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The last judgment

All of us are going to face not just the evaluation of society in the world today but also the judgment of God on the Last Day.

“If you were to die tonight and stand before God and he were to ask you why he should let you into heaven, what would you say?”

This was a popular evangelism question some time ago. It was supposed to be asked on someone’s doorstep. The question cut to the chase and helped you figure out if that person trusted in Jesus, in their own works, or in something else. But the question makes a big assumption. It assumes that there is going to be a day of judgment.

As Christians, we know that is true. God created every one of us, and he is going to continue dealing with every one of us for all eternity. The only question is whether he will deal with us in grace or in wrath. On the day Jesus returns, he will separate people like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:32,33).

I think it’s fair to say that today if you knocked on someone’s door and asked them the question about what they’d say to God, some will tell you they don’t believe they will have to answer to him at all. They might go on to tell you that each person should live according to what works for them and that no one should go around passing judgment on others. “Be yourself” and “Acceptance, not judgment” are as universal virtues as any nowadays.

No judgment?

So, what do you say to someone whose creed is “no judgment”? Maybe it would help to probe a bit. Is it really true that acceptance rules the day? The yard signs say, “Love is love,” but in sexual matters even the most out-there folks would agree that some things are still just plain wrong. When someone crosses one of those lines, is there really no judgment? Society lines up not only to judge but also to vilify and then dismiss them forever. Culture, simply, cannot exist without judgment being passed.

The problem with such judgments is that they are based on little more than popular opinion. If the majority of people think one way, then it must be right. People are even willing to stake their judgments on what they perceive popular opinion will be in the future, appealing to being “on the right side of history.” So, it’s probably more accurate to say that for most people, judgment is alive and well. However, the judge is no longer Jesus seated on his throne; it’s what is leading in the polls.

Doesn’t this explain why it’s not really enough to just be yourself? Posts are crafted and shared on social media not just to show one’s true self to the world but also to receive validation and affirmation for it. Yard signs are put out so that those who pass by will see and approve. People yearn for approval, but keeping up with the shifting winds of popular opinion is a merciless grind. It is hard to trust that you have the approval of others if you think it may change tomorrow.

A sure judgment

Whether anyone believes it or not, all of us are going to face not just the evaluation of society but also the judgment of God. He has told us that each person will stand before the judgment seat to give an answer for the deeds done while here on this earth (2 Corinthians 5:10). Since that is so, wouldn’t it be wonderful to know exactly where you stand and what the verdict will be? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that there is a judgment that you can trust and that will never change? Wouldn’t it be helpful to know the mind of God regarding you?

Rather than being hesitant or fearful about the judgment, we learn to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.” We welcome his return.

It would—if you could be convinced that the prospect of God’s judgment isn’t utterly terrifying. After all, does an all-knowing God have the ability to see through all virtue signaling? If the Lord Jesus has books, what do those books include? Do they include everything you have done? Said? Thought and desired? On second hand, maybe it is better to chase after the latest fad. Whose confidence and faith in God is really so secure that their knees would not shake a little bit at the thought of what it will be like to come face-to-face before the heavenly court? What we need is to find out beforehand the verdict that will be handed down at the last judgment.

Actually, that is just what God has given to us. Week in and week out, at church, God proclaims his judgment about us. We stand before the court and plead guilty as we confess our sins. In response, the Judge hands down his ruling: I forgive you all your sins! Keep in mind that these words are spoken aloud. God’s judgment, it seems, really has broken into this world already. There really is “now no condemnation” (Romans 8:1) because we are in Christ Jesus.

A public judgment

If that is so, what about the way God’s Word describes the final judgment? Think about it like this: On that day, the present reality that for now remains unseen will finally be revealed. We have indeed already crossed over from death to life (John 5:24), yet the day has not yet come when our true life will be revealed, and death will be set aside forever. We have already received the forgiveness of sins, but that is not something that we can see or that marks God’s people as visibly different from unbelievers in this world.

On the Last Day, that judgment will become clear to all. Christ will declare that we were chosen by him to inherit salvation before the creation of the world (Matthew 25:34). He will even proclaim his approval of the fruits produced by faith, though such fruits go unrecognized even by those who do them (Matthew 25:35-40).

So don’t think about the Last Day as an event we will have to fear because someone is coming to get us. Instead, it is the return of Christ that we are awaiting! And it is Christ himself who has been appointed to be our judge (John 5:22). If we have to stand before the throne of God, who better to judge us than the one who shed his blood for us? The one who makes our defense and the one who judges is the same Lord Jesus. Since that is so, the outcome is guaranteed.

So rather than being hesitant or fearful about the judgment, we learn to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.” We welcome his return. And on the day of judgment we will lift up our heads and receive the salvation that has been given to us by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Author: Philip Moldenhauer
Volume 107, Number 11
Issue: November 2020

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