Standing before an earthly judge as a defendant must be a nerve-wracking experience, but one day we will all stand before God to give an account of our lives. That God is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only true God … the same one that our society vilifies and works tirelessly to reject.
Yes, having an earthly judge pass judgment upon us can be anything from inconvenient to most troubling, but it is not permanent. At worse, the judgment can only last the remainder of our earthly lives. The judgment of the earthly judge could even be reversed. However, when God passes judgment, His decision is permanent, and it will never change. In other words, it is eternal. Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Every person reading this needs to consider that the earthly court can make decisions penalizing or rewarding us while we are in these earthly bodies. However, even after our body has long been dead, our soul lives on for all eternity, either in Heaven or hell.
Many, probably most, in our society today don’t like to be reminded that they are a sinner and need to be born again, as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3. They most always want to quote Matthew 7:1 (judge not) but ignore Matthew 7:20 or John 7:24.
Regardless of how loudly we protest, all, without exception, will be judged by God. There are three judgments I would like to mention.
Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; John 19:30
I have already mentioned that everyone, both believers and unbelievers, will face a final judgment. All believers of the Church age will be judged by Jesus at the Judgment Seat of Christ, which is also called the Bema Seat. All unbelievers will be judged by Jesus at the Great White Throne Judgment. We will look at these two next.
First, and most importantly, however, is the judgment of God the Father upon Jesus, God the Son. Without this judgment, there would be no Judgment Seat of Christ. All of us would stand before God at the Great White Throne instead, waiting to be cast into hell, the lake of fire.
Thanks be to God, Jesus paid the sin debt we could never pay, and by doing so, He has provided the one way we can be rescued and spend eternity with Him in Heaven.
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'” (John 14:6).
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).
“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).
Because Jesus gave Himself to be our propitiation (the offering provided to satisfy God’s wrath), anyone who will put their faith in Jesus can avoid facing the judgment of hell at the Great White Throne.
As Dr. J. Vernon McGee stated, “There is not a person on topside of this world that is being forced to be lost. They are lost because they have chosen to be lost.”
THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST (Bema)
1 Corinthians 3:11-15
This judgment will occur in Heaven when all the earth is experiencing the seven-year Tribulation.
For those in the Church age who have been born again in Jesus (John 3:3), we will never be judged for our sins. Jesus took all our sins upon Himself and was judged in our place. We are eternally safe in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus Christ.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12).
So, what is the Judgment Seat of Christ all about? All true Christians will be judged for their works, not for salvation, but for rewards. All true Christians have finished the race, as Paul would say, and then will be rewarded for the works done in Christ. Paul explains this in the following verses.
“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
If the works we have done are like gold, silver and precious stones, we will receive a reward from Jesus. If our works are like wood, hay and straw, we will suffer loss because they will burn up, and there will be no reward for those.
Please notice that WE are not being judged; our WORKS are being judged to determine our rewards. Every work we do for and through Him will be rewarded, and I believe Jesus delights in our faithfulness. Notice the next verse.
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12).
Once more, our salvation is secure in Him. He paid our debt for sin. It is our WORKS that are being judged.
THE GREAT WHITE THRONE
This judgment will occur immediately after the one-thousand-year Millennium.
This next judgment is for everyone who has rejected Him. This judgment includes every person who has ever lived upon this earth and has rejected His saving grace. Please notice what Jesus has to say in the following two passages.
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).
Based on the next two passages, I am convinced that there will be different degrees of judgment in hell, just as there will be different degrees of reward in Heaven. This is not to make light of the fact that hell is still hell. It is not a place anyone would want to be.
“And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 10:12-16).
“And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:47-48).
Of these last two judgments, the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Great White Throne, which would you rather attend? Thanks to the judgment Jesus took for us on the cross, many will be at the Judgment Seat of Christ where only their works are being judged to determine their rewards. Unfortunately, many, many more will be at the Great White Throne to determine their placement in hell.
If you are reading this, you can still decide to be where Jesus will reward you (Judgment Seat of Christ) instead of condemn you (Great White Throne).
THE GOOD NEWS
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
If you will accept the fact that you cannot save yourself, but Jesus can and will, and if you will just put your faith in Him, then He will save you by His grace. Just accept the judgment of the cross that He bore for you.
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).
All who put their faith solely in Jesus to be saved will never be condemned, but those who refuse to believe “in the name of the only begotten Son of God” are already condemned and will spend eternity in hell.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Our sins send us to hell because God cannot allow sin in His presence. The gift of salvation is free, but it isn’t cheap. Jesus gave His life and took our judgment upon Himself for all those who will believe in Him. His grave is empty, and He is now in Heaven waiting for you to decide. Will you trust Him or reject Him? He promises in the next verse that if you call upon Him, you will be saved.
“For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
King David said:
“For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalms 103:11-12).
Pre-Rapture Commentary: http://grant-phillips.blogspot.com
Rapture Ready: https://www.raptureready.com/featured/phillips/phillips.html