THE CHRISTIAN AND JUDGMENT
Copyright © 1996 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The Scriptures teach plainly and in several places that every person who has ever lived will be judged, including the believers in Christ. Each individual will be rewarded according to his deeds, according to what he has done during his lifetime on the earth. The Scriptures teach also that judgment begins with the saints; and in some instances the afflictions and tribulations that come upon them are Divine judgment.
THE CHRISTIAN AND JUDGMENT
It is believed and taught by many Christians that after people receive Christ they will not pass through judgment.
However, the Scriptures teach plainly and in several places that every person who has ever lived will be judged, including the believers in Christ. Each individual will be rewarded according to his deeds, according to what he has done during his lifetime on the earth.
who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: (Romans 2:6)
To those who would protest that Christians are not included in Romans 2:6, let us point out the verse that follows:
eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; (Romans 2:7)
It seems clear that Romans 2:7 is addressing Christians (unless we are prepared to believe it is non-Christians who gain eternal life by “patient continuance in well doing”).
If Romans 2:7 is speaking to Christians, it is likely Romans 2:6 also is referring to Christians—and, in fact, to all people.
Every individual who has ever lived will be judged and recompensed according to his or her deeds.
The Scriptures state that judgment begins with the saints and the afflictions and tribulations that come upon them are Divine judgment.
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? (I Peter 4:17)
so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure,
which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; (II Thessalonians 1:4,5)
The above two verses inform us that the saints are judged, the judgment takes the form of chastening, and the Day of Judgment has been operating since the coming of the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire (the fire of Divine judgment).
Although the Day of Judgment has not as yet fallen upon the world the saints are being judged. The ax is being laid to the root of the trees today. The Lord is thoroughly purging His floor. The Church is being baptized with fire. The Lord has come, in this sense, and is sitting as a refiner and purifier of silver (a purifier of our redemption, in that silver, in the Scriptures, symbolizes redemption).
The Lord Jesus told us that those who believe in Him are not judged.
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18)
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. (John 5:24)
Therefore we know that the Scriptures teach:
- All persons, including Christians, are judged and recompensed according to their works, according to what they do.
- Judgment begins with the saints.
- The judgment of the saints takes the form of a chastening of the flesh.
- God has been judging the saints for nearly two thousand years.
- The person who hears Christ’s Word and believes in the Father does not come into judgment but already has passed out of spiritual death into spiritual life.
The Scripture states the individual who hears Christ’s Word and believes in God does not come into judgment but already has passed out of death into life. Yet the Scripture is clear that the Christian is judged; he does receive the “things done in his body”; he does reap what he sows; he is rewarded according to his works (II Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:8; Revelation 22:12).
These statements of Scripture appear to be contradictory. Since the Scriptures will stand unchanged forever we must come to the Lord for understanding. For it is certain that Christian teachers are emphasizing John 5:24 to the virtual exclusion of the balancing statements and that this neglecting of the whole counsel of God has destroyed the testimony of the Christian churches.
The world is not waiting to see people who have been “saved by faith” and now are hoping to be caught up in a “rapture” so they will not face the perils of the future. The world, without realizing it, is waiting to behold the Glory of Christ in the saints, to be released by the saints from the chains of Satan through the power of the Holy Spirit, and to be inspired and guided by human beings who reveal in themselves the righteous Character and Person of God through Christ.
The world is waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God. The coming of the Kingdom of God will result in the release of mankind from the chains of Satan by the power of the Holy Spirit. The saved nations of the earth will be judged, ruled, taught, and blessed by saints who themselves have been judged, ruled, taught, and blessed by the Lord Jesus.
The unjudged Christian, the one who has not learned to discern good and evil, is unable to perform the work of the Kingdom of God. If he does not, through the Virtue of the Lord Jesus, overcome the world, the lusts of his flesh, and his self-will, he will never be prepared for the task of bringing release and righteousness to the peoples of the saved nations.
Let us see if we can reconcile the statements of Scripture that appear to teach the saints will not be judged, with the passages that teach clearly the saints will be the first to experience the Divine judgment. We shall consider the Scripture itself, and then we shall give two illustrations that may prove to be helpful to the reader.
It is clear from the writings of Paul and Peter that we must not sin, and if we persist in our sinning we stand in danger of being denied entrance into the Kingdom of God. We Christians are judged, and judged more strictly than the people of the world because more grace has been entrusted to us.
Speaking to “the churches of Galatia”:
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,
idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,
envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
“Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
If such is the case, what, then, did Jesus mean by His statements recorded in John 3:18 and John 5:24?
The Lord Jesus meant what He said. When an individual “hears” the Word of Jesus and believes in God, the person at that time is resurrected spiritually. He has passed out of spiritual death into eternal life—the Life that the Lord Jesus Is.
Christ has the authority and power to judge as He will and to give eternal life to whomever He will:
“For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. (John 5:21)
“For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, (John 5:22)
“Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. (John 5:25)
“For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, (John 5:26)
“and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. (John 5:27)
Notice that what we are talking about is not directed toward when we die physically or with escaping Hell and going to Heaven. It has to do with now, with our present state of being; in particular with our relationship to God.
We have for so long thought of dying and going to Heaven as the goal of redemption that it is almost impossible to perceive the directness and simplicity of what is being stated here. The goal of redemption is eternal life, not residence in Heaven. Eternal life and Heaven are two different issues, with eternal life being an issue of the New Testament and going to Heaven being an issue of our traditions.
Jesus, the Judge, the Author of life, approaches a human being and speaks to him or her. If the individual responds in faith he becomes alive with eternal life. If the person spends the remainder of his days obeying Christ he remains free from condemnation. He already has passed out of death into life and Christ has assumed his obligations before God. All of this remains true provided the believer continues to abide in Christ and obey him.
Not only is John 5:24 speaking of our condition now rather than of what happens to us when we die physically, but in addition it is referring to a continuing process rather than to a profession of faith we make at some point in time.
John 5:24 is not a ticket to Heaven, it is the program of redemption. We continue hearing Christ, we continue being free from condemnation, we continue passing from death to eternal life as the Lord Jesus judges our worldliness, lusts, and self-seeking and destroys these bondages from our personality.
Throughout our entire discipleship, eternal death and eternal life struggle for dominion over our thoughts, our words, and our actions. We are being redeemed from the hand of the enemy. This is why Paul exhorted Timothy to “lay hold on eternal life.”
Being redeemed from the hand of the enemy requires that the evil in us be judged. We have been forgiven totally but there remains all manner of darkness in our personality. In order for us to be brought into the Kingdom of God the spiritual darkness in us must be judged and removed.
In fact, one of the main concerns and operations of Christian discipleship is the work of judging, through the Holy Spirit, the sin that is in us and the removal of this sin through the ability Christ gives.
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)
Notice that we are making a distinction between the sinner and his sin. Paul makes such a distinction:
But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. (Romans 7:17)
The “I” who hears the word of Christ and believes in God who sent Him will not come into condemnation. The sin that dwells in the individual indeed will be judged. Here is the reconciliation of John 5:24 and I Peter 4:17. We abide in Jesus without condemnation provided we follow the Lord in the judging and removing of the sin that dwells in us.
The process of redemption through judgment and deliverance can be observed in the first chapter of I John. It is fitting that the Apostle John who brought us into this seeming contradiction (John 5:24) should be the one to explain how it can be true that we Christians are not judged and yet are judged.
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. (I John 1:5)
The object of our attention here is God the Father. The persons being addressed are the saints.
If we say that we [saints] have fellowship with Him [the Father], and walk in darkness [sin], we lie and do not practice the truth. (I John 1:6)
It is clear from I John 1:6 that the believer who is not walking in righteousness and obedience to God is not abiding in the blessings of John 5:24. He may at one time have been abiding in John 5:24 but he is not now. His experience of eternal life and his freedom from condemnation have been brought into jeopardy.
Why is this? It is because he no longer is hearing the Word of Christ and believing in God. Isn’t this what I John 1:6 (above) is saying?
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another [with God], … (I John 1:7)
The ongoing process of redemption depends on our continuing to walk in the Light of God’s Presence. If we choose instead to walk in the sins of the flesh, to walk in self-centeredness and self-will, John 5:24 no longer applies to us. For John 5:24 is not referring to when we die and go to Heaven, it is speaking of our condition before God now.
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another [with God], and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (I John 1:7)
As God the Father is in the light, the saint has fellowship with Him. Under what condition does the blood of Christ cleanse us from all sin, thereby keeping us free from all condemnatory judgment? Under the condition of our continuing to walk faithfully and steadfastly in the Light of God’s Presence and will.
What happens when we turn away from the path of righteousness? We lose our fellowship with the Father, and it is fellowship with God that is eternal Life (John 17:3).
There is no question either from the New Testament writings or from our experience as saints that the believer who leaves God’s Presence and His will does indeed come under judgment and condemnation. He or she no longer is “in Christ.” He or she is “in the flesh,” and walking in the flesh causes spiritual death (Romans 8:13).
As far as we know, the New Testament writings never once present Christ as an advocate who stands with us after we die and defends our conduct in the Presence of God. This currently held unscriptural doctrine so colors our thinking that it is quite difficult to perceive what John 5:24 actually is stating.
Christ not only is our Advocate, He also is the Judge of all men—including us (John 5:22). He is judging us now and also making intercession for us before the Father. Christ sends various tribulations and afflictions on us with the purpose of ensuring we are not condemned with the world (I Corinthians 11:32).
Christ knows our sin and self-seeking. He deals with us in various sufferings so we will be ready for His appearing. These sufferings are a judgment on us, as the Scriptures state. They are not a punishment for our sins primarily (although sometimes that), but a chastening for our benefit so we may become holy as He is holy.
which is manifest evidence [persecutions and tribulations that you endure] of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; (II Thessalonians 1:5)
We are not under Divine condemnation, provided we are walking in the Light, because the blood is answering to God’s standard of justice. In the sense Peter was speaking (I Peter, Chapter Four) we indeed are experiencing the Divine chastening so we will not be condemned with the world.
We must serve God with a pure heart through all our tribulations because even the righteous are saved with difficulty (I Peter 4:18). To be fully saved is to be fully removed from every aspect of Satan and to be totally reconciled to God in every element of our personality. Divine judgment causes us to suffer. Our correct response to suffering moves us from Satan to God.
So there is no contradiction at all. While we are walking in the Light of God through Christ, Christ Himself assumes all our obligations. The judgments He sends on us are for our redemption and eternal life. Our chastenings are a welcome visitation of the grace of God to us.
The “believer” who makes a profession of faith in Christ and then continues to live in the world, in the sins of his flesh and in his self-centeredness and pride, is ignorant of the plan of salvation. He supposes he is holding a ticket to Heaven and that when he dies the Lord Jesus will protect him from the wrath of God. The truth is, he is dead while he is alive physically even though he professes belief in Christ.
But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. (I Timothy 5:6)
He is fleshly. He is confusing eternal life with where he goes when he dies physically. Shall he be judged according to his deeds? He certainly shall be! Every human being will give an account of his conduct to God, either as one who is part of Christ if he continues in Christ, or as one who is not part of Christ if in this life he chooses not to abide in Christ or has never heard of Christ..
Whether or not we allow ourselves to be deceived, God will not be mocked. We all shall reap what we sow. If we sow to the Holy Spirit we will have a fine harvest of eternal life in the Presence of God. If we choose to sow to the flesh we will reap the flesh, and the flesh is corruption and death—it profits nothing. The flesh cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
We asked the Lord to give us a simple illustration that would clarify the manner in which the many New Testament passages setting forth the need for righteous living are reconciled with John 3:18 and John 5:24. Two illustrations came to mind.
Let us suppose a young lady was living with her father and mother. When both of her parents died she was left with many unpaid bills and was deeply in debt.
At this point she met a wealthy young man who took an interest in her. One thing led to another and he proposed marriage. During their talks together she brought up the fact she was responsible for some ten thousand dollars worth of obligations and she felt responsible to work and pay off these bills before she was free to be married.
Her suitor said, “Do not worry at all about your debts. I will pay them all. You can forget about them.”
What did the young man have in mind? Was he just taking pity on a young lady and doing a work of charity? Not at all. He was viewing her as his future wife and was paying off her obligations because she now would be part of himself.
This corresponds to Romans 7:4, which teaches that Christ has paid our debt to the Law of Moses; not so we can go on our way and live carelessly according to our whims and lusts but so we are free to marry Him. There is an enormous difference between just being free from Moses, and being free from Moses so we may marry Christ.
Let us suppose further that the young lady was crafty. She already had a suitor but he was too poor to help her.
“Now,” she thought, “I will pretend to accept this rich man’s proposal, and as soon as he pays my bills I will run away with the person I really love.”
This reminds us of the teaching of “eternal security.” The idea seems to be to get Christ to sign on the dotted line. As soon as He does the individual is eternally safe even though he should decide to marry another and live according to the lusts of the world.
How do you think God the Father will deal with someone who despises the love of His Son by attempting to use Him to go to Paradise, and then proceeds to serve Satan?
Christ has not saved us so we may be free to pursue our life as we see fit. He died for us so we may live unto Him. Christ died on our behalf; therefore, we owe Him our life. We are not our own, we have been bought with a price. We are not “free.” We are Christ’s bondservants, His slaves.
Being Christ’s slave is the only true freedom there is.
Again, let us suppose there was a young man who was penniless, undisciplined, uneducated, having little or no parental guidance from his earliest years. He was thrown into jail for stealing.
The chaplain of the jail brought the young man to the attention of a wealthy businessman. The businessman, who had no son of his own, took an interest in the youth. He paid his fine and then reimbursed the people from whom the boy had stolen money.
He brought him into his home. He purchased fine clothes for him and sent him to a private school. The young man learned rapidly and soon had finished college.
Then his new “father” brought him into his business. The businessman watched carefully over his adopted son. Because he had in mind to turn the business over to him he gave him a grueling training in every aspect of the organization.
Seeing the young man was apt to be haughty, he made him spend three years in the lowest levels of the business as a messenger boy, and then as an assistant to the custodial staff. He scrubbed the floor and cleaned the bathrooms. No job was too menial or too dirty. He had to do them all.
The father advised his foremen to treat the young man severely, to make sure he was diligent and that he lived and worked in harmony with other people. The foreman was to watch for personal integrity, truthfulness, trustworthiness, faithfulness in the smallest responsibility. It was a long, difficult apprenticeship.
There came a day when the “work of judgment” was finished. The former street urchin was ready to be president of the corporation. He had passed every test.
So it is in the Kingdom of God.
What if the young man thought of his benefactor as a soft-headed old fool whom he could use and abuse according to his whims?
What if the boy, instead of becoming a responsible adult, had continued to steal, lie, evade responsibility, become drunken, waste his allowance on reveling, and had failed in school because of his shiftlessness and laziness? What if he had proved to be worthless as far as the business is concerned? What then?
The “lawless grace” that is preached today maintains the believer can continue to steal, lie, evade responsibility, become drunken, waste his resources on reveling, and fail in his responsibilities because of his shiftlessness and laziness, and yet be a royal priest in the Kingdom of God. He is “eternally secure” because of lawless grace. The teaching of lawless grace accounts for the deplorable moral condition and spiritual babyhood of the churches of our day and the consequent moral decline of the secular nations, who look to the churches for moral guidance. The churches are neither teaching nor living the commandments of the Lord.
We think the story of the poor young man fits John 5:24 well.
The businessman had decided the youth was worthy of assistance. At his expense he had relieved him of every penalty for his crime. He had taken him into his home and presence—a figure of eternal life. He had made him a member of his immediate family. All this is a portrayal of the meaning of “grace.”
Then the adoptive father brought his son through many judgments, many afflictions. The young man was not under guilt or condemnation but he certainly was under the continual scrutiny and discipline of his father.
If the son passed every test, as did the patriarch Joseph, he would become heir of all.
If he proved to be faithless, lacking in integrity, it is likely the businessman would cast him from his home, not trusting him even with a minor role in the organization.
That is how it would work out in the world. We believe the same type of program occurs in the Kingdom of God. The Scripture reveals that God tests us repeatedly in order to determine our worthiness to rule in the Kingdom.
They hurt his feet with fetters, he was laid in irons.
Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him. (Psalms 105:18,19)
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)
Abraham would not have been given the promise of victory and fruitfulness had he not been proven faithful.
And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” (Genesis 22:12)
Christ speaks to us and we become spiritually alive. No one can condemn us because Christ Himself is the Judge. He brings us out of death into spiritual life.
Then Christ devotes Himself to training us as a son of God. It is a long, difficult apprenticeship. Before the Lord speaks “comfortably” to us there is “warfare” that must be accomplished. We receive from the Lord’s hand double for all our sins.
“Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from the LORD’s hand Double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:2)
I find today that sometimes when Christians are faced with the cross designed to destroy their own willfulness and turn them to God’s will they are astonished. After they have suffered for a month they believe they have gone long enough without what they desire and are ready to once more scheme and manipulate in order to escape from the prison in which they have been placed.
They do not understand that the Lord may permit the saint to go for forty or fifty years without receiving what he desires so fervently and that all such hopes must be placed beyond the grave.
It would be as foolish for us to live in immorality, drunkenness, and carelessness while we are hoping to be made a member of the royal priesthood as it would be for the young man to be involved in immorality, drunkenness, and carelessness while he was waiting for the day in which he would be made president of the corporation.
We Christians are determining our eternal destiny today. Grace is not an unconditional gift of membership in the royal priesthood. Grace is the opportunity to become a member of the royal priesthood, to become a son of God.
Every human being will be judged. The saints are first in line. The judgment of the world begins with us. It is taking place now. Every day the Lord brings us into situations that display the areas of worldliness, sin, and self-centeredness in us. We need the transformation that can come only through the work of Christ.
You can know if you are in Christ. If you now have a closer relationship with Christ than you did last year at this time, if you now are a more devoted, more obedient, more capable servant of the Lord, you are growing in Christ. You are pressing toward the first resurrection.
If you still are the same person, still committing the same sins, still pursuing your own life rather than bearing your cross after the Master, you are not abiding in Christ. You will not participate in the first resurrection. One day you will appear before Christ and will receive the things done in your body while living on the earth.
For we [Christians and everyone else] must all appear [be revealed, manifest] before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power [authority], but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)
(“The Christian and Judgment”, 3113-1)