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For the past few weeks we’ve taken a look at what the Scriptures say about life after life — the three realms (this world, Hades, and eternity), death, the second coming, and the resurrection of the dead. One of the most fearsome subjects of a study like this is what we’ll study briefly today, the judgment — nobody wants to face it, but everybody will have to.

When does it happen?
There are a number of “judgments” that the Scripture talks about, judgments on mankind in the here and now, for example. The judgment we’re talking about here, however, will happen after the resurrection of the dead (Rev. 20:11-15; Lk. 14:14; Jn. 5:29), which will happen at Christ’s second coming (1 Cor. 15:23).

Who will be there?
Both the good and the evil will be raised in the resurrection (or changed to the immortal state in an instant), and both resurrected good and evil will stand before the “judgment seat” of the Lord (Rev. 20:12,13). Note that death and Hades and even the sea (Davy Jones’ Locker?) give up their dead [spirits] (v. 13). And also note that even the obedient and disobedient angels will be among those judged (Mt.8:29; 2 Pet. 2:4).

Where does it happen?
The “judgment seat” is used as a reference point in the New Testament, something familiar to first century disciples (Rom. 14:10 and 2 Cor. 5:10) — a raised stage upon which the Roman governors would have a seat placed and from which they would dispense Roman justice as Caesar’s representative. And God’s great “judgment seat” is where all of mankind will receive God’s perfect justice (see above). It is also referred to as God’s throne (Rev. 20:12), so we can deduct that it is in God’s very presence (which is why the immortal, imperishable body is needed).

Who will be the judge?
Jesus will be the great judge (Jn. 5:22,27; Ac 10:42; Ac. 17:21; Rom. 2:16; 2 Tim. 4:1; 2 Cor. 5:10), but Jesus’ judgment will really be God’s own justice and judgment (Jn. 12:48).

What will the criteria be?
Jesus’ words, which are the same as God’s own words, will be the criteria, the laws or standards by which we will be measured or judged. It will not be enough to have called Jesus “Lord.” Here is what Jesus Himself said: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” — Matthew 7:21-23. It will not be enough to merely be sincere (2 Th. 2:8-12; Acts 17:22,23,31).

What will be examined?
In a word, “everything” will be judged — our deeds (Rom. 2:6; Mt. 25:31ff; Mt. 7:21ff), our words (Mt. 5:22; Mt. 12:36; 1 Cor. 6:10), our thoughts (Mt. 5:28-30; Eph. 2:3; Heb. 4:12), our secrets (Mt. 6:4; Rom. 2:16; 1 Tim. 5:24, 1 Cor. 4:5), our opportunities (Lk. 10:14; Rom. 2:3), and our obedience to the Gospel (2 Th. 1:8; Rom. 2:8; Acts 13:46). The writer of the Hebrew letter put it this way, (Hebrews 4:13) “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

What will the outcomes be?
The Lord will separate the good from the evil like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (Mt. 25:31ff), like a fisherman separates the good from bad fish (Mt. 1047ff) and like a farmer separates the wheat from the tares (Mt. 13:24ff). The redeemed will enter the joy of their Master, life and light (Mt 25:21ff and many others), while the sinful will be cast out into eternal darkness, where there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth (Mt. 8:12; Mt. 13:42; Mt. 13:50; Mt. 22:13; Mt. 24:51; Lk. 13:28). We’ll talk more about this later. Note: there is not third option, no half-way region for the not-too-bad-but-not-exactly-saved.

It seems like most people spend a lot of energy trying to avoid the final judgment of God, and there can be no doubt that we need to avoid it — we all have sinned and will not bear up well under God’s all-knowing scrutiny. But sadly, the one way that men have been given to avoid God’s negative judgment, Jesus, is avoided as much as the judgment itself. "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1.

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