So we have two places, two eternal destinies. Everyone who is alive today and everyone who has ever lived will spend eternity in either Heaven or Hell.
I want to briefly look at the judgment day, the time assigned by God where everyone is judged and their eternal destinies are assigned.
But you may say, well- that is a long way off, it doesn’t really apply to my day to day reality. I want to try to give you some thoughts on why the final judgment does affect the way in which you live today and how you will plan to live tomorrow.
Revelation 20:11 is also called the Great White Throne Judgment. In this chapter we read about Jesus coming again and ruling for a thousand years while Satan is locked away. After that time, Satan is released for a short time before the final and great battle between God and Satan along with his armies of people who he deceived.
God decisively defeats Satan in this Battle and after that the final judgment follows, where Jesus himself sits on the throne and judges everyone both believers and unbelievers. (2 Timothy 4:1; Acts 10:42)
We read that unbelievers and believers will both be judged. Remember Matthew 25 and Jesus’ teaching on the sheep and the goats and that he would separate; one to eternal punishment and the sheep to eternal blessing of the presence of God. So the question is; why a judgment? Why not just send each person to where they are going to go? Why does Jesus need to judge both believers and unbelievers individually?
Judgment of sinners
So it is clear that unbelievers will stand before Christ. (Romans 2:5-6) It is also evident in the Scriptures that there will be degrees of punishment for unbelievers and likewise degrees of rewards for believers. (Rev 20:12; Luke 12:47&48 and Luke 20:47)
Jesus implies that there will be degrees of punishment and this appeals to our innate sense of Justice. Every thought, deed and word spoken will be brought to light, on the day of Judgment the secrets of people’s hearts will be made public (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
Judgment of saints
This makes sense to us that the unbelievers will be judged, but what about the believers? They will also be judged. (Romans 14:10 & 2 Corinthians 5:10);
This is the judgment of all who have made Jesus Christ Lord and savior of their lives; this is the judgment of all true believers. But here is the good news; it is not a judgment of condemnation or punishment, because we know that the blood of Jesus has washed away all our sins and as Paul wrote in Romans 8:1.
So what is this judgment about?
The Bible tells us that believers will receive rewards for their work and faithfulness here on the earth. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 6 to store up for themselves treasures in heaven. (Also see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
So it is clear that we will receive different rewards for how we live our lives as Christians here today.
We need to be aware of the fact that the Bible teaches that there will be different rewards in heaven not so that we will enter into some kind of competition with each other, but rather that we would encourage one another and spur one another on in our Christian walk. God has infinite capacity to reward us. There is not a limited amount of blessings to be given out, or a “salary cap” on the rewards from God. No my friends we should all be encouraging one another as the writer to the Hebrews states in Hebrews 10:24-25.
I want to make one thing absolutely clear; this is not a salvation by works. We are saved because of our faith in Jesus Christ and what he did for us on the cross. Rather, this is what it means to live the Christian life. We are all called to do certain things by God, whether big or small, our eternal reward is not based on the size or measurable success of our work, but rather on our faithfulness to do what God calls us to do.
I think we are going to be startled on the Day of Judgment; we simply cannot use the measures of man to understand the judgment of God.
The question remains, why is there going to be a judgment? Why not simply send the unbelievers to hell and the believers to Heaven? Because, the final judgment will be public for all to see, it will be a declaration of the Glory of God which, on the one hand we will see his holiness and righteousness and on the other hand we will see his grace and mercy.
The scriptures tell us that God is completely just and that no one will be able to complain his judgments. God does not show partiality, he will weigh up the thoughts and intents of every man, because God is all knowing. The Bible says that on that Day, every mouth will be stopped. Can you imagine a more perfect judge? He knows all things, knows all thought and is absolutely pure and holy in every respect. He will judge perfectly.
But as we look at the coming judgment there are also applications for us today.
Firstly – our desire for justice. We will see the end of God’s plan for mankind and the righting of the injustices that we see and hear all around us. We see in verse 12 of our text, that the books will be opened and all the deeds of all of humanity are recorded. This may be symbolic or literal, but the truth is that a record is being kept of every deed and ultimately all accounts will be settled and all wrongs made right.
Secondly – As we view the doctrine of a final judgment day it enables us to forgive others. We quickly realize that it is not up to us to take revenge, which is the realm of God. (Romans 12:19) My friends this is a wonderful promise that is incredibly freeing. We must be careful to let things go, not to harbor grudges and grievances. We can be assured that God will set things right on that day, and he will judge perfectly.
Thirdly – the doctrine of a final judgment should be a strong motivation for making good choices in life. It should serve as an incentive to strive for those eternal rewards. This is not selfish, Jesus told us to do this. (Matthew 6:20)
Finally the doctrine of a final judgment must produce in us a motive to tell others about Jesus Christ and the Gospel message. The decisions that we make today affects our eternal destiny. Jesus left us the commission to go and tell, we need to be motivated by the fact that so many people are going to a certain eternity in hell.
So as I wrap up this sermon and this series, where do we stand? The 21st century in the western culture has become a source of unending distractions and entertainment. We are so busy trying to make more money, or trying to get that promotion, or sadly – to make sure we don’t miss that episode of our favorite TV show. We focus on movies, food, sport, hobbies, while all the time our perspective of eternity is being whittled away and we seldom think of the fact that our lives are so very brief.
Let us wake up! Wake up those around us. Live your life in the light of eternity – but what does that mean?
Every pleasure you could have here on earth ultimately passes away, it is fleeting, but if we live for eternity, storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven, we will experience pleasure that is lasting, eternally lasting and absolutely unshakeable.
“Only one life, ’twill soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.”