For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?1 Peter 4:17(NASB)
Many consider that when Peter said, "it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God," he was referring to God's judgement falling on the physical House of God in Jerusalem, in AD 70. Indeed, Ezekiel 9:6 describes such a judgement spreading out from there.
A great and terrible judgement did befall the Jewish Temple and God's chosen people, as Christ had warned, for the Temple was destroyed and not one stone was left upon another, after Israel rejected their King and crucified their Messiah. The judgement which started in Jerusalem in AD70, will be completed at the Great White Throne of Christ.
In context, however, "the household of God" refers to Christians in this Church age. We are the household of God and we have a living hope, because an innocent Substitute was judged in our place, and suffered God's wrath in our stead.
We have become living stones who are being built up into the dwelling place of God, but each member is being fashioned and formed through the difficulties, dangers, trials, and tribulation of this present evil age. However, the sufferings we now face are used by our Heavenly Father as a chastening rod to refine and perfect us, to discipline and purify us.
Our sins were judged at the Cross (past) and our works will one day be tried by fire at the Bema Seat of Christ (future) but during our present time on earth, we are being 'judged' by an unbelieving generation, and the sufferings we undergo are for Christ's dear name's sake.
Jesus warned us that in this world we would have tribulation. We would be hated by all men because we are His people: "They hated (judged) Me without a cause," Jesus warns us, "and they will hate (or judge) you too, because of Me."
The harsh judgement that the unbelieving world meets out to Christ's followers can even be considered beautified, for God uses the evils we undergo to hone us and refine us. However, the judgement of the unbelieving world was set in motion when they cried, "we will not have this Man to rule over us, crucify Him."
The time that judgement began at the household of the Lord, was at the start of this Church dispensation, and by God's grace, Christ took the punishment we deserve and is using the judgements of this world's system to transform us into the image and likeness of Christ. The judgements that the household of God must undergo during our sojourn on earth, will come from a God-hating, Christ-rejecting, unbelieving, sinful world, and be used by the Lord to discipline, chasten, purify, and refine us for His glory: "And if it begins with us first, (who have trusted Christ for salvation) what will be the outcome for those who do not obey (believe) the gospel of God (by trusting Christ)?"
The judgement of the unbeliever who has rejected God's gracious offer of salvation is horrifying, for they will one day have to stand before the 'Great White Judgement Throne of God' where their works will be found wanting.
Heavenly Father, it is a terrible thing to end this life without having trusted Christ as Redeemer and Lord. Thank You that He underwent Your fierce judgement of my sin in my place so that I might be saved. I pray for the multitudes that still have not trusted Christ for their salvation and that even today, many would put their faith in Christ and escape eternal separation from You. In Jesus' name, AMEN.