“[He]…will sit on His throne in heavenly glory. All the nations [everybody] will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another….Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance….’ Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire.’” Matthew 25: 31-34, 41.
I purposefully began this quotation of Scripture with [He]. How many assume that “He” refers to God? How many realize that “He” is not God; He refers to Jesus Christ.
For many Christians, the primary focus is on Scripture like John 3: 17: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” Of course we all agree that Jesus is our Savior, but Jesus as Judge? For many, that is just not the way we think of Jesus Christ.
We think of Jesus’ first coming.
We tend to ignore Jesus’ second coming.
Pastor David Jeremiah sheds light on the reality of Jesus’ second coming: “It is the Second Coming that gets the most ink in the Bible. [But] references to the Second Coming outnumber references to the first by a ratio of eight to one. Scholars count 1,845 biblical references to the Second Coming, including 318 in the New Testament. Christ’s return is emphasized in no less than seventeen Old Testament books and seven out of every ten chapters in the New Testament. The Lord Himself refers to His return twenty-one times. The Second Coming is second only to faith as the most dominant subject in the New Testament.”*
What is the significance of the Second Coming? Matthew 25 tells us that Jesus is the Judge presiding over the judgement of nations. The judgment will cover all unbelievers on the earth (Revelation 19:15, 20, 21). At this time, Christ will return to earth with His raptured saints to judge the unsaved and reign over the earth.
With this focus on “unbelievers,” do believers have any reason for concern? Paul says in 2nd Corinithians 5:10 “ We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
But what about justification? Believers declare they have given their lives to Christ and He has made me right by wiping away all our sins. J.I. Packer** writes “the gift of justification certainly shields believers from being condemned and banished from God’s presence as sinners.” In Revelation when the “Book of Life” is opened, the believer’s name will be written; and they are not thrown into the lake of fire as the rest are. However, the gift of justification does not shield the believer from final assessment. Packer comments that some believers are “slack,” “mischievous” and “destructive”. Paul warns about lifestyle in 1st Corinthians: “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” [3: 12-15].
In short, the believer who has a strong relationship with God will be rewarded and the believer who has a weak relationship with God will suffer loss.
Further information from Scripture sheds light on the role of Jesus in this process. Dan 7:13-14 relates “A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” Jesus stands at the end of life’s road. In the Old Testament, prepare to meet your God was the message that Amos delivered to Israel. The New Testament message is recorded in Acts 17:31 “prepare to meet the risen Christ.”
At the time of final judgement, what actually will be judged? One thing will be words. Why words? They are a central focus on because words show what is on the inside of man. In Matthew 12, “A tree is recognized by its fruit….How can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” The second thing is actions. Again, let’s turn to fruit. If we hear the word of God, we want to act on it. It is just that simple. We know what to do. The Holy Spirit communicates that to us. Scripture communicates that to us. In our hearts we know to act like we believe God and Jesus Christ. He calls us to do that. By our actions we show the love we have for Christ, the love that springs from our faith, the love that has taken over our hearts.
But what about people who have limited knowledge of what it takes to be a believer? Packer says “all people know something of God’s will through general revelation, even if they have not been instructed in the law or the Gospel, and all are guilty before God for falling short of the best they knew” .
Ok, does this judgement mean that there is slim chance for any of us on our judgment day? Let’s try to end this chapter “God the Judge” on a slightly brighter note. We know that there is not much hope that what we are doing with our lives is going to be enough to get us an easy pass into God’s presence. Dare we say that we all fall too far short of perfection? Packer gives us hope in his word about the “heart index.” “The relevance of our doings is not that they ever merit a award from the court—they fall too far short of perfection to do that—but they provide an index of what is in the heart” . “This heart index is the real nature of the Christian. Willfully committing the same sin over and over again and never feeling remorse is not a sign of the Christian. Attempting to change [even though you may fail] is a sincere piece of evidence that your heart is right with God . Whereas an unbeliever may not feel any qualms about sinning, the Christian does and even though they may ‘sin and fall short of the glory of God,’ they are attempting to work in a positive direction. They have doubts and fears about their standing with God and even though their guilt about their sin is a very real thing, they are not guilty of rejecting Jesus Christ.”***
Finally, the fact that we are to face Christ’s judgment should not cause us to react in terror. Packer states “Jesus the Lord like His Father, is holy and pure and [of course] we are neither. We live under His eye, He knows our secrets, and on judgement day the whole of our past life will be played back, as it were, before Him, and brought under review.” My oh my, what are we to do? Here is the simple piece of advice that Packer gives us.
“Call on the coming Judge to be your present Savior.”
Don’t run from an omniscient God, an omnipresent God, an all-powerful God. That is so insane. You can’t do it. There is no place to run. Seek Him now; when you will meet Him as Judge, you will look forward to that meeting. Run from Him now, and you will face that meeting without hope.
Remember, Romans 8: 1 “There is not condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.”
“Whilst I draw this fleeting breath;
When my eyelids close in death;
When I soar through tracts unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgement-throne;
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.”****
*from His blog “Faithgateway”
**from Knowing God
***from “Send In The Judges” St. John Studies, November 28, 2019
****From the hymn “Rock of Ages”