Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Day of Judgment, Day of Wonders

Below is a summary of what the Bible teaches with regard to the Day of Judgment:

The New Testament is full of expectation for the return of Christ.  As the disciples watched Jesus ascend into heaven two angels declared to them that “‘this same Jesus…will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:8).  The apostle Paul comforted the Thessalonians by reminding them that ‘the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout...’ and Jesus exhorts the churches to godliness and service by saying, ‘Behold, I am coming quickly!’ (Rev. 22:7). 

When the Lord comes again His purpose will be to execute the judgment which His Father has committed to Him (Jn. 5:22).  All people from every nation will stand before Him (Matt. 25:32) and they will have to give an account of their thoughts (1 Cor. 4:5), words (Matt. 12:36) and deeds (2 Cor. 5:10).  The judge of all the earth will then reward each person according to what he has done (Matt. 16:27), ‘eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honour, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth – indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil…’ (Rom. 2:7-10).  This quote from Romans reminds us that the Final Judgment will be based not on faith or lack of faith, but ‘on what people have done, which reveals their faith or lack of faith.’[1]  We are clear that no one will enter the kingdom of God whose name is not found written in the ‘Book of Life’ (Rev. 20:15), for without faith in the blood of the Lamb that was slain (Rev. 13:8; 21:27) no man can stand in the judgment (Ps. 1:5).  Of course, the Reformed position is that justification is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  However, the Bible also teaches that our works provide the evidence of our justification.  On the Last Day the Lord will point to the works of believers as the evidence of their faith in him and will then graciously reward them for these works done in his name (Matt. 25:34-40).[2]

On that day, the dead will also be present.  Jesus warned that the hour was coming “‘in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.’” (Jn. 5:28-29).  Similarly, we read in Revelation 20:28, ‘And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God…the sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.’

These and many other passages of Scripture supply abundant evidence that there is a Day of Judgment coming in which God will judge every person from the beginning of time by the Man he has appointed (Acts 17:31), that is, Jesus Christ, who was dead and is now alive forever more.

[1] Peterson, Robert, ‘The Annihilation of Hell’, in Risking the Truth, ed. by Martin Downes (Christian Focus Publications), p. 211.
[2] The evangelistic illustration of two people dying, one a Christian the other not, and standing before the living God, is so common that much work will need to be done to ensure that we are not misunderstood when we say that ‘judgment is according to works’.  The illustration continues, ‘God will ask you, “Did you believe in my Son?” and if you’re answer is "no", you will have to go to hell forever.’  When teaching that judgment is ‘according to works’ to the people of God we must be careful to maintain the distinction between justification on the basis of works, and justification by grace through faith in Christ which naturally leads to good works, which serve as the evidence of our justification.

1 comment:

  1. I agree that there is a danger of the Reformed position lulling believers into thinking that faith alone is sufficient to go to heaven - and therefore attending Church and working on your Kingdom character is optional if you can be bothered!

    As you say, 'works' are the outward sign of the inward belief and don't have to be signs and wonders but sound evidence of the believers desire to come as close to God as possible.