Jesus and Judgment

21 11 2014

Jesus and Judgment

Part of the series: What are we going to do about Jesus?

What are we going to do about Jesus? It seems in many cases, Jesus and the Apostles, for that matter, just did not get the theological memos that I have been getting all my Christian life. Today we will look at what the New Testament says about how we will be judged.

You are probably wondering, why such a provocative title. But I am serious. What are we going to do about Jesus? Marc Carrier, an African missionary, was speaking back in 2013. He said that on judgment day we would not be standing before the theologians. Instead, we would stand before Jesus.  After hearing him, I decided to study the judgment as Jesus described it.  As I read the New Testament I found there was nothing that I was taught that even resembled how we would be judged, as taught in the bible.

I was taught that since I was “saved” meaning, I was sorry I was a sinner and trusted in what Jesus did on the cross to pay for my sins; I was going to by pass judgment and judgment day in some way.  Now there were going to be rewards for me, if I was faithful, and there might even be a moment of regret before Jesus wiped my tears away for, perhaps, wishing I had been more diligent. Certainly there is a promise of reward, in the way of crowns mentioned in the bible. There seems to be cities rewarded to the faithful in stories or parables of Jesus about His return.  That about sums it up.  In fact I can do a google search and find those same teachings in a variety of different forms and versions.  Basically boiled down to the fact that, I will not be judged. I will point out two verses that are mostly quoted.

There is John 5:24 where Jesus says whoever hears His word and believes has eternal life and will not be judged but has passed over into life. We will look at this verse in context later.  And of course we have verses like John 3:16 that tell us that Jesus died that we might have eternal life. What I want to do is visit the verses that specifically mention judgment.

I do this for a reason.  Many today, like to take the plain and clear scriptures that are hard or uncomfortable and just negate them via a verse that seems to point a different direction.  A direction that is not dealing with the issue directly but is easier and sometimes, seemingly, the opposite of what the bible says in the hard verse.  A perfect example is where Jesus teaches how we are to treat our enemies and clearly calls for a radical form of love. Turn the other cheek; bless those that curse us, pray for those that are persecuting us.  It seems unreasonable, costly and frankly scary to live this way.  So what do we do? Do we cry out to God for courage and faith? Do we pray and fast for God to change our hearts? Sadly, most run to theologians, pastors  and commentaries that point them to an unrelated verse or vague concept with religious wording to address the topic and claim this text or train of thought  gives us permission to disobey every clear verse dealing with the issue. One thing I have observed is that theologians are always negating Jesus’ plain teaching, and the call for taking up my cross and giving up all for Jesus was just a false alarm or a misunderstanding.  Let us remember eternity is at stake.  I assume when it comes to judgment you want truth not evasion. Let’s just read the verses for what they say. Ever hear of sola scriptra?  Men say they follow it but then quickly begin using theological Buzz words not found in scripture and quoting the precepts of their favorite theologians. Funny how that works.

Let me share just a few verses about judgment, and then comment.

Matthew 16:27

For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.

Now, I was told, I would not be judged. Did you notice Jesus says every man? Well if that is right then Paul did not get that memo either.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Did you notice that Paul is writing to the Corinthians and he uses the word ALL, when speaking of who will appear before the judgment seat and be judged? Yeah I know, you have been told all seems to never mean all by your theological peers. Trust me, I looked it up. All actually means all.

Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.

Did you get that? He will render to each according to his deeds, on the day of wrath.  Then he said glory and immortality to those who persevere in DOING GOOD and to those that do not obey, wrath. Now I was taught that since I prayed the prayer, the sinner’s prayer, and really meant it, I was safely guaranteed heaven.  There would be no judgment, but that God would only see Jesus when He looked at me. Well, then why don’t Paul and Jesus seem to mention that? Am I going to stand before a theologian, a pastor or a warm and fuzzy Christian book? No, I am going to stand before the Lord.  What does the bible teach? That is the issue. Why do the verses that specifically mention judgment and judgment day say “everyone” and or “all” will be judged?  Why do they say I will be judged by works, deed and obedience?

Many claim that the judgment seat of Christ is not final judgment to determine our eternal destiny, but rather to judge our actions. This is said to be where a believer would get his or her rewards or perhaps some disappointment.  However, this verse clearly juxtaposes eternal life with wrath. No mention of rewards or crowns.  The bible makes no distinction between one judgment or another.  Theologians do, the bible does not.

I am a simple guy. And I believe we serve an awesome God. I believe that we can trust Him that He has communicated His will and truth in a way we can grasp and understand. Let’s look at what Jesus and His disciples taught about this subject.  Here is some New Testament verses on the topic. In these verses, Jesus is teaching disciples, the lost, and religious leaders. Basically, all walks of life and standings with God are listening.  In many, only the Apostles.  We will look at verses using the words, judgment, judges, hell and or punishment.

Matthew 5:22 says that anyone who is says racca to his brother is in danger of the fires of hell. This is in the Sermon on the Mount.  It says in the bible that Jesus saw the multitudes, but then sat down with His disciples and taught them. He is speaking directly to His men, the disciples.

Matthew 7:21 Not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my father who is in heaven.

Matthew 10:28 Jesus tells the Apostles not to fear men but God who can destroy both body and soul in hell.

Matthew 10:33 Jesus says that whoever denies Him before men, Jesus will deny before the Father.  Again, spoken to the Apostles.  Luke also gives the same illustration. Why does Jesus tell his disciples this if they can’t be denied? Is He lying? The great theologian Augustine said that just because the Lord says something it does not mean it will or can be done. Do you think God says or calls men to do things they can’t or won’t be able to do? If so you will certainly need a theologian to tell you the truth for God and His sola scriptura could not be trusted at all!

Matthew 12:36 Jesus says we will be judged by every idle word or acquitted by what we say.

Matthew 16:27 Jesus says, each person will be judged based on what he has done.  In some versions, according to his works.

Matthew 18:8-9 is a very interesting verse.  Jesus says that it is better to have ones hand cut off or eye plucked than to enter hell with both. What does this verse imply? Again this verse is in a chapter where Jesus is having a talk with His disciples.  The crowds are not even around.   He says it is better to ruthlessly deal with things that cause sin, so as to avoid hell.  This is not what I was taught at all.  I was told just to believe.  Be forgiven and I would miss judgment. Jesus seems unaware that the disciples beliefs would trump  being judged. I thought if I believe I am in heaven. End of story.  This same teaching is repeated by Jesus in Mark 9:43-48.

Matthew 18:22-35 Here, Jesus tells a parable.  In it a man is forgiven by the king and then does not forgive someone that owes him a debt. The King finds out, turned the man over to be tortured and Jesus says that it will be like that for us if we are not forgiving.  Again, this is a chapter that is a conversation with the disciples.

Matthew 25:14 Jesus tells of three men.  All given a trust from the Lord and one does nothing with it.  Each man is judged when the King returns. Each by what he has done. One is judged and thrown out into the darkness where there is gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 25:31-46 we see the story of the sheep and the goats. At judgment day people are divided, not by their faith alone, not according to having prayed a certain prayer, no predestination is mentioned, nothing says the elect are on one side and the non elect are on the other. Sheep are those that loved the least of these and goats are those that didn’t.  Again, these are works, deeds and actions. People that thought they were safe, find out in this judgment day prediction, that they are doomed. Then they actually argue with Jesus.  Let me ask you a question.  Are you arguing with scripture on judgment right now? You may be mad at me. Are my observations logical and the most literal and natural responses to these verses or do I sound like a theologian?

In a stunning quote, Jesus in John 5:28-29 warns us NOT to be amazed.  There will be a judgment and those that have done good will be resurrected to life and those that have done evil will be condemned.  Pretty clear.  Jesus says we will be judged by what we have done.  This is the text I mentioned earlier that is given to prove we will not be judged. Let’s read the verses.

 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Once again we see those that have done good, will go to life and those that have done evil to judgment.  They pass from death and judgment to life when they believe, but as we see later that does not mean that one time belief is the basis of eternity.  rather, according to Jesus it is how they lived.

You may be thinking that Jesus taught these things before He died for our sins and rose again, granting us forgiveness.  Some teach there is one gospel involving works for the time Jesus was here and another regarding belief or faith now that He is crucified, dead and rose again.  There is no text to verify two gospels for two different times and two different people. Scripture says that the Faith was delivered once and for all. There are not multiple Faiths in Christianity.

But Jesus not only spoke in the Gospels before He died but spoke again in Revelations after He died and rose again.  Did He speak of our missing judgment day? Did He speak of our being judged by our works?

Revelations 20:12 speaks of the dead being judged according to what they had done.  But what does Jesus say?

In Revelations 22:12 Jesus proclaims, in red letters, in my bible, that He will judge according to what we have done.  This is after He died and rose again.  No mention of any change in His message on this topic. No mention of distinction between the lost and the believers.  In fact Revelations was sent to believers.  No unbeliever would even hear this comment by Jesus.  It was not an oral teaching preached in the town square, it was Jesus proclaiming it in heaven within ear shoot of John who was told to write these things down, accurately, in this apocalyptic letter directed at churches.

What if I am wrong and Paul did give us the final answer on the Gospel and judgment.   Many theologians that dismiss Jesus’ hard teachings run to Paul for the truth.  Let’s see what Paul and the other Apostles say.

Beginning in Romans 2:1-5 Paul warns the Romans that if they live hypocritically they are storing up wrath for the Day of Judgment for themselves. He actually asks if they think they will escape judgment.  Did you hear that? Paul asks Christians in Rome if they are foolish enough to think they will escape judgment.  Are we also foolish enough to think we will escape judgment?

Later in Romans 2:16 Paul says God will judge the secrets of men according to the gospel he taught.  Funny, that is the same thing Jesus taught in His gospel.

I shared earlier where Paul says in Romans 14:12 each one of us, (speaking to the Church in Rome), will give an account to God for himself.

Now we do have a verse that warns leaders that their works will be rewarded if done correctly. And we are told that they may suffer if they build wrong, but will still be saved as though through fire.

1 Corinthians 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their 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 person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

We have a context here where Paul is specifically addressing those, like him, building on the foundation of Christ when instructing the body in the truth.  This is a verse clearly addressing teachers and so called apostles coming to the Corinthians and teaching things Paul did not preach.  So this is a judgment for teachers concerning their work in their ministry.

Let’s continue with Paul.  While 1 Corinthians 6 does not mention judgment day in verses 9-10 Paul ask a question. Do you not know that sinners, (he then list specific sins) will not inherit the Kingdom of God? This is written to the Corinthian church who he says at the beginning of the letter are sanctified and holy in Christ.  Are the sanctified and holy in Christ, Christians? I certainly think so.  Then how will they be excluded from the Kingdom of God if not in judgment?  Both presently and eternally.  If they, Christians, have sin in their lives, like those listed, they will suffer judgment and not inherit eternal life.  Or do we believe that we can be excluded from the Kingdom of God but admitted into eternity?

Let’s move on with the book of Hebrews.  Again, a book written to people the author calls holy brethren, partakers in the heavenly calling, sprinkled by the blood and holding fast to the confession with a pure heart and a clear conscience. I hope we can agree this is written to Christians, unless one wants to argue that one can be an unbeliever and be holy and hold to the good confession or be a person that does not believe, but has Jesus as his high priest. I have actually heard from theologians that this book was not directed towards believers.  Apparently, these unbelievers were encouraged to call the elders to pray for the sick and wait patiently for the Lord.  Strange words of instruction for the lost.   But theologians seem intent on relegating this book to irrelevancy, for believers, due to its troubling verses for those holding to reformation theology. But that is another subject.  Chapter 10:26-31, instructs those Christians that if they willfully sin, they will face a consuming fire at judgment.  Not a fire that burnt up their ministry works or the wood, hay and straw of their teachings.  No, it tells these believers warning them of people dying in judgment in the OT and alerts these Christians that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. A somber warning indeed.

I was stunned when I made this study. If I am saved by faith and grace by my precious Savior, why does the bible keep saying that I will be judged by works?  I always go back to James talking about faith and works.  Faith without works is dead faith.  And James asks if we believe that dead faith is saving faith.  The obvious answer is no.

I want to make a suggestion.  Read the book of 1 John.  I urge you to read the whole book.  It is written that your joy be full and also, it is the only book written that you may KNOW you have eternal life. In John, you will find that if you don’t obey His commands you don’t know Him or love Him.  If you continually sin you don’t know the truth.  If you live righteously, you are righteous.  If you don’t you are not righteous. Why does John not tell us that if we are elect, this is a none issue. Why does Paul not just admitt that if we are the elect or are predestined before the foundation of the earth for heaven or hell we need not take his admonishions? That is because when the Bible speaks of choosing it is always with instructions as to why the choice was made and what is the goal of the choosing. For Israel it was to be a holy and peculiar people, showing forth the praises of God a light to the Gentiles and the world as they were to marvel how great the God of Israel is. See Nebuchadnezzar. Paul was specifically chosen as a wittiness to the Gentiles. No mention of heaven or hell for either of theses great examples of choosing.

We are told in 1 John 3 that whoever has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need and does nothing, does not have the love of God. We are told that if we don’t love our brother who we see, we do not love God who we don’t see.  There is no ambiguity here.  If you love God you will love the brothers in a practical way, if they are in need.  Do you see how there is no divorce between works, deeds and belief?  We have somehow divorced believing, loving and obeying.  There is no such divorce in scripture.  We are not saved by our works; and we are not saved by faith without works.  My dear brothers and sisters, I want to join John and tell you that if you don’t have faith with the works of obeying the commands of Jesus, sharing with your brothers and sisters in need, then your faith is dead faith.

Jesus will judge you by your works. It is safe to do so. Jesus said a bad tree does not bear good fruit and a good tree bad fruit.  Again, He said if you love me you will obey me. If you don’t obey Him, the verdict is in, you don’t love Him. If you see your brother in need and don’t help him, the verdict is in, you don’t love God.   In John 15 Jesus talks about abiding, obeying and loving.

8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and abide in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

Abiding is done by loving and obeying.  No obeying, means, no loving, no abiding.  It is explained as you read this entire passage that we bear fruit if we abide and if we don’t abide we don’t bear fruit.  If we don’t bear fruit we are cut off by the Father and thrown in the fire. Loving and obeying Jesus is synonymous with bearing fruit.  Just as Jesus obeyed the Father and was able to abide in His love so we must obey and abide.

So what are we going to do about Jesus? You and I will not stand before Luther, Calvin or your pastor and certainly not a commentary.  According to this verse, above, if you don’t obey, you are not a disciple of His.  Perhaps you are a disciple of Luther or perhaps Calvin.  But if you don’t obey you are not a disciple of Jesus. Jesus says so.

So Glenn, should we live in fear?   My answer is yes, then no.   Peter tells us to live in reverent fear because we will be judged. Again, written to Christians.

1 Peter 1: 17 since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Did you get that? We were redeemed from an empty way of life by the precious blood of Jesus and will be judged impartially and should thus live in light of that coming judgment.

Paul makes a startling statement. Paul, the chosen.

“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway,” 1Corinthians 9:27.

Castaway is the Greek adokimos, one disapproved by the judge as not having fairly deserved the reward.  Paul uses it again in 2 Corinthians 13:5. There he tells them to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith. Obviously Paul knew Judgement was in his future and wanted to be found qualified.

So we see that we should live in reverent fear.  We will be judged by our actions. But John makes another observation.

1 john 4:16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.…

If we abide in Him, we need not fear, but can have confidence in the Day of Judgment.  I will be judged by my works.  Jesus and the Apostles say so.  I must keep a reverent fear of God with the knowledge of my certain judgment.  I must abide in Him, and live in this world as He lived in this world, so I can then have confidence in the Day of Judgment.

My point in the article is that I was told I was going to miss judgment day. However, I learned, from Jesus I will be judged.  He said this before He died and rose and repeated it again after He died and rose.  Paul agrees, as does Peter. Peter points out that since our Father judges impartially, we should live in reverent fear.  We should live as foreigners here in light of this fact.  So I suggest we do just that.  We are also informed by John that if we abide in Him and walk as He walked, love will be perfected in us and we can have confidence on judgment day. So I pray that this would be so, for both you and for me. Now many will want to quote you favorite verse to me now. “I am saved by grace and faith alone, lest any man boast, by golly”. But in the NT salvation is mentioned in the past tense, the ongoing, being saved usage and the will be saved. You get onto the vine by faith, repentance and baptism. You stay on the vine by obeying Jesus’ commands. He says so. And if you persevere you will be saved on “that day”. The day of judgement.

POST SCRIPT

Now many of you may want point out teachings that there are several different judgments for different people. For example,  the great white throne judgment, the judgment seat of Christ judgment, the sheep and the goats judgment and another for those that never heard the gospel. There may even be some, hyper preterist that want to tell me about all judgment pertaining to the destruction of the temple in AD 70.  I have read and studied them all.  The problem is that almost every modern day theory I was taught on the return of Christ and judgment day is a recent innovation.  Meaning that the very disciples of Jesus and the Apostles seem to know nothing about it.  It was many centuries after Jesus, before anyone introduced the preterist views or dispensational views on the end times and multiple judgments. The separation of judgment day into a huge variety of events for different circumstances is simply not found in church history till quite late.  The faith was delivered once and for all.  And multiple judgment days are not part of it.  The word is clear, all will be judged once for their works and deeds.

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