Out of his great love for people, God in his mercy is forewarning everyone, whether the redeemed or unredeemed, that this judgment SHALL happen, based on their good or bad deeds and good or bad words. The Scriptures are unambiguous about it. How do we prepare for it? God offers solutions before we all face it.
This post is long because it quotes many Scriptures in full. This is online writing, so the cost per printed page is irrelevant. It is about time we actually read the Scriptures instead of looking at references to them. Let’s no longer assume people will look them up.
Now let’s look at the widespread, growing problem in pop Christianity.
A strange teaching by the Hyper-Grace Movement and others who are “noninformed” needs to be shaved off and clarified.
A while back, I was channel surfing and saw a Word-of-Grace and a Word-of-Faith (he combines the two) TV teacher say, “God does not judge you!” Wow. I changed the channel, and just in time I heard another one who also combines the two teachings say, “God is not a judging God.”
Those statements are exactly the opposite to the truth.
The NIV is used here, unless otherwise noted. Readers are encouraged to look up other translations at biblegatewy.com.
First, let’s get our picture of God the Judge straightened out.
Images of What God the Judge Is Like and Not Like
He is not like this:
But like this:
That is a picture of God in judgment, showing his protective wrath and love over his people.
Down here on earth, as it is now in its sinful state, you can’t have love without anger against injustice and evil.
Judgment against injustice and evil = wrath = protective love.
Judgement of the Redeemed and Unredeemed
To keep things simple, the redeemed will be put in one gigantic category, and they will be judged by good or bad works and good or bad words; they will not be judged to determine whether they are admitted into his eternal kingdom or thrown into hell. God already knows this. Instead, they will be judged to get rewards or nonrewards. On the other side of the ledger, the unredeemed with be judged by their good or bad deeds and good or bad words to determine their sentence, whether light or heavy.
See my post:
Here are some verses that spell out the two gigantic categories:
31 “When the son of Man comes in his glory with all his angels with him, then he shall sit on his glorious throne. 32 And all the nations shall be assembled before him, and he shall separate them from the others, just as a shepherd separate the sheep from the goats. 33 And he shall place the sheep on his right and the goats on the left. (Matt. 25:31-33, my translation)
The rest of the long passage says that the sheep are the ones who followed Jesus and helped the least of his people who were in great need. The goats are the ones who did not do those good works. So, this passages teaches that we shall be judged by our good works or absence of good works.
Once again, please see my post for a more thorough exegesis (close reading) and scroll down to vv. 31-46:
This next passage is stark in dividing up the redeemed and unredeemed, those who don’t know God and those who do:
8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. (2 Thess. 1:8-10)
The unsaved will be punished, while his holy people (not unholy people) who have believed will marvel at the Son’s appearing.
The Parable of the Weeds. Here’s the ending:
30 Leave both to grow together until the harvest, and at harvesttime I’ll say to the harvesters, “First gather first the weeds and tie them into bundle to burn them. But gather the wheat into my barn.”’ (Matt. 13:30, my translation)
The wheat are the kingdom citizens, and the weeds were sown by an enemy–the Enemy–and don’t belong to the kingdom. (See vv. 40-43, or my quotation of them, below).
Other verses teach that the redeemed too will be judged, to get rewards or no rewards, as we shall see below. The redeemed will not be judged to determine whether they are allowed into his New Kingdom or get thrown into hell.
What Happens to Children?
They are placed in a special category, and where to draw the line between “innocence” and accountability has to be left in God’s hands, who is loving and merciful and generous. I discuss their situation here:
Let’s begin at the beginning, in Genesis.
Abraham barters and inquires of God about judging the righteous and the wicked together, long before the law of Moses came around:
But Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:22-25)
The answer to the last question is yes, he will do what is right and just, in judgment.
These next three verses apply to everyone.
You reward everyone according to what they have done. (Ps. 62:12)
I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve. (Jer. 17:10)
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? (Prov. 24:12)
The following Scriptures speak of Israel’s evil deeds and God’s judgment on Israel, during their time, but the principle looks like judgment on the Final Day and agrees with the rest of Scripture. We can also include judgment on individuals: 1 Kings 8:32 // 2 Chron. 6:23; Ezra 9:13; Job 34:11; Prov. 19:17; Ps. 28:4-5; Jer. 21:14; 25:14; Hos. 4:9; 7:2; 9:15; 12:2; Obad. 1:15; and many more. Yes, I said I would quote many verses, but let’s not make the post too long!
Let’s end this section with these encompassing verses:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil. (Eccl. 12:13-14)
The OT doctrine of judgment by good or bad works and words provides the background to the same judgment on the basis of good and bad works and words in the NT.
One surprise in my study is that there are more NT verses about final judgment on the basis of good and bad works and words than those found in the OT, even though the OT is much longer!
The Words of Jesus Himself
In this section the verses apply to everyone, kingdom citizen and those outside the kingdom.
We will have to give an account of of every word we have spoken.
36 And I tell you that every careless word which people shall speak, they shall return an account for it on the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you shall be vindicated, or by your words you shall be condemned. (Matt. 12:36-37, my translation)
There are too many empty words spoken in written comments and by our mouths. Be careful!
Next, the righteous will shine like the sun, but not so the ones who cause sin and all who do evil.
40 So then just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the close of the age. 41 The son of Man shall send out his angels, and they shall gather from out of his kingdom all cause of sin and those practicing lawlessness. 42 And they shall throw them in the fiery oven; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 At that time the righteous shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Anyone who has ears—let him hear!” (Matt. 13:40-43, my translation)
Make no mistake. In context, the righteous ones, after entering the kingdom, do acts of righteousness.
Further, the son of Man will repay to everyone according to what they have done:
27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matt. 16:27)
These closing verses come at the end of a long and majestic and sobering parable and / or straightforward teaching about the final judgment.
45 Then he shall reply to them, saying, ‘I tell you the truth: to the degree that you did not it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, neither did you do it for me.’ 46 And they shall go to everlasting punishment, and the righteous to everlasting life.” (Matt. 25:45-46, my translation)
Again, please see this post for a more through exegesis (close reading):
Matt. 24:36 to 25:46–From Second Coming to New Messianic Age (scroll to vv. 31-46)
The next two verses are very, very clear, and the doers of good will rise to live an eternal (zoe) life, while the doers of evil will be condemned.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28-29)
The next verse was written to the church at Thyatira, but it accords so well with all the other verses in this post that surely it reveals what will happen to all of the church, even today. Jesus is speaking by revelation:
23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Rev. 2:23)
I have to admit that in the above verse about striking unbelieving children (= followers of Jezebel) dead is startling. It was done back then, and it may apply to the bad teachers and seducers in the global church.
While we are in the Revelation, let’s look at this verse:
The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. (Rev. 20:13)
Reinforcement from the epistles.
In the context of wrongly judging others, Paul lifts up his readers’ eyes to final judgment:
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’” [Is. 45:23]
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. (Rom. 14:10-12)
Rom. 13-14 is about practical works for the Lord, so giving an account includes our works: good, bad, or absent.
Paul tells the Corinthians not to judge him too soon. God will do this, when he brings everything to light and expose the hidden motives of the heart:
5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (1 Cor. 4:5)
Next, the sin of grumbling against each other will be judged:
Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! (Jas. 5:9)
That is a judgment on bad works and attitudes.
Further, the unbelievers who live in “debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3) will be judged:
5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:5)
One way to escape a negative judgment is to live in reverent (not cringing) fear:
17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. (1 Pet. 1:17)
Peter writes about arrogant unbelievers who behave badly and mock:
They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. (2 Peter 2:13)
On the Last Day, the heavens and earth will be changed, and everything done on earth will be revealed:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. (2 Peter 3:10)
In the above verse, the present heavens and earth will not survive that cosmic disaster, unless God is speaking symbolically about judgment. The idea of cosmic disasters at judgment is found throughout the OT and a few verses here and there in the NT, borrowed from the OT.
See my post:
Next, Paul seems to open the door to a light sentence–and even eternal life!–for anyone who persistently did good and sought glory and honor and immortality before salvation was offered in Christ.
6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. (Rom. 2:6-7)
See my post:
Paul expected a crown of righteousness for his ministry at judgment, because he was effective in his good works for God:
6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Tim. 4:6-8)
So God does reward his servants by their good works for the kingdom. Final judgment does not at all have to be negative.
Paul’s theology in those above verses parallels Jesus’s parable about three servants who got three different amounts of money (responsibilities and commissions to serve) (Matt. 25:14-30). So let’s circle back around to the words of Jesus. Two servants were effective, but one was ineffective. The one who got five talents (units of weight) of silver doubled it. And the one who got two talents doubled his.
Here is a sample verse about the first two servants who got rewards:
21 His master said to him, ‘Excellent, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over little; I shall set you over many things. Go into the joy of your master. (Matt. 25:21, my translation)
Here is the judgment about the unproductive servant: “But in reply, his master said to him, ‘Wicked and lazy servant!'” (Matt. 25:26). His punishment was severe. This parable is all about being productive (good works) for the kingdom and being judged when the master returns, which in the context of Matt. 25, is a picture of the Second Coming and judgment. I’m not clear whether the redeemed will get punished, because this servant may not have been right with God and a kingdom citizen. But I cannot rule out punishment on some level.
Again see my post for a close reading of the entire chapter:
Judgments Now and Judgment Later
It seems these warnings about judgments fell on people in their lifetimes, and they reflect a future, final judgment. The future tense is used.
Next, this “repayment” was done on earth, but will it be done in heaven, too? Whatever the case, it is a warning. Paul writes:
Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. (2 Tim. 4:14)
This next description of judgment will take place in the future (note the future tense) at final judgment, but it may happen to these adulterers and sexually immoral in their future while they lived:
4 Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (Heb. 13:4)
That was a judgment on bad works.
These verses are very sobering because they are about sexual immorality among brothers and sisters in the church. I include it in this section because of the future tense “will punish” in v. 6, and it seems the punishment can happen before final judgment:
3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. (1 Thess. 4:3-8)
That teaching is straightforward. We need to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit (vv. 3 and 8). In which area of our lives? We must avoid sexual immorality (v. 3), so that we can learn to control our own body (v. 4). This avoidance means we do not take advantage of a brother or sister (v. 6). I desperately wanted to to find a softer definition in Greek of “punish” (v. 6), but I can’t. He will punish sexual sins. Let’s hope the punishment is accomplished down here on earth and not at the final judgment! We need to live a holy life, not an impure life (v. 7). If we reject this teaching, we reject God, not Paul (v. 8).
Mercifully, God Judges Us Now to Spare Us Later
This section is related to the previous one. Here Peter and the author of Hebrews says God’s judgment begins now and is ongoing throughout our lifetimes.
Peter teaches us that when God judges here on earth, he begins with his people.
For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God (1 Peter 4:17)
Judgment begins now, so we can be purified. Then our judgment before the New Messianic Age is ushered in will not be negative. It can be positive.
This long, long passage–so important!–teaches us that in love God disciplines us now, so we can grow in holiness, righteousness and peace (vv. 10-11). He uses hardship (v. 7). This loving discipline is a form of judgment or evaluation.
5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[Prov. 3:11, 12]
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Heb. 12:5-11)
God intends to purify us now, so we can be trained (v. 11). We are being trained for righteous living now and then when we are judged in the New Messianic Age, his judgment won’t be negative–it will be positive!
It is possible to receive praise from God:
4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (1 Cor. 4:4-5, emphasis added)
Warnings to Ministers of the Gospel
They seem to be placed in a separate category within the larger category of the redeemed.
Actually, the verses in 2 Cor. 5:9-10 may apply to everyone as well, but especially to those who minister the gospel.
9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor. 5:9-10)
Next, the ministers who arrived in Corinth after Paul established a church there tried to push him aside. However, Paul warned them to be careful of how they build on his foundation. Their bad “ministry works or message” may be burned up (v. 15). But those who build rightly–good “ministry works”–will receive a reward (v. 14).
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Cor. 3:10-15)
This following verse is clear. Church leaders will have to render an account, as follows.
17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. (Heb. 13:17)
James warns teachers that they shall incur a stricter judgment.
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. (Jas. 3:1-2)
The one who controls his speech (tongue) is mature, certainly mature enough to teach God’s people. Teachers, watch your words while you teach! Be mature in your words!
How to Be Assured of Being Judged with the Redeemed
Let’s end on positive notes, in this section and the next two.
You need to get saved or redeemed or converted. You are saved by God’s grace, not your good works.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)
The very next verse teaches us that we are saved for the purpose of good works.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.(Eph. 2:10)
Don’t confuse this correct sequence: Salvation first, good works second. The sequence looks like this (the arrow means “leads to”):
Salvation by God’s grace (not good works), first → Doing good works he has prepared for you, second
Salvation → Good works.
Good works → Salvation
Certainly not that!
Now That I’m Saved and Redeemed, What Are My Good Works?
Here is the how-to section.
First, as noted in the previous section, we are called to do good works.
Jesus said our light must shines before others by doing good works:
14 You are the light of the world the light of the world. A town sitting above on a mountain cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do they light a lamp and place it under a container, but on a lampstand, and it shines on everyone in the house. 16 In this way, let your light shine before people, so that they see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:14-16, my translation)
Verse 16 is the summary punch line. Shine your light of good deeds, and then people will glorify our Father in heaven.
Hearing the Sermon on the Mount from which Matt. 5:14-16 is found, Peter learned the lesson from his Lord:
12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Pet. 2:12)
Second, now what are your good works?
Read the Parable of the Good Samaritan. It teaches us that the immediate good work you can do is to help someone in need whom you come across. Help your neighbor. Help at church. You don’t have to become Billy Graham, Jr. Seek God for what he tells you to do. He’ll open up doors to good works in your own sphere of influence.
One way to do good works is to show mercy:
12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (Jas. 2:12-13)
The last sentence is a great promise. Cling to it.
How Do I Respond to All of the Verses?
You can be confident on the day of judgment because you live in God’s love:
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. (1 John 4:16-17)
Where do we get this divine love? From deep within our souls? By willpower? “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God is the source of this love. Then in this world we can be like Jesus because God’s love flows through us.
When you know God loves you, you have no fear, which circles back around to standing confident in judgment.
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
But the love you receive from God and which you then return back to him must be transmitted to those around you, which these two verses teach:
20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
God’s love in you works its way outwardly into action. You must demonstrate love to people. Consequently, this action leads to good works on a practical level. Speak uplifting words to them. Help them work out a problem, if asked. Buy some food for single moms who may be short on money that month. Pay a bill of a needy person.
Here’s the bottom-line solution:
(1) Get saved (2) Do good works and speak good words, and don’t do bad works or speak bad words (3) You shall hear a positive, final judgment.
The next three posts are a series on hell and punishment:
Each theory has a Scriptural basis, so whichever theory you land on, don’t call the other two heresies.