Shall judge the world—A great variety of interpretations has been given to this passage. Grotius supposes it means that they shall be first judged by Christ, and then act as assessors to him in the judgment, or join with him in condemning the wicked; and he appeals to Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30, where Christ says that they which have followed him should “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” See the note at Matt. 19:28. Whitby supposes that it means that Christians are to judge or condemn the world by their example, or that there shall be Christian magistrates, according to the prophecy of Isaiah Isa. 49:23, and Daniel Dan. 7:18—Rosenm'fcller supposes it means that Christians are to judge the errors and sins of people pertaining to religion, as in 1 Cor. 2:13, 16; and that they ought to be able, therefore, to judge the smaller matters pertaining to this life. Bloomfield, and the Greek fathers, and commentators, suppose that this means, that the saints will furnish matter to condemn the world; that is, by their lives and example they shall be the occasion of the greater condemnation of the world. But to this there are obvious objections:
(1) It is an unusual meaning of the word “judge.”
(2) it does not meet the case before us.
The apostle is evidently saying that Christians will occupy so high and important a station in the work of judging the world that they ought to be regarded as qualified to exercise judgment on the things pertaining to this life; but the fact that their holy lives shall be the occasion of the deeper condemnation of the world does not seem to furnish any plain reason for this—To the opinion, also, of Whitby, Lightfoot, Vitringa, etc. that it refers to the fact that Christians would be magistrates, and governors, etc. according to the predictions of Isaiah and Daniel, there are obvious objections:
(1) The judgment to which Paul in this verse refers is different from that pertaining to things of this life 1 Cor. 6:3, but the judgment which Christian magistrates would exercise, as such, would relate to them.
(2) it is not easy to see in this interpretation how, or in what sense, the saints shall judge the angels, 1 Cor. 6:3, the common interpretation, that of Grotius, Beza, Calvin, Doddridge, etc. is that it refers to the future judgment, and that Christians will on that day be employed in some manner in judging the world.
That this is the true interpretation, is apparent for the following reasons:
(1) It is the obvious interpretation—that which will strike the great mass of people, and is likely, therefore, to be the true one.
(2) it accords with the account in Matt. 19:28, and Luke 22:30.
(3) it is the only one which gives a fair interpretation to the declaration that the saints should judge angels in 1 Cor. 6:3. If asked “in what way” this is to be done, it may be answered, that it may be meant simply that Christians shall be exalted to the right hand of the Judge, and shall encompass his throne; that they shall assent to, and approve of his judgment, that they shall be elevated to a post of honor and favor, as if they were associated with him in the Judgment. They shall then he regarded as his friends, and express their approbation, and that “with a deep sense of its justice,” of the condemnation of the wicked. Perhaps the idea is, not that they shall “pronounce” sentence, which will be done by the Lord Jesus, but that they shall then be qualified to see the justice of the condemnation which shall be passed on the wicked; they shall have a clear and distinct view of the case; they shall even see the propriety of their everlasting punishment, and shall not only approve it, but be qualified to enter into the subject, and to pronounce upon it intelligently. And the argument of the apostle is, that if they would be qualified to pronounce on the eternal doom of men and angels; if they had such views of justice and right, and such integrity as to form an opinion and express it in regard to the everlasting destiny of an immense host of immortal beings, assuredly they ought to be qualified to express their sense of the smaller transactions in this life, and pronounce an opinion between man and man.
Are ye unworthy—Are you disqualified.
The smallest matters—Matters of least consequence—matters of little moment, scarcely worth naming compared with the great and important realities of eternity. The “smallest matters” here mean, the causes, suits, and litigations relating to property, etc.
“God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment” (2 Pet. 2:4).
The word translated “hell” is tartaros in the Greek New Testament and is found only here. It is possible that tartaros is a special place in Gehenna.
“And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 1:6).
(6 The reference to angels “who did not keep their proper domain” corresponds to Peter’s reference to the same event (see 2 Pet 2:4, note). The pre-cosmic fall of Satan (noted typologically in Isa. 14 and Ezek. 28) included a sizable contingent of angels who followed him (possibly one third, cf. Rev 12:4). Some of these have been reserved in chains awaiting the concluding judgment of all angels (cf. 1 Cor 6:3), while others remain active agents of Satan.)
According to Paul, the believer will take part in the passing of judgment upon fallen angels. (See 1 Cor. 6:3.)
Believers will one day even judge angels. Scripture is not clear as to which
angels we will judge. The fallen angels will be judged by the Lord (2 Pet. 2:4;
Jude 6), but we are not told if believers will participate in that judgment. The
Greek (krinoô) for judge can also mean “to rule or govern.” That certainly
would be the meaning if we are to have authority over the holy angels, for they
will have no sin for which to be condemned. One cannot be dogmatic, but I am
inclined to think that glorified believers will help judge the fallen angels and
exercise some rule over the holy angels. If Christ was exalted above all the
angels (Eph. 1:20-23), if we are in Him and are like Him, and if we are to reign
with Him, it must be that somehow we will share in His authority. Whatever the
sphere and extent of that heavenly judgment or ruling, Paul’s point here is the
same: If we are to judge and rule over the world and over angels in the age to
come, we are surely able, under the guidance of Scripture and the Holy Spirit, to
settle any matters of disagreement among ourselves today.
Know ye not that we shall judge angels?—Dr. Lightfoot observes that “the apostle does not say here, as he said before, the saints shall judge the angels, but We shall judge them. By angels, all confess that demons are intended; but certainly all saints, according to the latitude with which that word is understood, i.e. all who profess Christianity, shall not judge angels. Nor is this judging of angels to be understood of the last day; but the apostle speaks of the ministers of the Gospel, himself and others, who, by the preaching of the Gospel, through the power of Christ, should spoil the devils of their oracles and their idols, should deprive them of their worship, should drive them out of their seats, and strip them of their dominion. Thus would God subdue the whole world under the Christian power, so that Christian magistrates should judge men, and Christian ministers judge devils.”