4. The Great Divide – Judgement
From beginning to end the Bible is concerned with one question above any other – how can sinful human beings escape from the righteous judgement of a Holy and Almighty God. There is no theme so prominent throughout the Bible. It is everywhere in the teachings of Jesus. Yet few themes are so neglected in the world today. Judgement.
What will the Judgement be like?
Jesus Christ will be the Judge when He returns as King.
JESUS SAID John 5:22 the Father judges no-one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him. 24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out- those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.
All will be judged according to God’s perfect justice
2 Cor 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
All will be found guilty because God’s standard is perfection
Rom 3:10 As it is written: “There is no-one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no-one who understands, no-one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no-one who does good, not even one.”
20 Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. … 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Only some, only Christians, will receive God’s mercy and be acquitted because of God’s grace in Christ, received by faith.
Romans 6:23, For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:1 ¶ Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Judgement will be
(i) The righting of wrongs and rewarding of faithfulness
“It’s not fair!!” People cry out so often in the face of so many innocent people suffering so badly crying out for justice. But the good news is that the day is coming when we WILL all be held accountable for our actions. The terrorists. The murderers. The torturers and rapists. All wrongs will be put right!
So many of Jesus’s Parables e.g. of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt 25:31-46)
Matt 25:31 ¶ “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
All are judged and there is a great divide, what C.S.Lewis calls the great Divorce, separated according to their actions in this life. This is not salvation by works. It is simply that the actions show up the underlying attitudes to Christ.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 40 “The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, `Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 45 `I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
SO MUCH of Jesus’s teaching makes no sense if Judgement is not a reality.
Parable of the weeds (Matt 13:24-30, 36-43)
24 ¶ Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed ears, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, `Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 “`An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, `Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 “`No,’ he answered, `because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'”
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Parable of the Net (Matt 13:47-50).
47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Not only Jesus but the whole New Testament. For example Paul
Rom 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will give to each person according to what he has done”. 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
Let’s make sure we don’t feel smug and self-satisfied! Remember what is is that brings God’s judgement. Not only murder, adultery, idol worship but also ignoring the needs of the poor and the oppressed, being obsessed with wealth and possessions (which is in itself idolatry) unwillingness to forgive others, causing little ones to stumble, self-righteousness and hypocrisy. All these things will bring down the righteous judgement of a Holy God!
Judgement will be righting of wrongs and rewarding of faithfulness. It will also be (ii) Confirming Relationships
Eternal life is a relationship with God as our heavenly Father which begins here and now. It’s not just pie in the sky when you die – but cake on your plate while you wait! The day of judgement will simply be God’s confirmation of the relationships which already exist.
See Matt 7:21-23;
21 ¶ “Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Just as a wedding day is the consummation of the relationship between bride and groom – so the marriage feast of the Lamb will take into eternity that engagement which has begun in this life between Christ and his Bride the church.
John 3:16-21 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
C.S.LEWIS (Introduction to “The Great Divorce”)
“Earth, I think, will not be found by anyone to be in the end a very distinct place. I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.”
False Hopes – “We’ll all be alright, won’t we?”
(i) A second chance?
We looked at this in our first sermon. The Bible does offer any hope of a second chance to repent after death, or a place of “purgatory” which will deal with our sins even though we did not repent. God has already offered people opportunities to get to know him in this life. There is no reason to suppose that people who have rejected God so often in this life will suddenly change their minds in the next. The final judgement is simply God putting a final seal on decisions people have made here and now.
Some try to escape from the challenge of the impending judgement of God by an appeal to God’s Love. “God is too loving to punish sinners,” they say. “The threats of Judgement are only warnings to urge us to repent. God will forgive everybody in the end.” This view is called Universalism and it is seriously mistaken and dangerously misleading! It is also the chief reason why many churches lose their evangelistic drive.
A few verses of Scripture may be taken to imply that ultimately all men will be saved, because that is God’s desire for all men
1 Tim 2:4 (GOD) wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
1 Tim 4:10 the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe.
Rom 11:32, For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
Eph 1:9-10, 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfilment- to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
In SHARP CONTRAST to these few Bible passages, so many other part of the Bible point to the reality of God’s condemnation and to the need for faith in Christ as Lord as a necessary condition for salvation. If humanity was not doomed to judgement and condemnation, God would not have become a man and Jesus Christ would not have died on the cross.
2 Thess 1:6-10;
8 (Christ) will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed.
Eph 2:1-5; As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
BUT the blessings of salvation will not come to ALL people – but only to those who receive them by faith.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no-one can boast.
So many portions of scripture make the same point. Salvation is by God’s grace alone – received by faith! It may seem “more loving” to offer hope than to threaten judgement, but that hope is empty and cruel if it is contrary to God’s revealed truth. The idea that everybody will ultimately be saved may seem more attractive than the idea of judgement. Very many Christians believe in the Biblical in theory but in universalism in practice. No wonder so many churches are apathetic towards a world which is lost without Christ and racing headlong into the black hole of judgement. But the threat of judgement is not an empty threat. The prospect of judgement is a grim reality!
Of course, in pastoral situations, no one can ever speak for certain about the spiritual state of another person. If there is doubt about whether someone died as a Christian or not, we will always err on the side of charity as we counsel those who mourn. But we must never soft-pedal unpleasant truths as we proclaim the gospel which commands repentance and faith as conditions for experiencing God’s love and forgiveness.
For us as Christians (i) the judgement holds no fears – Christ has died in our place! (ii) We rejoice that one day God’s righteousness and justice will be perfectly established. And (iii) We weep for family and friends who are not yet ready to face the judgement seat of God. For them, everything will NOT be alright in the end.
Acts 17:30-31 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
We KNOW there is going to be a day of Judgement. And the proof lies in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! Are YOU ready to meet your Maker?