The Final Judgment

(Romans 2:1-16)

  In a best-seller of 1989 called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the author's second habit was “Begin with the end in mind.”  He puts it this way: “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination.  It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.  It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing up the ladder of success only to discover it’s leaning against the wrong wall (Covey).”  Begin with the end in mind.  That's not bad advice. 


So as we begin a new year, let’s ask ourselves this question, what does the Bible say will be the end?  Where is all our activity as a congregation and as an individual heading?  Jesus said it this way: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides His sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-32).”  Peter puts it this way: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are therein will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10).”  John states its this way: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.  And there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and the books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books (Revelation 20:11 -12).”  The Bible states with shocking clarity that THE end of all things will be our final judgment before God.  Let's begin 2008 with THE end in mind!  Let’s exam that end a little closer this morning by turning again to the text that was read this morning to see what the apostle Paul had to say about this subject.  We’ll try to quickly notice nine aspects of the final judgment.


Let’s read verses 1-5.  These verses speak about the continuity and objectivity of the final judgment.  God has been mankind’s judge since the expulsion of man from the Garden of Eden.  We also see His judgments in the universal flood, in the ten plagues on Egypt, in the deaths of Aaron’s sons, in the captivity of the Jews, in the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira, and in the destruction of Jerusalem, only to name a few of the more visible manifestations mentioned in the Scriptures.  Now, such judgments show His moral perfection.  We would not respect a Divine Being who just sits back and ignores wickedness!  Paul affirms that God's judgment is always fair since it is based on truth.  Then, Paul points out to the readers of Roman that God sees their accusatory actions and will bring judgment on them.  It is interesting that Paul mentions this kind of lesser judgment before he discusses a day of judgment.  You see, God is working daily to set the record straight and to bring about justice.  Since evil seems so prevalent; however, it may often be hard for us to see God’s justice at work.  Paul shows us that God’s judgment, what He has been doing throughout the centuries, will culminate in what Paul calls in v. 5 the day of wrath and revelation.  God’s daily judgments will become God’s final judgment.  This shows the continuity of the final judgment.


Now let's look at the objectivity of the final judgment.  Objectivity means that God will bring both rewards and punishments.  In this verse, Paul emphasizes the punishment by calling the final judgment a day of wrath.  Many of us don’t like to think of God as being wrathful, but Paul is only being truthful.  You know, if you take a concordance, you’ll find there are more references to God’s anger and fury than there are to God’s love and compassion!  “God’s wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally cruel outrage that human anger so often is.  No, it is God’s righteous indignation against evil (modified Packer).”  At the final judgment, the righteous will be vindicated and the wicked will be punished.  A holy God will not allow wickedness to triumph!  Let's begin 2008 with THE end in mind!


Now let’s read verse 6.  Now Paul speaks about the universality and the accountability of the final judgment.   Paul states that God will render judgment to each one.  There’s the universality of the final judgment.  All people of all the centuries of all the nations will be present.  No one will escape it.  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10 ).  This is all mankind’s final destination.  “And the upshot of this for us is that everyone in this auditorium who has not repented of their sins and has not been immersed into Jesus’ name for forgiveness is under the wrath of God and heading for hell.  That may sound harsh, good friend, but Jesus’ clear words in Mk. 16:16 are: ‘He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.' ... And … there are no pockets of our society which [will be] excluded from [this] judgment. … Corporate heads and cab drivers, congressmen and custodians, housewives and harlots, sailors and secretaries, pimps and preachers - we will all be there before the bar, at the final fork in the road of life” (modified Piper).


Then Paul says the basis of our judgment—it is the deeds that we did during our lifetime.  This is what is meant by the accountability of the final judgment.  Our deeds will reveal the genuineness of our faith.  While we are saved by grace through faith, Paul also says that we become God's workmanship created in Christ to do good deeds (Eph. 2:8-10).  Now our deeds don't earn our salvation, they exhibit it.  They demonstrate in no uncertain terms that we truly were trying to do God's will by serving others and living unselfish lives.  We will give account before God.  Let's begin 2008 with THE end in mind!


Now let's read verses 7-10.  Here we see the simplicity and the irrevocability of the final judgment.  “Notice how Paul now spells out, in two pairs of verses, the simplicity of judgment according to works.  Verses 7 and 10 are about how to have life.  And verses 8 and 9 are about how to have wrath.  Let's take the positive pair first, and notice that the path to eternal life is 'persevering in doing good' in verse 7 and 'doing good' in verse 10.  Then consider the negative pair, and notice the path that leads to eternal wrath is self-seeking, being disobedient to the truth, and doing evil” (Piper).  It is simple because there are only two alternatives.  Our eternal destiny is determined at our death; the final judgment will be a recognition of all the deeds that we did during our lifetime.  To increase your good deeds during this next year, let's try this plan: turn off our TVs, our DVDs, our I-pods, and our computer screens, then let's brainstorm with a few other members about what we all can do that will be significant, edifying, or helpful, and then let's serve together to make that deed a worthwhile reality.  Isn't that a good new year's resolution?  You see, the 3 hours a day that most Americans spend entertaining themselves could be used to serve the Lord.  Let’s not let Satan distract us by amusing ourselves to hell. 


Paul shows here not only that there is no intermediate state between death and judgment where a person can have the disobedient and wicked deeds of their life reversed but also that after the pronouncement of Jesus, our righteous Judge, our destiny is irrevocable.  At the final judgment, no second chances will be given.  At that moment, it will be too late to make any changes.


Now note verse 11.  This verse shows the impartiality of the final judgment.  “In the biblical setting, [the first task of one of Israel ’s judges was] to ascertain the facts in the case that [was] before him. … it [was] his responsibility … to question, to cross-examine, to detect lies, to pierce through evasions, and to establish how matters really [stood].  When the Bible pictures God judging, it emphasizes his omniscience and wisdom as the searcher of hearts and the finder of facts.  Nothing can escape Him; we may fool men, but we cannot fool God.  He knows us, [He knows our deeds, He knows our motives], and He judges us, as we really are. … God will see that each person sooner or later receives what he or she deserves—if not here, then hereafter.  This is one of the basic [truths] of [scripture, and it sustained so many martyrs who gave their lives for our Lord.]  And being made in God’s image, we all know in our hearts that [God's action] is right.  This is how [judgment] ought to be. … God is the Judge, so justice will be done. … Judgment means that evil will be disposed of authoritatively, decisively, and finally.  Judgment means that in the end the will of God will be perfectly [achieved, 'and all the money, possessions, status, power and looks in which our souls have sought refuge will weigh in the scales of God's justice like dust that has to be blown away … before the real issues of life can be weighed' (Piper), and Jesus renders our final verdict]” (Packer and Morris).  Let's begin 2008 with THE end in mind!


Now in verses 12-15 Paul talks about some of the criteria that will be involved in the judgment (the selectivity of judgment perhaps, but an explanation of these things would take more than our time allows), so let's drop down and read verse 16.  Here we see both the visibility and the authority of the final judgment.  Visibility could refer to the fact that every eye shall see Jesus when He comes again, but another idea is the fact of the exposure that the final judgment will bring.  “No human court would ever make such an exhaustive exposure.  Not only will our words and deeds be exposed, but also our thoughts and motives.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:5: ‘Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels [or motives] of the heart (P. G. Mathew).’”  Hidden evils, wicked motives, and secret actions will all be brought to the light in that great day! 


The authority for the final judgment will rest with the One who claimed that God had given Him all authority in heaven and on earth, Jesus Himself (Mt. 28:18).  “… Jesus constantly affirmed that in [that] day when all appear before God’s throne to receive [the] eternal consequences of the life they have lived, He Himself will be the Father’s agent in judgment, and His word of acceptance or rejection will be decisive. … The prophet Amos’ message to Israel was: 'Prepare, oh Israel , to meet your God' (Amos 4:12 ), but the New Testament’s message to all men is: 'Prepare, oh mankind, to meet The Risen Jesus (Acts 17:31 )!'  And we can be sure that He who is true God and perfect man will make a perfectly just judgment” (Packer).  The true story is told of a frontier town where a horse bolted and ran away with a wagon carrying a little boy.  Seeing the child in danger, a young man risked his life to catch the horse and stop the wagon.  The child who was saved grew up to become a wicked man, and one day he stood before a judge to be sentenced for a serious crime.  The prisoner recognized the judge as the man who, years before, had saved his life; so he begged for mercy. "You saved me once," he said. "Can't you save me again?" But the judge said, "Young man, then I was your savior; today I am your judge, and I must sentence you to die."  Right now, Jesus longs to be our Savior and wants to help us lead meaningful lives, but at the final judgment, He will then be our judge and render a verdict based on the deeds of our lives.  Let's begin 2008 with THE end in mind!


Another story is told about an average American fellow whose name was George.  We pick up the story as George contemplates standing before Jesus in judgment.  “Yes, he knew many things now—too late.  He knew he had had time for religion—that those other things he had put first [in his life] were really not important after all.  He knew, too, that those hypocrites in the church, whom he had thrown up to his [believing] wife time and time again, would spend eternity where he was going to spend it … an eternity spent without God and without Christ.  And somehow, somehow, he even knew now what eternity was like.  He had heard eternity talked about.  He had even heard it joked about.  But why hadn’t someone conveyed the bigness, the emptiness, and the vastness of it all?  'Without end, without end, without end.'  So very much had happened.  There had been the shout, the sound of the trumpet, the dead rising, those who had met Jesus in the air, the destruction of all things.  And yet he really knew that no time at all had been involved.  It was as if time had stood still—and now eternity had begun.  Then in his heart of hearts, he heard a name being called.  It was his own.  It was his turn to receive sentence.  He stepped forward, and even as he did so, he knew what it would be, ‘Depart for Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ (Roper)”  Let's being 2008 with THE end in mind!


In ancient Israel , a watchman was posted on the city gate to keep lookout for the approach of an enemy and to warn the inhabitants to prepare themselves.  Our text this morning has warned us that the final judgment is coming, and we must all stand before Christ.  Is your ladder leaning against the wrong wall?  Will Jesus’ coming be a time of joy or a time of terror?  Only you can decide that outcome.  Are you ready to meet the Risen Jesus?  Today He remains your Savior, then He will be your Judge.