Two primary judgments await human beings after our earthly lives.
"I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them… And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:11; 15).
"Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (II Corinthians 5:9-10).
Unbelievers will appear at the great white throne to face the Lord according to their own merits and works. These will not be enough. For those who seek to achieve their own righteousness, the God whose "way is perfect" can only accept pristine purity of character, nature, and way (II Samuel 22:31). No son or daughter of Adam's race has ever achieved such perfection, nor will any ever do so. "In Adam all die… We all like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to His own way" (I Corinthians 15:22; Isaiah 53:6). Thus, all who face judgment apart from Christ will face eternal rejection and wrath because, like the servant of old in the Lord's parable, they "go about to establish their own righteousness" and refuse the freely given wedding garment that would have ensured their entrance into the joyful presence of God (Romans 10:3; Matthew 22:1-13).
Believers will appear at the judgment seat of Christ. Regarding our salvation, we not be judged according to our own merits, but rather those of the Lord Jesus on our behalf. Salvation imparts the righteousness of Christ to us as a free gift whereby we are "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6). We have put on the grace-provided wedding garment, as it were, and are received according to the Person, merits, and works of the Lord Jesus. "Of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us... righteousness" (I Corinthians 1:30). The "free gift" of salvation from sin becomes the free gift of entrance into the eternal presence of God (Romans 5:18). However, we will face the judgment of our works, that is, of "things that accompany salvation" (Hebrews 6:9). In this sense, the Apostle Paul declares that "we labor to be accepted of Him." In Christ, God receives our person. He does not, however, receive all our works. Those things we do as the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in us to reveal the character and nature of the Lord Jesus will abide the judgment fires of God's evaluation. Those that proceed from our flesh will not.
"Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire" (I Corinthians 3:13-15).
In that day, our glorified minds and senses will deeply feel the pleasure and displeasure of our Heavenly Father. It is hard to imagine the joy of hearing "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a few things. I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21). It is just as hard to imagine the sorrow of a Blood-washed and grace-redeemed believer who does not hear such affirmation regarding an earthly lifetime lived by the grace of the Lord Jesus "unto good works" (Ephesians 2:10). Perhaps this is partly why the Bible teaches that in Heaven, the Lord will wipe away the tears of the righteous (Revelation 21:4). Moreover, our Savior plainly taught that future responsibilities will be based upon our present earthly response to His grace and truth (Matthew 25:15-30).
The judgments to come are serious beyond all contemplation. Unbelievers must take heed, and Christians must not be shy in sharing that those who face God apart from His freely given pardon in Christ will suffer His eternal wrath. Believers must also take heed. Our salvation is secured and secure by the grace of Christ. Our response to such grace regarding a life of faithfulness, however, is not inevitable. The New Testament epistles, many of which were written to wayward Christians, clearly confirms this most solemn deliberation. Indeed, it was to and about believers that Paul warned, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (II Corinthians 5:11). Let us be persuaded regarding both the great white throne and the judgment seat of Christ. Two judgments, two evaluations of faith and faithfulness that impart a proper seriousness to the life we presently live, and to the eternity of either joy or sorrow that awaits every human being
"It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."
Weekly Memory Verse
For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.