How People Approach the Judgment

Clouds

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Death is a reality for everyone. This fact is generally understood. However, many people do not recognize the reality or the seriousness of the other event mentioned by the Hebrew writer – judgment. Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Even though we will all face this judgment, not everyone approaches this appointment in the same way. Let us briefly consider five ways in which people approach the judgment.

Ignorant

The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).

When the Lord returns to judge mankind, ignorance will not save. Ignorance will not atone for the sin which separates man from God (Isaiah 59:2). Among those who will be lost are those “who do not know God.” They fail to acknowledge the evidence for God (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20), seek after Him (Acts 17:27; Matthew 7:7), and obey Him (2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 5:9). They may not know they are headed for an appointment before the judgment seat of Christ, but they are going there just the same.

Apathetic

And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry’” (Luke 12:19).

In the parable of the rich land owner, Jesus described one who neglected his spiritual well-being in order to focus on the material things of this life (Luke 12:16-21). Though the man in the parable thought he would attend to his spiritual condition later, he felt no need at the present time to prepare for the judgment that comes after death (cf. Hebrews 9:27). Such lack of concern reflects a lack of fear for God. A lack of godly fear leads to sin (Romans 3:18). Too many fail to recognize this truth: “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). They take “pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:12) and approach the judgment unconcerned.

Fearful

But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. But as he was discussing righteous, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you’” (Acts 24:24-25).

When Paul had the opportunity to speak to Felix, one of the topics he addressed was “the judgment to come.” Unlike the apathetic, Felix “trembled” (Acts 24:25, KJV). He knew that his life was not right before God. Unfortunately, Felix – as far as the inspired record indicates – never obeyed the gospel. Though he feared the prospect of facing the Lord in judgment, in the end he was no different from “the demons [who] also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19). Trembling at the thought of divine judgment is useless without faithful obedience (James 2:24). We must do more than fear God – we must obey Him (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Acts 10:34-35).

Wishful

Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, for what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you? It will be darkness and not light; as when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall and a snake bites him. Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?” (Amos 5:18-20).

Though “the day of the Lord” in Amos’ prophecy is different from “the day of the Lord” that will come when the Lord returns for the final judgment (2 Peter 3:10), the same wishful attitude will exist for both days. Just as many in Amos’ day wrongly thought that “the day of the Lord” would be good for them, many today wrongly believe the same. Jesus said, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:22-23). Heaven is a place for those who obey the Lord (Matthew 7:21). Sadly, because many simply do whatever “seems right” to them (Proverbs 14:12) rather than doing what the Lord has instructed, their longing for a home in heaven is nothing more than wishful thinking.

Hopeful

Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 John 2:28).

Christians are to fear God (Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:17), but that does not mean that we tremble as the disobedient do at the thought of judgment (Acts 24:25; James 2:19). We can have confidence as we look forward to the return of Christ. This confidence comes as we abide in Him and practice righteousness (1 John 2:28-29). We have a “hope laid up…in heaven” (Colossians 1:5). Hope, as it is defined in the Scriptures, is not just wishful thinking (something we desire); it is a desire with the expectation that we will receive what we desire. We can have confidence in the reward because God is faithful (Titus 1:2). But we must “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (Hebrews 10:23). “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36). We can look forward to the judgment in hope, but only if we are busy doing the will of God (cf. Matthew 7:21; Revelation 2:10).

Conclusion

Amos revealed God’s warning: “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel” (Amos 4:12). We must make preparations today for our meeting with the Lord in judgment. Recognize the seriousness of this event. If you are not prepared, now is the time to get ready. If you are approaching the judgment in any way other than in hope – not wishful thinking, but real hope – now is the time to repent!


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