J4 – Judgment of GOOD WORKS

crowns

Works versus Grace

First, everyone must be judged regarding their sins and God’s grace.  Good works will NOT save us. God will look at our lives and if our sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, then we will be given eternal life with Christ. However, those who have refused the free pardon of their sins will be doomed to eternal torment (see Judgment at Death).  Our redemption (salvation) comes only by God’s grace — “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ep 2:8,9). However, the determination of one’s rewards is based entirely on their works (1Co 3:11-15).

Timing of the judgment

The Judgment of Godly Works occurs after the translation (rapture) of the church. Prior to the tribulation on earth, Jesus will receive His children in the air (1Thes 4:16-18). Both the dead in Christ (who are resurrected) and those still living (who are “changed”) will receive their glorified bodies. They also receive the assurance of being with the Lord forever (1Co 15:51-54) (See note 1).

Basis of the judgment

After we receive our glorified body (at resurrection or rapture), each of us must also be judged according to our works. Make no mistake — nothing in this judgment (or any other other event) will ever revoke the fact that these individuals have begun an eternity with God! Regardless of the quality of their works, THEY will be saved (1Co 3:14,15).

For BELIEVERS only

You may be wondering if the eternally lost will be at this judgment? The answer is NO. The judgment of GOOD works is uniquely for those who have already been granted eternal life. The previous judgments, at death and rapture, have made that selection. This event takes place in heaven while  those who died in unbelief are in hell (Luke 16:22-24) and the living – who were not raptured – are now facing the great tribulation on earth (see note 2).

Determines rewards

Jesus declared (to the church), “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” (Rev 22:12) The value of an individual’s deeds will depend on both their motives and their actions. Jesus said that when one does things for the praise of others, that is all the reward they can expect (Matt 6:1-6). That does not mean that their actions were sinful or wicked — the actions may have been very good — but their motives were wrong (see note 3).

There are many actions that will not condemn a believer to hell, but may not be beneficial to that person’s Christian testimony. In Romans 14, Paul taught the church to be mindful of others and the differences that may exist between believers.

Attitude toward others

Some people, with weak faith, may be uncertain about whether they can (as Christians) eat meat, or drink wine, etc. Paul said, “I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean” (v.14).

Our beliefs about such small things are not worth jeopardizing the weaker Christian’s standing and causing them to stumble. Rather, we should keep such beliefs between ourselves and God (v. 22) and do everything we can to maintain peace with other believers (v.19).

Even if one’s motives are based in pride, or envy, or rivalry, that (alone) will not disqualify the person from eternal life. Paul taught the Philippians (Phil 1:15-18) not to judge their brothers even though some were “preach[ing] Christ out of  selfish ambition“, (Verse 17). “…what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached” (Verse 18).

Quality of deeds

The quality of one’s work is also judged. Paul told the Corinthians (1Co 3:11-15) that some deeds are worthy of a heavenly reward while others may not. Verse 13, “their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.

The “Day” (which will bring our works to light) refers to the “Day of the Lord” or the day of wrath prophesied in the O.T.  It is the period of time when God deals with mankind in wrath – as opposed to the “day of grace” in which we now live (see Note 4).

Deeds follow us

The church will be raptured prior to the Day of the Lord. However, our works will remain after we are gone.Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them‘” (Rev 14:13). This group (who would soon die) are from the tribulation period, but the principle of our deeds remaining after our death is in effect already.

Fire reveals true gold

This seems to explain Paul’s statement above (1Co 3:11-15) that the “fire” will reveal the quality of our works. Consider that innumerable people will turn to Christ during the FIRE of tribulation (Rev 7:9). But how do they know about God’s grace? Romans 10:14 asks, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” I suspect that they will remember the words and actions/deeds of acquaintances who were taken during the rapture.

The memory of a saint’s quiet mention of Jesus’ love will thunder in the ears of people during the tribulation! Such deeds remain after the saints are in heaven. The value of everyone’s deeds will be exposed by the fire of tribulation. The deeds that are revealed as having been built with true gold on the foundation of Jesus Christ (1Co 3:11-15) are those which lead sinners to Christ during the tribulation and that builder will receive a reward (v.14).

Did someone mention crowns?

Every person in heaven will be given unimaginable gifts: a glorified body, a white robe of righteousness, and eternal life. Depending upon the quality of their deeds and their motives, some individuals will receive additional rewards (see Note 5).

I have identified some specific crowns that the Bible says will be given to the saints. These are doubtless some of the rewards that will be granted:

  • The crown given to those who are temperate in all things is INCORRUPTIBLE and will last forever (1Co 9:25).
  • A crown of REJOICING is promised to those who win souls in this life (1Thes 2:19, Phil 4:1).
  • For those who love the Lord and endure temptations, a crown of LIFE awaits (Ja 1:12, Rev 2:10, 3:11).
  • A crown of RIGHTEOUSNESS is given to all who long for Christ’s appearing (2Tim 4:8).
  • And Peter said that a crown of GLORY will be given to the elders who serve well (1Pet 5:4).

Eternal life with Christ is the greatest reward of all! Every individual at this judgment will sit with Christ at the Marriage Supper. The promises of God are TRUE!

Notes

  1. The Judgment of Godly Works is sometimes called “the Judgment Seat of Christ” (2Co 5:10). It is related to the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:7-9). Both events occur in heaven but the judgment occurs first. 
  2. At the time that Jesus told the story of Lazarus and the rich man, the place called “Abraham’s bosom” was still occupied. It was emptied after Jesus’ resurrection (Matt 27:51-53). The O.T. saints were resurrected and taken to heaven where they remain until Jesus brings them back with Him at His appearance in the clouds (1Thes 4:13-18).
  3. After major hurricanes or other tragedies, many people donate their time and money to help the victims. A very worthwhile action. But one cannot “buy” their way into heaven by such acts. Neither can believers, who do so for publicity and the praise of men, expect to receive future rewards in heaven. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full” (Matt 6:2).
  4. The “Day of the Lord” defines a period of time of more than 7 years (see When does the “Day of the Lord” happen?). This “day” begins either at the time of, or shortly after, the appearing of Jesus in the air and the translation of the church to Him. It continues through the 7 years of tribulation on the earth and possibly much longer.
  5. Envy and rivalism are totally absent in heaven. If one saint is given a crown for his or her prior deeds, we will all rejoice. As members of the same body, this is how we should operate now (1Co 12:12-27).

J3 – Judgment at RAPTURE

Clouds and rainbow

Judgment at Rapture

The judgment of Death is the point where a person is either allowed entry into heaven, or condemned to hell. The basis of that judgment is the blood of Jesus Christ. If (by grace) all your sins are under the blood of Jesus when you die, you are taken to heaven. But at the rapture of the church, the living must be judged – individually – to determine if they are eligible to be caught up in the clouds to meet Jesus in the air (1Th 4:17). What is the basis of that judgment?

(For additional facts about the rapture, visit our article here.)

What is required to go in the rapture?

The entire concept of a rapture is based upon the catching away of Christian saints. The question is, who qualifies and what is the basis of that selection? Some theologians teach that every living Christian will go in the rapture. Others say that one must be “filled” with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4). Different teachers may also add other requirements. But, each theory assumes a judgment to determine who is validated to go.

It is not logical that someone could be raptured if they were not born again, so the first requirement would certainly the same as at the Judgment of death. But there may be some additional requirements. Consider these Scriptures and see if they pertain to the rapture qualifications. (Click on the links to learn more about a particular issue or Bible reference.)

  • Prayerful:Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.Luke 21:36
  • Without spiritual blemish:to present [the church] to himself (Christ) as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.Eph 5:27
  • Belong to Christ: “But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” 1Co 15:23
  • Spirit of Christ in you: “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” Romans 8:11
  • Holiness: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14

These may be requirements of simply being a Christian – but I doubt it. They seem to suggest something MORE that is available to the child of God. Some of these requirements may overlap while others are quite unique. The first three are commonly accepted. The last two are more controversial and I have written articles on each to deal with them further. (Spirit of Christ  and Holiness)

The idea of God requiring holiness to go in the rapture is a significant issue. The Scripture at Hebrews 12:14 speaks of seeing the Lord but everyone will see him at some point in time (Romans 14:11 and Rev 1:11). So, this must refer to a different “see the Lord.” I believe that it refers to when He comes in the clouds to receive His church (1Th 4:17). Only those who are resurrected and the living saints who are raptured will see Him at that time. To all the world, this coming in the air (and all it entails) is invisible. Likely the only thing those left behind will see is the ABSENCE of someone who is taken.

The final issue concerning the rapture judgment seems to be, “Will the innocent children be taken?” I plan to offer my ideas in a separate post. But let me be clear, I do NOT believe that God will ultimately condemn those who (because of young age, mental limitations, or other such reasons) are not accountable for their actions.

Let me try to summarize the Judgment at Rapture… There may be some born again believers left behind. There are additional requirements (beyond being born again) that may Christ may impose upon those who will make up his bride.

Also see our articles “Prophetic Timeline of Future Events” and “Rapture is real – Saints are Changed

05 – One Judgment by God? Or, multiple?

Only One Judgment?

Will There Be Only One Judgment?

Many people believe that, after death, there is just one judgment – the Great White Throne Judgment mentioned in Revelation 20:11-15. They believe that everyone (in either body or soul) is gathered together at that time and God chooses those that can go to heaven and sends the rest to hell (or the lake of fire). Is that Biblical? Or, are there multiple judgments by God?

As I mentioned in a previous post (What Happens When I Die?), people at funerals frequently assume that the deceased is “in a better place.” But, if the Great White Throne Judgment (GWTJ) does not occur until at least 1000 years later, how can that be? Read more

04 – Ultimate Judgment – Will it be just?

judgment

Ultimate Judgment – Will it be just?

Judgment

For many people, just the mention of the word brings a chill in their being! And, many Christians visualize God’s judgment as a time of uncertainty and fear. It is like (only infinitely more fearful) standing in a courtroom today, waiting for the jury to announce their verdict. It is especially fearful, knowing that you are guilty but hoping that the prosecution did not prove it to the extent that the jury will convict you. Read more

J2 – Judgment at DEATH (Where will you go?)

Everyone will go to either Heaven or Hell

Judgment at Death

The judgment that determines a person’s eternal destination is, without question, the most significant judgment for each of us. The Judgment at Death is that judgment.

The Judgement of Actions and Consequences could be considered a law (like the law of gravity). It condemns all who commit sin to die a physical death (Romans 5:12). But the Judgment at Death is the point where the consequences of an individual’s sins are dealt with. It is the event where a person is either allowed entry into heaven, or condemned to hell. 

So, how good must I be to enter heaven?

Question: From the list below, pick the person(s) from the Bible who, because of their personal righteousness, God allowed into heaven:

  1. Saint Paul
  2. Apostle John
  3. King David
  4. ___(fill in the blank)____
  5. None of above

Read more

03 – Why God Judges Us

Why God Judges Us

Why God Judges Us

The cause of Judgment and death

It just seems that life is not fair. Some folks are smart, rich, and beautiful while the rest of us have little or nothing to brag about. Our jobs are dead-end and our lives are a rat race. Our financial problems lead to family problems which end in divorce and pain. All the while, there are people who inherited money, good looks, and ease. Why do I deserve this? Life is not fair! And after all this life’s problems, we die! WHY?

Why God judges us

Why God judges us is a question that demands an answer.

Read more

02 – Where Do We Go At Death?

Where do we go at death?

Where do we go at death?

At any point in time (since the cross), God views humankind in at least three classes:

  • The blessed dead: Made up of glorified O.T. saints and the souls of saints temporarily kept under the altar awaiting their glorified bodies. (Few – if any – of the N.T. Saints have yet to receive their glorified bodies.)
  • The living: Made up of unbelievers, Jews (chosen but have not accepted Christ as Messiah), Laodicean christians (churches and people who are part of the church but for some reason, they are not ready to be caught away at the coming of Jesus), and Philadelphia saints (rapture ready). There are other classes of living persons after the rapture.
  • The unforgiven dead: These are tormented souls who are physically dead, living in unimaginable suffering, in hell, waiting on the Great White Throne Judgment and the second death.

For the present, each person alive on earth is a triune being, consisting of body, soul & spirit (compare 1 Thessalonians 5:23). It may seem strange, but each element of our being is dealt with differently at death and, the destinations are also different. All who have less than all of these elements are anxiously awaiting their resurrection (see Note 1, “Reunion of Body and Soul”).

Regardless of our spiritual standing with God, when we die, our BODY is buried and eventually returns to dust. It may be burned beyond recognition or buried at sea or even melted in an atomic blast but, one way or another, it returns to the earth. This is just a visible reality of life. It is often rehearsed by a priest or minister as the undertaker lowers a casket into the ground and they drop soil into the grave, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” (from the 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer). This is clearly why Solomon would (wrongly) declare in Ecc 3:19 that “the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both… (v.20) All go to the same place.” (To understand why this verse is in error, read our article on “Understanding the Book of Ecclesiastes“. Each time we visit a funeral, we are reminded that our existence in this body is limited to a few short years of increasing pain.

But there is a resurrection! And the bodies of those who have been “born again” are miraculously changed! They will no longer be just mortal “dust” but these become the immortal (eternal) bodies that will never again experience pain or suffering. (For more about this, see our article on the “Rapture”.)

The SPIRIT (of life) returns to God who gave it. In the Bible, the words “spirit” and “wind” (or “breath”) are often used interchangeably. (If you read the original languages, you will understand that they generally are just different translations of the same original word.) Jesus used the two words in John 3:8 to describe being born of the Spirit. When the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples (in Acts 2), they described the event as including a sound of a “rushing mighty wind.”

In Ezekiel 37:9, it was the spirit/breath/wind that brought the dry bones back to life. At the creation (Gen 2:7), God breathed life into Adam and he became a living soul. (See John 5:21 to understand that all life is given from God the Father, or the Son). So, when He chooses, God can withdraw His spirit (breath) and we die (physically).

We have no real control over when or how we die, where our body will be buried, or the return of the Spirit to God. Our family determines where and how our body is “put to rest.” Someone might say that we can control the time and manner of our death – we can kill ourselves. But I am not so sure that is absolutely true. It appears from Scripture (See Note 2, What is the #1 cause of death?) that God can keep people alive even if they try to die.

In the larger scope of things, God chooses when we stop breathing the breath of life. And, since He gave the spirit of life, He can reclaim it at any time. In Ecclesiastes 12:7 (see Note 3, How to study the book of Ecclesiastes), Solomon wrote a profound truth, “the dust [body] returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit [of life] returns to God who gave it.”

In summary, the Judgment of Actions states that since all have sinned, then we will all die a physical death. At death, the body is buried and returns to dust. And the spirit of life (or breath) returns to God the Father who gave it. That just leaves us with the soul‘s destination:

Where does the SOUL go at death?

The question of where our soul goes when we die must be answered if we are to have peace in this life. The Judgment of ACTIONS is involved but, I believe that the soul’s eternal destination is determined in a separate judgment, the Judgment at DEATH.

Logically, the next article is “Why God judges us“.


Notes

Note 1, Reunion of Body and Soul. There are many references in the  Bible to Resurrection. Although some near-death experiences may differ, TRUE resurrection is the point where a person’s soul is reunited with their body. The process varies for different groups, so we will deal with it more completely in a future article.

Note 2, What is the #1 cause of death? An interesting thought was revealed to me a few years ago… We do not die of heart attack, stroke, or cancer – we die because God withdraws His spirit, or breath of life (Rev 9:6).

Note 3, How to study Ecclesiastes. See our article here about how to study the book and see this article about how to use context to understand the Bible better.


 

J1 – Judgment of ACTIONS & Consequences

judgment of actions

Judgment of ACTIONS

Why do we have to die?

The first level of judgment is: There are consequences to every action! In everyday life, we have to give account for our actions to our supervisor at work or our teacher at school – or even worse, we must give account to our wife! 😉  When we disobey the speed limit, we must be prepared to pay a fine.

There are also physical (natural) laws that extract consequences to specific actions. If you jump from a 10-story building, there is a consequence. It is a physical reality in life. To quote a law enforcement motto, “If you do the crime, you serve the time.”

Although such laws (of the land, and of nature) were initially set in place by God (Romans 13:1), that is not what the “Judgment of Actions” is really all about. The Judgment of Actions is a judgment by God that is described in the Bible. It refers to the fact that anyone – and everyone – who commits sin will die.

Ezekiel 18:1-4 The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: “‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die.

Read the entire chapter of Ezekiel 18 to get a better understanding of our individual accountability. Some teachers talk of “generational curses” and say that we must be forgiven for the sins of our ancestors. Although there are some personality traits that are handed down from others, this portion of Scripture clearly states that we are NOT responsible for the sins of our fathers (see Note1, Generational curses), or our children, or our national leaders, or anyone else. We must give account to God ONLY for what we have done.

Ezekiel 33:17-20  “Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ But it is their way that is not just. 18 If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and does evil, they will die for it. 19 And if a wicked person turns away from their wickedness and does what is just and right, they will live by doing so.20 Yet you Israelites say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ But I will judge each of you according to your own ways.”

Since all have sinned against God, then all must die. The only possible exception to the Judgment of Actions is that some people will be “changed” at the Rapture (see Note2, The rapture). But that is a different judgment so we will just skip over that thought for now and discuss it further in the article on the Judgment at Rapture. In this study, we are looking at how each person is accountable to God for his or her actions and how those actions result in physical death.


Notes

Note1, Generational curses. Please read Ezekiel 18 (the complete chapter) to see that, although some physical and emotional qualities are passed from one generation to another, and although some Scripture seems to suggest it, God disallows the idea that we are accountable for the sins of our fathers. For more, see our article on Generational Curses.

Note2, The rapture. The word “rapture” is not found in any of the common translations of the Bible. But, it is a commonly used term to describe the church’s elation at the event described in 1Cor 15:51 – which says that we (the members of God’s true church) will be “changed.”


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Continue to the next article,Judgment at death.

01 – What happens when I die?

What Happens When I Die

 What Happens When I Die?

I have made a very unscientific study of what goes on at funerals. According to the religious preferences of those involved and according to the societal influence, the style and tone of funerals may vary widely. Some are short and sweet (well, maybe not “sweet”) while others are long and drawn out affairs. Aretha Franklin’s funeral in 2018 lasted eight hours! Some are very formal while others seem to be off the top of the head. Some are restricted to just the family and others are community events. But one thing that is common to all is what people say.

In every funeral that I have ever attended (regardless of whether the deceased was a “saint” or a self-proclaimed atheist), more than a few people said, “He/she is in a better place.” Has there ever been a funeral where that phrase was not uttered? I think not. Read more