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Notes on “The Big Issue” 19 October 2010
“What Happens at the Final Judgement?”
“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for the things done in the body whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5 v.10)
“Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgement
(Hebrew 9 v.27”)
A few Caveats:
¢ We are dealing with mystery –when we consider things that belong to an order outside our earthly existence, we need to realise that God has spoken to us in terms that we are able to understand that and that we can relate to. This means that much of what we read in Scripture (especially in Revelation) is pictorial and illustrative.
¢ However…We are dealing with truth –God’s word is truth. So often we hear folks say things like: “I like to think of God as…I like to think of Heaven/ hell as…”. But we must not impose our own limited understanding onto God’s Word. This is particularly true of concepts like hell – where our own preference would be to shy away from it in horror. But we have to be guided by the word of God – not our own preferences.
¢ We are dealing with your eternal destiny – there is no more serious subject for every man, woman and child than this one. Truly, the biggest day of each or our lives awaits us. Are we ready?
1. THE STORY SO FAR
Firstly we need to re-cap on the ground covered last time when we considered “What Happens when people die?
¢ Death – as we saw last time, the death rate in Poole is one in one.
¢ “The Intermediate state” – as far as we can understand, prior to the judgement (considered below) we are in what is called “the intermediate state”, where soul and body are separated.
¢ The rich man and Lazarus – this story gives us the clearest indication of the intermediate state (Luke 16 v.19-31)
¢ “Provisional Judgement” is passed on all who are there, believers enjoying the glorious presence of God, whilst unbelievers experience a taste of the final judgement that is to come.
¢ Awaiting the second coming…. (Revelation 6 v.9-11) all are awaiting the final day , when Jesus will deliver the final judgement.
In fact it is difficult to talk about a timeline, as we don’t even know if there will be any time!. But here is a list of events that will doubtless occur at some point in the future, in a likely sequence.
¢ “The intermediate state” –all those who die enter the intermediate state. It is probably not inappropriate to refer to this as heaven or hell as long as we realise that this is not the final position.
¢ Second Coming of Jesus (Acts 1 v.10-12;1 Thessalonians 4 v. 15-17) The next great event in history is the promised second coming of the messiah.
¢ …accompanied by believers. As the above passages show, when Jesus returns he will bring with him those of his own who have been with him
¢ Resurrection from the dead – at about the same time those who have died in Christ will be raised from the dead and will join Him in the air, having their resurrection bodies reunited with their souls or spirits.
¢ “Rapture” of the church – at the same time, or possibly shortly afterwards, the believers who are alive at this time will also be drawn up to meet the Lord in the air – presumably also with resurrection bodies.
¢ Judgement Seat of Christ (Revelation 12 v.11-12; 2 Corinthians 5 v.12). All will then have to face the judgement seat of Christ
3. FACING JESUS
Matthew 25 v.31- 46
2 Thessalonians 1v. 5-10
Revelation 20 v.11-15
The above three passages all speak clearly of the fate of those who face Jesus.
A: THE UNBELIEVER – the above passages show clearly that those who have rejected the offer of eternal life in Jesus will be separated from God in eternity, which is what the Bible refers to as Hell (gk word “Gehenna”). The pictures used to describe this in Scripture are so horrible as to cause us to re-coil in horror. But we have no choice other than to take God at his word and accept that there will exists a place of eternal conscious torment for those excluded from heaven. This is such an emotionally terrible truth that some have tried to rationalise it. Amongst the attempts to do this are:
- Universalism – this is the belief that “God is love” so he will allow everyone into heaven. The passages above so clearly teach the opposite that no bible-believer could genuinely be a proponent of universalism. And as for “God is love”.. if we use this to justify universalism we have imposed on God a sentimental, Hollywood style of love that makes no room for his wrath, his holiness or our sinfulness. The fact is, that horrible as it seems to our human minds, God would be totally just in condemning every living being into an eternity of suffering. It is because of his love that some may escape.
- Ultimate Reconciliation – this is the view that whilst there is punishment and consequences for sin, God will, in eternity, through the blood of Christ, reconcile all things to himself in heaven. This has obvious attractions and those who hold to it quote verses like “every knee shall bow” and others. The problem is that such verses give no more than a “whisper” of ultimate rconciliation whilst the Scriptures that “shout” speak of eternal judgement.
- Annihilationism – some have said that eternal suffering is not in keeping with God’s character, and so he will annihilate those who reject his offer of grace.
The problem with all alternatives to hell is that they start with a view which says something like “God can’t be like that.. therefore let’s try this alternative” And again, we have to say that it is God who tells us what He is like, it is not for our finite fallen minds to impose our own preconceptions on the character of God.
Before leaving this horrific subject of hell, we have to take into account the last-minute reprieve offered to the thief on the cross. This would have been a private conversation between Jesus and the man as he lay dying. Who knows how many similarly have been saved?
However we must also remember that one of the twelve apostles of Jesus – who we would have thought was eternally secure, turned out not to be!
B: THE BELIEVER
What can the believer expect at the judgement seat of Christ?
¢ The Book of life – as we saw earlier, the Book of Life is the book that contains all the names of those who are on the way to heaven. If your name is found in the Book of Life – if you have called on the name of the Lord and confessed him as Lord and Saviour – you can be sure that you will enter the eternal state of happiness called heaven.
¢ The verdict of “not guilty”. Not only do you have an assurance of entering heaven, you have assurance of forgiveness – “as far as the East is from the West so far has he removed our sins from us” (Psalm 103)
¢ The assessment of service (Matthew 25 v.14-30; Luke 19 v.11-26; 1 Corinthians 3 v.5-15). This is what many believers will not expect of be prepared for. Even those who are assured of a place in heaven will have their service rigorously assessed and evaluated. This not a judgement of sin, with a fear of punishment, rather it is Jesus’s evaluation of your service for Him.
¢ The allocation of rewards and responsibilities. When the assessment is done, rewards and responsibilities will be handed out for the next phase of our existence in heaven. Before moving on from this place we have to emphasis the possibility here of “suffering loss”. Adrian Holloway in “The Shock of your life” refers to the lukewarm Christian as “gutted” at this stage. Rewards and responsibilities are a reality , and will be handed out according to how we have used what God has given us here. The line: “I don’t care about rewards…I’ll just be happy to be there” is not biblical at all! Jesus and the apostles constantly referred to the prize and the rewards available – they are meant to motivate us to live for Him!
And then, at last, it’s the greatest joy of all….Heaven
4. ETERNITY WITH GOD
The truth of this is so glorious, that only picture language can begin to describe it for us:
Revelation 21 v.1-6;22-27;22 v.1-6
We know that there will be:
¢ The wedding feast
¢ The new heaven and earth
¢ The dwelling of God with men
¢ The absence of death, mourning, crying, pain
Words can not do justice to the glories that await us. We should mediate on it daily, so that we will look forward to it with joy, and do all we can to ensure that all have the opportunity to enjoy it for ever.
So.. how should we then respond?
Some questions to ask:
- Do I believe this?
- Am I saved? – do I have an assurance of eternal security with Jesus?
- What am I doing to help others to experience heaven and avoid hell?
- Am I living in the light of eternity> – Jesus told us to “store up for ourselves treasures in heaven” – am I?
- Am I longing for the return of the Lord? (Rev 20 v. 20)
As Paul said:
“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4 v.6-8)
“Amen. Come Lord Jesus”