The Day of Judgment will not be like final exams. No one will miss heaven by just a whisker. When God examines our life, its either pass or fail; there isn’t a barely passing grade. On the other hand, there will be no extra credit opportunities either! Too many people have the mistaken notion that the Day of Judgment will be a weighing our good deeds versus our bad deeds on a scale. Not true!
Certainly I don’t know everything about that final day. But the Bible does make several things clear. First, Judgment Day will make public the kind of person we were in private. People will be seen to have been bearers of Life from the Kingdom of God, or they will be seen to have pushed that life aside. It is surely not a coincidence that the record of names in the Bible listing those who belong to God is called THE BOOK OF LIFE. “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…” Anyone whose name is not found in the Book of Life will be “thrown into the Lake of Fire” (Rev 20: 12, 15).
The Bible is clear that judgment is based on works — what people did (or did not do). At first glance this seems at odds with the truth that our salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself told a number of parables that dealt with final judgment. His parable of The Sheep and The Goats is particularly vivid. He describes how on that day, He himself will separate people, one from the other, like a shepherd would separate sheep from goats. One group will enter into Heaven: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” The other group will be sentenced to Hell: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:31-46).
Learn to live more and more fully out of His Life, sensitive to the needs of people around you.
What did the first group do so as to be ushered into Heaven? They (unknowingly) ministered to Jesus himself when they took the time and effort in Christ’s name to care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, those needing clothes, the sick and the prisoner in Christ. Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Conversely, those condemned to Hell were those who did NOT do those things.
The reader of the scriptures must understand though, that this stern parable is not a teaching on HOW to get into Heaven or HOW to avoid going to Hell. The point of the parable is that judgment will demonstrate the kind of person we had become. Either the Life of God was in our heart because we had been born-again by the Spirit of God or it was not. The apostle John put it succinctly: “He who has the Son has Life; he who does not have the son of God does not have Life’ (1 John 5:12).
Neither the “sheep” nor the “goats” were aware of what they had been doing or not doing. Instead, it was the prior condition of their HEARTS that was displayed in what they did or did not do. Simply put, the Day of Judgment will reveal two types of people. Those whose hearts were tender towards the Lord, because they had been born-again as they trusted Jesus (evidenced by their kind actions to the “least of these”) and those who hardened their hearts towards God (evidenced by what they did NOT do for others). The lesson here is not to anxiously start doing lots of good things for the poor. The lesson is to seek the Lord for a new heart! And if you have already received a new heart from the Lord, learn to live more and more fully out of His Life, sensitive to the needs of people around you.
Judgment will demonstrate the kind of person we had become.
When I was a little kid, my Grampy Hilborn took me flounder fishing. We used live bait and fished from the bottom. We caught two kinds of fish. Flounder, which we wanted and kept, and Sculpin—a nasty, ugly, spiny, worthless fish, which we threw back. Jesus told another parable about judgment similar to this. “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt 13:47).
The Day of Judgment will reveal who we really were – not just who we claimed to be. As the old adage goes, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” If one has given his heart to Jesus Christ, his actions, recorded in the books, will bear that out.
The Day of Judgment will reveal who we really were – not just who we claimed to be.
Correct doctrine will not be the issue. Nor will membership in certain denominations. Nor will religious ritual, rigor or strictness. What is the issue is a LIFESTYLE that emanates from a TRANSFORMED heart that trusts Jesus Christ and is tender towards other people. These are the ones who have been born “from above” and share in God’s Life. These are they who will ask Jesus with all sincerity, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
God knows those who belong to Him and those who do not. He knows the Flounder from the Sculpin. Which are you?
Feature Image by David Loy.