When Jesus Comes Back to Judge the World (Continued)
Sunday, March 15, 2009 -
“We believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen”
Revelation 20:11-15 - “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.  And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.  And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.  Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.  And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
We’re continuing our study of the phrase in the apostle’s creed - “...from thence (or from there) He shall come to judge the quick (the living) and the dead.” We spent all of last Sunday morning studying the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the first resurrection of the holy and just, the rapture (the catching up) of those Christians who are alive at the moment of the Second Coming, and finally the second resurrection after the millennial reign of Christ on the earth. This second resurrection has no joy or blessing to it. It is the resurrection of the dammed. All of those details are made very clear in Revelation 20:4-6 - a very important passage!
Today we look at what happens next. After these resurrections take place, what is the next step? The creed sums this up with sparse use of words - “He shall come to judge...” First He comes and then He judges. This is what we are studying today: When Jesus comes back to judge the world. This week we’ll study the judgment of believers. Next week we’ll study that of unbelievers.
1) FINAL JUDGEMENT AND THE BELIEVER - The Bible teaches that all will be finally judged. Both Christians and non-Christians will face final judgement. The nature of the judgement will be quite different. But all will be judged, none the less. What does the Bible say about the final judgement of Christians?
a) Christians will not be condemned along with the unsaved - The Bible is very clear on this point. Some of the simplest words of promise come from Jesus Himself on this very subject of Christians and the future judgement: John 5:22-24 - “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,  that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”
Here Jesus speaks of judgement as final condemnation and separation from God - the second death. And He says quite clearly that true Christians need not fear that judgement. But again, it’s important to note the kind of follower Jesus is describing. This is not merely someone who professes to love Jesus, or who goes to church. This is a person who, in an ongoing fashion, “hears My word”(24). These people can have confidence that they have already passed out of death into life.
b) Christians, while not facing condemnation at the judgement, will be evaluated and rewarded at the judgement - Romans 14:10-12 - “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;  for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’  So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:9-10 - “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” The important thing to notice first of all in these verses is the way Paul refers to those being judged as “we.” He includes himself. He is writing to Christians. We are all going to be assessed at the final judgement. I think two big ideas emerge from these verses:
i) Faith must be proven to be genuine and full of good deeds at the judgement. Apparently Paul felt Christians could actually use their position of being justified in God’s sight to make them indifferent about their dealing with the Lord at the judgement. It’s very significant that, even in his own devoted, disciplined life, Paul constantly considered the possibility that he might not finish the race as successfully as he thought:
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 - “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Whatever else Paul intends to teach in these tricky verses, one thing is obvious from the images he picks, and he makes the point himself very directly: Not everyone who enters a race, contest or match wins. That’s Paul’s point, and it’s frequently overlooked. You can run in a race in such a way that it is obvious to everyone you are not going to win. You can train for a fight in such a way that it is obvious to everyone that you are not going to be the victor.
Jesus must have had the very same concern about many of His followers because He addressed the same subject in very direct, strong terms: Matthew 7:21-23 - “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'  And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”
This is what the judgement of believers will reveal. It’s not just a matter of profession. It’s not just a matter of your parents being Christians and you putting in your ninety minutes of church on Sunday morning. The Bible says when we are all judged God will reveal the“secret things of our hearts through Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16).
Paul repeats this idea again for added emphasis: 1 Corinthians 4:5 - “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”
This in no way undoes the preciousness of the truth of point number one. True followers of Jesus have already passed from death into life. They need not fear the judgement. But that’s not the issue Paul and Jesus are dealing with in our present point. The issue here is are you truly a believer in Jesus Christ? Lots of people say they are Christians who plainly are not. They’re kidding themselves. The final judgement will expose the sham.
That’s why our text says Jesus is going to judge us by the deeds done in the body - 2 Corinthians 5:10 - “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
Don’t look to your profession to see if your following Jesus. Don’t look to your church to see if you’re following Jesus. Don’t look to your family background to see if you’re following Jesus. Look to your life to see if you’re following Jesus.
ii) The second idea coming out of these verses centers around the whole concept of being rewarded for our deeds of service for the Lord. Paul uses the specific phrase “receive what is due”(2 Corinthians 5:10). In ways that haven’t been fully revealed to us right now believers can have rewards either added or removed in keeping with their deeds done in the body on earth: 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 - “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—  each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
Here we see a person who is saved though much of what he could have built up is removed and destroyed and wasted. On the other hand, people can greatly increase their reward in heaven by their diligence and faithfulness here and now: Luke 19:17 and 19 - “And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities’........And he said to him, 'And you are to be over five cities.'”Rewards aren’t all the same. Those who invest more receive more. Rewards very according to responsibility and faithfulness with what was given.