on the day when God, through Jesus Christ,a will judge what people have kept secret, just as I proclaim in my good news. Bible see other translations
Lit. “the Anointed One”

“through Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ stands at the right hand of God and in true oriental fashion is the agent through whom God acts. Just as Pharaoh ruled Egypt through Joseph (“Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt’” Gen. 41:44) so God rules and judges through Jesus Christ. Jesus knew this was going to be the case even before his death and resurrection, so he said, “…the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22; cp. Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:16). When Christ spoke about his return, he said, “he” would repay people for what they had done (Matt. 16:27).

There are many verses in the Bible that point to the fact that on the Day of Judgment, people will have to give an account of how they have lived. This is not just a New Testament revelation; it occurs throughout the Bible. For example, Ecclesiastes 12:14 says, “For God will bring everything we do into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil.” Jesus taught that people will have to give an account for what they say (Matt. 12:36). Many verses say the same thing (e.g., Eccles. 11:9; 12:14; Matt. 12:36; 16:27; Rom. 2:16; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Pet. 4:4-5).

[For more on the Judgment, see commentary on Rom. 14:12. For more on the fact that on Judgment Day people will get what they deserve, see commentary on 2 Cor. 5:10.]

“will judge.” The Greek verb, though translated as future (“will”), is actually in the present tense. This is known as the futuristic present,a which is the figure of speech heterosis, a switching of tenses for effect. Most versions, as the REV does, simply translate the verb according to its future tense meaning rather than its present tense form.

“what people have kept secret.” The Greek is more literally, “the secret things of people” since “secret” is an adjective. The genitive is a genitive of possession, i.e., the secret things held by people. It is prideful and futile to have secrets, a “secret life,” or to do things “behind closed doors.” God sees all and will judge all—this is promised. For the righteous, God’s exposure of evil is a great hope, because so much that happens in life must surely be the result of deliberate deception and threats and backroom deals done by evil people. For the evil person, the idea that God will expose and punish evil should shake them to the core of their being, but they will not come to the light and be reformed. They await their punishment.

“just as I proclaim in my good news.” The Greek is more literally translated “according to [or in accord with] my Good News.” However, that construction can be misunderstood to mean that Paul’s “Good News” is the standard by which God judges, which is not the case. Lenski notes the possible confusion and writes: “This is not saying that the gospel or “my gospel” will be the norm (κατά) of the final judgment; the norm is God’s own righteousness.”b God judges by His righteous standard, which is what Paul’s Good News states and consists of. The NIV translation has picked up on the problem and made a translation that avoids it. “This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.” This verse is a good example of when the usual way of translating κατά into English, which is “according to” or “in accord with,” can cause confusion, and an alternate translation that expresses the meaning of the Greek should be sought.

cp. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 535-37.
Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, 174.

Commentary for: Romans 2:16