One of the most colorful agnostics in American history was Robert G. Ingersoll, who gave dramatic lectures throughout the nation questioning the Bible and the existence of God. One night when he was addressing an audience in a small town in New York, he proclaimed eloquently his doubts about a future judgment and hell. When he was finished an old drunkard stood up in the rear of the hall and said with a thick tongue: "I sure hope you are right, Brother Bob. I'm counting on that."
Modern man does not like to think of God in terms of wrath, anger, and judgment. He likes to fashion God after his own preferences and give God the characteristics he wants Him to possess. He tries to remake God to conform to his own wishful thinking and make himself comfortable in his sins. This modern "god" has the attributes of love, mercy, and forgiveness without justice. This means an absence of judgment and punishment for sin. God is reconstructed along the lines of tolerance, all-embracing love, and universal goodwill. The Biblical view that righteousness is as ultimate as love in the divine nature is abandoned. In this picture of God there are no laws that demand absolute obedience and no standards to which man must adhere. For example, more than nine hundred clergymen and students gathered some time ago at Harvard Divinity School to ponder the so-called "new morality" and its significance for the church. One professor of divinity said that premarital sex between engaged couples was all right, that God would understand. A professor at another
theological school thought that no sexual relationship should be absolutely condemned by the church. Thus many church leaders continue to reconstruct God according to the secular and humanistic trends of our time.
However, this kind of "god" would make an impossible world. It would be chaotic, irresponsible, and self-destroying. It would be impossible for man to live with certainty and happiness. To have meaning man's life must be based upon law and a lawgiver. The Psalmist said: "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes: (Psalm 19:7-8). The Bible warns that "evil men understand not judgment" (Proverbs 28:5). Jesus Himself put His stamp of approval on the law when He said: "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail" (Luke 16:17). The Law of Moses and the Sermon on the Mount are standards that can never be changed. No clergyman has a right to lower these standards in the name of God lest he be in danger of defiling the law, blaspheming God, and becoming guilty of heresy.
God Will Judge Every Man
The Bible teaches that God is indeed a God of judgment, wrath, and anger.
If the Bible teaches anything, it teaches that God is going to judge man. Time after time Jesus warned of judgment: "It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you" (Matthew 11:22). "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36). "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his Kingdom
all things that offend and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:41). "For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known" (Luke 12:2). "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son" (John 5:22).
The Apostles taught throughout the New Testament that there would come a time of judgment: "He has appointed a day at which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained" (Acts 17:31). "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed" (Romans 2:5). "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2 Thess. 1:6-8). "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God" (Hebrews 10:26-27). "Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead" (1 Peter 4:5). "Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Rev. 6:15-17).
These are only a few of the hundreds of passages that could be cited to point to a time of judgment yet to come in
which every man who has ever lived will be involved and none will escape! If you took all the references of judgment out of the Bible, you would have a much smaller Bible.
Justice, Mercy, and Love
There are many who say that judgment is not consistent with justice, mercy, and love. This is because they do not understand the nature of God. They have refused to accept the revelation of God's nature from the Bible.
Judgment is consistent with justice. Justice demands the balancing of the scales, and without judgment this would be impossible. When Jeremiah said "a King shall . . . execute judgment and justice in the earth" (Jer. 23:5), he put these factors in juxtaposition. Justice is impossible without judgment. Law cannot exist without a penalty. Reason would tell us that there will be a time when the Hitlers, the Eichmanns, and the Stalins will be brought to an accounting. Otherwise there is no justice in the universe. Thousands of evil men have lived and practiced their evil upon others without seeming to pay a penalty in this life. Reason tells us that there will be a time when the crooked places will be made straight (Isaiah 45:2).
Judgment is consistent with mercy. The God who would be merciful must move in mercy according to the standards of justice and righteousness. Judgment in no way conflicts with mercy; for if mercy is to be extended, judgment must be a part of the divine order. To be merciful without being just is a contradiction.
The judge who administers justice must base his acts upon law. The breaking of law demands penalty. To show mercy in the face of broken law is to destroy order and create chaos. Mercy is a quality that cannot forget or neglect the principle
of law. If it is not a universal attitude in all cases of broken law, it is destructive of order.
A number of years ago I was stopped for driving too fast through a speed zone, and in the courtroom I pleaded guilty. The judge was not only friendly but rather embarrassed for me to be in his court. The fine was ten dollars. If he had let me go free, it would have been inconsistent with justice. The penalty had to be paid either by me or someone else!
Judgment is consistent with love. A God of love must be a God of justice. It is because God loves that He is just. His justice balances His love and makes His acts of both love and justice meaningful. God could not consistently love men if He did not provide for the judgment of evildoers. His punishment of the evildoer and His separation of the righteous is a manifestation of God's great love. We must always look at the cross on the dark background of judgment. It was because God's love for man was so intense that He gave His Son so that man would not have to face the judgment.
Judgment is necessary as a spur to conscience. Man needs the incentive of reward for goodness and the threat of punishment as a deterrent against evil. In the present composition of his moral nature, punishment is a necessary "goad" to his conscience. He requires this threat and its warning to prevent the doing of evil. This may not be the highest motive for doing good, but it is necessary in the imperfections that have existed in the moral nature of man since the Garden of Eden. We must take man as he is, not as he ought to be, and predicate our opinions of justice, mercy, love, and judgment on the character of God and the present imperfect nature of man. The "absolute ideal" does not exist except in the unreasoning fancy of the modern philosopher who spins his philosophical theories without consideration of the Biblical revelation of God and of man's spiritual disease.
Suppose in any country that there were no police forces at all.
There would be chaos overnight. Suppose there were no courts to straighten out the wrong. What a mess the country would be in. No one would be safe anywhere. In some cities people are not safe despite police protection, and on some streets even the policemen are in danger. And now and then a policeman himself is arrested for infraction of the law. The evil passions of men, even with law enforcement, are only slightly restrained. To this the daily newspaper testifies with its stories of crime.
The Last Great Conflict
The Bible teaches that man is so rebellious against the laws of God that someday he will mass his armies against God Himself. This will be the last great conflict, Armageddon. "And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon" (Rev. 16:16). This will be the final war, the last convulsive effort of fallen man against the law of God. What will be God's answer? A show of mercy? A display of tolerance? No! It will be judgment. The only alternative to mercy, spurned and rejected, is judgment. God has offered His love and mercy and forgiveness to men. From the cross God has said to the entire world, "I love you." However, when that love is deliberately rejected, the only alternative is judgment.
The Different Judgments
Contrary to popular opinion, the Bible knows nothing of a general judgment in which all men appear before God at the same time. The Bible lists a number of different judgments. For example, there is one judgment of the righteous at
the judgment seat of Christ (the bema seat ... 2 Cor. 5:10). There is another judgment of the nations (Matthew 25:31-46). There is also a judgment of the unrighteous dead at the great white throne (Rev. 20:11-13). These judgments of different subjects at different times and for different purposes form the composite picture of judgment in the events disclosed in the prophetic Scriptures.
The Judgment for Sin
This judgment took place at the cross. The Scripture says: "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). Because of this, the Scripture teaches: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). In other words, the judgment for sin that I deserved is already passed. Christ took my judgment on the cross. Every demand of the law has been met. The law was completely satisfied in the offering that Christ made of Himself for sins. "The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). "Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24). "But this Man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down at the right hand of God" (Hebrews 10:12).
The law had said: "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), and "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). I deserved judgment and hell, but Christ took that judgment and hell for me. Christ himself said: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that hears my word, and believes on him who sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24). No statement could be any plainer that the true believer in Jesus Christ shall not come into judgment.
That judgment is past. "For you have cast all my sins behind your back" (Isaiah 38:17). God said through Jeremiah the prophet: "I will remember their sin no more" (Jeremiah 31:34).
We shall never understand the extent of God's love in Christ at the cross until we understand that we shall never have to stand before the judgment of God for our sins. Christ took our sins. He finished the work of redemption. I am not saved through any works or merit of my own. I have preached to thousands of people on every continent, but I shall not go to heaven because I am a preacher. I am going to heaven entirely on the merit of the work of Christ. I shall never stand at God's judgment bar. That is all past.
Once while crossing the North Atlantic, I looked out my porthole when I got up in the morning and saw one of the blackest clouds I had ever seen. I was certain that we were in for a terrible storm. I ordered my breakfast sent to my room and spoke to the steward about the storm. He said, "Oh, we've already come through that storm. It's behind us."
If we are believers in Jesus Christ, we have already come through the storm of judgment. It happened at the cross.
The Judgment of the Believer
From what I have just said, this sounds like a contradiction. It is not judgment in the sense of condemnation, but of evaluation. It is the time when Christ will give rewards to His own. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).
While the true believer in Christ cannot work for his salvation because it is "not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:9), and because it is "not by works of righteousness
which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us" (Titus 3:5), nevertheless we can work for a reward. The Scripture says: "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames" (1 Cor. 3:11-15).
Any work done by a follower of Christ to the glory of God is "gold, silver, precious stones." But if any follower of Christ works with any self-interest or personal ambition involved, it will be "wood, hay, and stubble" and will be burned.
This is not a question of salvation, but of "works" after salvation. In these passages the believer in Christ is represented as building a superstructure of service or works that is to be tested by fire. Thus every Sunday school teacher, every youth worker, every social worker, every clergyman, every Christian is going to pass through the fire which will test every believer's work.
The Apostle Paul was constantly concerned with being "approved" of God (2 Cor. 10:18). He was not concerned about his personal salvation, for that had been settled at the cross. However, he was afraid that his works might be disapproved, if he was not extremely careful about how he worked for God.
Believers in Christ are going to receive a reward at this judgment seat of Christ (the "bema seat"). This reward is sometimes mentioned in the Scriptures as a "prize" (1 Cor. 9:24). Sometimes it is called a "crown" (1 Cor. 9:25; Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:19).
Believers in Christ owe nothing to God in payment for salvation, which is bestowed as a gift. But they do owe God a life of undivided devotion and service. Even a cup of cold water given in the name of Christ shall not go without its reward. This becomes an incentive to love one's neighbor and to show this love by becoming involved in his troubles and needs. When a woman in New York City had a baby on the street and screamed for help, scores of persons passed her by. They would not even call a doctor or the police. They said that they did not want to get involved. One of those who did not want to get involved was a professing Christian, who later was filled with such remorse and conviction that he went to his pastor tearfully to blurt out his sin. Certainly this man lost a reward that day.
The Great White Throne Judgment
This is recorded in Revelation 20:11-13, where the Apostle John says: "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done."
Here is the judgment toward which every person outside Christ is headed. The date has already been set by God.
All men of all races and nationalities, both past and present, will be there. It will be the day for which all other days were made. You may make and break appointments in this life but this is one appointment you will keep.
Modern skeptics and scoffers will laugh at and ridicule the idea of a coming judgment. They laughed at Noah's prediction of the flood. They laughed at Jeremiah when he predicted the destruction of Jerusalem. They laughed at Lot when he warned the men of Sodom that God was going to rain fire and brimstone. They laughed at Amos when he warned Israel of coming judgment. But all these judgments came true. "God . . . now commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness" (Acts 17:30-31).
In that day "The Books" will be opened. These books contain the records of every man's life from the cradle to the grave. In the Chapel of St. George in London's Westminster Abbey is a memorial of World War II. It consists of four bound volumes, which contain the names of the sixty thousand civilians who were killed by enemy action in the city of London. One volume lies open on the shrine and a light shines down upon the typescript names that appear on the opened pages. Each day a page is turned.
Thus will the names of those who were rich or poor, titled or common, old or young, healthy or ill, sound of body or crippled, famous or infamous, stand together to be revealed in the light for all to see on the pages that are kept so accurately by God. It is a book of death. What a terrifying moment for millions when "The Books" are opened.
Dr. Wilbur Penfield, director of the Montreal Neurological Institute, said in a report to the Smithsonian Institute: "Your brain contains a permanent record of your past that is like a single continuous strip of movie film complete with sound track.
This film library records your whole waking life, from childhood on. You can live again those scenes from your past, one at a time, when a surgeon applies a gentle electrical current to a certain point on the temporal cortex of your brain." The report goes on to say that as you relive the scenes from your past, you feel exactly the same emotions that you did during the original experience. Could it be that the human race will be confronted by this irrefutable record at the judgment bar of God when "God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ"? (Romans 2:16).
There are many warnings in the Scriptures concerning that great day that is to come, that day of judgment. This will be the day prophesied in Proverbs 1:24-31: "But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you, when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. "Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes."
In that great day, men will call upon God for mercy, but it will be too late. In that day men will seek God, but they will not be able to find Him. It is too late.
This is the day Jesus referred to in the Sermon on the Mount when He said: "Not everyone that says to me, 'Lord, Lord', shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied
in your name? And in your name we cast out demons? And in your name we did many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:21-23).
There will even be people who did the work of the Lord. They were busy in the church, they had done many wonderful works. But Jesus Himself says, "I never knew you." What a dreadful thing. They thought their own good works would save them. It should sober us into the realization that someday Jesus Christ will be the Judge. "For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22).
When he was a young man, Judge Warren Candler practiced law. One of his clients was charged with murder, and the young lawyer made the utmost effort to clear his client of the charge. There were some extenuating circumstances and the lawyer made the most of them in his plea before the jury. Moreover, there were present in the court the aged father and mother of the man charged with murder; and the young lawyer worked on the sympathies and emotions of the jury by frequent references to the God-fearing parents.
In due course, the jury retired for deliberation. When they had reached a verdict, they returned to the jury box. Their verdict read: "We find the defendant not guilty." The young lawyer, himself a Christian, had a serious talk with his cleared client. He warned him to steer clear of evil ways and to trust God's power to keep him straight.
Years passed. Again the man was brought into court. Again the charge was murder. The lawyer who had defended him at his first trial was now the judge on the bench. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury rendered its verdict of "GUILTY."
Ordering the condemned man to stand for sentencing, Judge Candler said, "At your first trial, I was your lawyer, today I am your judge. The verdict of the jury makes it
mandatory for me to sentence you to be hanged by the neck until you are dead."
Today Christ is our Lawyer, our Saviour, willing to forgive and to cleanse and forget. However, there is coming a fearful day when He will be the Judge. Make your peace with God now. See to it that He does not become your Judge at "The Great White Throne."
Chapter 22 || Table of Contents