What Does the Bible Say About the Judgment Seat of Christ? (Continued)
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Sunday, November 25, 2012 - 10:00 a.m.  Sermon #: 1606
Pastor Don Horban

Remember our opening text from our last study. If we don’t know anything much about the judgment of God as it’s poured out in the last days we should be concerned because the writer of the book of Hebrews calls this doctrine one of the “first,” or “elementary” doctrines of the Christian faith. And we should all know the basics:

Hebrews 6:1-2 - “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, [2] and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

When the writer says we are to go on from these basic truths he doesn’t mean they aren’t important or necessary. Rather, he means they are so basic and should be so well known that you continue to use them, almost without thinking about them, the way a writer uses the letters of the alphabet in writing a great novel. These basic truths should have such a well-known, almost automatic understanding and application to the rest of our lives.

Our first point in our last study was basic and simple. There will come a day, in real space/time history, when God, through His divine Son, Christ Jesus, will judge all mankind, the living and the dead. In our second point we began to study specifically the nature of the final judgment as it applies to believers - followers of Christ.

And under this second point we processed two descriptions of this judgment in the New Testament. The first was John 5:24 - “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” This is wonderful news. We have already passed from death to life. Judgment has already lost its sting.

The second text group was 2 Corinthians 5:10 - “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

And, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 - “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. [12] Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— [13] each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. [14] If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. [15] If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

So we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Paul included himself in that judgment - ....we must all appear....(2 Corinthians 5:10). But followers of Christ - those with genuine faith (we will be considering this issue today) - won’t face condemnation in this judgment. It’s the same judgment but with different results.

There’s one more text to consider under the nature of this judgment for believers - one more issue about the believer’s judgment that I want to cover briefly:

c) 1 Corinthians 4:2-5 - “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. [3] But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. [4] I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. [5] Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”

This outer revelation of our interior lives seems to be addressed to believers because Paul includes himself in the process. Verses 3 and 4 remove the false and fluctuating standards of judgment we have grown accustomed to in this fallen world. Paul doesn’t rely on the laws of the land to justify himself, as though because something suddenly becomes legal in the world, it is therefore automatically acceptable to God Almighty. One can think of the ever degrading court decisions regarding abortion, homosexuality, sexual permissiveness, and the like, to see the importance of Paul’s teaching here.

But also, and perhaps just as important, Paul says he doesn’t even trust his own judgment about himself - Verses 3b and 4 - “....But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. [4] I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.”

When Paul says he doesn’t examine himself he’s not saying he never considers his own actions - like he just lives without considering his own deeds. What he is saying is something very profound. He is saying that as he has matured in his walk with the Lord, he has learned that just because he wasn’t troubled by anything he was doing - just because his conscience wasn’t tormenting him about something - that didn’t mean he didn’t still need to put his whole life under the scrutiny of the higher, less subjective standard, of God’s holy Word.

Have you noticed how our society is rapidly coming to measure its actions by its own standards? Have you seen how celebrities feel that as long as they go on television and confess and air their dirty laundry without shame that everyone else is supposed to feel good about it too?

That’s what Paul is talking about. He’s highlighting the difference between guilt feelings and real guilt. He knows they aren’t always the same.

But then he makes these fascinating comments about things secret and inward being made visible - brought out into the light - at the final judgment. And that makes all of us want to ask, “OK, Pastor Don, you said the Bible teaches that we won’t come under condemnation at the final judgment. But won’t this be a terribly condemning time? Won’t we feel exposed and embarrassed and belittled?”

The only response I can give is to say that somehow, in a way I can’t fully understand, the Bible seems to outline both the exposure of inward sins and the freedom from condemnation. So I feel it’s my duty to hold those two things together as well.

Let me try to illustrate how I picture it. Whatever sins are brought to light from my heart (and surely there will be some), I know for sure they are already cleansed and forgiven through the Cross of Jesus Christ. I will not suffer condemnation for them, because they are already atoned and punished through the Lamb of God.
“Then why should they even be considered? What could be the purpose in revealing them?”

My own thought is that the purpose in having Christ reveal those things (and reveal them equally in all of us, so no one person is singled out) is not to condemn us, but to cause all of us to magnify His incredible grace all the more.

Have you seen those commercials where they advertize the wonder of some super vacuum cleaner? They put sand and dirt and ball-bearings and cat hair and straight pins all over the carpet. The idea is you will stand back in amazement when you see that it can pick up all of that! Or perhaps it’s spot remover. They pour ink, grease, and yes, even blood on some white piece of silk. Then you gasp as the spot remover takes out even those stains.

This is how it will be. We will all finally come together, perhaps right after the judgment, around the throne of God. Then, in a way that won’t be a joke or a phoney commercial, we’ll look at each other in disbelief - “Incredible! How could He know all of that about all of us and still love us and forgive us that much?!”


We’re going to examine in detail the final state of those judged without salvation through Jesus Christ in the next three weeks of this teaching series. For now, let me just make some basic observations:

a) Acts 10:38-42 - “ God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. [39] And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, [40] but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, [41] not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. [42] And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.”

Of course, there are so many wonderful things we are to proclaim about Jesus Christ. But when Peter speaks these words, he says there is something very specific that we are commanded to proclaim about Jesus. The very first thing he mentions is we are to tell everyone Jesus is the coming Judge of the world. And He will judge everyone - both the living and the dead.

This is not my opinion, and it’s not my attempt to mock other religions. But we must always remember, Jesus has no equals. This world may treat all religions the same, but one day Mohamed is going to come out of his grave, where he’s been rotting all these years just like everyone else, and he will stand shoulder to shoulder with every other person in front of the Judge, Jesus Christ. Our world needs to know that.

b) Matthew 7:21-23 - “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' [23] And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”

James 2:14-17 - “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? [15] If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, [16] and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? [17] So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

What could possibly be the purpose of recording these words of Jesus and James? Why would Jesus preach a sermon and James write to the church about an attitude that looked and perhaps even felt like genuine commitment, but was empty of saving power?

In fact, Jesus would wrap up His whole sermon on the mount with the example of a house that looked solid and well-constructed, but would fall when that great storm of final judgment came.

And here’s the hard New Testament truth. One of the purposes of the final judgment will be the outward revealing of false inward faith. Genuine faith will justify all by itself. But that doesn’t undo the fact that Jesus said there would be many (Matthew 7:22) who thought they were in but never were.

So I am to learn it is never safe merely to mimic the standard of religious attention demonstrated by those who sit with me in church. My faith in Christ Jesus must be my faith in Christ Jesus. He must be my joy and my Lord and my ultimate loyalty. That’s what faith in Jesus means. And the final judgment will expose all that is less than this.

c) Romans 2:5 - “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.”

For all unbelievers, the day of final judgment is described as the day of wrath. This is the essential difference in the nature of judgment day for believers and unbelievers. For those who have trusted in and acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, God’s mercy and grace will be magnified. For those who have lived for self and pleasure and have refused to bend the knee to Jesus Christ, judgment day will magnify God’s justice and holiness.

The biggest mistake people make regarding God’s coming wrath on judgment day is to draw their conclusions about how God will react to sin then by the way He reacts visibly to it now. They conclude that, because God is patient and longsuffering in this age toward rebellion and disobedience, that His reluctance to judge sin will extend into the day of judgment itself. But the Bible won’t allow such deceptive thinking. Consider the context of the verse we’re studying under this very point:

Romans 2:4-5 - “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? [5] But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.”

Paul says, “Yes, of course God is very kind, even in the way He treats sinners in this age of grace. He’s kind, not because He thinks lightly of sin, but because He wants that kindness to soften your heart and lead you to repentance. But if you don’t learn now from the kindness of God, you will only make things worse for yourself on the day of judgment!”

a) The doctrine of final judgment satisfies our sense for the need of final justice in this fallen world.

This world is not a fair place, and Christians should be the very first ones to admit it. We are not to judge God solely by the events that take place in the news. This kind of false judgment happens all the time - “How could a good God allow......?” You’ve heard it a thousand times.

The doctrine of the final judgment reveals that God will be seen as ultimately fair and just and good. Paul told slaves to be submissive to their masters, and then reassures them - Colossians 3:24-25 - “....knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. [25] For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.”

b) The doctrine of the final judgment enables us to forgive those who wrong us without striking back with any kind of vengeance.

Romans 12:19 - “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."

Every act of revenge is an act of unbelief. We strike back when we think if we don’t, the scales of injustice will never be put right - that somehow sin will triumph and righteousness will be trod under foot.

For the Christian who takes both the Cross and the day of judgment seriously, every sin committed against him is either paid for on the Cross, if the perpetrator is or becomes a Christian, or it will be made right at the final judgment.

Amazingly, the Bible tells us that even Jesus took this attitude when He was unjustly treated - 1 Peter 2:21-23 - “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. [22] He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. [23] When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

c) The doctrine of the final judgment needs to be before the mind of the church as a motive for missions and evangelism.

The decisions people make in this age have consequences that they don’t think about. We are called to echo loudly the words of our God through the prophet Ezekiel - Ezekiel 33:11 - “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”

If we don’t like to think about judgment day we need to remember that Father God thinks about it all the time. In fact, the Bible teaches that the delay of our Lord’s return is due solely to the fact that God is waiting for the world to take the message of judgment seriously:

2 Peter 3:9 - “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

You and I will never share God’s passion for the lost until we share His obsession with the coming day of judgment. God help us to do this while there is still time.