The Certainty of Judgment

As we have seen in our studies over the past few weeks, God has given us a definite and comprehensible plan for our salvation, and that He has outlined very plainly the way we should live if we desire to be acceptable in the sight of God (versus acceptability in the eyes of man). This is what Peter spoke of when he wrote that God "has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Pet. 1:3). Within the revealed word of God, we may find His instructions (commands that must be obeyed) that lead to our salvation, and instruction that helps us to remain faithful either until death or until Christ comes again. Paul told Timothy that the Scriptures are "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) What God has given us in His word, we desperately need. What is not revealed is not worth our speculation; that belongs to God (Deut. 29:29). What we should be concerned about is what He has revealed.

This all leads to the subject for today's discussion: the certainty of the Judgment. And by that, we mean the final Judgment. Within the word of God, we are told "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." (Heb. 9:27) The certainty — the absolute surety — of this is so great that the writer bases his argument that Jesus only died once for our sins on that forthcoming event. He writes this with no doubt that all men would at some point face judgment; it was just as certain as the fact that Jesus only had to die once for our sins. Would we dare question that certainty? Likely not.

The apostle Paul believed the subject to be of utmost importance, for we see that it was a portion of his message "concerning the faith in Christ" he preached to Felix (Acts 24:24, 25). The subject frightened Felix, who sent Paul away until that dreaded "convenient season," with no record of Felix ever following through in obedience. The subject still frightens many today, and probably for the same reasons. I am confident Paul understood that those who were yet unbelievers needed to hear about the certainty of the Judgment because it could make a difference in their eternal destination; I read nowhere of Paul preaching the gospel message and concluding it with the comforting thought that "everyone will go to heaven in the end." Judgment awaited all, and we need to know that — and tell others, too.

And that Judgment will be pronounced by the One who has the right — the One whose words we have been told (John 12:48) will judge us in that day: Jesus. Jesus told His accusers that God granted (eternal) life to be in Him, "and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man" (John 5:22-27), and further stated that this should have caused men to honor Him (v. 23). Both Peter (Acts 10:42) and Paul (Acts 17:31) uniformly taught this same point, teaching their audiences that Jesus had indeed been ordained to be Judge by the Father. That judgment, Paul said, would be of God, "by Jesus Christ, according to (the) gospel." (Rom. 2:16) Just as the words of Jesus were the words of the Father, the judgment of Jesus will be the judgment of the Father, for it is according to His will.

And none will escape this judgment, either. Paul twice spoke of the fact that we would all stand (or, appear) before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10), and that we would all give an account of ourselves (Rom. 14:12), receiving judgment according to what we have done "in the body, whether good or bad." (2 Cor. 5:10) Hypocrites who have judged others worthy of punishment for their sins will not escape God's righteous judgment of their own sins, either — no matter how righteous they have appeared outwardly to men (Rom. 2:1-6). This should dispel any idea that the Christian will not have to answer for sins committed after initial obedience, else why would we have to answer for those deeds in the final judgment?

Jesus reminds us that the final judgment will not just be for those things other people witnessed or heard, revealing that we would give account for every idle word we speak in that day of judgment (Matt. 12:36). From this, we may know that our lives — every word, every deed — will be judged in the end. Paul reminds us that even the "hidden things" would be brought to light, and that He would "reveal the counsels of the hearts." (1 Cor. 4:5) Even our intentions will be judged in the end, so we must know that, though we may fool men into believing we are sincere Christians, the Lord will not be fooled. In the final judgment, we will have to answer for not only doing the right thing, but also for the motivation for why we did it. If we obeyed only because it was financially profitable for us, we will have to answer for that, though no other man may have known it while we lived. Is it any wonder that people still shudder at the thought of the final judgment?

That final judgment will come when Christ comes again, giving rest to those who are His and punishment to those who not only have not obeyed, but also to the troublers of the faithful (2 Thess. 1:6-10). There will certainly be degrees of judgment, too, as shown by the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:22-24. In the sight of God, there are "worse" sins, based on the knowledge of the one being judged; to those who know more, a stricter judgment will be given than those who know less. Jesus fully expected those in the cities of Chorazin and Capernaum to have responded to the evidences of His glory, condemning them mightily when they did not, and promising a greater judgment for their unbelief than even the cities of Sodom and Tyre and Sidon.

The judgment is not all negative, though! Paul looked forward to that day, fully expecting to receive a "crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge" would give to him "on that day." (2 Tim. 4:8) All other faithful ones may look forward to that same reward, waiting patiently and anxiously for the day that they face the just and righteous judgment of their Lord.

But, it all rests with you right now. I know you've heard this many times, but I must ask you: If you were to die today, could you positively say that you would go to heaven? Have you obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ? If not, why not?

By Steven Harper

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