Romans 14:10-12 “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
There was tension in the Roman congregation, a difference of opinion caused by some of the church members claiming that consistent Christians should be vegetarians who also kept extra holy days throughout the year. Those who believed in such practices were in danger of condemning those who didn’t and some of those who tucked into their pork chops on a Saturday could rubbish their brothers muttering about ‘those pietistic consciences of theirs.’ Paul is full of wisdom and graciousness as he deals with this problem. He is firm in saying that this view of vegetarianism and special extra days is the mark of someone weak in the faith. He will not fudge the issue and take a “Well, on the one hand there is much to be said for one group, but on the other hand there is much to be said for the other group.” No. “You are weak in faith if you teach that because you are an evangelical Christian you must become a vegetarian. No way is that so!”
The apostle tackles the question characteristically by appealing to the highest and most sublime of theological realities in order to achieve a good spirit in the church. Paul refers to Golgotha and the dying Lamb of God, to Christ’s resurrection on the third day, and here in our text, to the coming Day of Judgment.
The apostle is basically saying in the above verses of our text, “What presumption, that you should despise and condemn a brother! Who are you to judge a child of God? Who are you to scorn someone the Lord loves? Has God appointed you a judge? Almighty God himself is going to judge us all.” Imagine one of Rembrandt’s apprentice painters who’d been given a task by the master of painting a street scene in Rotterdam. He has finally finished the work and he is on his way to show the painting to Rembrandt and hear his judgment on his talent. His mother looks at it as he passes through their house and she says, “Oh son, aren’t you clever? It’s beautiful.” “Thank you Mum,” he says, but her judgment isn’t all that discerning. Then his kid brother comes in and when he looks at the painting he laughs, “What’s all that about? Is that picture the right way up?” But that criticism doesn’t bother him at all, any more than the praise. What do you expect from a smart-alecky brother? The apprentice is soon going to put this painting on an easel, and then the door will open and Rembrandt himself is going to enter the room, walk up to it and examine it in detail and tell him what he thinks of it. That is the only judgment that matters.
Now multiply by infinity. Each one of us makes judgments on our fellow Christians and that practice cannot be avoided. We have to discern; we have to choose men of gifts for office in the church; we have to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing. We will try to be as kindly, wise and truthful as possible, but doing so aware that we only know some of the facts and thus our judgment is necessarily limited. We have never made a sinless judgment in our entire lives. What we have to remind ourselves is the fact that we are all going to be judged by God. This is what our text says; “For we (Paul joins himself with the entire congregation) will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (vv. 11&12). Perhaps we’re conscious that we’ve recently been coming under some criticism, and we’re hurt and resentful. Or we may be critical of some other people, or we are finding consolation in the fact that there’s someone in our circle – maybe it’s our own wife or mother – who thinks we’re absolutely wonderful in everything we do. None of that counts! All of that is unimportant! Paul says that it matters very little to him what men think of him. This life of ours is going to end at the throne of divine judgment, and that’s the only judgment that matters. That assurance is what kept our Lord going; “when he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly” (I Peter 2:22&23). They said about Jesus that he was the son of Beelzebub – the devil, that he was a wine-bibber, a drunkard, a friend of evil people. They said he was a blasphemer and that he’d done things worthy of crucifixion. He had to listen to all of that, but he didn’t badmouth them in return. In fact he prayed for those who crucified him, and so did his disciple Stephen. “Don’t lay this sin to their charge,” he said. Pray for those who criticize you; please don’t harbour bitterness or resentment because you’ve been badly done by. You can leave things in God’s hands; this great day is going to come when he’s going to right all wrongs. In the meantime don’t overcome evil with evil; overcome evil with good.
1. THE WHOLE BIBLE TEACHES THERE IS A DAY OF JUDGMENT.
God’s seat of Judgment is going to be erected and we will stand before it. One of the barriers to our drawing strength from this reality is our worldly-mindedness. We are caught up in the affairs of this world, even in the good things of this world, to such an extent that we fail to seek lasting and blessed realities. All that we enjoy here and now, the pace of our lives, squeezes out our desires for the best things; they keep us from considering the evanescence of life, how rapidly a lifetime is gone, and then all we have is God. The constant refrain of the New Testament is, “Christian, don’t let that be so. Be ready. Be prepared. Be alert. Live in the light of his coming. He is coming again. Be ready when he comes.” That is what our text says and there is overwhelming additional testimony to this fact in the Bible. To all the writers of Holy Scripture this was simply a fact. If you are a human being then an evaluation of your life by God is inevitable. It is not some ‘nasty’ that is tagged on to the gospel. It comes out of the very idea of who God is, a just creator; a Lord of holy providence, the one to whom we must answer as creatures who’ve been made in God’s image. You’ll never understand Jesus Christ and his work if you don’t understand the fact that God is the Judge of the world. The theme of judgment is so woven into the ministry of Christ that his teaching would be utterly distorted if references to it were cut out.
There is a dramatic scene described for us in Jeremiah chapter 36 of the impact the word of God through Jeremiah and his prophecies was making on Jerusalem. This is what happened, “The king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and Jehudi brought it from the room of Elishama the secretary and read it to the king and all the officials standing beside him. It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the brazier in front of him. Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the brazier, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes. Even though Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them” (Jer. 36:22-25). You see the scene? It is so contemporary. The King listened to the word of God and he didn’t agree with what he heard. “Bring it here!” he summoned, and then he picked up a knife and cut that part out of the scripture, threw it into the flames handing the scroll back to listen to the next verses. He was in control of the thought police of Jerusalem; he was the one with ultimate authority in the land not Scripture.
I am saying that the truths from God on judgment pervade the whole New Testament. This theme isn’t some kind of appendix that you can cut out leaving the rest of the Bible unaffected; the day of judgment isn’t an afterthought. It is part of the very texture of the good news. Our Saviour derived it from the Old Testament, for example, in Psalm 96:13. The whole psalm is a glorious summons to us to worship God, and it concludes, “Sing for joy before the Lord, because He is coming. For He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and His peoples in faithfulness.” The psalmist was experiencing a world of persecution; the fiery darts of the evil one were thudding into him, and he groaned at what he saw in the world, gross cruelty and pain, but it would not be like this always and for ever – as James Russell Lowell wrote, “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne.”
There was a stirring speech a year or two ago given by Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins, an Ulsterman who was then commanding soldiers in Iraq. As he led his troops into Basra, there was a young woman waving at these soldiers, but the battalion had to withdraw that night and return the next day. When they entered Basra in the morning, this woman, who had just been waving in welcome to these men, had been hung by her neighbours from her window. The lieutenant colonel was outraged at the wickedness of that act. He was right to be shocked wasn’t he? One day God will put things right. He will render to all men according to their deeds. This is an Old Testament hope to make us rejoice.
We see it as well in Isaiah 11:4, “But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth, and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.” This is the expression of Isaiah’s hope, that one day God will set things right. Those who are poor and afflicted, those who are overlooked and mistreated by the world today, God will vindicate. He will settle accounts and he will do that which is right and fair towards those who are wicked. It is a grand hope of the Old Testament. That may be the only hope in some of the hard circumstances of our lives. Injustices may never be put right in this life, but it is the hope of every believer in the living God, the God of the Scriptures, that in the end, no matter what has happened, he will put all things right.
The Lord Jesus Christ is impressing upon us that this is a moral universe in which we live, and our lives count; all mankind is going to give an account to the one righteous and sin-hating God. That is essential to a proper understanding of the extraordinary event that is the very heart of the New Testament, in other words, what took place when God the Son died on the cross. His suffering was certainly an inspirational example, but it was more than that, fundamentally so. Christ is being penalized and judiciously punished on the cross isn’t he? He has been found guilty and is being judged, isn’t he? He has been sentenced to die with two other criminals, one each side of him. God, who could have delivered him, chose not to. He allowed his holy Son to die that death. Why? How could a just and loving God act like that?
According to Paul, Christ was being made a curse for us, that is, he was bearing our accursed judgment (Gal. 3:13); he was made sin (2 Cor. 5.21). What an incredible statement! Our sin was so closely identified with his body, soul, mind, spirit and entire being on the cross that God’s holy child Jesus was actually made sin. I can only think in picture language to grasp its meaning – like the drip, drip, drip of calcium filled water on a living plant which will, as the water evaporates, eventually calcify that plant, turning it to stone. The Holy Son of God was made sin. Christ’s cry of dereliction ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ could be answered by God saying, “Because you have been made sin.” That is how redemption can come to us, through our judgment going to him. The condemnation of our sins was upon him and with his stripes we are healed. I am saying that this theme of divine judgment running through the Bible is actually integral to the gospel. Take it away and what Christ did on Golgotha is essentially changed; in fact, what he did no longer makes sense. The Lord Jesus is dealing with our own judgment. That is the heart of the Word of God.
So wherever you look in the Bible soon you will meet this awesome reality. Let us consider some of them. The plainest and most memorable is Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Then Wayne Grudem chooses as his own great proof text of the divine judgment (at the beginning of his chapter on the ‘Final Judgment’ in his Systematic Theology) some verses in the book of Revelation; Revelation chapter 20 and verses 11 through 15, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
That is a very striking statement that appeals not only to our minds but our affections too, and I am saying that you will find this theme throughout the Bible. The apostles in their evangelism took Christianity across the Roman Empire. Peter summed up Christ’s commission to himself in this way, “He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as the judge of the living and dead” (Acts 10:42). Jesus is who? Our Judge; the Judge of the living and the dead. Hear me! The Lord Jesus Christ has been appointed by God to be your Judge. Today he can become your Saviour; soon he will become your Judge. When the apostle Paul came to the capital of Greece and confronted the men of Athens then this was the climax of his sermon to them, that God “now commands all people everywhere to repent. 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” (Acts 17:30&31). That again is very plain; there is going to be a future judgment of mankind. Then, when Paul speaks to one man in an individual one-to-one witness situation, he reasons earnestly with him about righteousness, self-control and judgment to come, and the man, who happened to be a petty king whose name was Felix, heard that and was afraid (Acts 24:25). Many Christians don’t know that that happens in the New Testament, that the early church witnessed to people and men and women got scared stiff. You thought they all began to feel ‘warm’n’fuzzy.’ No! Felix trembled to hear of the judgment to come. The demands of truth require us in preaching and witnessing to non-Christians to mention to them what lies ahead.
Or when Paul writes a letter to a congregation of Christians then this theme again occurs. He tells the church in Rome, “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. God will give to each person according to what he has done” (Roms. 2:5&6). The picture is like that of a squirrel storing up nuts in a secret cache for the winter. Every time we sin we are storing up God’s wrath against ourselves in the Day of Judgment, when these things must come to light. Sins are desperately cruel. There are men who phone single women at 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. They wake them up, breathe heavily and then hang up; It is terrifying. Then there is the stalker; the poisoner; the thief; the unfaithful man or woman; the credit card fraudster; the shoddy workman – they are all storing up wrath against themselves for the day of God’s wrath.
Listen again to those familiar words in 2 Corinthians 5:10, where Paul says that “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.” Notice, Paul the preacher of grace, Paul the preacher of salvation by grace, says that the final judgment will be done in accordance with our lives, with our works, with our deeds, it will correspond to our lives, our works and our deeds. That’s not a contradiction that salvation is all through the grace of God in Christ, it’s an elucidation of the inevitable effects of that grace as it applies to the final judgment.
Again in his second letter to young Timothy Paul is reminding him what he must do and say as a true Christian. Notice how he prefaces his words, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who is the judge of the living and the dead, and by his appearance and by his kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:1). The charge comes in the name of Jesus Christ, the judge of the living and the dead. I have wearied you with all these references to the Day of Judgment, but how prominent it is in the Bible.
You say you don’t believe in it, but your unbelief is not the issue. The issue is whether it is true or not. Jesus gathered a group of young men around him and very early on he preached to them concerning what Christianity was all about. We call his message, “The Sermon on the Mount” and it is the most famous section of Jesus’ teaching in the whole Bible. In his discourse Jesus brought these boys of his into a totally new way of looking at life and death and what reality is. He talked to them particularly about “that day.” How solemn – “that day.” What is going to take place on “that day”? Listen! “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. 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?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matt. 7:21-23). There is going to be a scrutiny of everyone’s life and a great separation.
You still say you don’t believe it, that we die and that’s it. We rot. Your faith is that the murderer and his victim all end up in the one grave. Stalin, Hitler and Mao Tse-tung were responsible for the deaths of 120 million people. Can you truly find any comfort or hope or meaning from the fact that those three monsters who behaved with stupendous wickedness will according to your religion end up exactly the same as the people they tortured and killed? What a terrible article of faith. We are living, according to you, in an immoral universe. Have you no burning desire for justice? Has that longing died in you, killed by your false religion? If so, something of the divine image has flickered out in your life. Your religion is cynicism. But Jesus said these words in Matthew 25 verses 31 through 33, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 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. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”
You refuse to believe in Jesus; “No judgment,” you say, but Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, and you didn’t; when Jesus spoke the winds and waves obeyed him, and they don’t obey you any more than they obeyed Canute. On the third day Jesus rose from the dead and on the third day you won’t. So I will give Jesus Christ more weight than you in what is true and what is right and what isn’t. To me he can say nothing wrong. Christ stands in a line of prophets sent from God who all testified to righteousness being rewarded and sin being punished.
You don’t believe it. If you did believe it then this great thought would control your hearts, and press upon your minds, and rule your lives. “I am gong to be judged by God. I am going to the Great White Throne. I must meet my Maker when I die and I shall answer to him for how I have lived,” but we choose to ignore the Day of Judgment. We deliberately forget about it. The fascinations of this present life shut out this tremendous future event. I plead with you to listen to Holy Scripture. Besides the testimony of my conscience the Bible is my only proof of this tremendous day. What then does the Bible tell us about this day?
2. IT IS GOD WHO HAS HIS JUDGMENT THRONE AND WE MUST ANSWER HIM.
The Lord alone is judge. He only has the authority to judge. No one and nothing can judge God for he is supreme. He is the uncreated Creator and all of us are his creatures. It is he that has made us and not we ourselves. He has sustained us with every good and perfect gift. We have lived and moved and had our being in him. He knows us exhaustively; all our thoughts and deeds are before him constantly as he is the God who is from eternity to eternity. In other words, the distant act of Creation is now before God; Calvary is now before God; the Day of Judgment is now before God; your great sin is now before God, as is your whole life. Calvary is your only hope; your sin will be to your damnation without the blood of the Lamb. It is then the height of blasphemy to mock God’s right to judge, or his integrity in judgment. What a fool you are to stand in judgment on another and think yourself so much better when this judgment looms up ahead of you. Cry to him to search and try you, and see if there be any wicked way in you, and lead you in the way everlasting.
Judgment is an incommunicable attribute of God. All our judgments are flawed; his are all perfect. If God did not respond to wickedness or fail to vindicate those who laid down their lives for him then he would no longer be God. He would be a monster; in heaven there would be a Buddha, or some Super Epicurean who shrugged his shoulders at the man abusing a child, or the torturer advancing with a chain-saw on a woman. No! God’s very nature is such that he is a consuming fire to all that is evil and he is the light of joy and peace to all that is good. We will all stand before the judgment seat of God. Each of us will give an account to God.
Isn’t that what our text says? Each of us will be confronted with a unique and God-made evaluation when we leave this world at death. Remember there was a rich man who ignored a sick and poverty stricken beggar who lived at his gate. The rich man died and the poor beggar died too and both were judged. One went to Abraham’s bosom and the other went to hell. The dying thief on Golgotha was told that that day he would immediately be admitted to paradise. Paul longed to depart and to be with Christ, but Peter tells us that those who despised the long-suffering of God in the days of Noah are now in an eternal prison. Each one faces judgment which leads to one of two destinations.
Christians too will have their lives evaluated. We are told in the twentieth chapter of Revelation of two books. Imagine a name being called out at this Great Assize and one angel looks in his book to see what is listed there concerning the works of the person who has been named. Much is shameful; much is the story of failure; many offenses are written there in the book, but here, see this sentence written in crimson, “His trust was in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.” Then the angel goes on and looks further down. He discovers deeds of kindnesses done, some love for his enemies, a turning of the other cheek, faithfulness in tough times, a growing spirit of gentleness and trust, prayerfulness, generosity. Then this angel faces the other angel whose responsibility is to keep the Book of Life. “Is his name recorded there?” he cries. “Yes, it is!” comes the shout of joy. In the latter the names of all God’s people have been listed before the foundation of the earth, while in the former book their works are listed indicating the reality of their faith.
So the whole world is to be judged. Not one person shall escape. Before God will be gathered all nations. ‘For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.’ The lottery winner and the peasant; the subsistent farmer and the man whose money is in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank; both town and gown will be there; the cynic and the disciple. God will send forth his holy angels and draw every soul to come before him. What a throng! Innumerable, like the sands on a seashore, and yet your individuality and your uniqueness will not be swallowed even in the midst of the vast multitude.
You won’t become part of a grey conformity. Each will stand out; each will be distinct; each will know himself to be different in the eyes of the great Judge. A great inquiry is going to take place into all the actions of each one of us, our thoughts, our words, our deeds. For every evil thought and for every idle word – oh what scrutinizing! God will bring each of us into judgment. All will receive the reward of their own works, whether they be good or whether they be evil. Perhaps we have seduced some to sin while others we encouraged to righteousness. We shall share either in their punishment or in their reward. But of course, no one will suffer for his friends’ sins; no one can thrust his neighbour forward to take his place. Our sins are our own actions; we must bear them ourselves; we must answer ourselves, unless by trusting in the Lord Jesus we have covered ourselves with his righteousness
In the sight of the whole world we shall be judged. God will bring every man’s work into judgment. Our thoughts – anger, self-pity, worry, greed, or envy – some of which we’d hidden away from our best friend, will then be manifest. Our secret sins – if mine were projected on a screen above the pulpit now I’d run out of this place hot-faced in shame – in that day all will see them, the best of men will see them, our parents and our children, and our worst enemies, all those thoughts will appear without camouflage, or cosmetic cover. The consciences of us all will then blaze – as if gasoline had been poured on them and a lighted match tossed on the multitude.
We’ll feel our own shame because those imaginations were shameful. The sinner will condemn himself. All other sinners will condemn him. There will be no more of that artificial comfort men get from believing what others believe – I mean there’s going to be no refuge in solidarity with public opinion – “well, my family and friends all thought like that . . . we all behaved like that . . . ”. The majority of men in Israel thought Christ was a blasphemer who deserved to be crucified. There’ll be no more cover-ups to make the wrong appear right; no more standing by our friends to support their wickedness. The whole condemned world will condemn every other sinner. What infamy for the sinner! What glory for the good!
4. GOD HAS APPOINTED THIS DAY.
His plans are made; his clock is ticking and though the time is delayed, it doesn’t sleep. The day is fixed for God has made up his mind. Now the cosmic recorder is at work, and every word and thought are being noted against that day. Even now the columns are being filled up, the file is being completed and the terms of judgment are being prepared. The actual day is fixed. It will come, and come in all its terrible light. When that day shall come, no man knows. One sign that it is near will be that iniquity will abound, and such days we live in. First, all the chosen people of God must be saved, and then Christ will come and take us away. You know when you are waiting to fly off on holiday from Heathrow you are told at which exit you must depart, and at what departure gate you must wait. Then there are the last warnings given through the public address system to the whole airport, and finally certain people are named who have not turned up for their flight. The plane is waiting for them; their luggage is in the hold but they are talking and eating somewhere. Come on! They don’t realise that the plane is waiting; the pilot is delaying departure until they get on board and then off it will fly! Come on! It will not delay for ever. So Christ is giving his own people their last warning; “The departure to glory is about to leave. Are you on board the plane called Jesus Christ? He is the way to the Father; no other way.” Then there will be the four last things, the resurrection, the final judgment, the great separation and the eternal state. It will all begin when Christ comes in great glory, and all his holy angels with him, and he shall sit upon the throne of his glory. Whether that day be remote or near, the day of our death is certainly nearer than when we first believed, and after death there’s no place or desire or opportunity for preparing for judgment.
5. EVERY KNEE WILL BOW BEFORE GOD.
Those who have walked stiff necked through this world, barely tolerating religion, will bow before God in that day. If King Saul bowed his face to the ground at the mention of the shade of Samuel he will certainly bow before Samuel’s mighty God. Bertrand Russell will confess through clenched teeth what in his heart of hearts he always knew, but kept a clamp on, that the Lord he is God . . . the Lord he is God! Richard Dawkins will rue the day he ever penned a book called The God Delusion. The martyr Stephen will ask Dawkins what he thinks of this delusion now? So will John Bunyan . . . and John Wesley . . . and Robert Murray M’Cheyne . . .and Gladys Aylward . . . and Jim Elliot. Dawkins dismisses the belief in God shown by such men and women as a ‘delusion,’ but such a curt put-down tells you nothing about those people and millions of other pure and self-denying Christians like them. Here will be people greeting their Saviour whose belief in the Day of Judgment had led them to lives devoted to teaching men and women about the sacrifice of God the Son. They cared for the poor, visited prisons, lived in the midst of leper colonies, worked with the untouchable caste when no one else would, abandoned family and home and country and died that others might live. We had a letter from Keith Underhill in Kenya last month and it told us of his taking a little boy with a hare lip in his car from distant barren Karakopot to Nairobi to have an operation that would change his life. The boy had never been in a car before, never been on a tarmac road, never seen a two story building, and at Keith’s expense the boy will have an operation, be cared for and taken back home in a month’s time his face transformed. And is all that being done for a delusion?
What a day it will be! What will Adolph Hitler do when he meets Martin Luther? What will Queen Mary do when she meets Hugh Latimer and Thomas Bilney? The Puritans will rise to meet their detractors. Godly Methodists will face grandchildren who abandoned and belittled the faith of their fathers. This Welsh generation of drugs and drink and endless television watching will meet William Williams Pantycelyn and Howell Harris and Ann Griffiths and Daniel Rowland and Thomas Charles. That is how will it be when all the world is risen from the dust, when the sea gives up its dead, and together they are gathered, bowing together, confessing together that the Lord is God, before the great separation takes place?
We know that the men of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the people of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba will face the generation to whom Jesus Christ preached and they will condemn that unbelieving crucifying generation. The men of Sodom will protest, “All we had was Lot and his family. You had the incarnate Lord of glory. You had the Sermon on the Mount. You had the healing of the man born blind. You had the raising of Lazarus. You had the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Yet you refused to bow before the Lord!” The men who heard Noah preach will rise in the judgment and will confront the men of Capernaum who heard Christ and did nothing. Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will fall in adoration before the Lord with men from the north and south and east and west while many children of the Kingdom will be cast out. Those who were persecuted for Christ’s sake will be greatly rewarded along with Joseph and Jeremiah and Elijah and Daniel.
The prison of darkness will give up its prisoners, the fallen rebellious angels will be condemned, the demons will be cast into the bottomless pit by the Lord who overcame their head, Satan. They will be joined by the false prophet and the beast and they shall be tormented for ever and ever. That eternal fire has been prepared for the devil and his angels. Didn’t the Lord Jesus tell us that?
How fearful it will be! If Felix trembled when he met an apostle of Christ how fearful he will be at meeting Christ himself. The Lamb of God will be turned into a lion. Joseph said to his brethren, “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt” and they were troubled at his presence. Their consciences smote them for their sin. So when Christ comes again he will say, “I am Jesus whose name you blasphemed, whose gospel you rejected, whose company you refused, whose blood you despised. I am not come to judge you.” What horror and hatred will be theirs in that day.
What glory will be Christ’s. His first appearing was obscure; he was a prince in disguise, but his appearance now will be in all the glory of his Father, that is, everything God can do to make him the most glorious being in the universe he has done. He shall come accompanied by an innumerable host of angels filling every place from horizon to horizon, from earth to the heaven of heavens. He will come as the friend of publicans and sinners. The great Judge will be Saviour who shed his blood to save us. He will come as one who loved us before we knew him, who had known everything about our lives from the beginning to the end but loved us still. He will stand before us as one who has saved us to the uttermost. Our Husband is our Judge; our loved one is our Judge; the Lamb is our Judge; the Lily of the Valley is our Judge.
He will say to many, “Depart from me” but what will he say to his own people? “I travailed in pain for these people. I tasted death for them. They are sinners but my soul was made an offering for their sins.” He will vindicate them all. John Bunyan spent twelve long years in prison, but Christ will clear the record. He will bring forth his righteousness as the light. Moses comforted himself at a time of great pressure in his life saying, “Tomorrow will the Lord show who are his,” and on that great tomorrow Christ will fully absolve all his people. Pilate said of Jesus, “I find no fault in this man,” and so will Christ say of all his people, “I find no fault in them.” Then he will say, “Come ye blessed of my Father,” and how we will rush to him and cast our crowns before him lost in wonder love and praise.
Then he will mention our worthless names before men and angels. He will relate our good deeds; “I was hungry and he gave me food; I was thirsty and she gave me drink; I was in prison and he visited me; I was naked and she clothed me. Well done, good and faithful servant.” Not one will be ignored; not one good deed will be overlooked. If Christ can find a teaspoonful of grace he will acknowledge it. If there were a single cup of cold water given to the least of Christ’s disciples then it won’t lose its reward.
The man who doubled his five talents in the work of Christ will be greatly rewarded, but so will the man who had two or three talents. He will be rewarded too. None will be overlooked. He will know those who built with gold, silver and costly stones. He will know those who built with wood, hay or straw. The quality of each man’s work will be shown in that day, and all the work that survives will be rewarded
What if the Lord were to challenge you, “What are the marks of your really trusting in Christ for salvation? What proof is there that you have truly been my child? What is the evidence that you are really a Christian? What is the evidence of real gospel grace in your heart?” What would you say? That’s what Paul is talking about in Romans 14; there is a spirit that criticises other people who believe and act differently from ourselves, and yet we are having to give account for our words and deeds to God. The evidence that we are true Christians is a life of faithfulness that itself flows from faith that itself flows from God’s grace. A life of faithful self-control and compassion characterises those who truly trust in Christ. So, be ready, Christian. How? Through faithfulness to your master, being about his work, loving his people and bearing the burdens of the weak. Then we can say in the end, when it comes time for his coming, that we prefer it to the sweetest enjoyments of this life, and that we have preferred Him and His people to everything in this life.
If you’ve never been wise in your life before then begin to be wise now and prepare to meet your God. You cannot avoid it; you cannot abide it; you cannot resist it, so bow before God now. Entrust you life to him through his Son Jesus Christ. Take his word as the rule for your life. Take his righteousness and blood as your only plea. Do not postpone this any longer lest you become hardened, or you die unready for the tremendous Day
5th November 2006 GEOFF THOMAS