Judgement Day


Many Christians believe that they will be judged by God on ‘Judgment Day’. If that is so, how was Paul able to confidently assert, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.’ 2 Timothy 4:7-8.

Was Paul pre-judging himself? This is a question which crops up fairly regularly.

The Opening Statement

Let’s begin with the statement in the first sentence.

My immediate response, upon reading it, was, ‘If this is really what ‘many Christians’ believe, they are very greatly mistaken, and we must try to dispel, once and for all, the uncertainty which some Christians feel when ‘Judgment Day’ is mentioned, and the insecurity which this uncertainty creates.

The ‘Day’

We need first, to ask ourselves, to which ‘Day’ Paul was referring because the word is used in different contexts.

Was he thinking about the ‘Day’ on which God will ‘judge the world in righteousness’ by the One whom He has appointed? Acts 20:31.

Or, the ‘Day’ on which he, as a servant of Christ, must give an account of his stewardship to his Lord? 1 Corinthians 3:13.

You see that there is a difference between the two Days. One ‘Day’ relates to SIN and salvation, and therefore, concerns ‘the unsaved world’. The other ‘Day’ specifically concerns the SAINTS, and only the saints, BELIEVERS and the relationship they have with their Lord.

Human and divine judgment I think it’s a pity that much of the confusion about ‘Judgment Day’ has arisen because our thinking about ‘The Judgment’ is undoubtedly shaped and coloured by what we know about human judgment. But, whilst it’s true that there are aspects of human and Divine judgment that are very similar, there are also very significantly great differences.

Without going into great detail, let me first point out that the similarities are obvious.

In a human Court of Law, we have:

The Judge, before whom Evidence is presented.

The Accused and the Accusation, the Charge.

The Pronunciation of the Verdict was reached on the basis of that evidence.

The Passing of the Sentence, if the verdict is ‘Guilty’!

Similarly, according to Revelation 21, when the Final Court convenes, on what we know as ‘The Day of Judgment’,

there will also be:

The Judge. ‘The Throne and Him who sat upon it’. Revelation 21:11

The Accused. All those who are to be judged. ‘The dead, small and great.’ Revelation 21:12-13

The Production of the Evidence. ‘The books were opened.’ Revelation 21:12

The Passing of the Verdict.

The major and most significant difference is that, whilst in the earthly court, the evidence must be thoroughly weighed before a verdict is reached, on the ‘Day of Judgment’ that will not be necessary, because it will not be a ‘Judgment Day’ in the human sense of the word. No need for ‘witnesses for the prosecution’, nor for the defence.

God’s purpose will not be to decide whether those who stand before Him are innocent or guilty, righteous or unrighteous, saved or lost, because this was settled for every one of them at the moment of death, having been determined by their response to the offer of forgiveness, made in the Gospel.

Those who die without the assurance of the salvation offered in the Gospel will die in a lost state, whilst those who have accepted Christ as Saviour and have lived according to that faith, will die in a saved state, and, therefore, will have no need to fear when ‘the books are opened’, Revelation 20:12-13, because their names are enrolled in ‘the Lamb’s Book of the Living’.

Having already been judged and acquitted in the person of the Lord Jesus, they will not again stand trial for their life, Romans 8:1. This verse says, quite literally says, ‘There is no sentence to be served.’ ‘katakrima’, for those who are in Christ Jesus.’

No double Jeopardy

It’s written in the Judicial Law of our country that a person, having been once acquitted, may not be tried again for the same offence.

Let me, therefore, ask you to think about this.

Is it not true that, because we are followers of the Lord Jesus, our sins were carried ‘in His own body on the cross’? 1 Peter 2:24.

Did He not receive, in Himself, the penalty for sin which we deserved to receive? Romans 5:25.

And is it not also true that, because when God looks at us, He sees us ‘already clothed with our Saviour’s righteousness? Philippians 3:9.

This is a truth to which we should hold fast God will not require atonement for our sins, first at the hand of Jesus, and then again from us.

The redemption price has already been paid! The debt has been cancelled. Freedom has already been purchased. In the Lord Jesus, we have already been tried and justified. And there can be no ‘double jeopardy’! God will not require the price for our sin twice, first at our Saviour’s hand and then again at ours.

The abiding efficiency of the sacrifice

Perhaps you are thinking that, when we obeyed the Gospel, the blood of Christ dealt only with the guilt of our past, but that is not so. The efficiency of His blood is both retrospective and prospective. It covers the past, the present and the future, because He is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world, and His blood effectively deals with the sins of all those who, in every age, past, present and in the future, who live by faith.

Pardon for the believer

We recognise, of course, that none of us are perfect and we all sin, even though we are Christians. For this reason, the Scriptures contain what we may call ‘The Second Law of Purdon’, which God has provided as the way of dealing with the daily sins of His children.

‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ 1 John 1:9

Belief of the Gospel and obedience is the law of pardon for the Christian who sins. Confession of daily sin is the Law of Pardon for the saint. This means that the faithful Christian is able to remain in a constant state of grace and doesn’t need to fear the future.

I know that sometimes Christians are troubled because, very often, they feel a sense of guilt when they look back on the way they lived before they obeyed the Gospel, and, sometimes, although they have been taught that God has forgiven them, they find it very difficult to forgive themselves! The cure for that feeling is found in 1 John.

‘If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.’ 1 John 3:20

The Old Testament expresses the same truth in these words, God ‘knows our frame and remembers that we are dust’. Psalm 103:13-14

In other words, our heavenly Father makes allowances for us, and we are sometimes harder on ourselves that He is!

Why then, ‘The Day of Judgment’?

It’s here that we see the uniqueness of God’s Day of Judgment. I describe it as ‘unique’ because there has never been, nor will there ever be again, an event like it. That Day will be convened, not to decide the eternal destinies of those who appear before Him, because, as I have already stated, that decision is made by every individual during earthly life. There is a well-known saying which is very appropriate in dealing with our subject. It states, ‘Justice must not only be done; it must be seen to be done’

When ‘the books’ are opened before God, Revelation 20:12ff, it will not be because He needs to be reminded of what men have done in their lives, or because He needs to weigh up the evidence, for or against them. It will be in order that every individual may know and understand clearly, why God’s verdict is just, and why the sentence is deserved.

No one who is banished eternally from God’s Presence will be left in any doubt as to the reason. No one will be able to say, ‘I don’t deserve this!’ or ‘I don’t understand why I am being treated in this way!’

Justice will truly be ‘seen’ to be done.

A final thought to consider

We should always bear in mind, whenever we read John’s description of the awesomeness of the Judgment scene, or the glories of Heaven, that these portrayals occur in the ‘Revelation’, which is the book that contains more symbolic and figurative language than any other book in the Bible.

Even though John is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he describes his visions he has to struggle with the limitations of human language. He must attempt to represent the eternal and the heavenly, in human language as best he can. Consequently, he is led to use words which are the most beautiful, most glorious, most awe-inspiring and most striking, available to him.

Do we really think that heaven is a ‘place’, a literal four-square ‘city’, which is ‘1500 miles long and 1500 miles wide’, built upon ‘foundations’ that are decorated with precious stones, and has ‘streets made of gold’, and surrounded by a ‘great and high wall’, that is made of Jasper on all sides, in each of which are set ‘12 gates of pearls’, etc.?

Surely, we can understand that when John attempts to ‘describe the indescribable’ he is compelled to use such vivid expressions. But, in reality, the beauties of Heaven and the glories of our Life in eternity will be far more wonderful and joyous than human language can depict!

So, also, with the world’s Final Day of reckoning, in the Presence of the Great Judge. John’s description of the Judgment scene is intended to make mankind realise that God’s righteousness will be demonstrated, and His justice will inevitably and eternally deal with sin. We need not think that there will be a physical throne, or written records, as we know them. The description of the scene must be understood as symbolic and figurative.

An accounting for service

When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, he referred to work as being ‘tested’. 1 Corinthians 3:13. This tells us that work will be ‘revealed’, or ‘tested’, ‘manifested’ in KJV. But,

1. This ‘judgment’ has to do with ‘rewards’, not with ‘salvation’, as 1 Corinthians 3:15 tells us.

And, 2. The verse is very often mistakenly applied to the life of the ordinary Christian, when, in fact, a correct understanding of the problem with which Paul was dealing, was one which was affecting the church in Corinth at that time, 2 Corinthians 5:10.

The theology of the translators in 1611 when the A.V., was produced was responsible for the rather frightening and ominous-sounding translation of this verse. It’s true that the rendering of the word ‘bema’ as ‘Judgment Seat’ because there would be such a ‘seat’ in every Roman city, and it would be a place where the Roman authority in charge would judge in day-to-day matters brought before him. We see this in Acts 18:12 when the Jews complained about Paul.

But the following statement ‘that each one may receive good or evil’ or as the revised Authorized Version puts it, ‘good or bad’ conveys a mistaken impression. The word good is ‘agathos’ and means ‘benefit’. That word for bad is ‘kakos’ and is more accurately translated, ‘worthless’.

The contrast isn’t between actions that are morally ‘good or evil’ but, as we have already seen in our study, between that which abides in time of testing, and that which perishes.

Remember the fire, illustration Paul used when he said that the work of all to whom the responsibility of preaching and teaching has been committed will be judged and work which is proved lasting will be commended, whilst work which doesn’t survive will fail to receive the Master’s ‘Well done’! Matthew 25:23

It’s very important to remember that Paul isn’t discussing the Salvation of Christians or the destiny of the non-Christian, but Service. And it’s equally important to remember that in this section of his letter, he’s dealing particularly with the responsibility and accountability of those who along with himself, share the office of ‘apostle’.

He’s still driving home the truth that all of his fellow apostles are servants, whose service will ultimately be reviewed and evaluated by the Master. Therefore, to treat them as icons, each having his own admiring following, is wrong.

What I am now explaining is something that very few preachers and teachers understand! I realise that this may sound amazing, but I will show you that it is true!

The Corinthian problem

Immediately after Paul expressed his opening greetings he plunged into a long argument, and rebuke! aimed at the Christians in Corinth, because they were creating division by declaring themselves to be followers of the various preachers and teachers who had been to Corinth.

Paul names a few of them and refers to Peter, Apollos, and even himself, and bluntly points out that, whoever the preachers were, they were merely servants used by God to bring them the message of salvation.

You should notice how, in the letter, he makes use of the personal pronouns, ‘you’ and ‘your’ when referring to the Corinthians themselves, and ‘we’ and ‘us’ when referring to the apostles and other preachers. He also reveals this distinction when he says, ‘You’ are God’s Field’. ‘We’ are His co-workers’, etc.

He says it’s the work of these servants of God, whose work will be tested according to this letter. The passage isn’t discussing the service of the ordinary Christian. If we wish to think about the responsibilities of members of the church generally, we need to go to other passages of Scripture!

So, our question asks, was Paul pre-judging himself?

But, no! Paul was not ‘pre-judging’, himself. The quotation in the question comes from 2 Timothy 4:7-8, but Paul’s own judgment of himself is revealed earlier, in 1 Timothy 1:15.

‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.’



"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."