Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Revelation of the Final Judgment

Part 26 of a series through the book of Revelation

Text: 20:11-15


Perhaps the most quoted verse today is Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Another favorite verse is John 8:7: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.” People don’t like to be judged.

Of course, much of our judging is unfair or hypocritical. Jesus said, “Do not judge by appearances” (John 7:24). We often say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Or, “Don’t judge a book by its movie.” But whether we like it or not, there is coming a judgment day for each one of us. “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).


The Bible has much to say about the coming judgment day. Consider the passages below.

“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:1-2).

“An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of Man’s] voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29).

“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 confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10-12).

Scholars debate about whether there are several judgments or just one final judgment. We won’t get into this debate. We’ll simply say that there is coming a judgment for us all—whether we are followers of Christ or not.

What will happen at the final judgment? 

First, we will be judged by Jesus. 

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it (v. 11a). 

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened (v. 12a). “…

Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1).

Second, we will be judged according to our deeds. 

And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done (v. 12b). 

And they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done (v. 13b). 

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

“I tell you, 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). 

“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).

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

“No creature is hidden from [God’s] sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
God “judges impartially according to each one’s deeds” (1 Peter 1:17).

If you are saved by God’s grace, the judgment will determine your level of reward.

We are saved by grace, but we will be judged by works.

“We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

“[The Lord] 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).

If you are condemned by God’s law, the judgment will determine your level of punishment.

“Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of you hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:4-5).

“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God” (Romans 3:19).

“[God] commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judged the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

Luke 20:45-47 and Matthew 11:20-24 suggest that some people will receive more severe punishment.


How can the doctrine of final judgment influence our lives? (This is borrowed from Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, pp. 1147-1148.) First, it satisfies our desire for justice (Colossians 3:25). Second, it enables us to forgive others (Romans 12:19; Luke 23:34). Third, it provides a motive for righteous living (Matthew 6:20). Fourth, it provides a motive for evangelism (Ezekiel 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9).

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