingdom of God as it does everywhere else. Let's break this down. In the judicial systems around the world we see retributive justice. This means that there are winners and losers. There is one who is violated or wronged and the other must pay.

It might seem easy to see how this comes up from the Scripture. Speaking of a man caught stealing Proverbs says "Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house." And more Old Testament verses speak of how one must pay for their actions. I would argue this is not the full understanding of justice for God because of the very words and actions of Jesus.

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. Matt 18:21-22

Justice in God's Kingdom

Jesus explains that forgiveness or restorative justice is the highest virtue in the system. Justice is restoration and reconciliation between two parties! This is seen on the Cross where God gave up His right to punish us as retributive justice.

God was offended and as a Holy God even wanted to punish all sinners. Yet the highest principle of justice was not punishment for wrongdoings, it was restoring relationship and community. This is why we see that Jesus presents a blueprint in Matthew 18:15-17. We see an appeal system that's end is to try and make brothers reconciled. Giving up is only viable when after all roads are lost, one prefers to keep his offense over his brother.


Now this is no easy pill to swallow. And this does not negate the areas where God will act retributively. The Bible is replete of Him exposing sin, and judging those who have not repented and believed on Jesus according to their works.

This more than anything should reveal the way we understand relationship and the Kingdom of God with one another. Paul was mad at the Corinthians for acting like the world in their judicial habits. God will judge the earth and those kingdoms according to the measure they use. This is why it is important we understand the Kingdom of heaven and how we should judge.