Judged by Works (Kingdom Salvation #11)

Resurrected to Judgment

13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 

– Revelation 20:13 NKJV

28 “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 “and come forth–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation

– John 5:28-29 NKJV

15 “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust

– Acts 24:15 NKJV

In this post we are going to be looking at the judgment we will all face. But I must mention that before the judgement there will be a bodily resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. In the next post we will focus more on the resurrection of the body and the eternal blessing of the righteous, but here we will focus on the judgment and the damnation of the wicked.

Judged by Works

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad

– 2 Corinthians 5:10 NKJV

12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work

– Revelation 22:12 NKJV

28 “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 “and come forth–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. 

– John 5:28-29 NKJV

17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 

– 1 Peter 1:17 NKJV

6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds“: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness–indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 

– Romans 2:6-10 NKJV

35 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” 

– Matthew 12:35-37 NKJV

5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. 

– 1 Corinthians 4:5 NKJV

1 In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known

– Luke 12:1-2 NKJV

12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account

– Hebrews 4:12-13 NKJV

The New Testament is abundantly clear, we will all be judged according to what we have done. God will look at our words, thoughts, intentions and actions, and He will judge us accordingly. God will bring about this judgement through His Son, our King, Jesus Christ. We will all appear before Him and give an account of our lives. Nothing will be hidden, but all will be made manifest. There will be nowhere to hide from the Judge on His throne.

This does not mean that God will weigh our good actions against our bad actions and see which one is more abundant. God’s judgment is not a mathematical equation. No, instead He will judge our lives by the conditions He has required of us. If we meet the conditions which He has given us, we will be accepted. If we fail to meet those conditions, we will be rejected.

Faith is not Invisible

4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” 

– Mark 2:4-5 NKJV

18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works

– James 2:18 NKJV

6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him

– Hebrews 11:6 NKJV

But what about faith? If we are reconciled to God by faith, why are we judged according to our thoughts, words and actions? Faith is not a mere belief in the existence of God, but belief in the living and active God of the Bible. It believes not only that God exists, but also that He rewards and punishes people for their actions. If a person believes that Christ is the Lord of all, with authority to judge and forgive, his actions will verify this belief.

Secondly, saving faith is more than a belief, but a relational trust in Jesus Christ. One must believe in Christ to be reconciled to God. But that belief must lead them to cling to Christ in trust. Those that trust Christ will follow His commands knowing that He is the Good Shepherd that will lead them to everlasting life (John 10:27-28). If they say that they trust in Christ but do not give heed to His warnings and pursue His promises, then they show with their actions that they have no trust in Christ. If they do not take Him at His word, how can they claim that they have entrusted their eternal salvation into His hands?!

Saving faith is faith in the living God and His risen Son. And it is a relational dependence on Christ that lives by every word that proceeded out of His mouth. God will judge our faith by our works as an orchardist judges a tree by its fruit.

A Conditional Gift

9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 

– 1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him

– James 1:12 NKJV

10 “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life

– Revelation 2:10 NKJV

4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. 6 So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” 

– Genesis 4:4-7 NKJV

9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him

– Hebrews 5:9 NKJV

God will judge our faith by what we do. But God will be looking for more than faith. Faith is not the only thing that God has commanded Jesus’ disciples. We must understand that we were reconciled with God on the condition that we repented of our rebellion (turn from rebellion) and placed our faith in Jesus Christ. If we had never repented of our sin and believed in Christ we would never have been accepted back into fellowship with God. We must understand that receiving eternal life at the end of our life is distinct from receiving reconciliation with God at the time of our conversion. In order to receive reconciliation we must obey the commands to repent, believe and be baptised. But in order to receive eternal life at the end of the narrow road, we are required to trust, love and obey Christ until the Final Day.

Those who have been forgiven of their sins and filled with His Holy Spirit which empowers them to live godly lives, must live godly lives. Jesus gave many parables that establish this fact. The branch must abide in the True Vine (Jesus Christ) and bear fruit. It is not enough that the branches (us) have been attached to the vine, we also must abide in the vine through faith, love and obedience to Jesus Christ (John 15:1-10). He shared this same truth in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Those to whom the Master gave talents were expected to produce more with what they were given. If they proved faithful with what they had received they would be blessed, if not, they would be cursed. 

This is the same for us. We have been given many great and precious promises. God has poured out His Spirit on us and washed away our past sins. We must respond to this grace by submitting to His Son and clinging to Him in faith until the very end. God will judge whether or not we have done this by looking at our thoughts, words and deeds. The tenor of our life will reveal that we are the children of God or it will expose the truth that we are hypocrites.

A Condition Vs. A Payment

16 “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. 

– Galatians 2:16 NKJV

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God

– Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 

– Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 

– Ephesians 5:5-6 NKJV

Obedience to Jesus is not a dead work! One of the greatest errors of our day is to imagine that when the Bible condemns the idea of earning salvation by doing good works, it is saying that obedience to Jesus is not a condition for eternal life. Paul had to deal with the error of the Judaizers who taught that people had to be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses to be Christians. He condemned this error in almost all of his letters, in one way or the other. He taught that salvation was not through the works of the Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:16). But then in almost all of his letters he went on to require obedience to Jesus Christ as a condition for obtaining eternal life at the resurrection. 

There are two errors possible here. One is to say that in order to obey Jesus Christ we must obey the Law of Moses. This is the error of the Judaizers and the modern day error of some factions in the Hebraic Roots movement. The other error is more common since the reformation. It imagines that any form of obedience is an attempt to “earn” eternal life. So people apply Paul’s condemnation of salvation by works even to obedience to Jesus Christ. 

Obedience to Jesus does not earn eternal life, but it is a condition of receiving eternal life. If I offer to give my son a car on the condition that he first passes his driver’s exam, this does not mean my son earned the car and that it was not a gift. In the same way, when a repentant individual pursues holiness and obedience to Jesus he is not earning eternal life, but he is fulfilling one of the conditions God requires for the receiving of eternal life. 

The Law of Christ

19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. 

– Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV

46 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? 47 “Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 “He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. 49 “But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” 

– Luke 6:46-49 NKJV

25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” 27 So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” – 

– Luke 10:25-28 NKJV

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 

– 1 Corinthians 9:19-21 NKJV

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ

– Galatians 6:2 NKJV

8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. 

– James 2:8-13 NKJV

48 “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him–the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 

– John 12:48-49 NKJV

A Christian is one who follows Jesus Christ. It is true that a Christian believes Jesus is the Christ and trusts in Him as the Good Shepherd. But He also believes that Jesus is Lord, and submits to Him as his Lord. There is no such thing as a consistently rebellious Christian. Christians live in accordance with the teaching of their Master, not perfectly, but consistently. Those that confess Christ with their mouths, but deny Him with their lives will also be denied by Him on the Day of Judgment. 

Christians are not a lawless people. Though we are no longer under the Law of Moses, we are under the Law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21, Galatians 6:2). Those who live lawless lives will be exiled from the kingdom of God. All that we have thought, said and done will be compared with the words of Jesus Christ. His words will judge us on that Day. He is our Lord, Master and Judge. And His word is our law!

A Gracious Master

13 As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. 14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. … 17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting On those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children, 18 To such as keep His covenant, And to those who remember His commandments to do them

– Psalm 103:13-14, 17-18 NKJV

6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality

– Romans 2:6-7 NKJV

20 A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory; 

– Matthew 12:20 NKJV

28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” 

– Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV

37 “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out

– John 6:37 NKJV

8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. … 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

– 2 Peter 1:8, 11 NKJV

God will judge us according to the words of Jesus Christ. His commands are our law. But He did not only give commands. He also gave us gracious promises of mercy and forgiveness. He is slow to anger, quick to forgive. A smoldering wick He will not snuff out. He remembers that we are but dust. He does not expect perfection, but freely forgives those that humble themselves before Him in confession and godly sorrow. He presently sits on a throne of grace welcoming all who tremble at His word. 

His mercies are new every morning. We learn this from the prayer He taught us to pray daily, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive others.” Christ forgives sins daily, and always welcomes humble hearts that desire to turn from sin. We will be judged according to all the words of Christ, both His commands and His gracious promises. If we cling to the Savior in truth, trembling at His word and patiently continue doing His will, not perfectly, but persistently, we will inherit the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and His Father.  

Eternal Punishment

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: … 46 “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” 

– Matthew 25:41, 46 NKJV

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!‘ 

– Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV

48 “But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ 49 “and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, 50 “the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, 51 “and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 

– Matthew 24:48-51 NKJV

29 “and come forth–those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation

– John 5:29 NKJV

4 “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! 

– Luke 12:4-5 NKJV

5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 

– Romans 2:5-6 NKJV

8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ

– 2 Thessalonians 1:8 NKJV

Christ does not expect perfection. He has provided mercy along with His commands. But neither will He accept rebellion and hypocrisy. He has prepared eternal punishment for those who refuse to turn from their rebellion and submit to Him. He will exile rebels and hypocrites to hell forever.

The biblical fact of an eternal wrath should force us to face the fact of Who the biblical God is. He is loving, this is true. But before being powerful, sovereign, or even loving, he is holy, holy, holy! The living God is so holy and opposed to sin that he created a place of eternal punishment for his enemies. This is the God to Whom we must give an account, so we better live our lives in reverent fear!

Besides being a signpost revealing the true character of the living God, hell teaches us that we are slow to see the true nature of sin. We cannot imagine that sin is so evil that it requires eternal punishment. We think the punishment should be equal to the act, instead of recognizing that the punishment should be equal to the dignity of the One it has despised, dishonored and opposed. 

But, the moment we see the glorious splendor of God’s holiness on that Day, we will then understand that eternal hell is the most appropriate place for souls that rebelled against such a holy God. Especially in light of the fact that this sin-hating God, Who is angry with the wicked every day, in love sent His own Son to suffer and die so that we could escape sin and hell, and receive eternal life instead. The cross of love condemns rebels even more than the fire of God’s holiness. 

Conclusion

We have been reconciled to God by repenting of our sins, believing in Christ as Lord and identifying with Him in baptism. When we met those conditions by the convicting grace of God, He forgave our sins and filled us with His Spirit. He cleansed us and grafted us into Jesus Christ. And now He requires that we abide in Christ and His word. There will come a day when God will separate those who are following Christ in truth, and those who are living in rebellion to His commands. Because of this coming judgment we must live our lives in godly fear, clinging to Christ, relying on His promises and trembling at His commands and warnings. We must “by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality” (Romans 2:7).

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