Imagine being on trial. You know you are guilty as accused! And that a death sentence is inevitable! The judge demands you account for your actions. How would you react? Would you deny, or confess your guilt? Most hope that they will never experience such a situation. But the Bible says otherwise. It says we are guilty and will face judgment!
Without exception we will all appear before the judgment seat to give account for every thing we have done, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, in accordance with the things which he did, whether good or bad.” (II Corinthians 5:10. We must all give account to God, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12). For every word we utter, “… I say to you, that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36). There is no escape! Every human being will be judged, “…it is appointed for men once to die, and after this judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27). Not even the dead are exempt. They will be raised from the grave to face judgment, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29). What crime have we committed? Who is our accuser? Who will judge us and when will this take place?
Our crime is sin! Sin is the transgression of the law, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (I John 3:4). The law was given by our creator to define sin for us, “…for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20). It is administered through reward and punishment, “The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.” (Proverbs 3:33). And law breakers will not go unpunished, “…the wicked shall not be unpunished:” (Proverbs 11:21).
We may think that we are law abiding, but the Bible says that we are all guilty of sin, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23). If we deny our guilt we deceive ourselves, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8). And we also make God out to be a liar because it is He who says we are guilty, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (I John 1:10).
Some have claimed that Christ abolished the law. Their claims are a lie! “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (I John 2:4). Jesus Christ himself said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18). Christ said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). His commandments are no different from his Father’s, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (John 15:10). Their Commandments form the basis of law that is accompanied by a judicial procedure that requires us to appear before the judgment seat to give account. A similar judicial procedure was set up by God in ancient Israel. It was administered by rulers and priests who judged according to the law and it involved rules about witnesses, sentencing, punishment and correction (Exodus 18:22, 26, 28:30, Deuteronomy 17:5-12, Ezekiel 44:23-24 and Habakkuk 1:12). The system was not for Israel alone. Israel was to be an example for the rest of the world (Deuteronomy 4:6-8). God still maintains a judicial system whereby we must all come before the judgment seat. Enoch who lived while Adam was still alive prophesied that future event, “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Jude 14-15). How can we be judged if there is no law?
Our Very Thoughts
Our thoughts and imaginations are not the same as God’s, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8). God has no evil in Him, “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.” (Psalm 5:4). He does not abide evil because it is incredibly destructive, “...Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.” (Isaiah 59:4, 7).
On the other hand our thoughts are inherently evil, “…for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth;” (Genesis 8:21). Human nature was corrupted with evil shortly after our first parents were created (Genesis 3:5). We have all inherited a nature that is a mixture of good and evil. God has seen the results of that evil, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3). Even before the flood God observed that man’s thoughts were continually evil, “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5). And things have not changed since, “For as in the days that were before the flood... …so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matthew 24:38-39).
It has resulted in a sad and violent history of war, misery and suffering, “From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:1-3).
Our thoughts betray our evil intentions to God, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12). No thought can be hidden from Him, “…for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts:” (I Chronicles 28:9 and Proverbs 21:2). Especially those that conceive and bring forth evil, “…they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity” (Isaiah 59:4). These are the thoughts from which sin proceeds and condemns us, “…those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:” (Matthew 15:18-19 see also Mark 7:20-23).
That is why God did not send Christ to abolish the law, but to reveal how the law is applied to our very thoughts and emotions. For example anger, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22). And hatred, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (I John 3:35). As well as lust, “…whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28). In God’s eyes our unbridled thoughts reveal our intentions.
We have the example of the ancient Israelites to teach us. God knew they were headed for troubled times when He discerned their thoughts, “And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.” (Deuteronomy 31:21). Predicably they followed after their own thoughts, “I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;” (Isaiah 65:2). And eventually this led to their demise, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself” (Hosea 13:9).
We can hide nothing we think, do or say from God. Because evil thoughts generate sin they too must be brought into judgment, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
Our punishment is death, “For the wages of sin is death;” (Romans 6:23). Those who sin will die, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die…” (Ezekiel 18:20). We have to choose between blessing and cursing, “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God,” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). It is a choice between life and death, “…I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” (Deuteronomy 30:19). Not just the physical death to which we are all subjected, but to a permanent ever lasting death. The Bible says that after our physical death comes judgment, “…it is appointed for men once to die, and after this judgment:” (Hebrews 9:27). That is the judgment that determines if we live forever in God’s Kingdom, or die permanently.
Only the righteous will inherit eternal life, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (I Corinthians 6:9-10). The reward of the unrighteous is death, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).
Our judge is Jesus Christ, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.” (John 5:25-27). He will judge both the living and the dead, he. “…He (Christ) who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead…” (Acts 10:42 NKJV, and II Timothy 4:1).
Jesus Christ is a righteous judge, “…because He has appointed a day in which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He appointed, having given proof to all, by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:31 NKJV). On his return he will execute judgment, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” (Jeremiah 23:5).
We will all come before him, “…for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Romans 14:10). He will separate the sheep from the goats, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.” (Matthew 25:31-33). To those on his right he will say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:” (Matthew 25:34). To those on his left, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” (Matthew 25:41). Some will inherit eternal death and some will inherit eternal life, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matthew 25:46).
He will administer his judgment with justice, “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:7). That is why he is called the Just One (Acts 7:52 and 22:14). He is like his Father whose judgments are just, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30). Justice is their way of life, “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.” (Psalm 89:14). We can rely on his perfect judgment, “…ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:3-4).
The God of the Old Testament was the one who became Christ, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (I Corinthians 10:1-4) See also our article “Who Spoke”.
No one will be treated unjustly. Nor will there be any favouritism. No matter who we are, those who have done wrong will be judged accordingly, “Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.” (Colossians 3:24-25 – see also Romans 2:11, Galatians 2:6, Ephesians 6:9).
Not only are we guilty of sin but there is also one who accuses us before God, “…for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” (Revelation 12:10). Our accuser is the one who led mankind astray in the first place, “…the great dragon… …that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (Revelation 12: 9). He was a sinner from the beginning, “…for the devil sinneth from the beginning” (I John 3:8). He has been judged, “…the prince of this world is judged.” (John 16:11) and cast out, “…now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” (John 12:31). He has been condemned to die in the Lake of Fire for his sin, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone…” (Revelation 20:10). And he wants all humanity to follow him into that same condemnation, “…you are slaves to whom you obey, whether of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Romans 6:16 NKJV).
We need to be aware of our accuser’s purpose, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour;” (I Peter 5:8). He knows that he has but a short time left to achieve that purpose, “Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” (Revelation 12:12). And he will use all his resources to achieve his purpose, “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you desire to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar, and the father of lies.” (John 8:44 NKJV). He uses the very law that condemned him to accuse us before God. In doing so he wields the power of death over us, “…him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” (Hebrews 2:14).
How can we withstand an adversary with such accusations? We need a very powerful advocate.
Our advocate, or defender is Jesus Christ, “…if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” (I John 2:1). He has been appointed as both judge and advocate because it is God’s desire that we be saved from the power of death that our accuser wields over us, “…God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved…” (I Timothy 2:3-4 NKJV). He is the best there is! He is the only one who can save us, “…there is no other name under heaven which has been given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12). He was sent to save the world, “…the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” (I John 4:14 and John 4:42). He is the advocate for all of mankind, “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:6).
Because he was human and suffered temptation Christ can empathise with those whom he defends, “For verily he (Jesus Christ) took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:16-18). He understands our weaknesses, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16). Having experienced our weaknesses and temptations has prepared him for our defence.
Our Remorse and Repentance
Our remorse comes as a result of knowing our guilt and understanding the magnitude of our sins and the consequences. The reality of what we have done is crushing and should drive us to our knees in fear and trembling before the judgment seat as we plead for mercy. It is the penitent and remorseful attitude that God will look favourably upon, “…to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2). He will draw near to us as a result, “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34:18).
Remorse alone is not enough. Wickedness is an abomination to God, “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.” (Proverbs 17:15). He will not justify the wicked unless they repent, “…except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3, also verse 5). Repentance is not a matter of feeling sorry for ourselves which is how this world sorrows. It is a heart rending sorrow for what we are and what we have done that will result in repentance, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (II Corinthians 7:10). It requires repentance of what is in our very mind and thoughts, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” (Acts 8:22).
To repent means to change our lives around. A complete change, or conversion is required to how we think and act, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3:19). It requires a commitment to change that is formalised by our baptism, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Spirit ).” (Acts 2:38). The process of conversion begins with our confession.
Our confession if honest and sincere will result in forgiveness, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9). We will all have the opportunity to plead our case. Christ himself said, “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:51). Like his Father, Christ is rich in mercy, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,” (Ephesians 2:4). He is a Judge from whom we can seek mercy, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16). Everyone will be given an opportunity to confess their guilt when they give account of themselves, “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:11-12).
It would be foolish to deny, lie, or attempt deceive Christ because he knows our innermost thoughts and intentions. When Jesus Christ was on this earth he clearly demonstrated that he could discern the thoughts and intentions of others, “And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” (Matthew 9:4, see also 12:25, Luke 5:22, 6:8 and 11:17). Nothing will be hidden from him, “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” (Romans 2:16). Look at the example of Ananias and his wife Sapphira who died when they tried to deceive Christ’s Apostles back in the time of the early church (Acts 5:1-10). He knows our guilt, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8). He will know if our confession is true or not, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
He considers our remorse and confession, weighing all our actions, “…for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” (I Samuel 2:3). If they are truly genuine and sincere we will be pardoned.
Our pardon means our sins are forgiven and we are saved from the penalty of death. When pardoned we come under the merciful grace of God. Through His benevolent mercy we are freed from the death sentence that has been hanging over us, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:11-14).
Being under grace is a state in which we come to know Christ, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever.” (II Peter 3:18). By knowing him we will eventually come to be like him, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:13).
Being under grace does not mean that the law has been done away with. It simply means that the sentence we deserve as a result of our transgressions has been overturned. Our pardon is conditional to continued obedience of the law. Because we are still coming to know God’s ways we may still, even while under grace, succumb to temptation and sin. But we must continually repent of these sins and seek forgiveness as Christ warned the churches, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Revelation 2:4-5). This does not give us a licence to sin as it is still possible to fall from the state of grace, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;” (Hebrews 12:15).
When pardoned we become eligible to receive the gift of eternal life in the Kingdom that God has prepared for us. God’s Kingdom is beyond the human imagination, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9). It is far superior and greater than any thing we have experienced on this earth, “And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.” (Mark 4:30-32). It is a spiritual Kingdom that is far superior to the physical, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Spirit).” (Romans 14:17). See also our articles ‘Your Inheritance’ and ‘Kingdom of God’.
But if we withdraw from God and willingly return to our sinful ways we will come back under the penalty for sin which is death. This is a fearful thing to do because the penalty is death from which we can no longer be retrieved, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:26-31).
Our pardon is conditional to remaining in a state of grace, “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Romans 6:15-18). And we must remain under grace until the end, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;” (Hebrews 3:12-14).
Having received a pardon that is conditional to remaining under grace we then enter into a contract, or agreement with God to formalise our commitment to Him, and His commitment to us.
Our contract is a covenant. When we come to realise the magnitude of our sins, the effect they have had on our lives and the lives of others we are brought to a state of deep remorse and Godly sorrow we are ready to accept Christ as our saviour and make a commitment. That commitment is formalised by an agreement, or covenant. A covenant is a contract. We agree to obey God’s laws and submit to Christ who will give us the spiritual help to accomplish the changes that are necessary for us to receive the promise of eternal life. Jesus Christ is the mediator of our covenant, “…He is the Mediator of the new covenant… …that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 9:15 NKJV see also 8:6).
Our commitment to the New Covenant is formalised at baptism. Baptism is for those who consciously and willingly commit to God’s way of life. It involves complete immersion in water to represent the death of the ‘old man’ and an emergence from the water which represents the resurrection of a ‘new man’. As a ‘new man’ we are to put off our ‘old ways’ and to put on the ways of our creator, “But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:” (Colossians 3:8-10, see also Ephesians 4:17-24).
Through baptism we acknowledge Christ’s death and resurrection and our willingness to sacrifice our own lives to serve him rather than sin, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:3-14).
Baptism brings us under grace which is a special relationship with Christ and his Father. We are expected to develop the same divine nature that is present in both of them, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness… …And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Colossians 3:12-14, 17). These are the very traits of both God the Father and Jesus Christ.
The most important thing to put on is charity. Charity means love. Both words are translations of the Greek word ‘agape’. According to Jesus Christ ‘agape’ is the basis of the law, “Thou shalt love (agape) the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love (agape) thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40). He also said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). If we agree to accept Christ as our king and saviour we must obey his commandments – it is a condition of the contract we enter into with him when we are baptised.
When a young man asked Jesus Christ what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, Christ told him to keep the commandments, “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:16-17). In Mark’s version of the same event those commandments were clearly defined as the Ten Commandments, which as a Jew, the young man had kept from an early age, “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.” (Mark 10:19-20). Our contract under the New Covenant is to honour and obey our saviour and king Jesus Christ by keeping his commandments.
These are the same Ten Commandments which Abraham obeyed (Genesis 26:5) and upon which the Old Covenant was based (Exodus 20:1-17). Jesus Christ did not alter, or do away with the Ten Commandments when he was on this earth, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18). All things in God’s plan have not yet been fulfilled. The New Covenant is based on the Ten Commandments which express the divine nature of God that we, as a ‘new man’ are to put on.
Another important event associated with baptism is the laying on of hands (Acts 8:18 and Hebrews 6:2) that we may be given a portion of God’s Holy Spirit, “Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38 NKJV).
The Holy Spirit is the very essence, mind and nature of God that Christ promised, “… the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26 NKJV). While some translations use masculine personal pronouns for the Holy Spirit, the Greek word for “spirit” is neuter. The Holy spirit helps us understand things of God, “…it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:9-14).
Christ can use the Spirit to develop and nurture Godly traits in us that are referred to as fruit of the Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 and Ephesians 5:9). Over time we can be perfected to the fullness of the stature of Christ, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:13). We are also given spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 13:1-13) to enable us to assist each other in reaching that goal, “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort… …Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.” (I Corinthians 14:3, and 12). From the time we receive God’s Spirit until our physical lives end we are judged as to how we keep God’s commandments, develop the spiritual fruits and utilise the spiritual gifts to help each other.
The Holy Spirit is a guarantee that Christ will keep his side of the agreement, “…ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14). An earnest is a down payment. An earnest of God’s Spirit is a down payment of eternal life, “Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest (down payment) of the Spirit in our hearts.” (II Corinthians 1:21-22). It guarantees eternal life for us providing we keep our part of the contract, which is to accept Jesus Christ; as our personal saviour, our Lord and Master, our High Priest and coming King, and to honour him in all that we do.
We keep our part of the contract and show honour to Christ by keeping his commandments, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). His commandments are the same as his Father’s, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” (John 15:9-10). He keeps his part of the agreement by giving us his Spirit, “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” (I John 3:24).
It is the same Spirit that is both the Father and Christ, “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me:” (John 14:11). And, “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20). The Spirit that dwells in us is not received by those who do not know God, "…the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17 NKJV). It does not dwell in those who do not keep the Commandments, “…ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (I John 3:15).
It is through that Spirit that eternal life is guaranteed, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Roman 8:11).
All this is possible because of our saviour Jesus Christ. When he came to dwell among us he didn’t come to do away with the law, nor did he come to judge, but to bring us a message about salvation. “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” (John 12:47-48). Judgment will come later.
It is God’s desire that we all be saved from the sentence of death and reconciled to Him so we can learn the ways which lead to eternal life rather than eternal death. He will have mercy on those who are willing to admit their guilt, confess their transgressions and genuinely commit to overcoming sin. Through repentance their sins are blotted out, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3:19). And through His son, Jesus Christ, He will save them, “…God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (I Timothy 2:3-6). Christ made it possible for reconciliation to take place by willing sacrificing his own life, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10).
He offered his own life to pay for our sins so we can receive eternal life, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 9:14-15). What human judge would sacrifice him self for such a cause? He truly is our savour.
By sacrificing his own life Christ has anticipated our repentance and in effect overturned the verdict that was against us. As our creator (Ephesians 3:9) and the Son of God Christ’s life was of greater value than that of all humanity. He took all of our sins upon himself and paid the penalty to satisfy the demands of the law, the verdict has been annulled so that we can be given the opportunity of eternal life, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” (Colossians 2:13-14). It was not the law that he nailed to the cross it was the sentence against us. The blotting out of the ‘handwriting of ordinances against us’ means the sentence of the law which was written against us is blotted out. It does not mean the law was blotted out as some teach. How could the law be blotted out when Christ himself said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matthew 5:17). He will fulfil the law by passing judgment on us and if we repent that sentence (i.e. ‘handwriting of ordinances against us’ ) will be overturned.
Christ did not do away with the law, but made it possible for us to be pardoned from that sentence of eternal death. The lifting of the sentence, however, is conditional to repentance and continued obedience to the law, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die… …But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned to him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live.” (Ezekiel 18:20-22).
Christ’s sacrifice has already paid the penalty every human being providing we commit to overcoming sin. If after making that commitment we do inadvertently sin we have an advocate who has already atoned for our sins to speak on our behalf, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:1-2). He is the judge and advocate who has borne the penalty providing we continue striving to avoid sin.
When we accept Christ as our saviour, confess our sins and genuinely repent he will forgive us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9). And if we continue in righteousness our transgression will never be held against us, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:16-17). Our criminal record will be wiped forever.
When is all this going to take place? When do we come before the judgment seat? Most believe that this event takes place as soon as we die. They believe that our souls are raised from our mortal bodies and in this form we appear before the judgment seat to be judged and sentenced. Is this what the Bible says?
According to the Bible Christ was the first to be raised to immortality, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” (I Corinthians 15:20).
In this verse death is likened to sleep. There is no conscious thought. That was the state of Lazarus before Christ resurrected him back to a physical existence, “These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.” (John 11:11-13).
Although Lazarus and others (I Kings 17:19-23, II Kings 4:32-35, 13:21) have been resurrected back to a physical, or corrupt, state only Christ has been resurrected to an immortal existence, “God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.” (Acts 13:33-37). Like King David the dead ‘sleep’ until their appointed time.
David along with all those who have died in faith will be resurrected at the return of Christ when, “…many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:2). Christ is the first fruits of those resurrected from death then comes those who are his when he returns, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.” (I Corinthians 15:20-24). Paul said that everyone will be made alive, ‘in Christ all will be made alive’ and this is to occur in a specific order, ‘every man in his own order’. That order begins with Christ, followed by those who are Christ’s at his return. He does not say when the rest of humanity will be judged, but we do know that a time has been appointed, “…it is appointed for men once to die, and after this judgment;” (Hebrews 9:27). To discover when that appointed time is we need to consult the writings of the Apostle John.
John indicates that those who are Christ’s at his coming will rule with Christ over the earth for a thousand years, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God… … and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4). We know that these people will be raised to eternal life at the return of Christ because the second death will have no effect on them, “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6). We also know that eternal life is only given to those who are judged worthy. Therefore those raised to eternal life at the return of Christ must already be judged. Day by day as they pray they come before the judgment seat.
Our Fellow Man
But what about the rest of humanity - those who have not been called by God in this age and have not understood God’s plan? Are they automatically condemned to the lake of fire, or will they be given an opportunity of salvation when they are resurrected and under judgement? Some will say that these people had their opportunity in this life time. But where they ever called by God to salvation? “No one can come to Christ except the Father calls them No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44). Salvation is only available through Christ, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12).
What about the millions who lived and died before Christ was born? Did any of these people have the opportunity to repent, be baptised, have hands laid on them and receive the Holy Spirit? If they did not have the Holy Spirit then they were not Christ’s, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:9). If they were Christ’s and died in the faith then they will be raised to eternal life when he returns. If they did not have the Holy Spirit and were not Christ’s then they have not been called by God, therefore have not had the opportunity of salvation. The exception to this would be those who having been called and having received the Holy Spirit deliberately turned against God and then rejected Him.
There are billions of people, many of who claim to be Christians who have not been called by God to Christ for the purpose of salvation! They have been deceived by Satan into a form of religion that has no substance. These people, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:” (II Timothy 3:5). The whole world has been deceived by his lies, “And the great dragon… …that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world:” (Revelation 12:9). Because of that deception they are, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (II Timothy 3:7).
Surely it would be unjust to condemn anyone to eternal death because they had been deceived and had not been given the opportunity to know the truth. It is God’s plan that every human being comes to know the truth and has the opportunity of salvation, “…God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:3-4).
For this purpose God sent his son to redeem those who are guilty under the law by bringing them to salvation, “God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5). Because we are all guilty and under the penalty of the law we will all receive the opportunity of redemption.
Whether we are judged now, or judged later after Christ returns the process of judgment is the same for all as, “there is no respect of persons.” (Clossians 3:25). To understand what God has planned we need to look at the broader meaning of the word ‘judgment’. The word ‘judgment’ does not only mean the pronouncement of a sentence, or decision. The Hebrew word ‘mishpat’ (Strongs 04941) translated as ‘judgment’ implies a whole lot more because it includes the process that precedes the decision. It involves the assessment and analysis of evidence the leads up to a final decision and does not preclude the opportunity to make amends. There are examples in the civil laws God gave ancient Israel for the guilty party to make amends through restitution (Exodus 22:3, 5, 6, 12).
We have already discussed how all of mankind are guilty of sin and are worthy of death. We know that those called by God to Christ in this life time are given the opportunity to make amends through the process of repentance and conversion. If they understand the magnitude of their sins, confess, repent and are baptised they are given the opportunity to overcome sin with spiritual help so they can be raised to eternal life when Christ returns. This is part of the judgment process.
It will be no different for the rest of humanity when they are raised to judgment one thousand years after Christ returns, “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished… …And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:5, 12-15). Because these people are still subject to the second death they obviously do not yet have eternal life which implies that they will be raised back to a physical existence to face judgment. These verses also imply that it is still possible for these people to be recorded in the ‘book of life’ which is opened at that time.
Previously their minds were never opened to understand the Bible. They will be resurrected to be given understanding so they can have the opportunity to receive eternal life. This is what is meant in Revelation 20:12 where it says, “and the books were opened”. The Greek word translated ‘books’ is ‘biblion’ from which comes the word Bible. The Bible is the Word of God by which we must live and the resurrected will be judged by how they continue to live by God’s Word once their minds are opened to the truth. After a period of judgment in which they will have the opportunity to live by God’s word they will either be recorded in the Lamb’s book of life, or condemned to die in the lake of fire.
The ‘book of life’ is for those who overcome, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5). It is Christ the Lamb’s book of those who will enter the New Jerusalem, “And there shall in no wise enter into it (New Jerusalem) any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27). New Jerusalem represents God’s Kingdom where they shall no longer be subjected to death, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” (I Corinthians 15:53-54). Their reward is great in heaven, “…behold, your reward is great in heaven:” (Luke 6:23). They shall be children of God, “…and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest:” (Luke 6:35).
Those who reject this opportunity and choose to remain in a state of sin will not inherit eternal life, instead they will be consigned to the lake of fire, “…the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8). They are the ones not written in the book of life, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15). They will die a second time, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14).
Contrary to the belief of many the second death is irreversibly permanent. Many believe that sinners are condemned to a place called Hell where they are subjected to the tortures of unbearable heat and discomfort forever. This erroneous concept taught by many churches today is believed to have originated from a religion called Zoroastrianism that existed about the 6th century BC in Babylonia. It was described as ‘Dante’s inferno’ in the 14th century epic poem - the ‘Divine Comedy’ by Dante Alighieri. The Greek words ‘hades’ and ‘gehenna’ both translated as ‘hell’ in English simply mean the grave, or a place of everlasting punishment. Everlasting punishment does not mean everlasting torture, it simply means a death which is everlasting i.e. a permanent, eternal death.
Anyone cast into the lake of fire will be burnt to ashes, “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch… …And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 4:1, 3). Their punishment is a death that is permanent and everlasting, i.e. eternal death in the Lake of fire. And all memory of them will be erased, “The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.” (Psalm 34:16).
Our Opportunity Now
For some judgment is now at hand and we must take the opportunity that is presented to us, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” (I Peter 4:17).
You may well ask how judgment can take place in this life when the Bible clearly says we must first die, “…it is appointed for men once to die, and after this judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27). The answer is quite simple - we died in a spiritual sense when we were baptised, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:3-11 see also Colossians 2:12 and I John 3:14). Having been buried with Christ in baptism we have now been raised to judgment.
Our time is now! We must lay aside the things of this world and come before God’s throne where Christ sits, “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
The Greek word ‘bema’ (Strong’s 968) can be interpreted either as ‘throne’, or ‘judgment seat’. Every time we pray we have a personal audience with Christ and the Father. This is when we appear before our judge. It is before the judgment seat on our bended knees that we must give account on a daily basis, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (II Corinthians 5:10). It is important that we confess our guilt if we want forgiveness, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9).
Christ our righteous judge listens to our prayers, “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” (I Peter 3:12). Through the Spirit he has given us he can intercede to help, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27).
He knows we are fighting to overcome spiritual influences, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12). He understands our human frailty and that there may be times when we fall into temptation and sin. That is why we must come before that throne when we need help, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16). As long as we are repentant he will be our advocate with the Father, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” (I John 2:1).
This is not an excuse to sin. To sin wilfully is another story, “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrew 10:26-31).
Just a few are under judgment now. Just as in ancient times God chose a nation of slaves to be an example to the rest of the nations, He has chosen the lowly and weak in this age to be an example of what He can do for the rest of humanity, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (I Corinthians 1:26-29).
God has a purpose for us. We have been called to be an example to the rest of world. Our role in this life is not just to become ‘good people’. We have been given God’s Spirit so that we can come to the fullness of the stature of Christ, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:13). When we are resurrected to the fullness of the stature of Christ we will be the living proof to the rest of mankind. When it is time for the rest of humanity to come before the judgment seat and they see the living proof of what God can do, “And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing.” (Psalm 64:9). Then they will praise and glorify God for the mighty and marvellous work He is doing, “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” (Revelation 15:3-4).
When the disciples asked Christ how they could do the work of God, he told them to believe what he was saying, “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:28-29). Those who are called and believe what he says will have eternal life, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” (John 6:47). His words are eternal life, “…the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63). We have been redeemed from the world at a price for a purpose, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (I Corinthians 6:20).
We need to take our calling seriously, “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Hebrews 2:1-4).
We have been called to be living proof of God’s merciful plan of salvation to the rest of humanity when we are resurrected to eternal life at the time of Christ’s return.
Our Just and Merciful God
We do have a just and merciful God who from the beginning planned the salvation of humanity. He predetermined to use those whom He first called to trust in Christ to demonstrate His plan for the rest. Through this plan He is showing a willingness to forgive our sins and to bring us into His grace so that in the fullness of time everyone who has lived in all ages on this earth will be given the opportunity to be converted through Christ and to enter His everlasting Kingdom. That is God’s will, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3-12).
God wants us all to have eternal life. He is preparing the way by calling some of the weak and feeble of this world now as examples, “…Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” (James 2:5). And if they successfully endure their time of judgment they will receive eternal life, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” (James 1:12). Our role is not to save the world now. It is to use the spiritual tools that God has given us to strive for the fullness of the stature of Christ so that we can be resurrected to prove the greatness and glory of God who can and will achieve what He set out to do from the beginning.
Yes! We shall all come before the judgement seat with fear and trembling under a sentence of death because of our undeniable guilt. Yes! We will be required to give account for our very thoughts, words and actions. And if we confess our sins and repent with a willingness to change our lives and commit to a conversion process our judge and advocate will have mercy on us. Some are under judgment right now, others will be judged later. Whether our time is now, or later during the Millennium, or Great White Throne Judgment period, we will all be given the opportunity of salvation and to have eternal life in God’s Kingdom. The rewards will be unimaginable, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9).
What a truly great and wonderful God we have who, despite our guilt, has given us a judge and advocate who is not only willing to forgive us for our sin, but sacrificed his own life so that we receive the things God has prepared for us.