There is good reason to think that our meeting
of the Lord will not be just to receive a yes/no decision. The picture
of the storm beating on the house to see if it collapses implies
a purpose and process of the judgment (Mt. 7:27). If it were only
a yes / no decision, the language of tribunal, judgment and appeal
which occurs in passages concerning the judgment seat would appear
to be out of place. Both sheep and goats register their surprise
at their Lord's comments on various specific actions of theirs which
he discusses with them- "When saw we thee...?" (Mt. 25:44). The
thought that at least some of our deeds will be discussed with us
at the judgment should surely make some impact on our present behaviour.
Lk. 19:23 implies not only that there will be a discussion with
our judge, but that Jesus will point out to the rejected what they
should have done to be accepted: "Out of thine own mouth will I
judge thee...wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank?".
The rejected are to be cut in two, shown as the two faced hypocrites
which they were. But the idea of cutting in two was immediately
associated in the Jewish mind with making a covenant. When Abraham
placed the sacrifices in two parts and the Lord passed between them,
the idea was really that God would cut in two the man who broke
the covenant. Hence the Jews spoke of 'cutting a covenant'. Those
who have made the covenant with God but not kept it will be cut
in two, as they initially agreed. God will keep His side of the
This leads on to the question of whether there will be a specific
'going through' of many (all?) our deeds. God even now judges and
analyses even those in the world (1 Cor. 5:13; 15:3); and His attention
is surely focused on us even more. Because “for all these things
God will bring thee into judgment”, we should therefore remove every
“provocation” to sin from our lives, motivated by knowing that all
sin will in some form be judged (Ecc. 11:9,10 RVmg.). However, the
following passages would indicate that there will be a consideration
of many (all?) the bad aspects of the rejected, and a similar mentioning
of all the good points of the accepted, seeing that their sins have
been totally obliterated through being in Christ.
- "God shall judge the righteous and the wicked (at the second
coming): for there is a time there for every purpose and
for every work...for God shall bring every work
into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good
or bad" (Ecc. 3:17; 12:14). Note the emphasis on "every".
Even what we have spoken in the ear will be shouted out (Lk. 12:3)
-implying others will somehow observe our judgment, cp. Mt. 12:41.
If the judgment is merely a yes/no statement which has been worked
out taking our whole life into consideration, then this emphasis
on every work having a time for consideration and judgment "there"
is pointless. However, these verses must be considered in conjunction
with those which speak of God's 'forgetting' of bad deeds on account
of how people later chose to live. However, this need not mean
that they are erased from God's infinite knowledge; all too often
we perceive God's memory as a vast memory bank which can have
our sins erased from it. But His knowledge knows no such bounds
of human perception; yet He is willing not to hold those things
against us, and to therefore count us as having never committed
- Having spoken of how there is a time
"to plant...pluck up...kill...heal" etc., we are then told that
"God shall judge the righteous and the wicked (at the second coming):
for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work"
(Ecc. 3:1-8,17). Thus our actions in every department of life
will be examined at "the place of judgment" (Ecc. 3:16).
- If we do not warn the wicked of their
way, "his blood will I require at thine hand" (Ez. 33:8). Some
will have to give an account of their specific lack of witness.
Yet we can live day after day, saying nothing to our fellows,
as if it doesn't really matter, because nobody notices…
- "Whatsoever good thing any man doeth,
the same shall he receive of the Lord" (Eph. 6:8)- at judgment
day. Not in this life, when the righteous often suffer for their
goodness. Every good deed will then have its recognition.
- Our actions in this life will be "required"
by God (Dt. 18:19; 23:21; Josh. 22:23; 1 Sam. 20:16; 2 Chron.
24:22; Ez. 3:20; 33:6,8)- at judgment day, when an explanation
for our behaviour will be "required". As an example, God will
"require" the flock at the hand of the pastors (Ez. 34:10), or,
as the NT puts it, the ecclesial elders must give an account at
judgment day for their flock. The Hebrew word translated "require"
in the above passages has the sense of to search / enquire- which
suggests a process of discussion during the judgment process.
- Paul prayed that the fact the brethren
in Rome hadn't stood with him in his court case "may not be laid
to their charge" (2 Tim. 4:16). This sounds as if he expected
their behaviour in this specific matter to be something which
could be brought up with them in the last day and possibly be
the cause of their rejection.
- Nehemiah several times asks God to "remember unto me" the good deeds he had done for Judah (Neh. 5:19 RV), and to likewise "remember" the bad works of the wicked (Neh. 6:14 RV). He clearly perceived judgment day as featuring the good deeds of the righteous being as it were listed, and the sins of the wicked being likewise recounted. Perhaps his prayer was heard in that in a restoration context, Mal. 3:16 comments that a book of remembrance was written by God to record the good deeds of the faithful at that time.
- Every past day of judgment reveals
something of the future. Edom's day of judgment is described as:
"How are the things [RV mg. "men"] of Esau searched out! How are
his hidden things sought up!" (Obadiah 6). This may be alluded
to by Paul when he speaks of how the hidden things of all the
responsible will be revealed in that day.
- "If the wicked (wicked responsible,
in the Israel context) will turn from all his sins...all his transgressions
that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him:
in (as a result of) his righteousness (good deeds) that he hath
done he shall live (eternally)" (Ez. 18:21,22). This implies that
there will be a mentioning (the Hebrew word means just that) of
the man's sins to him at judgment, unless he repents. The rest
of Ez. 18 and Ez. 33 show that the reverse is also true- if a
man turns away from God, then all his previous good deeds which
would have been mentioned to him at judgment will be 'forgotten'.
- "I will never forget any of their works"
(Am. 8:7) was the Lord's judgment against the wicked in Israel.
Their works would be mentioned to them again at judgment day.
- For those who suffer persecution, prison etc. for the Lord's
sake, "it shall turn to you for a testimony" (Lk. 21:13). When?
How? Surely in that these things will be 'gone through' with them
at judgment as a testimony to their faithfulness.
- At judgment God "shall bring forth thy righteousness (good
deeds) as the light, and thy judgment as the noon day" (Ps. 37:6).
The sins of the rejected and the good deeds of the righteous will
be publicly declared at the judgment, even if they are concealed
from men in this life (1 Tim. 5:24,25). This is how men will receive
"praise of God" (1 Cor. 4:5; 1 Pet. 1:7; Rom. 2:29). The wicked
will see the generous deeds of the righteous rehearsed before
them; and will gnash their teeth and melt away into condemnation
- "Every tongue shall confess to God (in Christ)...every one
of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom. 14:11,12). "Account"
is the Greek 'logos'- we will 'logos' ourselves in the sense that
we will verbally confess ("every tongue") the innermost essence
of our spiritual lives. This will lead us to confess with our
tongue that Christ is really our Lord (Phil. 2:11). Confessing
our sinfulness will lead us to show our appreciation of His Lordship.
That which has been spoken or thought in darkness will then be
heard in the light- in that day "there is nothing covered that
shall not be revealed" (Lk. 12:2,3). He will confess our righteous
acts, and we will confess our sins (Is. 45:23-25 cp. Phil. 2:10;
Rom. 14:11). For the wicked, it will be the opposite. They confess
their righteous acts, He tells them their sins. And in this way
the good and bad deeds of all the responsible will come to the
- "We must all appear before the judgment seat" (2 Cor.
5:10) doesn't just mean we'll put in an appearance. The Greek
means to be exposed utterly. We shall have "our lives laid open"
(NEB). Then, the unshareable self will be revealed; that essence
of personality which is unknown even to us.
- The sins of the wicked are written down against them, to be
discussed with them at the judgment (Acts 7:60 Diaglott).
- Psalm 50 is an Old Testament prophecy of the judgment seat
of Christ: "Our God shall come (in Christ)...He shall call to
the heavens...that he may judge his people (cp. the call to judgment).
Gather my saints together unto me (cp. Mt. 25:30-32)...for God
is judge himself" describes how the specific words and actions
of God's people will then be considered: "When thou sawest a thief,
then thou consentedst with him (actions)...thou gavest thy mouth
to evil (words)...these things hast thou done, and I kept silence
(in this life)...but I will (now) reprove thee (at judgment day),
and set them in order before thine eyes".
- Without in any way seeking to teach justification by works,
it is also true that there are Bible passages which imply that
there will be a reckoning up of a man’s good works at the last
day. The rich fool should have been “rich toward God” (Lk. 12:21);
he should have hoarded up spiritual wealth and fruit against his
last day rather than material things. Yet this of course will
not have been consciously done; yet the judgment process will
reveal the good works of the righteous to them and others.
- Every word will be judged (Mt. 12:36),
and in some cases by words we will justified and by our speech
we will be condemned. So we must speak as those who will be judged
for what we speak (James 2:12). The man who says to his
brother 'Raca' or 'Thou fool' is in real danger of hell fire (Mt.
5:22). The tongue has the power to cast a man into hell fire (James
3:5,6)- some may be condemned for what they have said, perhaps
connecting with how the beast is thrown into the fire of destruction
because of his words (Dan. 7:11,12). Thus there is a link between
the judgment of the unworthy and that of the world. The process
of condemnation will remind the wicked of all their hard words
and hard deeds (Jude 15). Yet now, we can speak words all too
easily. Yet we talk and speak as those whose words will be taken
into account at the last day. This little selection of passages
is powerful- or ought to be. There is reason to think that specific record is kept of incidents, and in some form there will be a 'going through' of them. Thus when self-righteous Jews told their brethren "Stand by yourself, come not near me, for I am holier than you", God comments that "This is written before me... I will recompense" (Is. 65:5,6). The sin of Judah was written- both on their hearts and in God's record (Jer. 17:1); their iniquity was "marked before me" (Jer. 2:22). Note how their sin was written both before God and on their hearts. As we've commented elsewhere, the state of our hearts is actually God's record of us; "the spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord" through which He searches us (Prov. 20:27).
- “Charge them not with this sin” (Acts 7:60) certainly
sounds as if Stephen expected that individual actions of human
sin will be raised with them at the day of judgment. And yet the
wonder of it all, is that our prayers now for our enemies can
result in their not being charged with those sins. We are in that
sense called to do the work of the advocate, to reflect the saving
mediatorial work of the Lord Jesus in our prayer life right now.
Our prayers for others really can have an effect upon what will
be raised with them at the judgment- for that’s what Stephen
prayed for in his time of dying. And are we to think that his
wonderful prayer went unanswered?
There is one interesting practical outcome of there being a going
through of all our deeds. Paul says that he wants to "seal" the
fruit of good works from his converts (Rom. 15:28), as if he wants
to give them the opportunity to do good deeds, knowing they will
be considered in some form at the judgment. The simple fact is that
we simply have to believe that the thousand hard and easy choices
we make each day all somehow count in the ultimate, final analysis.
- “God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is
a time there for every purpose and for every work...for
God shall bring every work into judgment, with every
secret thing, whether it be good or bad” (Ecc. 3:17;
- “If the wicked will turn from his sins...all his transgressions
that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him:
in (as a result of) his righteousness that he hath done shall
he live” (Ez. 18:21,22)
- All sin and righteousness will be publicly declared even if
hidden now (1 Tim. 5:24,25)
- God “shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and
thy judgment as the noon day” (Ps. 37:6)
- “Every tongue shall confess...every one of shall give account
(logos) of himself to God” (Rom. 14:11,12)
- “We must all appear [‘be laid open’ NEB] before the
judgment seat” (2 Cor. 5:10)
- Every word will be judged (Mt. 12:36)
- “Gather my saints together...God is judge...when thou sawest
a thief, then thou consentedst with him (actions)...thou gavest
thy mouth to evil (words)...these things has thou done, and I
kept silence...but I will reprove thee [at judgment] and set them
in order before thine eyes” (Ps. 50).
It is fairly certain that time will be compressed at the judgment
seat; there will therefore be no problem in such an individual discussion
between each of the responsible and Christ . All the above passages
suggest a going through of works ; and yet we know that the
basis of acceptability with God is not works but rather faith. The
judgment of our works seems not to be related to as it were weighing
up our salvation chances. For salvation is a gift, unrelated to
works. That's what grace is about. But our use of our talents will
be related to who and how we will eternally be. In the parable of
the talents, the one talent man who kept his talent but didn't use
it will have that talent taken from him; but Lk. 19:27 continues
the story: "But those mine enemies, which would not that I
should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me".
The implication seems to be that the one talent man is saved and
doesn't share in the condemnation of the wicked which will happen
at the final judgment. The 'going through' of works is therefore
for our benefit, to teach us- not as a basis upon which the Lord
decides worthiness. Salvation itself is not on the basis of our
works (Rom. 11:6; Gal. 2:16; Tit. 3:5); indeed, the free gift
of salvation by pure grace is contrasted with the wages
paid by sin (Rom. 4:4; 6:23). And yet at the judgment, the preacher
receives wages for what he did (Jn. 4:36), the labourers
receive hire (s.w. wages) for their work in the vineyard
(Mt. 20:8; 1 Cor. 3:8). There is a reward (s.w. wages) for
those who rise to the level of loving the totally unresponsive (Mt.
5:46), or preaching in situations quite against their natural inclination
(1 Cor. 9:18). Salvation itself isn't given on this basis
of works; but the judgment is of works in order to teach us self-knowledge.
And this is why there will be a 'going through' of our deeds. In
this life, we see ourselves in a dark mirror; but only when the
Lord appears will we clearly see ourselves face to face. This coming
to true self-knowledge will only be possible through the judgment