God’s word is infallible (2 Tim. 3:16-17). As such, every word is inspired of God. God wrote the Bible via inspired men through the Holy Spirit. There are no contradictions in scripture. If a contradiction seems to exist, that alone is proof of error. For example, if I take the position that only non-Christians are subject to God’s Judgment and I find a single verse in the Bible that says otherwise, that is proof that my argument is wrong.
2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (NKJV) Paul wrote the second letter to the Corinthian Brethren. The pronoun “we” would specifically include the Apostle himself and the brethren he is writing. That means Paul expects to stand before Christ in the Judgment to come along with all Christians that ever lived (a necessary inference). In fact, Paul implies that if he had done anything wrong while he lived, he would deservedly receive punishment as his reward at that time.
Paul repeated this understanding in Rom. 14:10. He wrote to the Brethren in Rome saying, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (NKJV) In no uncertain terms, Paul says we will all be judged by Christ. Again, the “we” includes Paul and all the Brethren in Rome. In fact, Paul implies that Brethren who show contempt for other brethren will receive a deservedly just punishment at that time.
Was Paul the only Apostle to hold such a radically confrontational position? Doesn’t Paul know that Christians do not sin (1 John 3:9)? Doesn’t Paul know that Christians who live righteously all their lives already know they are going to heaven? Doesn’t Paul know that everyone in Paradise automatically gets to go to Heaven? (I write facetiously.) Obviously, Paul knows more on this subject than we know.
The Apostle John agrees with Paul’s statements concerning the Judgment to come. “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world” (1 Jn. 4:17; NKJV). The pronoun “we” would include John himself needing boldness in the day of Judgment. Why would John and the Christians that he writes need boldness on the Judgment day unless there is a chance that some of them could be eternally lost?
The Apostle Peter would agree that Christians will be judged on the judgment day. He wrote, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God” (1 Pet. 4:17; NKJV)? Peter expects to be part of the house of God (i.e. the Church) that will be judged on that great day. Notice the judgment begins with Christians of which Peter includes himself. He implies that beginning hasn’t taken place yet. In other words, judgment is not an ongoing process as people die. Judgment is a time specific event in the future.
In the explanation of the Parable of the Tares Jesus makes this statement, “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:41-42; NKJV). Though Jesus does not say the event He is referring to is the Judgment, it seems rather logical that it could only be the Judgment as the Christians that are gathered out of His kingdom are thrown into the fire “at the end of this age” (Matt. 13:40).
Jesus and three apostles affirm that Christians will be judged on the Judgment Day. So how is it that some people claim that only non-Christians will be subject to the judgement?
Some well-meaning members of the church will turn to Romans 8:1 where it says, “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.” In error, they infer that the Greek word translated here for condemnation (katakrima) means judgment. However, that Greek word does not carry the idea of judgment. Rather it is ‘“the sentence pronounced, the condemnation” with a suggestion of punishment following”’ (Vines Complete Expository Dictionary). To infer “condemnation” here means judgment is to be deceptive.
Scriptures are quite clear that everyone will give an account for themselves on the Judgment Day (Acts 17:31; Rom. 14:11-12; Heb. 9:27). All it takes to lose our soul is to commit one unrepentant sin (Jas. 2:10). Is it not possible for Christians to die in their sins? Peter warned the brethren “to make your call and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10). That implies that brethren can fail to make their call and election sure! Brethren do err (Jas. 1:18). We can’t say brethren who err never were Christians to start with because these passages call them brethren; a term that denotes Christians. Nor can we say that their sins remove them from the Church. Christ is the only one who can add us to the Church (Acts 2:47). Sins separate us from God, hopefully only for a time, but sins do not remove Christians from the Kingdom. Removal from the Kingdom takes place for those who deserve it at the Judgment Day (Matt. 13:41). Notice again that Christ will “gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness.” Obviously, erring brethren must be in the Kingdom in order for the Lord to remove them from the Kingdom.
There are three parables that further illustrate that Christians will be removed from the Kingdom on the Judgment day.
In the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matt. 22:2-14), the church is likened to a wedding feast. Both good and bad people composed the attendees. Yet, the King only removed the man who was unprepared (i.e. without garments) and cast him into outer darkness.
The Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30) illustrates a servant of the Lord who sinned by omission. We find him giving an account of himself before he is removed into outer darkness.
In the Parable of the Dragnet (Matt. 13:47-50) the church is likened to this dragnet. Good and bad people are gathered into it. “At the end of the age,” they are separated.
Remember, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:21-23; NKJV)! The interesting thing about this glimpse into the Judgment Day is the fact that those who are protesting their verdict are Christians that don’t have a clue until this moment that they are wicked. The “many” in this predicament confess Christ as Lord. They could prophesy, cast out demons and perform miraculous deeds. For a first century Christian to do those things, they had to be a member of the Lord’s Church that was given said gifts by an Apostle. Obviously, they erred along life’s road. Yet, they were unaware of their final fate.
Where would these erring brethren be in Hades? If they were in torment they would already know their fate just like the rich man (Lk. 16:19-31). Since they died in the first century, the only possible location they could be in is Paradise. Just because Christians find themselves in Paradise is not a guarantee they will go to Heaven. The thief on the cross is another perfect example (Lk. 23:43). Just because the thief went to Paradise does not imply his eternal destiny. Theft was a sin under the Old Law. The thief on the cross will have to account for his conduct just like anyone else on the Judgment Day.
In the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16), most of the laborers thought it wasn’t fair to give those who worked less the same reward. Some in the Church think it is unfair that erring brethren should await the Judgment in comfort if their final reward is Hell. The upset laborers told the landowner, “you made them equal to us who have borne the heat of the day.” The landowner responded, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?” We need to stop and think who we are that would think God must conform His will in any respect to our preconceived notions. The only reason we would object to Paradise not being exclusive to Heaven bound Saints is because we see the Lord’s mercy toward those who will eventually lose their soul as somehow wrong. God’s ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8).
God has not lied to anyone concerning Paradise. There is no scripture that connects Paradise as the exclusive waiting place for the saved. We are the ones who reason that if Torment is for the lost then Paradise is for the saved. But that is our assumption based on logic; not truth. Isn’t it better to accept God’s word as truth? “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4).
We have learned that everyone must appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive our just reward or punishment. On the Judgment Day, Christ will separate the good from the bad out of His Kingdom. All this will occur at the end of the age… not at death. A Judgment Day is coming for God’s people!
By Steve A. Hamilton