What is Righteousness?
The Greek word that we translate as righteous is dike (pronounced, dee-kay). And while the ancient Greek meaning was tendency,the use of this word in the Bible implies justice and conformance to established standards. Justice means doing the right thing, and conformance to established standards (in the Bible) refers to following the ways of God. So, the word righteous can also be translated as just, since righteousness is so closely tied to justice.
Here are a few conclusions about what the Bible says is righteousness, and the scriptures from which these conclusions have been drawn:
If you really want to be righteous, you can be – Matthew 5:6: 'Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blest, because they will be satisfied.'
If you flaunt your righteousness, you won't receive a reward – Matthew 6:1:
'Be careful that you do not practice,
Your righteousness before other men,
So that they will see what you're doing…
Or you will receive no reward,
From your Father in heaven.'
Righteousness involves living for God's Kingdom – Matthew 6:33: '[If you] put the Kingdom and righteousness in first place, then all these [other] things will be given to you.'
The things you do prove whether you are righteous – Matthew 11:19: 'Wisdom is proven righteous by the things it does.'
The things that you say prove whether you are righteous – Romans 3:4: 'Your words can prove you righteous, and you can win when you're being judged.'
Someone who deliberately misleads other people can never be found righteous – Matthew 12:36:
'And I tell you that on the Judgment Day;
They'll have to answer for all the things,
Which they've said to lead others astray.'
Immoral, unclean, and greedy people will not be found righteous – Ephesians 5:5: 'All those who are immoral, unclean, and greedy (which really amounts to being an idol worshiper) won't have any inheritance in the Kingdom of God and the Anointed One.'
To be counted righteous, you must treat other righteous people very well – Matthew 25:37-40: 'Then the righteous will ask, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison, and come to you? And the king will say to them, I tell you the truth; When you did it for one of the least of these my brothers, you did it for me.'
Righteous people are at peace with others – James 3:18: 'The seeds of the fruit of righteousness are planted in peace by those who are making peace.'
You have to be an honest judge to be found righteous – John 7:24: 'Quit judging from the way things look on the surface; judge righteously!'
Righteousness involves standing up for right things, even if that invites persecution – Acts 4:19, 20: 'If it's righteous in God's eyes to listen to you instead of to God, judge for yourselves. But we can't stop talking about the things we've seen and heard.'
A righteous person has faith in God and His promises – Romans 3:28: 'We believe that a man is called righteous due to his faith, so he doesn't have to follow the Law.'
True righteousness requires more than just faith – James 2:24: 'A man is pronounced righteous by the things that he does, not by his faith alone.'
To be counted as righteous, you can't be immoral or continue in a sinful course – Romans 6:12-14: 'Therefore, don't allow sin to rule your mortal bodies and don't obey its desires anymore… don't offer your body parts as unrighteous weapons of sin! Rather, offer yourselves to The God as people who've been made alive from among those [who are] dead; and [offer] your body parts to The God as weapons of righteousness! So, sin must not be your master; because, you aren't under Law, you're under [God's] loving care.'
Most people in the world aren't considered righteous – 1 Corinthians 6:1: 'Would any of you who think you have been [wronged] by another dare to take it to court [to be tried by] unrighteous men, rather than by the Holy Ones?'
Although faith is required to prove ourselves righteous, speaking about what we believe is what saves us – Romans 10:10: 'It is this belief in your heart that makes you righteous, but it's your mouth, when it confesses this, that brings salvation.'
If you aren't severely persecuted for being righteous, you won't be accepted in God's Kingdom – Matthew 5:10: 'Those who have been persecuted for doing what is right are blest, because the Kingdom of the Heavens belongs to them.'
Also, to see what the Bible says about specific matters having to do with sexual relationships, see the linked document Christian Morality.
The Greek word for unrighteous is adike. Yet, this word doesn't necessarily imply badness, it only indicates that the person hasn't met the requirements of being righteous. This is why many of such ones will be resurrected; for, Paul said (at Acts 24:15): 'There's going to be a resurrection of the righteous and of the unrighteous.'
Yet, unrighteous people won't immediately 'inherit God's Kingdom' upon their resurrection, as do the righteous (see Matthew 25:34); for, notice what Paul wrote at 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10: 'Don't you know that the unrighteous won't inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't make any mistakes about this: Sexually immoral people, idol worshipers, adulterers, gays, men who have sex with men, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, insulters, and extortionists, won't inherit God's Kingdom.'
However, there appear to be several levels of unrighteousness, and not all of the unrighteous will be resurrected.
For, notice what Psalm 1:4-6 tells us:
'But, for the impious this won't be so;
For, they're like the dust that's blown 'cross the earth.
So, they won't be raised in the Judgment,
Nor will sinners see the [blessings] on the righteous;
For, Jehovah knows what the righteous have done;
But, the ways of the impious will perish.'
The Greek word that was translated as impious above, asebe, appears to imply a person who knows God and what He requires, but disrespectfully chooses not to do what is right. Certainly those who are guilty of asebe know God; for in the Proverbs, Solomon mentions their offering Him faulty gifts. Asebe is a difficult word to translate with any clarity, because in an irreverent society, irreverence and its synonym impious, are passé.
In the poetic Bible books (such as Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations) we find the word asebe contrasted with righteousness. And at times, it not only implies disrespect for God, but also disrespect for other humans. So, depending on the need and the implication, we have translated it as irreverent, impious, and disrespectful.
Many of the Scribes and Pharisees were like that; for, Jesus said of them (at Matthew 23:15): 'So, woe to you scribes and Pharisees – you hypocrites! Because, you travel land and sea to make a single convert; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of the garbage dump (gr. Gehenna) as yourselves!'
Understand that Gehenna is the name of the valley which served as the garbage dump outside the walls of Jerusalem in Jesus' time, and it appears as though his use of this term implied that such individuals (the irreverent Scribes and Pharisees) could not expect a resurrection… that they will just be gone like garbage that is burned in a fire. For more information on this, see the linked document, 'Is there a Burning Hell?'
We can see the difference between those whom God considers unrighteous and those who, He considers irreverent in the ways that the ancient royalty of Judah and Israel were treated when they died. Most were said to have been buried with their fathers… implying that they had gone to the common grave of mankind (gr. hades) where they would await a resurrection (see Revelation 20:13). However, dogs ate wicked Queen Jezebel, and the implication (by God's causing this to happen) is that she was just gone and would never live again. She was wicked (gr. ponerou), and there is no hope for those who remain wicked.
Ponerou is the Greek word most commonly translated as wicked, and it refers to those who are willfully bad;
so, like the asebe (irreverent), they are undeserving of a resurrection. Yet, this condemned condition isn't irreversible; because, at Isaiah 1:16,
such ones are urged to:
'Bathe yourselves and get clean!
Remove your wicked lives from My eyes!
Stop being bad and learn to do good;
Insist on [judgments that are] fair;
Rescue those who've been wronged;
Give decisions [in favor of] orphans, as well as justice to widows…
Then you can come and plead before me, says Jehovah.
And if your sins should be crimson red;
As white as snow, [I will make them].
And even if they are like scarlet,
I'll make them as white as fine wool.'
The Greek word for bad is kakia, and it may imply the same thing as being evil. Notice what we are told about the fate of the bad at Proverbs 6:14-18: 'He plans to do bad, since his heart is perverted, and he brings disturbance to his own town. But, because of this, his death will come soon… he'll be cut off and not be brought back… because, he rejoices at things that God hates. He's destroyed, because his life is unclean… because his eyes are insulting… because his tongue is unrighteous… because his hands have shed righteous blood… because his heart conspires to do bad, and his feet run to do evil.'
The Greek word for foul is almost the same as in English, phaulos (fowl-os), and it means worthless, wicked, or base. We do know that some of the foul will be resurrected, since Jesus said at John 5:28, 29: 'Don't be surprised at this, because the hour is coming when everyone in the tombs will hear his voice and come out; those who did good things to a resurrection of life, and those who practiced what is foul to a resurrection of judgment.'
And while some think that these verses are speaking of the separating of the dead after the resurrection and the two outcomes thereafter, this doesn't seem likely; for, notice what Jesus said at John 6:40: 'This is what my Father's Will is: that everyone who pays close attention to the Son and believes in him should have age-long life (gr. zoe aionos), and I will resurrect him on the Last Day.'
So, those who pay close attention (or obey) and believe in Jesus appear to be already considered among the 'living.' For, notice what Jesus said (about God) at Matthew 22:32: 'He isn't the God of the dead, but of the living.' As the result, it appears as though, when 'the living' are resurrected, theirs is likely the 'resurrection of life.' Whereas the unrighteous and foul are considered dead in the eyes of God; so, theirs may be a resurrection during a period when they will have to undergo judgment.
Several other Greek words are used to describe the unrighteous in the Bible, and we won't attempt to show the outcome for each of them, because the Bible doesn't tell us any more. These words are:
Anomia – lawbreakers
Hamartia – sinners
Athiest – those who don't believe in God.
The outcome of unrighteousness is death; for, Romans 1:28-32 tells us: 'He gave them an unrighteous mind, which makes them do things that are wrong. They are filled with unrighteousness, wickedness, greediness, badness, envy, murder, arguments, deceit, bad manners, and gossip. [They are] slanderers, God haters, insolent, proud, braggers, inventors of badness, disobedient to parents, without any understanding, agreement breakers, without any natural feelings, and merciless. Although they know the righteous ways of God very well – and that those who do such things deserve death – they not only keep on doing them, but they also approve of others who do such things.'
So, all forms of unrighteousness are mentioned in the above scripture, both the lesser wickedness of those who will be resurrected, and the greater wickedness of those who won't be. However, they are all considered the dead.
The Scriptures show that unrighteous acts include:
Having bad manners (being rude)
Not believing in God (atheism)
Being responsible for any badness
Being disobedient to one's parents
Refusing to be reasonable
Not honoring agreements
Not loving your family (gr. astorge)
Not being merciful
Being sexually immoral
Being an angry person.
Armageddon – When?
False Anointed and False Prophets
God's Laws and Principles
Gog of Magog
Jerusalem and 'the Israel of God'
The Bible's Internal Proof of its Authentic History
The Faithful and Sensible Slave
The Great Tribulation
The Mark of the Beast
The New Covenant
The Passover and the Lord's Evening Meal
The Sheep and the Goats
The Trinity Doctrine
What is Truth?
Who Was Jesus?