Summary: Several mini-messages speaking of things to come. The millennium, the final judgment, peace, and more...
The Judgment of God
It is not a popular subject today. The pendulum of preaching has swung far away from hell-fire brimstone to a sentimental reading of Scripture that is just as diabolical as the enemy's first questionings of the truth of God. We have changed, church. The Scriptures have not. Here is what they say about the coming judgments.
Yes, I say the word should be plural. The best historical traditions of church teaching sees in the Scriptures two very separate events, both called judgments. And in both cases it seems that the purpose of the gathering is to make public the obvious outcome of man's shortcomings, not to have a Perry Mason-like courtroom scene where the outcome is not certain until after the last commercial.
There are many differences between God's judgment meetings and our own. We have laws in abundance in America, for example. But a man can break those laws and still come out innocent. Innocent persons have been found to be guilty. Injustice and perversions of the legal system abound. That's why a trial here can take so long. Not so in the Heavenly Court. In that place God is judge and jury and author of the law. He knows exactly what is right and exactly what is wrong and who did what when, and with what motive. No need to drag this scene out. Unless a sin has been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, mankind is guilty, and our God will make that eternally and painfully clear. Publicly.
But there is this thing of the "judgment seat of Christ," that both Paul and John talk about. It seems to have a different flavor, though it is a judgment. Let's go to the Book of Revelation, chapter 20.
John speaks clearly of a 1,000 year period of time, at the beginning and end of which will be a judgment that follows a resurrection. Jesus referred to this series of events as the "resurrection of life and the resurrection of damnation."
At the first resurrection, or the one we refer to now as the rapture, when the dead in Christ are raised, there is a group of people brought forth that live and reign with Christ for the millennium. But not before they must be judged. Yes, the first things John sees in this picture are judgment thrones. Not one negative word is said in this passage. It seems that this is a judgment in favor of the saints. Jesus' parable of the talents, and others, tells us that varying rewards will be given out. It would seem to me that this is the time for that.
Though salvation is secure to those first resurrected, the judgment of little or no reward for service is a serious matter. Saints today should be running a race so as to do well at the finish line, a type of judgment, where crowns of victory are given out. Or withheld. A time of weeping and shame, but not eternal loss.
Far more horrible shall be the judgment of damnation. Men shall be resurrected at this time, also, according to Jesus and John (still in Revelation 20). Here "the rest of the dead", those not included in the first resurrection, shall be given bodies fit for destruction, eternally able to bear shame. Unspecified books will be opened. Will these be the 66 of the Bible, as a testimony against the works of men? Will they be minute details of every sinful action, inaction, and thought of every man, woman, and child who has ever lived? The Scripture does say that all of these people will be judged by their works, according to everything written in the books.
Yes, believers 1000 years earlier will be able to say that Christ bore their judgment on the cross. And that argument will be accepted. But unbelievers, those who never accepted the work that Christ did, will have to offer their own works. An offering that has never been accepted in Heaven.
The only puzzle I find in this passage is the mention of the Book of Life. If what I have concluded above is true, then there will be no one whose name appears in the Book of Life that is represented at that second judgment. Our works cannot justify us before a holy God.
But John says "anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." The way that's worded seems to open the door to some on that day actually being in that special Book, but by what provision I know not.
I certainly want my name to be in the Book now. The question I pose may be interesting enough academically, but as a matter of life and death, I don't want to take any chances regarding that second judgment. I trust my readers and listeners have come to that same conclusion.