— LESSON 6 —
JUDGMENT TO COME
The Roman governor Felix had an interesting, if not puzzling, case on his hands. In his custody was the Apostle Paul. After hearing the prosecution and Paul’s defense, Felix was not ready to punish the man, nor was he inclined to release him. It seems Felix was especially intrigued by the cause for which Paul so vigorously labored. Christianity and the message of Paul sparked Felix’s interest, and the governor wanted to hear more. In Acts 24:24, Felix and his wife sent for Paul and listened to the great preacher concerning the faith in Christ. We do not have the entire sermon, but we are given a general outline. Paul reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come. The sermon was so powerful that Felix was trembling before it was over. What had Felix so frightened? Certainly, it was the prospect of coming judgment. For the sinner who has not obeyed God, the thought of an eternal judgment is a terrifying expectation. Addressing God’s judgment, Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Felix, however, responded to the sermon as many people do to things they fear—he turned away. He sent Paul off, planning to hear Paul again at a “more convenient time.”
When something frightens us, our natural reaction is to look away or to avoid the object of our fear. When it comes to the judgment of God, however, such a reaction is a tragic mistake. Turning a blind eye will not change the certainty of judgment; thus, we should instead prepare for the judgment; therefore, in this brief study, we are considering the judgment to come so we can prepare for it.
WHY IS THERE A JUDGMENT?
We see throughout the Bible that God is holy and righteous. Many passages drive home God’s perfection and holiness (Psalm 18:30; 99:3; 1 John 1:5). Habakkuk 1:13 says of God, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness.” Because God is perfectly holy, He cannot abide sinfulness in any way. This presents a problem for mankind, for all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). No man, then, is worthy of being in the presence of God.
Thankfully, God is merciful and loving. Not wishing mankind to be eternally lost, He sent Jesus to pay the price man could not pay. By living a perfect life and dying on the cross, Jesus became the perfect sacrifice for sin. As we have seen in previous studies, that sacrifice is God’s gracious gift to mankind—the gift of salvation. But we must accept the gift. Only when we accept the gift through obedient faith are we cleansed of our sins and declared righteous in God’s sight. Those who refuse to accept God’s gift remain in their sins.
WHAT IS THE JUDGMENT TO COME?
When Paul preaches of “judgment to come,” the phrase may seem mystical or enigmatic, but we are not left in the dark about what he is teaching. In fact, the Bible speaks at length concerning the judgment everyone will face. Simply put, judgment is an evaluation. When a judge presides over a case, he looks at the evidence, decides whether the accused is innocent or guilty, and pronounces judgment. Hollywood might dramatize the courtroom, but rest assured, there will never be a higher-stakes court proceeding than when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ. There, Jesus will evaluate whether each one of us is to be declared righteous or unrighteous.
WHO WILL BE JUDGED?
Who must face the judgment of Christ? Everyone. Many people will never sit on trial in a courtroom to have their fate weighed and determined by a judge, but every single soul will be called to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. There are men and women who skip town and evade the authorities so they do not have to stand trial, but no one can run away from the appointment that is set for judgment by Jesus. Hebrews 9:27 says, “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” Paul says in Acts 17:31 that God has “fixed a day on which He will judge the world”—not just a group of people, not just a country, not even a few countries, but the whole world. Paul goes on to say in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” Whether we accept it or not, there is coming a time when EACH OF US will stand before Christ and be judged by Him.