While talking with some friends this week the subject of the final judgment came up. There was some fear expressed as we talked about what the judgment would be like. I think we are still dealing with the psychological trauma some preachers put Christians through in order to get them motivated to be more faithful. I know I’m not the first one to be puzzled at Paul’s words to the Thessalonians about the coming judgment: “Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
Really? You mean that that “…The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God” and we are not supposed to run in terror? And if we think THAT is scary, look at these words: “the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints“. GULP!
Even more, the conversation began to be centered around the shameful things of our lives and how they would be revealed to all mankind. “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”
Now what was that Paul was saying about encouraging words? Of course Paul is right. We are the ones who turned the judgment day into a day of dread and terror for believers. We sing “almost but lost” as if God is going to yank the rug out from under us at the last moment. I’d like to affirm a few things about judgment and salavation for the Christian.
We need to develop a relationship with Jesus that draws us closer and closer to Him. His appearance at the second coming is not a matter of terror but joy. Unless He is a stranger to us. Like a brother we have not seen in a long time, or a friend who has been away on a journey, His return is a welcome event. Of course Jesus is with us each day but this will be different. And you’ve never been loved by anyone as deeply as He loves you. If there is any running to do on that last day, it will be toward our brother who died to save us. Now, if we are still fearful, perhaps we have not spent much time in His presence?
We need to accept the reality of grace. For the Christian, the day of judgment is not a time to trot out all of our sins and inconsistencies. For anyone who believes 1 John 1:7-9 knows that there is no sin to expose. Notice verse 7 from the Amplified Bible:
7But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations].
What terrible things have you done that God will expose to the world? You have regrets? Disappointed God and yourself with your decisions? Left undone the things that are needful? Christian, you have been forgiven and live in a state of forgiveness. You would have to remind God what sins need to be exposed. Grace is real, not wishful thinking. The judgment scene of Matthew 25 lets me know that those who are simply playing around in the Kingdom without focusing on the important matters at hand will be surprised to notice that grace does not mean disobedience is acceptable.
We need to allow the judgment to move us to sharing the good news. If anything, there is urgency for the lost in the Bible’s teaching about the judgment day. The promises that comfort the Christian do not belong to those who have never obeyed the Gospel. Although we will know that God be the judge of everyone – He alone is righteous – we still persuade men to follow the Christ with all of our might.