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February 12, 2012

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.”  Matthew 13:24-25

God sows good seed in a field.  Satan comes at night and sows weeds.  So, the field ends up looking a complete mess.  That’s our world.  Jesus makes it clear that the world will always be like this until He comes again.

The wheat and the weeds are bound up together.  Children of God and children of the devil are rooted in the same soil.  Their roots are twisted together.  Jesus says they have to be left to grow together until harvest.

We belong to the same families; we are educated at the same schools; we work in the same companies.  Our lives are bound together, but it will not always be so.  When Christ comes in glory, He’ll gather and separate.

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace, “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42).

Christ will gather and separate

This truth is all over the Bible, and especially in the Gospel of Matthew…

John the Baptist says of Jesus, He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:12

In Matthew 22, Jesus tells a story about a wedding.  Many people are invited but there are some who will refuse the invitation.

“Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.” Matthew 24:40-41

Jesus says, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory… He will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”  Matthew 25:31-32

I want to give you an overview of what the Bible tells us about this separation, and then to look at the intensely practical application of this great truth to our lives today.

There are many things about the final judgment that God has not told us.

I find it extremely difficult to imagine what this day will be like, and I expect you do too.  How will God bring judgment to bear with absolute justice in the lives of billions of people?  How long will that take?

All we know is that God is Almighty and that He knows all things…

God Has Told Us What We Need to Know

There will be a judgment and no one can avoid it

“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.”  2 Corinthians 5:10

We find this same truth throughout the New Testament…

“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.” Romans 14:10

“Each of us will give an account of himself to God.”  Romans 14:12

“No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”  Hebrews 4:13

In other words, when you give an account to God, you will not be able to pass off some other version of the truth, some spin that you can get away with telling other people, even those who are close to you.

Good and evil are mixed up together in this world.  The wheat and the weeds are rooted together, but it will not always be so.  Donald Macleod points out that a sense of justice is engraved on every human heart…

“We have laws, judiciaries, judges and penal establishments, and these all reflect a profound sense that justice must be done.”   

This goes across all cultures.  But, he says…

“If God has no right to hold his Great [Trial], no human judge has a right to hold his. If Hell is immoral, every prison, penitentiary and detention center in the world is an outrage.” 

 

You do not think that prisons and penitentiaries are an outrage?  Why?  Because you are made in the image of God, and you know that justice must be done.

Jesus Christ will be the Judge

“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.”  John 5:22-23

The same truth is in Matthew 25: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory… He will sit on his glorious throne.  Before him will be gathered all the nations and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32).

Friends, this is of huge importance.  We know who the Judge will be!  That is marvelous information to be given, because the Judge offers us the opportunity to make peace with Him now.  In grace and mercy, the Judge invites you to become His friend.  The Judge has come into the world to offer Himself to you as your Savior!

Everyone who has been to court knows what it’s like to wait for the judge to enter the courtroom and take his seat.  What will it be like for those who have despised Christ to see Him take His seat as the Judge?  What will it be like for you, if the pattern of your life is to resist Christ’s claims?

Picture the scene as Christ takes His seat and says to sinners…

“I am Jesus who you have sinned against.

I am Jesus whose laws you have broken.

I am Jesus whose blood you have despised…” [1]

Years ago I came across a poem by a soldier in the First World War.  The man’s name was Willie, and he was living in rebellion against God.  One night God gave him a vision in which he saw the glory of Christ, and he saw something of what it would be for him to stand before Jesus…

“There ain’t no books and there ain’t no thrones, Its Him you’ve got to see!

It’s Him, just Him who is the judge of blokes like you and me,

And boys I’d sooner shrivel up in the flames of a burning hell

Than stand and look into those eyes and hear His voice say, ‘Well?’” [2]

God is just and He will consider every opportunity and…
every mitigating circumstance as He exercises judgment

You can have absolute confidence in the justice of God.  No judgment will be out of proportion for the sin that they committed.  No one will be judged for a sin they did not commit.  No one will be held accountable for knowledge they did not have or for an opportunity they were not given.

Jesus performed miracles in the town of Bethsaida.  These people had the clearest possible revelation of the glory of the Son of God, but they did not repent.  Jesus said about this town…
“Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.”

Matthew 11:21-22

Judgment will be made in the light of the opportunity given.  Those in Tyre and Sidon didn’t have the same opportunity as those in Bethsaida, so Jesus says, “It will be more bearable for them than for you. You were given the clearest possible revelation and you did not repent. You are now accountable for what you received, and for what you have done with it.”

In Romans 2, Paul takes up the issue of those who have never heard.  The Bible never talks about those who have never heard the Gospel, but it does take up the issue of those who have never heard the law.  God gave the law to Israel, but what about people who were brought up worshipping other gods, like Baal or Dagon, and never heard the Ten Commandments?

“All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.” Romans 2:12

 

Paul is saying, “Understand this, no one will not be judged by a law that they were not given.”  How then will those people who never heard the Ten Commandments be judged?
“The work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”
Romans 2:15-16

Conscience condemns us as much as the law.  Of course there are times when we tried to do what was right in all good conscience, but is there anyone who would be comfortable to stand before God on the basis of a conscience that is completely clear?  I would not be able to stand before Him, except on the basis of Jesus Christ.  Anthony Hoekema says…

“Those who received the full revelation of God’s will in both Old Testament and New Testament will be judged by their response to the entire Bible.


Those who had only the Old Testament revelation will be judged by their response to the Old Testament….


Those, however, who received neither the revelation found in the Old Testament nor that found in the New will be judged in terms of the light they had.” [3]

Do you see the profound impact of this for us today?  We who have the greatest light also have the greatest responsibility.
James says that those who teach will be judged more strictly (James 3:1).  Why?  Anyone who speaks for Jesus Christ must give an account of what they have said in His name.

But it’s not just for those who speak it; it’s also for those who hear.  Jesus said “If you hear my words and don’t put them into practice…” What are you like?  A man who builds his house on sand, and on the Great Day the collapse is terrible.  What are you doing with the light you have received?

Judgment Will Be Passed On…
…Our Works, Words, Motives and Secrets
Everyone in heaven will know why they are there.  They are there because of Jesus Christ—His death for them; His life in them.  Everyone in hell will know why they are there.  They are there because of their sins.

In a court of law, charges must be specific.  The judge cannot say, “You are a generally bad person, so I sentence you to five years in prison.”  That’s injustice.  You can’t do that.

There must be specific charges.  This is how it will be at the judgment.

A person in hell will have full knowledge of why they are there, as much as a person in heaven.  The Bible is very clear about what will be judged.

Works

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.”  Revelation 22:12
“The Son of Man… will repay each person according to what he has done.”  Matthew 16:27
“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.”  2 Corinthians 5:10


Salvation is through faith, because faith unites us to Christ who saves.  But judgment is focused on works, for the evil that will be punished and for the good that will be rewarded.  This is why Jesus says that even a cup of cold water given in the name of Christ will be remembered and rewarded. 

 

For a person in Christ this is a reason for great encouragement.  “Each will receive his wages according to his labor” (1 Corinthians 3:8).  In the perfect justice of God, there is going to be sentencing for those who are outside Christ and rewards for those who are in Christ.

Words

“On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  Matthew 12:36-37

That’s why James says that teachers will be judged with greater strictness.  We are responsible for what we teach to others.  If we speak in Christ’s name, we must give an account to Christ of what we’ve said in His name.

If I was just in ministry for my comfort, we would never have a series like this, and I would have to give an account for that.  And you would rightly ask me, “Why did we not hear about this in church?”

Motives

“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.”  1 Corinthians 4:5

The motives of other people are hidden from us.  That’s why we must be very careful about making judgments about the motives of other people.  It is a terrible thing to ascribe evil motives to someone; it is something you would have to give an answer for.  Paul says we must not pronounce judgment on motives before the time.  The day is coming when the Lord will “disclose the purposes of the heart.”

A person is in a dispute, and they say “It’s not about the money.”  And you don’t know whether it was about the money.  Well, if it was about the money, God will make that known.  And if it wasn’t, and you thought it was, you will know that too.

Secrets

“…that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”  Romans 2:16

“For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”  Ecclesiastes 12:14

 

“Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”  Luke 12:2-3
How to Prepare for the Judgment of God

Practice Patience and Live at Peace

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”  Romans 12:18-19

Knowing that there is a day of judgment will help you to pursue the path of peace.  Here’s how: When you know that Jesus Christ is the Judge and that one day He will bring things into the light…

  1. You can choose to trust an unresolved…
    …grievance or injustice into the hand of God

Thomas Watson says…
“What a comfort it is to the saints who have met with unrighteous judgment in this world, who have been wronged of their estates in lawsuits, or had their lives taken away by an unrighteous sentence: Christ will judge things over again, and will give a righteous sentence” [4]

 

  1. There are situations in which you cannot get to the truth…

…and you are left wondering what really happened

Mysteries that are never resolved in this life, will be unraveled before the throne of God.  You will know.  Thomas Boston says…

“Secret murders, adulteries, thefts, cheats, and other works of darkness which defied all human search [will be] discovered and laid open before the world, with their most minute circumstances.” [5]

Thomas Watson says…

“He is so wise that He cannot be deluded, and so strong that He cannot be resisted.” [6]

A person who has managed to shield the truth from you, will never be able to shield the truth from God.  You can live with what is unresolved now because you know that God will bring the truth to light then.

iii. Knowing that God will bring the truth to light…
…will help you bear the burden of unfair criticism

There will be times in your life when people misjudge you.  They will assign evil motives to you, and they will say all manner of things against you.  How do you handle that?

Paul knew all about unfair criticism, and he gives us an insight into how he handles it: “With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court…”  Wow!  How can he say that?  Answer: “It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4).

In this barrage of criticism, Paul says, “God knows my heart. My conscience is clear.”  When the Lord comes, He will bring the truth to light.  The great truth of the final judgment saves him from being crippled by false judgments.  You need this truth to help you.

Confess sin and pursue holiness


Works will be judged, so give yourself to doing what pleases the Lord


Words will be judged, so be done with lies, slander and filthy language 


Motives will be judged, so guard your heart against pride, greed and envy


Secrets will be judged, so confess the secrets of your heart to God

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9

God will bring to light what was hidden, not what was confessed.  Confess your secret sins to God, and ask Him to cleanse you.  If there is another person you’ve deceived or wounded by your sin, confess it to them.

“Set up a tribunal in your own heart…”  [7]


…before you ever get to the tribunal of God.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart… See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).  What you confess, you must then forsake.  Alan Redpath used to say…
“God has not promised to forgive one sin that you will not forsake.”
You may fail in that sin again in the future.  But you cannot confess a sin to God, and ask for the cleansing of the blood of Christ, when in the deepest place in your heart you are intent on repeating it again.

As you confess your secret sins, go after holiness in the power of the Holy Spirit, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Pursuing holiness is the evidence of having new life in Christ.  A bulb is planted in the ground, but it pushes up towards the light.  That’s how you know it’s alive.

Befriend the Judge and trust His promise

Here is the amazing gift of God to us in the Gospel: Christ, who is your Judge, offers to be your friend.  How is that possible?  Isn’t there something shady about making friends with the judge?
Jesus is both Judge and Savior, and it was for this purpose that He came into the world.  He took our flesh and was born under the law.  On the cross, He bore our sins and stood under our sentence.  That is why He is able to forgive.

The Bible presents the truth of the judgment as a reason for coming to Christ in repentance and faith today, and as a reason for living in repentance and faith all the days of your life.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 8:1

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns?”  Romans 8:33

 

Christ is “able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.” Jude 24

Because of the love of God in Jesus we have confidence for the day of judgment.” 1 John 4:17

Heidelberg Catechism

  1. Q: How does Christ’s return “to judge the living and the dead” comfort you?

A: In all my distress and persecution I turn my eyes to the heavens and confidently await as Judge the very One who has already stood trial in my place before God and so has removed the whole curse from me.

Thomas Boston writes to Christian believers…
“Let not the terror of that day dispirit you when you think upon it…

Lift up your heads with joy, for the last day will be your best day. The Judge is your Head and Husband, your Redeemer, and your Advocate.

You must appear before the judgment seat, but you ‘shall not come into condemnation’” (John 5:24). [8]

[1] Thomas Watson, “A Body of Divinity,” p. ?

[2] G. A. Studdert-Kennedy (Woodbine Willie), from the poem “Well?”

[3] Anthony Hoekema, “The Bible and the Future,” p. 259

[4] Thomas Watson, “A Body of Divinity,” p. 315

[5] Thomas Boston, “Human Nature in Its Fourfold State,” p. 283

[6] Thomas Watson, “A Body of Divinity,” p. 312

[7] Thomas Boston, “Human Nature in Its Fourfold State,” p. 401

[8] Ibid., p. 282

 

© Colin S. Smith

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