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Many passages teach there will be a day when Jesus comes again, and all who have ever lived will stand before Him to give account for their lives. The Judge on that day will be Jesus Himself, and He will reward each person according to how he has lived his life.
[See Matthew 25:31-46; John 12:48; Acts 1:9-11; 10:42; 17:30,31; Romans 2:4-11; 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9; 2 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 9:27; 10:26-31; Revelation 20:11-15; Ecclesiastes 12:13,14.]
All of us will face that judgment, so surely we all need to learn about it. Many people will face judgment unprepared, including many who thought they were ready. Everyone who is not ready will wish he had been. So, we need to know what to expect and how to be prepared.
We will base our study on Romans 2:2-11,16. With most Bible subjects, different passages discuss different aspects of the subject, so we must combine them to have a complete picture. And many other passages do discuss the judgment. But we will see that, with the judgment, virtually every major point is mentioned in some way in Romans 2.
Why must there be a judgment? What purposes will it accomplish that make it necessary?
Romans 2:4,5 - The goodness of God leads men to repent, but impenitence treasures up wrath in the day of judgment.
God's goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering compel Him to give men a chance to repent.
Luke 15:11ff - The story of the prodigal son compares God to a loving father. Although the son rebelled and committed great evil, the father hoped he would return; and when the son did return, the father received him with forgiveness.
Some people may feel their lives are so hopelessly evil that God would never forgive them. Others think God is so cruel that He is looking for a chance to condemn us. But the truth is that God is good, forbearing, and longsuffering. He wants everyone to repent so they will not perish at the judgment (2 Peter 3:9).
This is why God sent His Son to die to provide the opportunity of forgiveness for all (John 3:16; Rom. 5:6-9; Heb. 7:25; 1 Tim. 2:4,6).
2 Thessalonians 1:5-9 - It is a righteous thing for God to judge and punish the disobedient.
After God has sacrificed His own Son so we can receive eternal life despite our sins, if we still refuse to change, then justice demands that we be punished.
Judgment will accomplish both the purpose of God's mercy and the purpose of His justice.
Note Romans 2:6-10. When we think of judgment, we often think of a trial to determine the guilt or innocence of one who has been accused of a crime. But when we die, our guilt or innocence is sealed and cannot be changed (2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:27). Judgment Day is more like a formal statement of the verdict and declaration of the sentence.
Matthew 25:41,46 - The wicked will go into everlasting destruction, eternal fire.
Revelation 20:11-15 - Anyone not found in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire, the second death.
[Matthew 5:22; 8:12; 10:28; 13:39-43,49,50; 18:8,9; 25:30; Luke 12:4,5; 16:19-31; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9; Revelation 21:8]
Matthew 25:46 - The righteous will go into eternal life.
1 Thessalonians 4:17; 5:9,10 - Saved ones will live together forever with Jesus.
God has determined to reward people eternally for how they have lived their lives. The judgment day will fulfill the requirements of God's mercy and justice by formally declaring to all men what their eternal destinies will be.
The question for you and me is whether or not we are ready.
[Matthew 5:10-12; 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:8; 1 Peter 1:3,4; Philippians 3:20; Revelation 21:3-5; 22:3,4; Luke 16:19-31; 1 John 5:11,12]
What will the judgment be like?
Judgment will be fair and just. This involves the following:
Romans 2:2 - The judgment of God is according to truth.
Acts 17:31 - Jesus will judge the world in righteousness.
In modern courtrooms guilty people often go free, because the facts are not known. An innocent man wants the truth to be revealed, but a guilty man hopes the truth will remain hidden. We often try to hide the evidence or blame others for our guilt. Jesus' judgment will be according to truth. The real facts will be made known.
[Romans 1:32; 2 Thess. 1:5,6]
Romans 2:11 - There is no partiality with God.
1 Peter 1:17 - God judges each man's work without partiality.
In modern courtrooms certain people sometimes receive special favors because of who they are or because they influence the judge's verdict. In God's courtroom, no bribes will be taken and no favoritism will be shown. The rich, powerful, and influential will have no favors, and the poor and weak will not be oppressed.
At the judgment day, the wicked will surely be punished, and the righteous will surely be rewarded. Are you ready for that judgment?
Romans 2:3 - Do you think you will escape the judgment of God? The passage proceeds to answer that all will be judged, good or bad. Judgment is inevitable. Note the proof God gives that judgment is inescapable:
Romans 14:11,12 - As surely as God lives, each of us will give account of himself to God. If there is an immortal, eternal God in Heaven, then you will be judged!
Acts 17:31 - God appointed a day in which He will judge the world and gave assurance by raising Jesus from the dead. Just as surely as Jesus arose, just that surely we will be judged.
Hebrews 9:27 - It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment. Judgment is as sure as death.
In this life many people fail to keep appointments. (I can't count the number of times people have promised to study with me, but when the time came they never showed up.) But no one will be absent or tardy for this appointment. No excuses will be accepted. No amount of wealth, power, or military might can prevent your appearance.
Just as surely as God lives, Jesus arose, and men die, just that surely you will be judged. Are you ready?
Romans 2:6,9,10 - God will render to every man according to His deeds. Tribulation and anguish will come on every soul who does evil. Glory, honor, and peace will be for everyone who works what is good.
Matthew 25:32 - All nations will be present at judgment.
2 Corinthians 5:10 - We must all appear before Christ's judgment seat.
Romans 14:10-12 - We shall all stand before the judgment seat. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. Each of us will give account of himself to God.
All will be present: rich and poor; male and female; all races, nationalities, and ages; atheists, idolaters, denominationalists, and Christians; doctors, lawyers, politicians, and farmers; Washington, Lincoln, Marx, and Hitler; Adam, Noah, Peter, and Paul; your husband or wife, parents and children, all your relatives and friends. I will be there, and you will be there. Are you ready?
Though all people will be there, each one will be judged for his own conduct.
Romans 2:6 - God will render to each one according to his deeds.
Romans 14:12 - Each of us shall give account of himself to God.
2 Corinthians 5:10 - Each one will receive according to what he has done, good or bad.
The doctrine of inherited depravity states that all people inherit the guilt of Adam's sin and so are born sinners before they ever do anything, good or bad. But the Bible teaches that the only one who will be judged for what Adam did is Adam. You will not be condemned because anyone around you, before y0u, or after you was wicked. [Ezek. 18:20]
Nor will you be able to claim eternal life because you had a righteous husband or wife, parent or child, or other friend or relative. Your judgment will include your involvement in the local church, but the fact others in the church are saved will not help you if you are not faithful.
Dickens' book Tale of Two Cities ends with one man being executed in the place of another man. Jesus has paid the penalty for your sins. In this life you have the opportunity to receive forgiveness by His sacrifice. But when you stand before God in the day of judgment, no one will take your place. You will be judged for your own life.
The question will be: What did you do? How did you live? Are you ready?
[Matt. 16:27; Revelation 22:12; 20:13]
All aspects of our lives will be examined.
Romans 2:7,10 - Rewards will be given for those who continue patiently doing good.
2 Corinthians 5:10 - Each will receive according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Often in this life we feel that other people do not know, recognize, or appreciate what we do. But at the judgment, the good deeds you did will be recognized.
Romans 2:8,9 - Punishment will be given for those who do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness.
Matthew 12:36,37 - Men will give account in judgment for every idle word they speak. The words you spoke that you thought were not important or no one was listening - the profanity spoken in anger, the slander whispered in secret, the little white lies - all will be judged.
Romans 2:16 - God will judge the secrets of men.
Ecclesiastes 12:14 - God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. We may think no one knows what we have done, but God knows and will call us to judgment.
Jeremiah 17:10 - The Lord searches the heart and tests the mind in order to give to every man according to his ways. Evil desires and thoughts will condemn us as surely as evil actions or words.
Luke 12:2 - There is nothing covered or hid that shall not be made known.
In this life, you may often fool other people: your parents, spouse, or friends. You may hide the evidence or keep people ignorant of what you did. But you cannot hide from God. Are you ready?
The rewards given on that day are eternal and unalterable.
Romans 2:7 - Eternal life is given to those who continue in doing good.
Matthew 25:46 - The wicked will go into everlasting punishment.
In this life, convicted criminals often appeal to a higher court and often drag out their conviction for years. But after the judgment day, there is no higher court to appeal to and nothing we can do to alter our destiny. The destinies decreed will be eternal.
Have you ever done anything you knew was really wrong, and you were "caught red-handed"? You would be willing to give anything to change what happened, but it was too late. That is how judgment will be for many people, but their fate will be sealed.
It will be too late to repent, plead for mercy, or ask for another chance. And the consequence will be unalterable for eternity. Are you ready for that judgment?
Obviously, we need to be ready for the judgment, but how do we prepare?
Romans 2:16 - God will judge men by Jesus Christ according to the gospel.
John 12:48 - The words Jesus spoke will judge men in the last day.
If you were going to be tested on the content of a certain book, wouldn't you need to know what it said? Since we will be judged according to the gospel, surely we need to study to see what it says.
It does little good to know what the Bible says, if we don't believe it.
Hebrews 11:6 - Without faith we cannot please God.
John 8:24 - If we don't believe in Jesus, we will die in our sins.
The judgment day is the most important test you will ever face, and this test is based on the Bible. Surely we need to study and believe it. How well do you understand the gospel of Christ? Do you really believe that it will be the standard that determines your eternal destiny?
Romans 2:4,5 - God's goodness leads us to repent. But if we are impenitent, we treasure up wrath for ourselves in the day of judgment.
Acts 17:30,31 - God commands all men everywhere to repent. The reason we should repent is that God has appointed a day to judge us for our lives.
All of us have sinned, and sin is what causes people to be punished at the judgment. It follows that we must all repent of sin in order to be ready for judgment.
2 Peter 3:9 - God is not willing that any should perish, but we will if we don't repent.
How sad does sin make you? Do you really grieve for your sins? Do you truly determine with your whole heart to turn away from your sins?
Romans 2:7-10 - Those who will be rejected at the judgment are those who do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness and do evil (vv 8,9). Those who receive eternal life are those who continue patiently doing good and work what is good (vv 7,10).
Many denominations teach that all you have to do to be saved is to believe: obedience is not necessary to salvation. Surely faith is necessary, but the Bible repeatedly says that our eternal destiny depends on obedience. We will be judged for what we do, not just what we believe.
2 Corinthians 5:10 - Each one will be judged for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad.
Revelation 20:12,13 - The dead will be raised and judged according to their works.
Matthew 7:21-23 - Many people will expect to be accepted at the judgment but will be surprised when they are rejected. Why are they unacceptable? Because to enter the kingdom we must do the will of the Father. [Cf. vv 24-27.]
If there is anything clearly stated in the gospel it is that we will be judged for our deeds, not just our attitudes and beliefs.
This does not mean we can earn salvation or that we can save ourselves without faith or without Jesus' death. We already learned that all have sinned and must believe and repent in order to be forgiven of sins. But Jesus' word - the standard by which we will be judged - also says we must follow through with obedience.
Romans 10:9,10 - With the mouth confession is made to salvation.
Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38 - He who believes and is baptized will be saved.
Ecclesiastes 12:13,14 - Fear God and keep His commands, for this is the whole duty of man. And God will bring every work and every secret thing into judgment.
If we truly believe the gospel and repent of sins, Jesus forgives us by His blood when we are obedient in baptism.
We must then "continue patiently in doing good" in order to receive eternal life - Romans 2:7. If we do not continue to be obedient, we are back in sin and those who obey unrighteousness will receive tribulation and anguish.
[Heb. 10:26-31; Matt. 25:31-46]
In the older Perry Mason programs, invariably Perry would persuade the guilty party to confess his crime in front of the whole court. In real life, everybody knows they should not confess till they have consulted a lawyer, let alone confess in front of a judge, lawyer, and room full of onlookers.
But at the judgment day, everyone will confess that Jesus' verdict was correct. All will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess - Romans 14:10,11.
Are you ready to face the judge of all the earth who is guaranteed to make a fair judgment?
Copyright 2012, David E. Pratte; www.gospelway.com
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.