By Parables & Plain Words
Few believers today fully
appreciate that one day
we must all appear
before the Judgment
Seat of Christ
In recent Notes I’ve been considering some sections of the New Testament that stress our responsibility and accountability before the Lord as the believers in Christ, and how we may be disciplined by Him in the coming age. The more I have worked on this, the more necessary I have felt it to be, because so few believers today have an accurate understanding of this coming judgment.
I was going to consider another parable along this line in this Note, but then it seemed that instead I should just provide a brief summary of this entire matter in plain words.
Among so many Christians today, the stress is on the forgiveness of sins being a gift God freely bestows upon us when we believe in Christ, and that once we receive this gift we can never be condemned by God to eternal damnation. This can be called the teaching of “God’s free grace.”
This teaching is indeed absolutely true—but it is by no means the whole truth of what the New Testament shows us about salvation; rather, there is another side of the truth in the New Testament that balances the teaching of God’s free grace, which may be called the teaching of “the believer’s responsibility.”
And the fact that Christians today are unaware of this other side of the truth has resulted in myriads of believers being so complacent, casual, and careless regarding their relationship with the Lord and their service unto Him.
What we actually see in the New Testament is that, even though our sins are forgiven, we are still responsible to Christ and accountable to Him for how we live our Christian life. To be specific, we will render an account to Him at the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). And for unfaithful believers, that judgment may result in a very, very serious, though temporary, discipline in the age to come; it may even include being cast out into the “outer darkness” (Matt. 22:13, 25:30; see “Just What Is the Outer Darkness?”).
We see this truth both in so many of the Lord’s parables, and in the clear words of the New Testament. The parables can be found in Matthew 5:13, 18:21-35; 24:45-51; 25:1-13, 14-30, and Luke 12:42-46, 14:25-35, 19:11-27.
Some of the clear words are in Matthew 6:14-15, 20, 16:24-27; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-26, 12:47-48; Romans 8:17, 14:10; 1 Corinthians 3:12-17, 5:1-5, 6:9-12, 9:24-27, 10:1-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:11-14; Hebrews 2:2-3, 4:13, 6:4-8, 10:23-31, 12:25-29, and Revelation 3:15-19, 22:18-19.
The promises given to the overcomers in Revelation 2-3 also indicate that those believers who do not overcome will not share in the blessings spoken of there.
I would very much encourage you to spend some time to consider all these passages before the Lord, to see for yourself what they are speaking of.
Those who insist on seeing only the side of God’s free grace, while ignoring the side of man’s responsibility, have to either ignore these passages or explain them away to the point where they become almost meaningless.
In contrast, if we are open before the Lord and His word, we will see that the key to understanding all of these verses is to realize that they are not speaking about eternity.
Instead, the focus of all these passages is on whether we will be rewarded or disciplined during the 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth. That is the “Millennium,” the “age to come” (Heb. 6:5), which will be the manifestation of the Kingdom of the Heavens. Only after that age will the present heaven and earth be swept away, so that the eternal age, with the new heaven and new earth, may begin (Rev. 20:1-15, 21:1; if this topic is new to you, I would strongly encourage you to read my recent note, “What Is the Kingdom of the Heavens?”)
Once we are clear about all this, we will be able to harmonize the two sides of the truth regarding salvation, and to place these verses in their proper context in the New Testament.
None of the passages cited above actually indicate that a believer can lose his salvation, despite what some claim about them; to quote these verses to support such a teaching is to profoundly misapply them. What they are showing us, however, is that the coming 1,000 year reign of Christ may be a time of discipline for a believer, rather than a reward to him, depending on how he lived his Christian life. Yet, after the 1,000 years are over, all the believers will be brought into the state of eternal blessing with Christ to reign with Him forever and ever (Rev. 22:5).
When we have such a view we will, on the one hand, have a stronger assurance of our own salvation, and be able to help others who do not have such an assurance. This is because we will be able to put the verses that speak of the Lord’s discipline of His believers in their proper context, rather than feel they are speaking of how we might lose our salvation.
On the other hand, we will also have a much more sober and serious view of our own Christian life and service unto the Lord, for then we will realize in a much fuller way, as the apostle tells us, that…
…We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
— 2 Corinthians 5:10
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— 26 April 2023 —