God’s Judgment Events – The Judgment at Death

There are several judgment events promised in Scripture:

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28, ESV)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10, ESV)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. (Matthew 25:31-33, ESV)

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15, ESV)

The first judgment we must face is when we die (Hebrews 9:27).  Jesus depicts one such experience for two men, Lazarus and the rich man he begged from (Luke 16).

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31, ESV)

It appears from this passage and others that when we die there is a separation made.  Those who know the Lord and trust in Him are assigned a place of rest and peace.  Our bodies are dead (“asleep” in Christian parlance), but our spirits are now with Jesus (see, Are My Husband and Father in Heaven Yet?).  Before Jesus took Paradise to heaven, this is where Lazarus was carried by the angels (see, Did Jesus not go to heaven immediately upon death on the cross? and, Did Jesus visit Hell?).  The rich man, on the other hand, went to a place of torment called Hades.  This is the Greek term equivalent to the Old Testament term Sheol.  It is a holding place for those who do not know the Lord until the final judgment (Revelation 20).

Do we actually make an appearance before God to receive our placement orders upon death?  We are not told.  But there is a judgment that has occurred that has determined that we either did indeed trust in Christ for our rescue or did not.  Hebrews 9:27, quoted above, seems to indicate that there are no exceptions.  No one’s ghost hangs around waiting for resolution of some earthly issue.  No one gets to come back and have a do-over.  If you did not embrace Christ in this life you have no chance to do so in the life to come.

For further reading:

What is Purgatory?

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The Emotional Jesus – Compassion

Jesus is an emotional person.  We’re all familiar with the anger he displayed when he chased the money changers out of the temple courtyard.  We remember he wept at Lazarus’ funeral.  Is it fair to say that Jesus is just emotional because he has a human nature?  Not really.  Where do human emotions come from?  We are made in God’s image and that includes emotions.  God is an emotional God and so we are an emotional people.

But let’s focus on Jesus’ emotion of compassion briefly.  Warfield, a wonderful teacher from the early 1900′s, noted in his article “The Emotional Life of Our Lord” (you can find this in the book, The Person and Work of Christ, B.B. Warfield) that this is the emotion that is most frequently attributed to Jesus.

Jesus was often said to be moved with compassion (Mark 1:41; 6:34; Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 20:34), and because of the compassion he felt he was moved to action.  People often asked Jesus to have mercy or pity on them (Matthew 9:27; 15:22; 17:15; 20:30,31) and Jesus responded.  His pity might be aroused by an individual’s distress (Mark 1:41) or simply by the universal misery of human beings (Mark 6:34).  When he saw a widow proceeding to the burial of her only son, he stopped the funeral and raised the boy from the dead (Luke 7:13).  Even the hunger of those listening to his teaching aroused his compassion (Mark 8:2, the only place where Jesus is recorded as testifying to his own feelings of compassion).

Jesus’ compassion was also roused by the sight of the crowds and the knowledge that they had no one to shepherd them and keep them from danger (Mark 6:34).  So he began to teach them.  That same group drew pity from him because of their suffering many illnesses (Matthew 14:14) so he healed them.

Jesus didn’t only teach and command us to love one another, he did it.  As someone has noted, “He…not only required [love] but aroused it…Jesus’ significance to the [Gospel writers] does not consist in his having discovered the command of love, but in his having fulfilled it.”

Nobody loved like Jesus.  When someone asked for something from him, he gave it.  His love was not powerless to accomplish that for which his compassion was aroused.  The utmost expression of this was when Jesus came to Martha and Mary upon the death of their brother Lazarus.  Jesus wept with them over their loss, but then commanded Lazarus to come forth from the grave (John 11:17-37).

This raises a question in us much like that raised by the friends of Lazarus:  “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37).  If Jesus loves us and is so moved to pity and compassion for our distress, why doesn’t he remove all our distress?  In Lazarus’ case he told his disciples that it was for “God’s glory” that he waited until Lazarus died (John 11:4).

The higher purpose for all that Jesus does is the glory of God.  When Paul complained to God three times about the “thorn” in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:1-10) are we to suppose that Christ felt no compassion for him when he said, “My grace is sufficient for you” and did not heal him?  Do you not feel compassion for your infant who shrinks from the doctor’s needle and yet you still allow the doctor to inflict your precious child with the inoculation because you know it is for his good.

Jesus’ compassion is always roused for us in our pain and misery.  He never fails to love us, even if he does not choose to remove our pain.  But many times he is willing to remove our source of discomfort if we will but ask in faith.  Appeal to his compassion.  It is roused for you.

Jesus the Friend

Jesus told his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:13-15)

Now I don’t know about you, but if someone told me that I could be their friend if I obeyed them I would not be too impressed.  But given the context of Jesus’ statement, the countless hours he had spent with his disciples, and given the fact that He is the Son of God, this had to be received quite differently by his disciples.  Of course you obey Jesus, but he is offering something more than a master/servant relationship.  He is offering friendship.

We know that Jesus made special friendships among his disciples.  The Apostle John has the boldness to call himself the disciple whom Jesus loved (see John 13:23; 19:26, et al).  But he also had a special relationship with Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha.  When Jesus hears that Lazarus is deathly ill he tells his disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” (John 11:11).  Lazarus is a friend to all the disciples, but to Jesus as well.  When the Jews observed Jesus weeping for Lazarus they remarked, “See how he loved him!” (11:36)

What does having a friend mean to you?  For me it means having someone in my life who accepts me no matter what, but is also ready to challenge me to be better than ‘no matter what’.  It means someone I can talk to about anything going on in my life.  It means someone who is loyal to me and shares his or her life with me at the same level of transparency.

And this is what Jesus was offering his disciples in John 15.  The master does not need to tell his servants his business, but a friend needs to tell a friend what is going on in his or her life.  Jesus still wants that kind of relationship with us.  He is our Lord, but he is also our friend.  That means we can ask things of him that we would never think to ask of our boss.  We can dialogue with him about what he is doing in our lives. 

This doesn’t mean that he is obligated to tell us everything we want to know.  It is impossible for us to receive some of the things Jesus knows (see Deuteronomy 29:29).  And it might not be wise for us to know some things.  But Jesus wants the intimate relationship with us that he has wanted with all his disciples.  Am I willing to spend the time with him and be the friend that I must be to enjoy his friendship to the fullest?

A friend of Jesus! Oh, what bliss
That one so weak as I
Should ever have a Friend like this
To lead me to the sky!

Refrain:
Friendship with Jesus!
Fellowship divine!
Oh, what blessed, sweet communion!
Jesus is a Friend of mine.

A Friend when other friendships cease,
A Friend when others fail,
A Friend who gives me joy and peace,
A Friend when foes assail!

A Friend when sickness lays me low,
A Friend when death draws near,
A Friend as through the vale I go,
A Friend to help and cheer!

A Friend when life’s short race is o’er
A Friend when earth is past,
A Friend to meet on Heaven’s shore,
A Friend when home at last!

Joseph C. Ludgate

The After Life — The After Life of the Unbeliever

What happens to an individual when he dies?  As James says, “the body without the spirit is dead” (2:26).  When we die our spirits are separated from our bodies.  What happens to our spirits is determined by our relationship to God.  For the person who has not trusted in Christ and His sacrifice, God’s only provision for eternal life, there is only separation from God.

This is highlighted in Jesus’ account of the death of Lazarus and the rich man at whose gate Lazarus would sit and beg (Luke 16:19-31).  Whereas Lazarus, a believer in God’s promise, went to Abraham’s bosom (King James version) or side (New International Version, NIV), a place of comfort (v.25), elsewhere termed “Paradise” (Luke 23:43; see 2 Corinthians 12:4), the rich man ended up in “hell” (NIV).  The Greek term is “Hades,” which was conceived of as a shadowy place under the surface of the earth where the spirits of human beings were held until the last judgment.

In a conversation with Abraham, the rich man, who is described as being in torment, begs Abraham to send Lazarus with just a drop of water to cool his “tongue” because of the agony of the fire. But since this is his spirit and not his body it must have been a psychological sensation only, a representation of how he felt in his soul.  Literal fire needs physical fuel to continue burning.  Abraham, in response to the rich man’s request, reminds the rich man that such a bridging of the gulf between them is impossible, so Lazarus cannot go to him.

Hebrews 9:27 teaches us that “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”  There are no second chances.  Revelation 20:11-15 reveals that after the millennial kingdom of Christ, just before the establishing of the eternal form of the kingdom, “death and Hades” will give up the dead to be judged at Jesus’ great white throne judgment.  They will be judged out of the books that apparently hold accounts of their lives, and out of the Book of Life.  Because their names are not written in the Book of Life they are cast into the Lake of Fire, what is more properly termed “Hell.”  Presumably, the level of punishment they experience in the Lake of Fire is determined by their deeds in life as recorded in the “books” (v.12).

Jesus taught degrees of punishment in Hell.  He told the towns of Korazin and Bethsaida (Jewish towns) that it would be “more bearable for Tyre and Sidon [Gentile towns] at the judgment” than for them (Luke 10:14).  This strongly suggests that one’s response to the truth, one’s rejection of the light of God’s revelation, brings a heavier judgment than others might experience.  Those who have turned away more from the path God has prescribed for us will experience more torment in hell than the rest.  A Hitler will suffer more than a Gandhi, though neither, presumably, ever put his trust in Christ.

The death of an unbeliever results in separation of his spirit from his body and from God.  Only trust in Jesus as savior will rescue us from this double separation.