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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Final Judgment?

Do you ever think about the Biblically referenced judgment day? It's spoken of in several books of the Bible. Most of us would understand that there's a day coming when some sort of judgment will occur. Christ will return to judge the world.

Who is it that we think He will judge? I suspect that most of us walking around calling ourselves Christians - calling ourselves "saved" - wouldn't see ourselves on the receiving end of that judgment. Is it because we think we'll all just slip in the VIP entrance to heaven, while Christ stands outside and judges everyone else?

Ask people what it means to be saved. Most will tell you it means that their sins are forgiven through the acts and life of Jesus Christ. That of course would be true. But is that the whole story? I doubt it.

2 Corinthians 5:10 tells us, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." Look at that sentence. Dissect it. Notice words like "all," and phrases like "each one," and "good or bad." Those seem like pretty all-encompassing words. They seem to indicate that everyone who has ever breathed life will be included in this judgment exercise. They foretell an event where everything that every one of us has done, thought, said, believed, supported, enabled, etc. will be reviewed ... regardless of whether it was good or bad.

Perhaps you've never lived an examined life. Nevertheless, this Word from the Lord indicates that Jesus will be examining it for you. No, He's not coming just to judge those who are still rebelling and stuck in their sin because they refused to turn to Him during their time on earth. It seems He's going to get out the books and take a thorough inventory.

Now Jeremiah 31:34 tells us, "... 'they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,' declares the LORD. 'For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.'" Modern day Christians seem to think that God is forgetful. We think this means the sin is wiped from God's memory banks and is beyond His recall. But look again. That's not what it says. Remembering our sins no more is different than forgetting them, or losing the ability to recall them. Make no mistake about it - God does not forget our sins. Even though they may be forgiven, they are not beyond His recall.

So doesn't this seem like a conflict? How do we reconcile forgiveness of sins (which occurs now) with the coming judgment? Revelation 20:11-12 describes this coming judgment event like this. "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened."

Did you catch that? The books (plural noun) were opened. What books? Why were they opened? Folks, these are the books that contain a record of all we did, good or bad. When God said, after forgiving our sin, that He would remember it no more, this is where He put it. Our sin is in God's records vault, being held for that final examination that we all face.

Let's see what happens next as Revelation 20:12-15 continues. "Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. ... and each person was judged according to what he had done. ... If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

Are you following this? The books (plural noun) are opened to reveal everything about us and the life we lived on this earth. All of it is examined and made known. Everything I've ever done in secret? It becomes very public information - known to all! The one book of life (singular noun) is opened. It contains the names of everyone whom Jesus has saved. If my name is in that book, it cancels everything attached to me in all of the other books. But if my name isn't in that book, the other books speak for me. (Yikes!)

I read an article a few months ago. I think the author titled it something like, "Whatever happened to sin?" He said that even Christ-followers seem to act as if sin doesn't exist. It was this author's opinion that we've forgotten about the significance of sin. We behave as if we don't have to worry about it. Our lives seem to indicate a belief that because we're (supposedly) saved, we can do anything. After all, my sins are all forgiven - past, present and future. Right?

Since I've read that article, I've thought a lot about it. I think the author was right. I see too many of us walking around, calling ourselves Christ-followers, with sin that's ongoing. Said differently, we don't look any different than the world around us. Our sin is just as prevalent as the sin of non-believers (the "unsaved"). Are we really naive enough to think that just because we're saved by the blood of Christ that our sin doesn't matter?

The Apostle Paul told us in Romans 14:10-11 that "... we will all stand before god's judgment seat. ... each one of us will give an account of himself (or herself) to God." Paul also told us (in Romans 6:1-2 and 15) that we not to keep on sinning. He said that sin matters ... even for people who are saved. Did you know that? Ask yourself why it matters. If my name in the book of life can cancel my name and all I've done in all the other books that will be opened --- then why does sin matter any more (once I'm saved)?

Could it be that we've misconstrued the meaning of salvation? Could it be that we've missed the point of God's forgiveness of sin? Is it possible that we've justified our sin with God's forgiveness so that we don't have to deal with it?

Whatever happened to sin? The question is worth answering. Even for Christians.