End Times Judgment Summary


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  • We believe in a God of love. In fact, he is love. But, as we shall see, like any good father, God’s love is both kind and stern.
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  • We are not called to “roast people over hell” in fiery sermons. We are called to proclaim the message of God’s love. However, if we don’t (lovingly) include the aspect of what Paul calls the sternness of God we are failing to love the people we are addressing. How can we love people who are heading into danger if we don’t warn them? How can we love them if we lull them into a false sense of security that they can safely ignore God and still be confident of going to heaven? How can we love people if we allow them to die not realising that after death there is judgment?
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  • This subject is an important one. We need to understand it so we can help others to do so, but, above all, to prepare for that judgment ourselves.
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  • What is the foundation of end times judgment?

  • 1.    God is a holy God

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  • As the old saying puts it: “We have become matey with the Almighty.” We have lost much of a sense of God’s holiness. We live in an easy-going, pluralistic society where my truth is as good as your truth, even though it may contradict it and where all truth is relative: we’ve all won and we’ll all get prizes. So the idea of accountability is much reduced and any idea that we are accountable to God is largely absent.
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  • The important thing is that although society and attitudes have changed, God hasn’t. He is still the God of the Bible, including of the Old Testament. Of course, we are not under law but under grace. But God hasn’t changed. He is still as holy as the Old Testament teaches.

  • 2.    God’s holiness in the OT

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  • When God revealed himself on Mt Sinai there was thunder and lightning, and the mountain shook. People were warned not to approach the mountain lest they die. The people trembled with fear. God’s presence was awesome. Just imagine the crashing thunder, the dazzling lightning, the violent shaking of the ground, the thick black smoke concealing glory and majesty beyond their imagination. And, again, God has not changed. This is not the Santa Claus god of much modern thinking. This is the awesome Lord of the universe, utterly holy, radiantly majestic, totally magnificent, enthroned in splendour.
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  • God’s awesome, fearful holiness was present in the Tabernacle and Temple. Only the High Priest was allowed, on one day a year – the Day of Atonement - to enter the Most Holy Place of the sanctuary to offer sacrificial blood. He did so in great fear and trepidation. There were also many other regulations to do with respecting the holiness of God and of the special objects used in worship in the Tabernacle and Temple.
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  • Lest it be thought that this is only an Old Testament concept of God, we should note the complementary description of God. The Lord “passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7).   This is equal to any New Testament concept of God. However it continues: “Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

  • 3.    God’s holiness in the NT

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  • God’s holiness is taught throughout the New Testament. In heaven they “never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come’” (Rev 4:8).
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  • Jesus himself is “the Holy One of God” (Luke 4:34, 6:69 cf. Acts 2:27; 13:35).
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  • Then, of course, the third person of the Trinity is frequently called the Holy Spirit. He is so holy that Jesus says: “Blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.  When Ananias “lied to the Holy Spirit” over his giving “he fell down and died” as did his wife (Acts 5:1-11).
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  • The church, like Israel, is called a holy people on many occasions (Acts 9:13; Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1; Eph 1:1, 18; 2:21; 3:18; 5:3; Php 1:1;Col 1:2, 12; 3:12; 2 Thess 1:10; 1 Tim 2:8-9; 2 Tim 2:21; Philem 1:5; Heb 3:1)
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  • In view of all this, Paul urges Christians to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1) and to control our bodies “in a way that is holy and honourable …. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thess 4:4-7).
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  • When Jesus died “At that moment the curtain of the temple [concealing the Most Holy Place] was torn in two from top to bottom” and, reminiscent of Sinai, “The earth shook, the rocks split” (Matt 27:51).  We must not forget that God is still the same utterly holy God as he was in Old Testament times, but by his death Jesus gave penitent sinners access to his Father’s presence.

  • 4.    We are called to fear God

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  • The concept of fearing God is alien to much modern thinking, even in the church. The words “God-fearing” or “God-fearer” have dropped out of use. And yet fear of God is at the heart of true Christianity.
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  • a.       It is our duty to fear God: Moses told Israel they were required to fear, obey and love God. The Psalmist writes: “God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him” (Psa 89:6-8)
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  • b.      It is our motive for holy living: Fear of God is a motive for holy living and governs the way we should treat other people (Lev 19:14; 25:17; 2 Chron 19:7; Neh 5:9-11). In fact: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10; Prov 1:7; 9:10).
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  • c.       Jesus feared the Lord: Isaiah foretells that the Messiah will exemplify fear of the Lord: “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. (Isa 11:2-3).
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  • d.        The early church feared the Lord: “Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers” (Acts 9:31). Fear of the Lord was Paul’s motive for evangelism (2 Cor 5:11) and early evangelism was successful amongst the “God-fearing” (Acts 13:26; 17:34).
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  • e.       What does it mean to fear God? It means to be in awe of his otherness, his greatness, his majesty and his power; to recognise our humanity, our frailty and our sin; to repent and to seek to order our lives in line with his standards – or else to be judged by the Lord.

  • 5.    God is a God of justice

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  • Judgment is based upon the fundamental truth that God is a God of justice who is gracious and compassionate (Isa 30:18). There is so much injustice in this world and often it is the innocent who suffer. But God loves justice (Psa 11:7) and judges justly particularly for those who suffer innocently.
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  • At the heart of the Gospel is God’s justification of believers. He declares them righteous because of the cross of Christ where his justice and compassion were fulfilled by Jesus bearing our sins. This is the language of the law court.
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  • So God desires this world to reflect his justice and compassion. The kingdom of God, established ultimately through Christ, is a kingdom of love, faithfulness, justice and righteousness. He defends, sustains and secures justice for the fatherless, widows, alien, oppressed, weak, needy and poor.
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  • God hates injustice, oppression, extortion, dispossession, dishonest business, bribery and commands us to avoid them. God watches over foreigners (or people from another tribe, race, social or religious background) and condemns those who ill-treat or withhold justice from them. 
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  • Perfect justice is the basis of the Judgment of God. He will one day put right all those wrongs which have not been corrected in this life, as a precursor to the fulfilment of his kingdom, over which he will reign with perfect justice.

  • 6.    God is a merciful God

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  • In dealing with the End Time Judgment, we must remember the love and kindness of God who offers salvation to everyone. Judgment will be severe, but it will not be unloving or without mercy. However, despite the love, kindness and mercy of God, there will be plenty of impenitent, rebellious people who will experience his judgment. No-one, including believers, deserves his mercy but the fact is that believers in Christ have come to repentance and, despite their unworthiness, will be declared righteous by God and acceptable in his eternal kingdom.
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  • God is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4, James 5:11), “full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11) and “delights to show mercy” (Mic 7:18). His “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).
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  • The New Testament teaches that “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16) and he is love even in judgment. It is very important, whilst considering End Time Judgment to remember that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17). The fact that many will not believe and be saved is their own responsibility. God has made every effort to provide salvation “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10).
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  • Who carries out the end times judgment?

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  • Jesus is quite clear that: “the Father judges no-one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him” (John 5:22-23 cf Acts 17:31). Jesus, who was so despised, humiliated and rejected, will be finally vindicated and honoured by being the judge of all.
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  • However, in his love he mentions the offer of salvation in the same breath as judgment. This shows the love of God “who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). But they have to come to faith in Christ. Jesus says: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man” John 5:24-27).
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  • On the one hand Jesus says: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved … I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:9-10). On the other, he said: “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind” (John 9:39).
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  • The purpose of his coming is that all should be saved but, because of human unbelief, the result of his coming will sometimes be judgment. See John 3:17-19, 36; 12:47-49).
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  • So the judge is our loving saviour who wants all men to be saved. He is also “one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin” (Heb 4:15). What better judge could we have? Nevertheless, as we shall see, the ultimate punishment for those who reject the gospel is severe. It is important to add that Jesus judges in line with the Father’s will (John 5:19, 30).
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  • Who is to be judged in the end times judgment?

  • The answer is all human beings, dead or alive, believers or unbelievers.
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  • No-one will escape the judgment of God. Jesus said: “the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done” (Matt 16:27).  He also described the judging of the nations – the separation of the ‘sheep’ from the ‘goats’ according to how they have behaved (Matt 25:31-46).
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  • Paul says God will judge people’s secrets through Jesus Christ (Rom 2:16). He adds: “We will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: ‘“As surely as I live,” says the Lord, “Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (Rom 14:10-12). Paul then refers to: “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels” and says: “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess 1:7-8). John describes the final judgment before the great white throne (Rev 20:11-13).
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  • The New Testament clearly teaches that we believers will be judged too as well as unbelievers. We need to understand that to be judged means to be subject to the justice of God and does not necessarily mean condemnation. We shall return to this important subject later.
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  • The New Testament also teaches that the corrupt, oppressive politico-economic system (“Babylon” – the rule of man in opposition to God) will be judged (Revelation 18 cf. 14:8; 16:19). Satan (Rev 20:10), his angels (2 Peter 2:4) and the Antichrist (Rev 19:20) will also be judged.
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  • On what basis will humanity be judged in the end times judgment?

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  • 1.    Judgment is according to knowledge

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  • God judges people according to the spiritual light they have, so he doesn’t condemn them for not obeying a law of which they are unaware. Paul writes: “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law … (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)” (Rom 2:12, 14-15). He adds that people who do not have the law can suppress the truth that creation shows God’s eternal power and divine nature (Rom 1:18-20).
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  • 2.    Judgment is according to deeds          

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  • Jesus makes it clear that he will “reward each person according to what he has done” (Matt 16:27). Jesus says: “Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21). He also warns: “I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matt 12:36).
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  • How will believers be judged in the end times?

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  • John 5:24 can give the mistaken impression that believers will not be judged at all. But Paul writes (clearly to believers): “We will all stand before God’s judgment seat … each of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (Rom 14:10-12). John 5:24 means that believers will not be condemned, but they will stand before God (the Son) as judge (John 3:18).
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  • The “quality of each [believer’s] work” will be tested and if it is not worthy that believer “will suffer loss” (1 Cor 3:10-15). “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor 5:9-10).  “The Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do” (Eph 6:7-8).
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  • It is clear, then, that:
  • ·         Each believer will stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
  • ·         Each believer’s character, behaviour and deeds will be judged.
  • ·         If the believer’s character, behaviour and deeds are worthy s/he will be rewarded.
  • ·         If the believer’s character, behaviour and deeds are unworthy and go unrepented s/he will suffer loss.
  • ·         BUT all believers will be saved and will go on to enjoy eternal life, even though some by the skin of their teeth (“even though only as one escaping through the flames” - 1 Cor 3:15).
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  • We need to be clear: anyone who trusts in Christ is saved, has eternal life and will not come into condemnation. But that believer’s character and behaviour will be judged and this will lead to reward or loss. But that believer will not lose his/her salvation. It is a solemn prospect that we shall each stand alone before our Lord as judge and he will judge how we have lived our lives.
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  • When does end times judgment take place?

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  • Three main judgments are mentioned in the New Testament: judgment of believers (1 Cor 3:10-15; 2 Cor 5:9-10; Eph 6:7-8), judgment of the nations (Matthew 25:31-46), the Great White Throne judgment (Rev 20:11-15). Some believe they are on three very separate occasions: judgment of believers at the pre-tribulational Rapture of the church to heaven; judgment of the nations just before the Millennium to decide which people are allowed into the Millennial Kingdom and the Great White Throne judgment after the Millennium. Other think there will only be one combined judgment which is described in three different aspects. After all, Jesus speaks of believers being raised (and therefore judged?) on the “last day” (John 6:39-40, 44, 54).
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  • However, John writes about the martyrs being raised before the Millennium and the rest of the dead being raised after the Millennium (Rev 20:4-6). Also Paul writes that all the believing dead are raised at the Second Coming “the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess 4:16) and believers alive when Jesus returns will be transformed bodily without experiencing death (1 Cor 15:51-53). Many scholars agree that this will all happen at the return of Christ (1 Cor 15:21-23) at the last trumpet (1 Cor 15:52 cf. Matt 24:31). There is no reason therefore to limit the believers who enter the Millennium, as some do, to the martyrs because all the saints, whether or not they have experienced death, will be ready to enter it.
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  • So it appears that at least there are different resurrections, whether or not there are judgments at different times. Also, as is sometimes the case with Scripture, some of these statements may be summaries which imply that events which are actually separate happen at the same time.
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  • We shall examine nine arguments which are claimed to prove that the Sheep/Goat Judgment (Matt 25:31-46) and Great While Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15) are not the same event.

  • 1.    Matt 25 is linked with the Second Coming - Rev 20 is after the Second Coming and Millennium.

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  • But Jesus does not make it clear that the Matt 25 judgment will happen immediately or soon after his second coming. He refers to the ‘sheep’ entering the kingdom but this is an eternal kingdom rather than a 1000 year millennium (See Luke 1:32-33; 2 Peter 1:11; Rev 11:15 cf 1 Cor 15:24).

  • 2.    Matt 25 is to see who will inherit the kingdom - Rev 20 who will be thrown into the lake of fire.

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  • However we have noted this is an eternal, not millennial kingdom.  Also in Matt 25:41, 46 Jesus says the ‘goats’ will go “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

  • 3.    Matt 25 includes both believers and unbelievers - Rev 20 appears to be only of unbelievers

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  • However, Rev 20:11-15 does not exclude the presence of believers at the Great White Throne judgment.

  • 4.    Matt 25 is about how the nations treated brothers of Christ – Rev 20 is about “what they had done.”

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  • Some say Matt 25 is about how the nations treat Israel but Jesus refers to how they have treated his “brothers” i.e. disciples. The Great White Throne judgment on the basis of works would include attitudes towards disciples of Christ so it is not conclusive that this is a different judgment.

  • 5.    Matt 25 is of those alive at the second coming – Rev 20 is of the dead.

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  • It seems likely that in Matthew 25 Jesus is speaking about the judgment of all individuals, not of nations as such. It doesn’t seem possible that nations, as opposed to individuals, will be judged for their attitude to believers and receive eternal life if they were positive towards believers or to hell if they were not. So, when Jesus says “All the nations will be gathered before him” this can easily be understood as meaning all the people on earth stood before him. Matt 25 does not say that only the living are judged but simply all people.
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  • However if the sheep/goats judgment is after the Millennium it implies that believers were hungry, thirsty, naked or in prison during the Millennium which does not fit with it being a period of the ideal rule of Christ. Others argue that the judgment may refer to conditions before or after the Millennium, especially if it includes judgment of the dead who may have lived before the Millennium.

  • 6.    Matt 25 doesn’t mention a great white throne

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  • This does not seem a very strong point. A “glorious throne” is mentioned in Matthew 25:31.

  • 7.    Matt 25 doesn’t mention the “book of life”

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  • This does not seem a strong point. It is possible to have two incomplete descriptions of the same event.
  • 8.    Matt 25 does not describe death and hades being thrown into the lake of fire.

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  • The comment made under point 7 is relevant here.

  • 9.    The fact of two resurrections (rev 20:4b-5) suggests there are two judgments

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  • This inference is by no means certain.
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  • Conclusion:
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  • Whilst not being dogmatic, it does seem likely that the sheep/goats judgement and the great White Throne judgment are two different descriptions of the same final judgment which takes place after the Millennium. It seems reasonable that there should be only one final judgment, although the idea of their being an earlier judgment of believers (before the Millennium) does not seem unreasonable.
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  • In the light of the end times judgment how should we live?
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  • The subject of judgment is not theoretical, e.g. about timing. It is a challenge to live in the light of the fact of judgment. As we have noted above, we believers will stand individually before the judgment seat of Christ so we need to live our lives as those who are accountable to God. Peter warns: “Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17). Jesus makes it clear that “men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matt 12:36). Similarly James writes: “Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9). Paul says: “if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment” (1 Cor 11:31-32). Those of us who are teachers and leaders in the church should take note of James: “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).
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  • So, if judgment includes even careless words and grumbling against one another, which are often accepted in human relationships, we should pay serious attention to the sure prospect of standing before the Lord Jesus as our judge.
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