From “How to become a Christian”: Chapter 5 – Why should we bother to become a Christian?
Please consider all the following passages which make clear that sin, judgment and the need to repent are major recurring themes throughout the Bible. I want to demonstrate that I am not exaggerating or basing what I say on just one or two verses, taken out of context. This theme of judgment is stated over and over again to ensure we do not miss it. In fact I could have listed dozens of other passages too:
…… he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”Acts 17:30-31 (NIV)
I will punish the world for its evil,Isaiah 13:11 (NIV)
the wicked for their sins.
I will put an end to the arrogance of
the haughty and will humble the pride
of the ruthless.
11The proud look of man will be abasedIsaiah 2:11-12 (NASB)
And the loftiness of man will be humbled,
And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
12For the LORD of hosts will have a day of reckoning
Against everyone who is proud and lofty
And against everyone who is lifted up,
That he may be abased.
For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.Ecclesiastes 12:14 (NASB)
30“Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!Ezekiel 18:30-32 (NIV)
See, the LORD is coming out of his dwelling to punish the people of theIsaiah 26:21 (NIV)
earth for their sins. The earth will disclose the blood shed upon her;
she will conceal her slain no longer.
The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.Obadiah 15 (NIV)
7John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”Luke 3:7-9 (NIV)
49This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.Matthew 13:49-50 (NIV)
It surely makes sense for any rational person, having been given such a clear warning to take note of it and get into line. The warning God gives is not just clear, it is repeated over and over again. The only way you can miss it in the Bible is if you decide you don’t want to hear it. Sadly, that is a common response.
When an unsaved, unforgiven person faces God’s judgment, everything he has ever said, done or thought will be judged. Then his sins will be punished. If you knew that you were going to be put on trial in front of a very senior criminal judge, who was going to evaluate you closely and punish you, would that not affect you? Would it not influence the way you act, think and speak? It certainly ought to. Yet, that is precisely the position that every non-Christian is in. We simply need to recognise the reality of that.
Later in this book we shall see in clearer detail each of the different ways that that judgment will operate. There is not just one single judgment. There are many different stages to the overall judgment and it operates very differently for Christians and non-Christians.
Non-Christians will be judged and punished for their sins. Christians will not be, because their sins are forgiven and forgotten. However, they will still be judged, albeit in a very different way, at the Judgment Seat of Christ. At that judgment every Christian will be judged on the basis of what he did with his life and how he used his talents and his time from the point of his conversion onwards.
Everything before then is forgiven and forgotten, provided we are a genuine Christian. Jesus will then reward, or rebuke, each Christian on the basis of how well he does in that assessment of his life as a disciple. (See Book Four for much more detail on how Christians will be judged, what the criteria for the judgment will be, and what the rewards may be.
In simple terms, therefore, each of us will be judged, whether we are Christians or non-Christians. That fact ought to have a major bearing on the way we live if we are rational people. That would be true even if it was a merely human judge before whom we were awaiting trial. It ought to be much more true if the one judging us has perfect information, perfect evidence, perfect wisdom and where it is absolutely impossible to deceive Him or hide anything from Him. So, the fact that we all face God’s judgment should profoundly influence us.
It is also a major reason why we should accept Jesus Christ and deal with our sin now and seek to be forgiven for it now, The alternative is to leave it too late and go to the judgment with our sins unforgiven and undealt with. You cannot repent after you die. It will be too late then. Once we die it is all over. We then face God’s judgment and there is no opportunity to change our minds or to repent belatedly:
And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment,Hebrews 9:22 (RSV)
You have no way of knowing when your life will end. It could be that you will die tonight or in five years time or 50 years time. Or it may be that you are only 10 seconds away from a Boeing 747 jet flying in to the side of your office building and bringing your life to an end in an instant, totally unexpectedly. Our lives and our bodies do not belong to us. God can take our lives away from us at any time. We belong to God, who made us:
Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.Job 41:11 (NIV)
All these things my hand has made and so all these things are mine says the Lord….Isaiah 66:2 (a) (RSV)
God therefore has every right to bring our lives to an end whenever He wishes. He does nothing wrong by ending our lives. You have no valid basis to complain about anything God does, because He made you and He owns you. Thus, you need to seize your chance to get right with God. Do it now and don’t leave it till later. If you do it now then you will be forgiven.
Then, when you face God’s judgment, instead of being at the Great White Throne judgment, it will be at the “Judgment Seat of Christ”. That judgment is solely for believers who have been forgiven. They face no condemnation. It is for reckoning up what rewards (if any) are due to them or, alternatively, what rebuke is due to them for what they did, or failed to do, after their conversion, while they were meant to be operating as Jesus’ disciples.
If however we do not repent, believe and follow Him, then we go instead to the Great White Throne judgment. This is for unsaved people. No rewards will be given out, but only eternal wrath and punishment. You have the chance to make a decision now and have your trial transferred from the Great White Throne to the Judgment Seat of Christ. You would then be judged as a believer, rather than as an unbeliever. Then it would be on the basis of what reward you should receive, rather than what punishment you should get.
The choice is yours now, but it will not always be your choice. The chance can be lost, and lost forever and you have no way of knowing how much time is left to you. I appeal to you therefore to take this warning seriously and to respond. Apostle Paul did the same when he wrote to the Corinthians and begged them to be reconciled to God:
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.2 Corinthians 5:20 (NIV)