‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body,
according to what he has done, whether good or bad.‘
2 Corinthians 5:10
Can there be anything more fearful than the prospect of standing before the Lord Jesus Christ and giving a full account of all we have done in the body, whether good or bad? You will note that this judgment is not only for unbelievers. Paul is clearly addressing the believers at Corinth, the saints who are scattered throughout Achaia (2 Corinthians 1:2). Lest you think this to be an isolated text, Paul says something similar in Romans 14:10, ‘For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.’ Furthermore, the Apostle John, in the vision given him by the glorified Christ, says that he saw a great white throne and Him (that is Jesus) who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened, and another book was opened which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds . . . and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds,’ (Revelation 20:11-13). Peter said that God has appointed Christ as Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42).
Can Paul really mean that every one, including believers, will stand before Jesus and account for everything we have done in the body? Yes. ‘We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.’ ‘We will all stand before the judgment seat of God.’ It is even more fearful than that. Paul also says that the works of the law are written on our hearts, our consciences bearing witness, and our minds alternately accusing or defending us on the day when according to Paul’s gospel God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus (Romans 2:15,16). So, as we stand before the Lord Jesus on that day, He will examine our every thought, not just our actions. And one more thing, Jesus told us that every careless word men shall speak, they shall render account for in the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36).
So everyone who has ever lived, the great and the small, kings and paupers, masters and slaves, rich and poor, Christians and non-Christians, will stand before Jesus and give account for their actions, thoughts, and speech. You may object by saying, ‘Wait a minute, as a believer my sins are forgiven, I am clothed with the righteousness of Christ. God says in Jeremiah 31:34 that He no longer remembers my sin.’ That is true, but your union with Christ does not negate the fact that you face a judgment of your works and will still stand before Jesus and answer for your thoughts, actions, and speech. More about that later.
But my dear friends, if you are not yet in Christ, or if you have loved ones or friends who are not yet children of God, you ought to tremble. Everyone who has ever lived will stand before the Holy One, whose eyes are a flame of fire, who will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, the One who is avenging and wrathful, the One who takes vengeance on His adversaries, who reserves wrath for His enemies (Nahum 1:2,3). Each one will answer for his life. Though the unrepentant sinner may have been in hell for a thousand years, he would give anything if he could remain there for another million years. Why? Because he dreads more than anything ‘that day.’ And what is ‘that day?’ It is the judgment day. It is the great white throne judgment. It is the judgment seat of Christ. Nero will stand before Jesus. So will Herod and Pilate. All the genocidal murderers, the abortionists, the serial murderers and rapists, they will all be there. Where is the judgment, when is this judgment? We do not know. How long will it take? As long as it is necessary for the just Judge and King of all the earth to review every person, one by one in the totality of their deeds, speech, and thoughts. And this judgment will not be in secret. It will be utterly just, for He is not partial and will not take a bribe.
And then each unregenerate sinner will hear the awful words they have been dreading ever since they entered hell, ‘Depart from Me, you accursed ones, into the everlasting fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels,’ (Matthew 25:41). Then they will be thrown into the lake of fire which is the second death. People, of course, do not really believe this will happen. ‘God is merciful,’ they say. ‘He is in the forgiveness business, right? I am a pretty good person. I like my chances.’ Utter folly, eternal folly. When these ungodly sinners enter hell they will cry for mercy but there is none. Mercy has turned to justice and wrath. They will pray, just like the rich man in hell (Luke 16:19-31) but God will not answer. And those thrown into the lake of fire, as they hear their sentence of condemnation, will be unable to open their mouths to defend their actions. They will know, without equivocation, that the sentence of hell fire is just. They are receiving exactly what they deserve.
And what about the believer? What about you? What about the ungodly thoughts you have entertained, times without number? What about the harsh, vile, lascivious words you have uttered publicly, but also privately? What about those things you have done, clearly in violation of God’s commands in His holy word? What about those movies you watched or websites you visited? And what about those things you should have done but did not do? Oh, the sins of omission! What about the times you should have helped that poor beggar on the street, the times you closed your heart to a neighbor in need because you preferred to stay home that night and indulge your sports idol, the time and money you wasted, your failure to teach your children and pray for them? What will you do when you must answer for all these sins done in the body?
Paul says that we will be recompensed, rewarded, receive our just desserts for all these deeds. On the one hand, when we have obeyed and honored God, then we can expect rewards. Paul called it a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8). James calls it a crown of life (James 1:12). Jesus tells the church at Philadelphia to hold fast what they have so that no one may take away their crown (Revelation 3:11). The Greek word used for crown, in every case, is stephanos, a crown placed on the heads of Olympic runners for winning a race. The other Greek word for crown diadema refers to the Lord Jesus (Revelation 19:12). In other words, you will receive rewards for your faithfulness. But what about your flagrant disobedience, even as a believer? You will be judged for all these deeds, words, and thoughts. No doubt there will be great shame and remorse. We must stand before the Lover of our Souls while He examines our unfaithfulness to Him. This will not be a judgment of hell. Jesus took that from us. Praise His holy name! But no doubt there will be sadness, embarrassment, regret. But He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. There will be no more mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4). He will then say, much to our amazement and awe, even though we did not make the greatest use of our gifts, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. Enter into the reward of your Master,’ (Matthew 25:23). At that very moment, you will know, without equivocation, that your eternal salvation is completely by the grace of God.
So, what does this all mean? We must live with eternity in full view. As it was said of Jonathan Edwards, ‘He lived with eternity in his eyes.’ It means that the preacher’s main task is to prepare people for eternity. It means that we ought to think, speak, and act carefully every day, knowing that we will give account of everything on ‘that day.’ It means that we must warn people to flee from the wrath of God which is to come. It means that we must invest our lives in the only two things which will last forever-God’s word and the souls of people.
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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