Is a Judgment Day Coming Upon God’s People?

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

Sins Just Prior to Death

       What will happen to a Christian if he commits a sin just prior to his death?  Will he be saved?  It certainly is an intriguing question.   It seems plausible that a Christian could curse just prior to his death say in an automobile accident.  In light of James 2:10, does that mean his soul is eternally lost just because he slipped up just prior to his death?

          If that scenario is possible, then we could easily think of many more situations where God’s mercy would be required to save us.  By extension of that logic, if God is willing to grant us mercy for one unrepentant sin, He certainly should be willing to extend mercy to us for all our unrepentant sins.  However, that would not be just if God extended mercy either arbitrarily or with partiality.  So is it even possible for God to make exceptions to His law?

In order to properly analyze this hypothetical situation, we must be careful to address the subject by examining what is revealed in scriptures.  It is very tempting for us to speculate on the outcome of a person’s conduct (Matt. 7:1-2).  We should always allow the Bible to be our guide in this and any other important question.  We should also respect the silence of the scriptures if it does not address the issue (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19).  We certainly do not want to make up our own rules for God’s judgments.

We cannot be certain what decisions Christ will make on the Judgment Day unless He reveals it to us.  “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?  Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.   But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.   But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.   For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:11-16).  The apostle Paul continues these thoughts when he wrote, “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!  For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”  So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:14-16).  God’s judgment will be righteous and God will have mercy on whomever He decides to have mercy.  Obviously, God’s mercy is conditional.  Just because we live as a Christian does not mean God will automatically extend His mercy.  John asked a good question that illustrates this point well.  He wrote, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 Jn. 3:17).  In light of James 2:13, it would seem such a merciless individual does not deserve any mercy even if his only other transgression was committed just prior to his death.

Christ is not a respecter of persons (Deut. 10:17; 2 Chron. 19:7; Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6; Eph. 6:9; 1 Pet. 1:17 ).  “But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality” (Col. 3:25).  The fact that a person is a Christian does not skew His judgment.  How we feel about a matter does not change the truth (Prov. 3:5; 28:26).  Just like in math class, how we feel about the problems has no bearing on the answers.  Human logic that suggests God will forgive unconditionally is not the kind of justice God will use on the Judgment day.

God has revealed that He expects obedience (Lk. 6:46; Jn. 14:15, 21; Rev. 22:14).  We must keep ourselves pure (1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:22; Jas. 1:27; 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 3:3).  For the Christian, this is accomplished through confession and repentance of our sins (1 John 1:5-2:6; Lk. 17:3-4).

One unrepentant sin could cause us to lose our souls (Jas. 2:10).  One misspoken word subjects us to judgment (Matt. 12:36; Jas. 5:12).  Hating our brethren will prevent salvation (1 John 3:14-15).  A Christian that teaches a false doctrine will be accursed (Gal. 1:6-9; 5:4; 2 Pet. 3:16-17). God is not even going to cut any slack to a weak brother whose sin was caused by a more knowledgeable Christian (1 Cor. 8:11-12).

Ananias and Sapphira were Christians.  They lied just prior to their death (Acts 5:1-11).  Will they be saved even if they prayed for forgiveness of all their past sins just prior to the events that took their lives?  Remember, it was Christ who said, “All liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8).  If we say Christ will be merciful to all Christians for a few unforgiven sins at the Judgment, then Ananias and Sapphira should be safe.  But then again, who would dare to make such a judgment since we aren’t God?

Many will ask, “What hope of salvation is there if God is so strict (Heb. 12:29)?”  Peter provides the answer.  “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.  For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”  (2 Pet. 1:4-11).  Peter is saying if we give all diligence to these things we will be fruitful, productive, obedient, forgiven at a moment’s notice to God.  However, if we aren’t obedient in our diligence to these things, we are blind perhaps even thinking that we can’t keep ourselves pure because we are so wicked.

God gives time for repentance.  Longsuffering means patient endurance.  It is a quality of God toward all mankind (Rom. 9:22; 1 Tim. 1:16; 2 Pet. 3:9).  “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4)?  This doesn’t mean God tolerates sin.  It means God gives us an opportunity to repent (Matt. 7:7-11; Lk. 11:9).  God knows our hearts and will give us time to repent (though it may not be for long).  He gave the churches in Asia time to repent (Rev. 2:4-5, 14-16).  Ananias and Sapphira had their moment just prior to their death to repent.  However, it appears they didn’t take that opportunity nor was that opportunity extended for very long.

Notice how quickly Peter rebuked Simon the Sorcerer and the reason for the rebuke in Acts 8:18-24.  Despite the fact that Simon is a new convert committing a sin in ignorance the Apostle required immediate repentance.  There is as much urgency for us to repent of our sins as there is to be baptized once we learn the truth (Acts 16:25, 33; 22:16; 2 Cor. 6:2; Jas. 4:14).

Sin is a choice.  When we are tempted to sin, God not only gives us a way out but He won’t allow a temptation beyond our ability to resist.  “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).  If we sin just prior to death it is because we allowed it to happen.  Once we recognize our error, we must immediately repent as we might not have much time remaining.

God is as long suffering as he is merciful.  When you think about it, the scenario where a person sins just prior to death is really a hypothetical situation that is unlikely to ever occur to any true Christian.  If we are living our lives as we should, we will take every opportunity to repent of our sins. The Lord doesn’t wish anyone to perish (2 Pet. 3:9).   It doesn’t make sense to think that God would allow our death to occur in a manner in which no opportunity for repentance exists.  We can take comfort in knowing that God will give all of us an opportunity to repent of our sins; even for a sin that occurs just prior to our death.

By Steve A. Hamilton