37: Judgments & the New Testament (5)
The Final Judgment (2) How it works
The Means of Assessment
the previous chapter we considered the “Final
Judgment” by putting it into context by observing the sequence of
events leading up to it, starting with the second Coming of Christ.
Originally I placed this and the previous chapter together, but to
make the subject matter more manageable I have separated out the actual
Judgment into this chapter
have in the previous chapter observed the fact, as conveyed by the
whole of the New Testament, of a final day of Judgment, a time when
all of mankind who have ever existed have to account before God for
clarity – or at least to recognize that it is not clear – it may be
worth while repeating the options we considered in respect of the
‘timing' of this ‘event':
In true time-space terms people die, go into
a waiting space until all of human chronological history is completed
and they are then brought out and face the Final Judgment, OR
The moment you least space-time history, you
immediately go into eternity and experience the Final Judgment which
may take place (to use our present terms) in a split second.
what will happen there?
The Means of Assessment
what is the way God judges, i.e. assesses every person?
in Rev 20:12,13 that we considered in the previous chapter, the phrase
was used, that people were all “ judged
according to what they had done ”
there is no explanation for that phrase, to try to understand this
‘measuring stick', we need to look back in the scriptures for guidance.
We may, by way of summary, initially suggest there are two groups
of people who need to be considered:
those who have never heard of Jesus Christ
those who have heard of Jesus Christ.
Those who have never heard of Jesus Christ
apostle Paul in chapter 2 of his letter to Rome covers these people.
Note immediately the similarity in the way he begins to what we have
already read twice:
"will give to each person according to what he has done
A footnote to that verse points out that this
is a quote from Psa 62:12 and Prov 24:12
He then distinguishes between two groups of
those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality,
he will give eternal life.
He makes the suggestion that there ARE people
whose hearts are utterly for good. We may suggest that they are
few and far between but they can exist.
A look at a couple of paraphrase versions can
perhaps help shed light here:
will give eternal life to those who patiently do the will of God,
seeking for the unseen glory and honour and eternal life that
he offers.” (Living Bible = “who
patiently do good.” seeking for the unseen glory and honour and
eternal life that he offers, implied.)
who, in patiently doing good, aim at the unseen (but real) glory and
honour of the eternal world.” (JBP
- Note the
three things such people seek:
– this word is rarely used in the Bible except to refer to God.
Such people, Paul infers, are God-seekers.
– this word suggests high esteem. In verses earlier in chapter
2 Paul denounces human assessment and so this is honour accorded
– another word for this might
be ‘eternal-life' which again in the Bible only comes from God.
Although not spelt out, such people in the
apostle Paul's discerning eyes will be God seekers, accepted by
God and granted eternal life.
Thus when we come across people who have never
heard of Jesus Christ, this is the standard set for them.
The alternative for these people is shown the
verses that follow.
for those who are self-seeking and who reject
the truth and follow evil , there will
be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human
being who does evil:
Guilt and condemnation are the experiences
of all other such people.
There was also another group of people who,
until Jesus came, received special mention:
who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and
all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not
those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is
those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
- The Jews
had the Law of Moses. If they completely kept to it, all
well and good, but if they failed then, the apostle Paul goes on
to point out, they need the salvation that comes only with Jesus
we need to pick up on something Paul said earlier in the chapter:
we know that God's judgment …… is based on truth.
The point he goes on to make is that it is
the reality of what is found in a person's life that will determine
how God responds to them.
It is not what you say, but what you do.
the first 16 verses of Romans 2 Paul sets forth principles that indicate
that for those who have not heard of Christ, God judges
- according to
truth (v. 2),
- according to
deeds (vv. 6-11) and
- according to
the light a person has (vv. 12-15).
are those who (cynically?) suggest that no one fits Paul's caveat
of this first group of glory and honour and immortality seeking people,
and thus he is setting up an impossible set of criteria that show
that actually we are ALL sinners in need of Christ's salvation.
Case of Natural Revelation
we move on to consider those who have heard or ought to have heard
of Christ, we would do well to pick up on what is sometimes referred
to as ‘natural revelation'
heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his
hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they
i.e. for those with hearts to see, the natural creation reveals
the wonder of a divine Creator.
those who are self-centred and godless will be blind to these wonders,
even as we have modern film-makers who wonderfully film these things
of Creation yet still deny God.
apostle Paul condemned such men:
1:19,20 since what may be
known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to
them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his
eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood
from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
William Paley's ‘Watchmaker design argument' is clear and obvious
and yet is still ridiculed by those who start from the place of
Yes, says Paul, perhaps reflecting Solomon in Eccl 3:11,
such men have no excuse. The are condemned for denying the obvious.
Those who have heard of Jesus Christ
testimony of the Gospels is quite clear and a distinction is made
by the apostle John in his Gospel (we'll provide a layout to emphasise
3:16 For God so loved the
world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in
him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Believing in Jesus is the criteria for salvation and the result
is eternal life. Even here the implication is that
failure to believe means people perish. This is spelled out as he
his Gospel, John explained:
20:31 these are written
that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and
that by believing you may have life in his name
Earlier in his Gospel he spells out God's measuring stick:
3:18,19 Whoever believes
in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned
already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only
Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved
darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
His point was that Jesus came as the Light of the world and was obviously
that and so they who refused to see that condemned themselves.
William Barclay, in his commentary on the gospel of John, has produced
the following explanation in the light of John 3:18,19 and because
I believe it is one of the best explanations I have come across I
include it here:
is quite possible to offer a man an experience in nothing but love,
and for that experience to turn out a judgment. It is quite possible
to offer a man an experience which is meant to do nothing but to bring
joy and bliss to a man, and yet for that experience to turn out a
judg ment and a condemnation.
we love great music; suppose we get nearer to God in the midst of
the surge and thunder of a great symphony than anywhere else. Suppose
we have a friend who does not know anything about such music. Suppose
we wish to introduce this friend of ours to this great experience;
we wish to share it with him; we wish to give him this contact with
the invisible beauty which we ourselves enjoy. We have no aim other
than to give this friend the happiness of a great new experience.
We take him to a symphony concert; in a very short time he is fidgeting
and gazing around the hall, obviously completely uninterested and
clearly bored. That friend has passed a judgment on himself; he has
no music in his soul. The experience which was designed to bring him
a new happiness has become a judgment. This always happens when we
confront a man with greatness. We may take a man to see some great
masterpiece of art; we may take him to listen to someone who is a
prince of preachers; we may give him some soul-nourishing book to
read; we may take him to gaze upon some beauty. His reaction is a
judgment. If he finds no beauty and no thrill we know that he has
a blind spot in his soul. It is told that a visitor was being shown
round an art gallery by one of the attendants. In that gallery there
were certain masterpieces beyond all price, possessions of eternal
beauty and unquestioned genius. At the end of the tour the visitor
said: " Well, I don't think much of your old pictures."
The attendant answered quietly: "Sir, I would remind you that
these pictures are no longer on trial, but those who look at them
are." All that the man's reaction had done was to show his own
is so with Jesus. If, when a man is confronted with Jesus, his soul
goes out in a thrill to that wonder and beauty, that man is on the
way to salvation. But if, when he is confronted with Jesus, a man
sees nothing lovely then he stands condemned. His reaction has condemned
him. God sent Jesus in love. He sent Him for that man's salvation.
But that which was sent in love has become a condemnation. But it
is not God who has condemned the man; God only loved him; the man
has condemned himself.
a man's reaction to Jesus Christ, that man stands revealed. By his
reaction to Jesus Christ his soul is laid bare. If he regards Christ
with love, even with wistful yearning, for him there is hope; but
if in Christ he sees nothing lovely he has condemned himself. He who
was sent in love has become to him for judgment.”
Final Judgment: Sentencing
are two verdicts that may be given:
Guilty but already dealt with by the Cross
Guilty and requiring a sentence of death.
will consider them in that order shortly.
Need of the Cross
it may be that you are surprised that I have labelled everyone – Christians
included – as guilty, but that IS the truth. We noted in the previous
chapter that the prophecy of Revelation 20:11-13 spoke of books being
opened with everything we have done during our lifetime recorded in
one of the books. If we are Christians (or the rare glory-bound non-Christian
from Romans 2), we are recorded in the ‘book of life'.
will there be a specific instance, in our existence and our awareness,
where we literally find ourselves standing before a literal throne
and an angel comes with a literal book? I think perhaps not. These
are prophetic pictures to convey a truth of reality. A ‘book' conveys
the idea of a record that has been kept, that is known to God.
have often wondered if, when we get to meet the Lord in heaven, whether
He will allow us to look back over our personal history with full
insight, full vision, so we see everything that happened with utter
clarity and total understanding. That is, I believe, the equivalent
of the record of every detail of our lives (in a book if you insist!).
is the knowledge the Lord has (in His ‘book') and, trying to break
free from limited materialistic thinking, I suggest this may take
place in a split second or what feels like a considerably long time.
If He does that, I suggest He will do two things.
, He will show us every thought, word or deed that fell short
of perfection throughout our entire lives. Hopefully they will have
diminished after the point where we were ‘born again'. Yet, I suspect
that the reality of facing our shortcomings (which will be great in
number if not in magnitude) will bring us to tears of anguish and
horror (if not terror) at the realisation that we deserved severe
punishment for what we have seen as the reality of our lives, the
shear volume of our misdemeanours, the staggering extent of our having
fallen short of perfection, of what could have been. .
then, second, I believe He will show us the work
of the Cross and the work of His Spirit in and through us, and we
will be allowed to see every thought, word or deed of ours that had
its origin in heaven, and we will weep for joy at the wonder of His
work in us. We may even see lives touched by us that we had no idea
about and the extent of His work through us, going much further afield
than anything we had previously comprehended.
first insight reveals, as we've never comprehended it before, our
need of the Cross, while the second reveals the incredible work of
His grace. The first brings a fresh but real sense of sorrow and anguish
leading to a fresh and real repentance, while the second brings joy,
thanksgiving, praise and worship. As I say, if I am right, this may
be all in a split second or much longer. Whichever, the reality of
our lives will be revealed or, as the prophetic visions puts it, will
be shown in the ‘book of life'.
was justice applied?
cry of justice has been satisfied the moment of our justification.
Paul's teaching in Romans 4 makes the point that Abraham was justified
when he believed, and so we similarly are “justified through faith”
(Rom 5:1) i.e. when we believe. The grounds for our justification
– the Cross of Christ – occurred long back in history, but it was
applied when we believed.
that second (and only God really knows when that was) we were justified
and the work of the Cross applied – i.e. we were forgiven and cleansed
of all unrighteousness, adopted as His children and indwelt by His
Spirit. From that moment on our guilt HAD BEEN dealt with. Thus when
we stand before the Judgment Seat, we having nothing to fear, because
our guilt has long back been dealt with.
what I have suggested above about the ‘book of life' – the knowledge
of God – is true, then that revelation that I have suggested will
be purely that our understanding may be completed. The two ‘insights'
will immediately be subject to the historical work of Christ on the
Cross in time-space history. Our failures will have been dealt with
and our ‘successes' attributed to the outworking of Christ's work
what is the final sentence for believers?
3:16-18 For God so
loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes
in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send
his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world
through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned.
The most famous of verses in the New Testament put it most
The reward for the believer in Christ is eternal life; he or she
is NOT condemned (even for their past failures!)
This ‘eternal life' is spelled out more fully in the last
chapters of the Bible.
21:6,7 To him who
is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the
water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will
be his God and he will be my son.
final chapters of the book of Revelation shows redeemed mankind, all
the believers in Jesus Christ, living in a new heaven and a new earth
in eternity with God, enjoying all the wonder of His presence and
all of the wonder of His provision. (There will be no need to receive
all the wonder of His protection that we receive this side of death,
in the present). This is the eternal life that is spoken of so much
in the New Testament.
brings us to the rest of mankind, those who refused all the advances
of God. From all my reading of Scripture while writing this book,
I am sure there are two grounds of guilt for the unbeliever:
guilt of refusing God's advances
guilt of all wrong thoughts, words and deeds
point out the first one because I am absolutely certain that the Lord
speaks to any and every human being on this planet many times in their
lives through a variety of means, all designed to draw their attention
to Him and to seek and find Him. Most people will deny this but that
is simply an indication of how involved they are with their own lives
to the exclusion of God. They simply didn't ‘hear' and so, of course,
they didn't respond. When they did hear, they rejected what they heard
because it conflicted with their own self-centred and godless desires.
respect of the second one, it may well be they have the same ‘first-part
experience' as I suggested for the believer above, but of course they
cannot go on to see the wonder of life with Him because they never
allowed that to happen.
what is the sentence such people receive? Very simply, death, but
what does that mean? I ask that question because death is spoken of
in two ways. There is death that is usually spoken about as the passing
of life, but there is also mention of a ‘second death' (Rev 2:11,
20:6, 20:14, 21:8) which occurs in the lake of fire (20:14).
21:8 But the cowardly, the
unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those
who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place
will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
think at this point we need to step back and view what the whole of
the New Testament says about the outcome for those who reject God
and go their own way. That will form the content of the next chapter.
this chapter, as we have continued to focus on the ‘Final Judgment',
we have moved on to think about what happens at this ‘Final Judgment'
and how different things happen to different people.
first of all, distinguished between
those who have heard of Christ and those who haven't
who haven't will be judged on the basis of
truth, whether they have truly sought after glory, honour and
deeds, whether they have truly been good and
light each person has and how they live in the light of it.
who have will be judged on
they received Christ and believed in him and lived under his lordship,
they rejected him.
then considered the lives of believers
as revealed in the ‘book of life'
our failures and guilt,
our grace provision as believers,
seeing both in the light of the work of the Cross.
then faced the fact of unbelievers'
had refused all of God's overtures throughout their lives
lived our self-centred, godless, unbelieving, unrighteous lives
passing we noted the ‘sentence'
for both groups
live in eternity with God in the new heaven and new earth, enjoying
all the wonder of His presence and all of the wonder of His provision
– for ever!
are cast into the lake of fire, the second death, where they are
is as we write that last line that we move into an area of controversy,
the nature and ‘duration' of hell, and so the final chapter of these
three chapters considering the Final Judgment will be a detailed study
of what the New Testament does actually say about ‘hell'. Yes, we
will consider exactly what the New Testament says, not what people
in history have postulated about hell. You may be surprised.