THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
"So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world" -- 1 John 4:16-17 -
It is not fashionable these days to speak of "the day of judgment." These are times of spiritual diversion. In a variety of ways, the old serpent has shifted the attention of our race to this world. It must ever be remembered that Jesus gave Himself to "deliver us from this present evil world" (Gal 1:4). Because of this circumstance, it is never in order to rivet our attention on what is seen. The "fashion of this world" is passing away, and is therefore unsuitable as an object of focus.
The very thought of "the day of judgement" lifts our thinking from this world to the time when we will confront the One that made us and redeemed us. When we are born into this world, we begin a journey to the time of our departure from it. We also advance to the time when we will be judged. As it is written, "man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment" (Heb 9:27, NIV). It is sobering to contemplate these realities, and thus it should be.
The consideration of "the day of judgment" has a calculated effect upon all men. The ungodly cannot entertain the notion of facing God. Therefore, they make every effort to avoid thinking about it. When squarely faced with its reality, it strikes fear into their heart. The godly, on the other hand, perceive that appointed day quite differently. It will be a time of blessing for them, and is thus proclaimed by the Spirit. "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power on the day He comes to be glorified in his holy people .and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you" (2 Thess 1:87-10).
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT DEFINED
The "day of judgement" is a time, a period that is divinely appointed. It is not a "day" as ordinarily conceived. Rather, it is a span with a beginning and an ending. The word "day" is often used in this manner in Scripture. Thus we read of "the day of calamity" (Hab 3:16), "the day of trouble" (Obadiah 1:14), "the day of battle" (Amos 1:14), and "the day of salvation" (1 Cor 6:2).
A time of ultimate and certain verdict is coming, when the Divine assessment will be given on every thought, word, and deed. By its very nature, it will be a time of blessing for some, and cursing for others. This time will not be noted for brevity, but for truth; not for its duration, but its revelation.
The "day of judgement" will be a time of revelation and exposure. The mind of the Lord will be known, as well as the thoughts of man. The truth on every issue will be seen by the assembled universe, and nothing will be hidden; no more masks, no more delusion, no more mystery--in any sense.
When the "day" comes, it will be carried forward to its culmination. It will not be cut short, aborted, or brought to an untimely conclusion. In my opinion, it will probably last at least as long as the history of the world, as men count time. Men and angels will come before of the Almighty, and a thorough review of human history will be made by the One that sits upon the throne.
The "day of judgment" is a period of time during which a full revelation of all things will occur. Hidden things will be exposed, and full accountability will be made.
An appointed time
The "day of judgment" is an appointed day. It will not occur in reaction to the sins or righteousness of men. All history is progressing toward this day, and we have been apprised of it coming. "Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead" (Acts 17:31).
Divine appointments are sure, as has been demonstrated in history. God appointed the time that Sarah would bear a son, and she did (Gen 18:14). God appointed a day when the cattle of Egypt would be stricken, and they were (Ex 9:5). The Lord appointed to overthrow the good, counsel of Ahithophel, and it was overthrown (2 Sam 17:14). Divine appointments are fulfilled with exacting precision!
This day is on the divine agenda, and nothing can avert it. All men are appointed to be present at that time (Heb 9:27), and they do well to prepare in this world to give a good accounting of themselves at that time. If the day of judgment takes anyone by surprise--especially professed believers--they will have no excuse. Divine appointments are always announced. A Messiah was appointed, and announced. Salvation by grace through faith was appointed, and announced. God's predetermination to conform believers to the Image of His Son is proclaimed in the Gospel. This is the Lord's manner, and well ought to thank Him for it!
Not a time to determine who is saved and lost
The purpose of the "day of judgement" is not to determine who is saved or lost. That determination is made in this world--it will be announced, not determined, in the day of judgement. No one will undergo a change of character in the resurrection or at the judgment. Character is changed here, or it is not changed at all! That is the meaning of the word, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still" (Rev 22:11).
The final separation of the saved and the lost will occur at the judgment (Matt 25:32-33). That separation will be determined by the choices and commitments people made while "in the body." Those that elect to live in ignorement of "the day of judgment" will regret their foolishness.
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT PROCLAIMED
An awesome day!
By its very nature, the "day of judgment" is awesome. When confronted with the stark realities that are declared concerning that time, the heart is gripped with amazement. John the beloved was given a glimpse of this time. His revelation of the vision jars the humanity from lethargy and disinterest. "And I saw a great white throne, and Him that 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, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell (hades) delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell (hades) were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev 20:11-15).
At the return of Jesus
The "day of judgment" will be inducted at the return of the Lord. That return will mark the end of the present heavens and earth (2 Pet 3:10-12). Our Lord revealed that His coming would be in all of His own glory, the glory of His Father, and the glory of the holy angels. How arresting are His words! "For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels" (Luke 9:26). The Revelation text states that "the earth and the heaven fled away" from the "face" of Him that sat upon the throne. Thus will all refuge for the guilty, and distraction for the justified, be removed. "No place" will be found for the temporal order. The assembled universe will confront the Lord face to face, i.e., in an eternal context, with no available alternatives.
All "the dead, small and great" will be present at the judgment. The phrase "small and great" is a Scriptural way of stating "everyone," or the full panorama of personalities (Gen 19:11; 1 Sam 5:9; Psa 115:13; Acts 26:22). All will be there, from the most insignificant to the most prominent. The unknown and the famous, and everyone between, will stand before the Lord. As the Spirit says, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor, 5:10).
Everyone will "stand before God." Those that acknowledged Him, and those that denied Him will be there. Those that worshiped Him, and those that served themselves will stand in reverence before Him. Those receiving His salvation and those refusing it--they will all "stand before God." We live in a time when the professed church needs to be reminded of this reality. There is far too much foolishness going on among those wearing the name of Christ, and it is being done while ignoring the day of judgment.
The "books" will be opened, wherein are recorded the words and deeds of humanity. You may be sure that a faithful and accurate record has been maintained. For the faithful, the consideration of the situation produces happy anticipation. Malachi spoke of heavenly records. "Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. And they will be Mine, says the LORD of hosts, on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him" (Mal 3:16-17). Malachi spoke of a faithful remnant that met together in troublesome times to strengthen each other in the Lord. Their meetings were not generally recognized upon earth--but they were in heaven! There will come a day when we will hear of the glorious content of those sacred gatherings. And so it is today; there are faithful souls that have inconvenienced themselves in difficult times to meet with fellow pilgrims. Their gatherings are known in the heavenly places. When the "books are opened," it will go well with such individuals!
Another book was also opened, called "the book of life." Those that are "alive unto God" (Rom 6:11) are recorded in that book. Paul knew of several colaborers that were recorded in this volume (Phil 4:3). Jesus promised the faithful in Sardius that their names would not be blotted out of this book (Rev 3:5). The solidity of this record is seen in its establishment "from the foundation of the world" (Rev 3:5; 13:18; 17:8). ONLY those written in this book, called "the Lamb's book of life," will be admitted into the "city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God" (Rev 21:27; Heb 11:10). Those that availed themselves of the "fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our lord" (1 Cor 1:9) are written in this book. These are the ones "known of (by) God" (Gal 4:9), The "book of life" and "the books" are perfectly synchronized. The assembled universe will find that it is the truth: "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts" (Gal 5:24). Those that "walk in the light as He is in the light" have nothing to fear when "the books are opened." Such are they that "quench not the Holy Spirit," but choose to "walk in the Spirit" (1 Thess 5:19; Gal 5:16,25). Their faith put their names in "the book of life," and enabled good works, to which they were ordained, to be "written in the books."
Humanity will be summoned from the secret places to appear before the throne. Even "the sea" will yield up the countless dead that it has held for centuries. Those that perished in the flood, the Red Sea, and the oceans of the world will rise at the last trump, to answer the universal summons. The dark and mysterious deep will yield to the glorious light of Christ's appearing!
"Death" comes from the word thanatos (thanatos), and is the reign of decline and separation that entered the world with sin. The immediate evidence of "death" is the grave, which has swallowed the human race with only two exceptions, Enoch and Elijah. "Hell" is better translated "hades," coming from the word haides (haides). It refers to the abode of departed spirits. Jesus spoke of that area in His account of the rich man and Lazerus (Luke 16:19-21). The rich man is said to have awakened in torment in "hades," beholding Lazarus "afar off," in Abraham's bosom. This abode is, in some sense, temporary, and little is known of it. In the Revelation, John spoke of departed souls, martyred because of their testimony, as "under the altar" (Rev 6:9). The point of the reference to "death and hades" is this: all temporary abodes, whether for body or soul, will yield up their inhabitants and be destroyed when the day of judgment arrives!
In spite of contradicting doctrines, the judgment of the righteous and wicked will occur at the Lord's return. This is plainly and powerfully declared in God's Word. "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day" (2 Thess 1:7-10).
Enoch walked with God only seven generations after Adam. In those times, such individuals were rare, for his was a generation near to the time of the Noahic flood. Enoch's walk with the Lord brought him into accord with Him in the perspective of the world. His prophesy of the judgment executed in the global flood also applies to the end of our age. Jude shares that prophesy in his epistle. "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him" (Jude 14-15). Because of the prominence of evil in his time, Enoch spoke of the execution of divine judgment "upon all." That judgment would "convince" them of their godlessness; i.e., "Ungodly" people committing "ungodly deeds" in an "ungodly" manner, and "ungodly sinners" speaking "hard speeches" against the Lord of hosts! This will take place more extensively and in finality when the Lord Jesus comes again. Our generation has lost touch with this perspective. We do well to put the people in remembrance of its sobering reality.
By the Prophets
One of the psalmists spoke of the judgment of the world. Though not characterized by the clarity now revealed in Christ, here is a message we need to hear. "Before the LORD; for He cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall He judge the world, and the people with equity (righteousness)" (Psa 98:9). The earth is scheduled for judgment. The world, and those that dwell in it will meet the Lord, the righteous Judge. In this world, unrighteous judgment prevails. The innocent suffer and the guilty are rewarded, going unpunished. Sinners are exalted and the righteous abased. Good and evil are confused, and it appears there is no disadvantage to living without the Lord. But these are only delusions! Everyone will be judged "with equity," or in absolute righteousness. The standard of measurement will be the mind and character of the Lord. For those that have chosen to "abide in Him," that is a wonderful circumstance!
Daniel provided a marvelous prophecy of the coming judgement. "I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, Whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened" (Dan 7:9-10 KJV). What a remarkable view! The dissipation of all earthly kingdoms set the stage for the judgment day. There will be no competing judges, no contending views! The One that created and sustains all things--"the Ancient of days"--sat on the judgment throne. His absolute purity is depicted as a garment "white as snow"--i.e., One Whose purposes and expressions were pure and undefiled in every way. Everyone who sees Him will acknowledge His uprightness. His righteous character is seen as hair as white as wool. Everything emitting from His mind is pure, holy, and without defilement. His throne, like Himself, is a flaming fire. It is depicted as having wheels, i.e., moving onward and forward in swift and certain judgment. The "fire" portrays a consuming Presence that will "devour the adversaries" (Heb 10:27). Where there is conflict with His judgment, He will prevail, and the opponents will be devoured--and there are no exceptions! The aggressiveness of divine judgment is seen in the "fiery stream" that issued "forth from before Him." Surrounded by holy beings, the judgment was "set," and the "books were opened." No person will be able to avert that day, or avoid being involved in it.
By John the Baptist
Jesus apprised us that of those "born of woman," there had not arisen a "greater than John the Baptist" (Matt 11:11). He was the blessed harbinger chosen by God to announce the "Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world." Not only, however, did John announce Jesus as Savior, He also proclaimed Him as Judge. "Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt 3:12 KJV). The purging fan is now in Christ's hand! The floor of the earth belongs to Him, and we are in His domain. The people of God belong to Him, having been given to Him by His Father (John 10:29), and the enemies of God are all answerable to Him. In the judgment He will formalize the status of all men. Those that have "escaped the pollutions of the world" will finally be gathered into the eternal haven, forever safe from struggles experienced in a defiled realm. Those that rejected the Judge while they lived in this world, will be delivered to a godless eternity that will never improve. Their torment will never diminish, and they will never have hope. If all we knew about the judgment day is what John the Baptist said, it would provide enough incentive to "flee" to Christ now "for refuge."
By the Lord Jesus
Our Lord Jesus often referred to the day of judgement. There certainly is no excuse for anyone remaining in ignorance concerning its reality, or failing to prepare themselves for it. His words have a strange sound to a faithfulness generation--but they must be repeated. He informs us that we will face individuals from former generations on the day of judgment. It will be intolerable if we did not learn from their record in Scripture.
Facing previous generations
"Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city" (Mat 10:15 KJV). Think of San Francisco and Joplin facing Sodom and Gomorrah on judgment day! Jesus told Capernaum, a disbelieving city of His day, a startling thing. "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day" (Matt 11:23). The Lord did not hide what He did to Sodom and Gomorrah. He inspired the record to be written that men might avoid divine judgement. All men do well to take Christ's word seriously. With all of the religious tolerance of sin these days, it is becoming for us to consider the words of Him Who was love incarnate. Those that have been exposed to more light will be judged more critically! God was not lenient with Sodom and Gomorrah in this world, but it will be better for them in the day of judgment than for those that reject His Son!
Tyre and Sidon were cities that exalted themselves. Tyre trusted in a self-constructed stronghold, relying upon the plentifulness of silver and gold for its security. It was brought low for its contemptible pride (Zech 2-5)."But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you" (Mat 11:22 KJV). Is it possible that the Lord would be more tolerant of those wicked cities of old than people in our generation? Indeed it is! Where more truth has been given, more is expected. The day of judgment will bring the facts out clearly.
And what about Nineveh, "that great city" that repented at the preaching of Jonah? Jonah brought no gospel, and offered no amnesty. He only announced certain doom. Yet, that ancient city, with 120,000 infants, repented rather than face the judgment of God. They did not have a Bible, nor did they have a prophet. It was a foreigner fresh from the belly of a great fish that marched through its precincts, announcing destruction in "forty days." Scripture apprises us that "the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them" (Jonah 3:4-5). Although the city was judged later, it was spared after it believed Jonah's word. Jesus hearkens men to that event with most sobering words. "The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here" (Mat 12:41 KJV). Do not doubt it for a moment. The "day of judgment" will be an intensely active time. One generation will be able to speak in rebuke of another, because of the greater advantages it enjoyed. How do you suppose Nineveh will respond to our generation, where energetic repentance is virtually unknown?
It is never right to fail to extend yourself to know the truth. Men today are altogether too tolerant of those characterized by spiritual slovenliness. Truth is so accessible in our environment; there simply is no excuse for not engaging in a quest for it. Hear the Lord Jesus. "The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here" (Mat 12:42 KJV). What are Solomon's words compared to those of Jesus--and the Queen of Sheba traveled from the southern tip of Arabia to hear the wise king (1 Kings 10). What will she say in the day of judgment to those that did not venture across a street, or to the bookshelf of their own house, to "buy the truth?" (Prov 23:23).
Thoughtless speech is common in our day. Everything from slang and oaths to offensiveness and profanity are uttered without a thought. Throw into this scenario the propensity among religious people to unhesitatingly share their opinions--some of which obviously oppose the revelation of God. Jesus informed us the "day of judgment" would occasion accountability for such speech. It may look as though spiritual jabber is innocent, but it is not! "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" (Mat 12:36 KJV). How serious is this pronouncement--you do not hear much of it these days? Let me give you the full statement of our Savior. "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil. And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned" (Matt 12:34-37). This was Christ's injunction against the Pharisees that said He cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub (v 24). That was an "idle word." Not "idle" in the sense of thoughtless, but "careless," as it is rendered in other versions. Their minds were in gear when they spoke, but they were headed in the wrong direction. "Idle" or "careless" words are useless ones, fruitless and barren! They cannot produce good fruit or stand the test of divine judgment! No wonder Paul admonished us to let our speech "be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Col 4:6). If your speech must stand the test of the throne in the day of judgment, it is on the part of wisdom to seek to speak in harmony with the mind of the Lord now!
By the Apostles
The Apostles' assessment of their commission is of particular interest. The institutional church has spent considerable time evaluating the role of the church. Notwithstanding the labor put into their views, fiew have arrived at the same conclusion as Peter the Apostle. "God raised Him up on the third day, and granted that He should become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us, who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins" (Acts 10:40-43). This was Peter's message to the household of Cornelius. It was uttered 10-15 years after Pentecost, and represents clear spiritual thinking. You will be hard pressed to find anyone perceiving this as "the great commission." Notice, the judgment of humanity is integral to the message preached. The near-total absence of this kind of preaching tells us how far the contemporary church had drifted from its spiritual moorings.
Judging men's secrets
Moral responsibility is often the subject of Scriptural exhortation. An effective constraint for right living is the consideration of the day of judgment, easily forgotten by men enamored of this world. "For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law . . . in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel" (Rom 2:12-16). This is a different perspective than is normally presented to the religious masses. Paul preached a Gospel that included the judgment of men's secrets by Jesus Christ! The NIV states it this way, "This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares." Some might wonder what is "good news" about such a proclamation. It is quite simple: the salvation proclaimed in the Gospel readies men for that day. At that time, the secrets of their hearts will be found to God's praise and glory. In the meantime, if men become lax in their thinking, the recollection of the day of judgment will provoke them to engage in "taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor 10:5). It is most unfortunate that this aspect of the Gospel is so little heard in our time.
Incentive to avoid being judgmental
Throughout the history of the church, judgmental attitudes have been a problem. In averting this propensity, Paul appealed to the day of judgment. "But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, "AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD." So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom 14:10-12, NASB). Thoughtful people consider their own accountability to God of greater significance than the correction of their brethren. This does not suggest the warning, rebuke, and correction of our brethren is out of order. The consideration of the day of judgment, however, will compel our judgement to be mingled with mercy. Our objective for ourselves and those with whom we company is to give a joyful account to God. That accounting shall begin and end with hearty acknowledgment that the Lord was just and right in all of His sayings! It is not possible to live in the awareness of this and be hostile toward or judgmental of the people of God.
Exposing the quality of the work
Those that have become involved in the inner workings of sectarianism know of its great emphasis on recruitment. "Evangelism" is the byword among such people, even though the word is not even found in Scripture. Courses are frequently offered that guarantee to make people adept in the art of winning souls. All of this sounds good enough to the naive soul. However, there are some factors that will cause the individual to approach "evangelism" more soberly. These factors will not cause one to draw back from "compelling" people to come to Christ, but it will radically alter how it is done. "But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon" (1 Cor 2:10). God never intended for inferior spiritual materials to be placed upon the Foundation of His Son. He is the basis for a "spiritual house" in which God Himself dwells (Eph 2:22; 1 Pet 2:5). It is possible to have a message or procedure that actually produces followers that will not stand the test of Divine judgment! The present condition of our churches substantiates this to be the case. The Spirit warns us about the manner in which we build on the Foundation, which is Christ Jesus; i.e., what kinds of people are produced by our message and procedures. "Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is" (1 Cor 3:13 KJV).
"The day" of judgement will reveal the quality of our "converts." They will each pass through the fire of Divine judgment. Those that pass the test will be proved to be "gold, silver, and precious stones," each of which can endure fire. But "wood, hay, and stubble" are consumed by fire. They cannot endure under that circumstance. It will be revealing to see how the "numbers" that are boastfully reported in this world hold up in the day of judgment! The quality of every professed believer will be revealed in that day.
But that is not the end of the matter. The outcome of the "fire test" will directly affect the status of every laborer in the Lord's vineyard. For example, the quality of the evangelist's converts will have a direct bearing upon him. "If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (1 Cor 3:14-15). I can tell you, the spiritual knowledge of this sobering reality will affect what you preach, and the manner in which you do it. Do not think for one moment that this is an idle word. It is a divine alert to absolute reality. This is why Paul was so concerned about the Galatian brethren. In their reversion to a system of Law, they were becoming "wood, hay, and stubble." Therefore, Paul wrote, "I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain" (Gal 4:11). Paul did not want to "suffer loss" in the day when every man's "work" is "revealed." I cannot help but observe the near total absence of this way of thinking in the contemporary church.
A solemn warning is issued to every person laboring in the whitened fields, and we do well to take heed to it with fear and trembling. "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1 Cor 3:17). That is no idle threat! Before you become overly tolerant of carnality, or begin to compromise the message of salvation in order to make it attractive to the disinterested, consider this warning! Those that corrupt the dwelling place of God, which is the church, the pillar and ground of the truth, will be destroyed by God. "The day of judgment" will expose the quality of all evangelistic and congregational efforts. Make no mistake about it, those who regularly contributed to the defilement of the body of Christ will not be able to escape divine judgment.
Fallen angels reserved for that day
"The day of judgement" is far more extensive than men tend to think. The fallen angels are being kept in reserve until judgement day. Their defection resulted from their conflict with the Living God. "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6 KJV). God will be justified in that conflict; i.e., He will be shown to be righteous in excluding them from His Presence, and reserving them in chains of darkness. They could not extricate themselves from their self-inflicted dilemma. No mercy was shown to them, and no Savior sent to them. The judgement day will confirm the uprightness of this verdict, as well as the inexcusableness of their wicked choice.
THE PURPOSE OF THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT
Vindication of God
Everyone that opposes the Lord has, in effect, judged Him. They have judged Him unworthy of believing, and His word unworthy of being embraced. "God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou art judged" (Rom 3:4). Is God righteous in everything He has said? The world could not contain the books that have been written in disputation against God Almighty. Wherever the word of man and the word of God have been in conflict, God will be vindicated. The man that is found in contradiction of God will be shown to be a liar to an assembled universe. Gold will be "justified" in all of His sayings. None of them were flawed! Now were exaggerations? None were hyperboles, overstatements, or understatements! God will have the last word, and He will overcome!
One of the primary purposes of the "day of judgment" is to demonstrate the integrity of God to heavenly intelligences. It is not that any of them doubt this: the extent of it goes further than is presently evident. Words like "See that ye offend not one of these little ones," "feed the flock of God," "abstain from all appearance of evil," and "render unto God the things that are God's" will be shown true. Think of statements like, "he that soweth sparingly shall also reap sparingly, and he that soweth bountifully shall also reap bountifully." God will be justified in that saying!
The vindication of God is involved in this word: "For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God" (Rom 14:11 KJV). This will not be a mere formality; it will be an acknowledgment that "God is true." The skeptic, atheist, and agnostic will bow and confess! The scholar that trusted in the wisdom of the world will bow and confess! The person that indulged his lusts rather than crucify them will bow and confess. And those that have fought a good fight and finished their course will joyfully bow and confess! God will be vindicated!
Moses declared it, and it is still the truth; "He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He" (Deut 32:4). The uprightness of the Lord's "sayings" will not be established by some hermeneutical principle, but by the Lord Himself. He truly is "A God of truth," and that is why He speaks truth! He is "just and right," and all that are in conflict with Him are unjust and wrong! In this regards, those that are prepared for the day of judgment will have acquainted themselves with the Author of the sayings. The day of judgement will show this to be the case.
Reward of the righteous
Believers are obscure in this world. It "does not yet appear" who they are, or what they will be (1 John 3:1-3). The whole creation, inflicted with mortality because of man's sin, is waiting for "the manifestation of the sons of God" (Rom 8:19). They are still waiting because the sons of God are presently incognito. However, it shall not always be so. The "day of judgment" will be a day of reward for the saints of the most high God! Ranking highest in the rewards will be the Lord Himself Who is our "exceeding great Reward" (Gen 15:1). As it is written, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb 11:6). And what is the ultimate reward for those that seek HIM? "God Himself shall be with them, and be their God" (Rev 21:3).
In that day, God will "praise" those that have left all to labor for Him. How glorious the affirmation! "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God" (1 Cor 4:5). In this world, there are those that seek the praises of men. Others seek the praise of God--and they shall receive it. As it is written, "For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:43). How provocative are the words of Jesus, "How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor that cometh from God only?" (John 5:44).
Rewards will be intensely personal. Every man shall "receive his own reward, according to his own labor" (1 Cor 3:8). Throughout the chambers of eternity, praise will resound as Divine judgment results in the rewarding of the faithful. Think of the preciseness of these rewards. "He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward" (Matt 10:41-42).
The reward shall be in direct proportion to the labor and faithfulness of the servant. Though unrecognized and often unrewarded in the earth, their labor has not gone unnoticed by the Lord of heaven and earth. "His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (Matt 25:31). The saints do well to emulate their God in honoring His servants here. Of the Lord, it is said, "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Heb 6:10). As a practical observation, it is ALWAYS unrighteous to forget the work and labor of God's people.
Wrath and praise--simultaneously
The day of judgment is a time of wrath for the ungodly, and reward for the godly--simultaneously. There is an appointed day when all will be judged. It is called "the time." How awesome is the consideration of it. "The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great-- and for destroying those who destroy the earth" (Rev 11:18, NIV). Child of God, if your labors seem to be unnoticed, and the burden of rejection is heavy upon you, remember the day of judgment. The time of your recognition and reward has not yet come--but it will. There is a set time on the divine calendar for the rewarding of God's servants the prophets, as well as the saints who have reverenced His name, both small and great. At that time, the wicked, responsible for the putrefication of the earth, will be punished, while the "salt of the earth" will be rewarded for their refusal to continue in the suppuration process.
Punishment of the wicked
Lest we become complacent, we are reminded that the wicked will be punished in the day of judgment. Their wickedness has not been overlooked. In this world, evil men are often rewarded for their ways; but it shall, not be so there. With very few exceptions, the people exalted by the world are fundamentally evil, alienated from God in their hearts. In this life they too often rise to the surface, but they rise like dross, to be removed in the day of judgement.
The Lord knows how to reserve the wicked for the day of judgment. They have not escaped His attention, and they will face Him openly in that great day. "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished" (2 Pet 2:9 ). The day of judgment will be a time of "perdition," or eternal condemnation. "But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" (2 Pet 3:7 ). Thus, the day of judgment will be a time of unbridled wrath, poured out "without mixture" upon those who elected to live apart from God, their Savior. "But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (Rom 2:5 ). That is a day which will result in the devouring of those in opposition to the living God. "But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (Heb 10:27 ).
When opposed by men, and forced to labor for Christ under difficult circumstances, allow your faith to bring you into rest. "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels. In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess 1:7-8 ). It is not that we delight "in the death of the wicked," any more than our great God (Ezek 18:32; 33:11). Rather, we are relieved that no vengeance is required on our part. We may devote ourselves to blessing rather than cursing, and to doing good rather than retaliation. That is a remarkable liberty, and it is made possible by our consideration of the day of judgment.
CONFIDENCE IN THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT
It is possible to have confidence in the very day of judgment--in fact, that is the Lord's desire for you. For several years, the very thought of the judgment day frightened me. I had embraced a concept of salvation that left me thinking I was "in and out" of fellowship with God, with no possibility of being assured He had accepted me. It was a grievous form of bondage, from which I thank God I have found deliverance. I worked hard for the Lord, but it was more to obtain His approval than because He had already received me. I longed for His acceptance, but was not sure I had it. I wanted to pass through the judgment unharmed, but was not sure I would. Deliverance from this form of bondage is available!
Faultless before His throne
It is wonderful to consider being without a fault before the Lord; i.e., without a fault in His eyes. For some, this is too wonderful. However, God has spoken plainly on this matter. He is able to bring you to that point, with you rejoicing in the situation. "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 1:24 ). Now, in this life, the Lord is able to "keep you from falling." You can be "faithful until death," by His grace (Rev 2:10). Those so blessed will rejoice with "exceeding joy" as the books are searched, and they are found "without fault" (Rev 14:5). Their faultless condition required their effort, but it is not the result of their effort. It is the Lord that kept them from falling and presented them faultless. It was their faith that brought the blessing to them!
As He is, so are we in the world
Living in fellowship with Jesus here (1 Cor 1:9), will produce confidence there--in the day of judgement. It is our communion with Christ that makes us like Him here. It will also give us confidence in the "great and notable day of the Lord." "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as H is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17 ). Knowing this, the exhortation to holiness becomes very precious. "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Heb 1:14, NIV). Who is not able to see the blessing of being confident in the judgment day because we have lived in harmony with Him in this world?
Isaiah expressed the confidence we will enjoy very beautifully. "And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isa 25:9). It is not vain to trust the Lord, and our labor is not pointless in Him. The day of judgement will confirm this to be the case! With the world collapsing all about us, the elements melting with fervent heat, and the works of men being burned up, we will be glad! Amidst the cries of the ungodly for rocks and mountains to fall upon them, we will lift up our heads and confidently rejoice with exceeding joy! Salvation is a great work! How appropriate the word of psalm of David, delivered to Asaph and his brethren.
"Then shall the trees of the wood sing out at the presence of the LORD, because He cometh to judge the earth" (1 Chron 16:33 ).
The ability to reason with men upon, among other things, the day of judgment, can cause even ungodly men to tremble. As it is written of Paul, "And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee" (Acts 24:25 ). Judgment is coming! Both small and great will be there. For the unrighteous, it will be a day of wrath and vengeance, poured out "without mixture" (Rev 14:10). However, for the righteous, it will induct everything for which their hearts have yearned. The God they have served and sought to please will tell them they have done well, and they will be confessed as His sons and Christ's brethren before the Father and the holy angels.
Their labors will be rewarded down to the finest detail, and no work for God will be overlooked or minimized.
The saints will participate in the judgment. God will judge the world through Jesus (Acts 17:31), and Jesus will judge it through the saints. "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?" (1 Cor 6:2).
Whatever your ministry is, be up and doing it for Jesus' sake! When the day of judgment comes, the kingdom of Christ will become evident. Labor with that day in mind! As it is written, "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom. Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim 4:1 ). The consideration of the day of judgment will provide additional incentive to keep you in the fields, laboring for your coming King!
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