Biff Tannen and the Resurrection of Judgement

This is Biff Tannen.  Remember Biff? He’s the nemesis of Marty McFly in the Back to the Future series from the 80s. There’s something disturbing about the alternative universe in Back to The Future II in which Biff has gotten his hands onto the future sports almanac that gives all of the sporting results still to come, and by which, through placing sure-fire bets, Biff takes over the town of Hill Valley. The place looks eerily familiar to Marty McFly, but everything – and everyone – has been infused with either relentless evil or hopeless despair.  It kinda looks like life with all the good sucked out of it – more of a Hell Valley than a Hill Valley.  Since then whenever I conjure a picture of the horror of hell, it is often accompanied by images of Hill Valley in Back to the Future II.

Why do I raise this issue? Because once again I have been struck by these words from John’s Gospel:

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice  and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)

We talk a lot about the resurrection and rightly so, because it is the raison d’etre for believing.  No resurrection? Why bother, says Paul in 1Cor15.

But what about the resurrection of judgement?  Here in John 5 Jesus explicitly states that there exists a ghoulish flipside to the glory of the resurrection of life, and that is the shame of the resurrection of judgement.  Whatever image an unglorified resurrection body raises in your mind, I guess our zombie movies (think “28 Days Later” as well as Back to the Future II- Ed) can only touch on the horror. All that talk of Jesus about undying worms and unsatisfied flames?  Simple metaphors that barely touch on the real horror of hell – unending existence without the ability to sate any evil desire, or cherish any good desire.

What does this resurrection of judgement tell us?  At least this:  We may bring secrets to our graves with us, but in our graves they will not remain – our secrets WILL be dug up.  “For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God” Paul says in Romans 14, in order to “give an account.”  Perhaps the OT shadow of this reality is the announcement to King David that the sin he did in secret will be done on his very rooftop “before Israel and all the sun”, as Nathan so eloquently puts it. What David had to experience in this age – the shame of his sin being dug up for a season to be paraded before the world – will be experienced into eternity in the flipside of the age-to-come.

A sobering thought on a Monday morning, I know, but I suspect nothing else in our day to day lives will warn us of this coming reality (TV? err, no. Facebook? errr, no. Shopping channel? err, no.)





  1. Hi Steve thanks for this entry. I was actually going to talk to you about this topic. I have a JW friend who has a different idea about the Resurrection of judgement, believing that because the wages of sin is death, once you die you are back to nil all and basically have a second chance. They could not understand why God would resurrect someone just to judge them. But it does sound pretty clear in this passage.

    What is your view on people being given a ‘second chance’ (thinking more about in Rev)- for those who haven’t had a chance to hear about Jesus in their lifetime?

    Also this passage talks about being judged for what we have done- where does faither/grace come into this?

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