“We all have to appear without disguise before the tribunal of Christ” (Romans 14:10, Weymouth’s Translation), or if you prefer, “Remember, each of us will stand personally before the Judgment Seat of God.” (Living Bible) Of course, all means “all.” And yet, the Christian will be judged on a special basis. It will not be to decide if we are going to heaven or not—that has already been finalized, we stand on that firm foundation unshaken. That’s settled by the promise Christ made. (see John 5:24) We will be judged on the basis of the quality of our work as Christians; for that we will be examined. “to whom much is given, of them much more is required” (Luke 12:48). It was once said this way: “It is very sobering to remember the materials (wood, hay, or stubble) with which some have built is what will be searchingly tested by fire. (read I Corinthians 3:12-15)
It’s important to remind us that we will “all appear” and also Jesus himself is going to judge us. Standing before Christ, one day each of us will have to give an account before Him for all things. Paul makes it clear, “it is the Lord who judges,” and, of course, the words I used above from the Weymouth Translation are powerful, “appear without disguise” meaning we will not be able, with false double talk, to impress Him about the quality of our Christian service, but on that day He “will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.” Allow me to emphasize the words “the purposes of the heart.” There will be no possible justifying of ourselves in His holy presence related to the motives in our hearts. Paul spoke of the seriousness of this “judgment seat of Christ” and he spoke of how the works of some “shall be burned” and “they shall suffer loss.” God’s holy fire “shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (verse 13). This is no minor matter!
So we will be judged before Christ not on the basis of our profession of love but our performance in life. At that time, each of us, in somber single file will stand before Him. J. C. Ryle saw it correctly, “We shall have to render an account of every privilege that was granted to us and of every ray of light that we enjoyed.” And realize, Scripture does not speak of reckless revenge from the Lord, but it does speak of righteous judgment from Him. This is no trivial matter; only a fool plays with lightning!
Think of all our works being searchingly tested by fire. That includes our entire life after we converted to Christ. And so, consider the issue of the full employment of the gifts He gave us and of the opportunity He has provided. That will be tested. Of course, that includes the wise use of our time and money and energies.
I emphasize, this will be a judgment of Christians, so “it is required of stewards that they be found faithful (trustworthy)” (I Corinthians 4:2). On that day everything will be stripped away and we will appear without disguise or artificial mask and religious pretense—anything superficial will be removed as we stand before Him.
We must not forget all of this—it is surely coming. We who are Christians must show an extreme amount of seriousness about this event. We will, according to Jesus, be called to give an account before His face. And a full grasp of this matter is sure to be a motivation for the Great Commission, all missions and evangelism. This has always been, to those who believe Scripture, a powerfully great incentive and a motivation for evangelism. Not, of course, the highest one—that should be bold evangelism driven on by love, great love of the honor of Christ but also loving concern for the lostness of humanity.
Billy Graham pulled no punches when he spoke of evangelism and judgment. He said, “God loves every human being, who, apart from faith in Christ, is under God’s judgment and destined for hell.” Notice the direct tying of love and judgment together in Graham’s statement. We must keep both in balance. There is no contradiction between a God of love and a God of judgment. Let me explain; the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was both divine love and judgment joined together. In the death of Christ our judgment was suffered by Him as an act of the most extreme love. And the need is for someone doing the work of the evangelist who will courageously tell them the whole truth. Only then will they be “delivered … from the power of darkness” and some will be brought “into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13, NIV).
Judgment comes only to humans when Christ’s cross is rejected. (see Romans 11:22 and Psalm 85:10) God has, because of His grace, provided a way of escape from judgment and personal salvation, and yet—the full satisfaction of righteous judgment. (Romans 3:16-22) “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation …?” (Hebrews 2:3) I can think of nothing more dangerous than intentional ignorance and totally avoiding this subject.
Yet, we are reminded by John Stott that “the greatest incentive in all evangelism is not the need of human beings, but the glory of God: not that they shall receive salvation, but that they shall give to God the honor that is due to His name, acknowledging and adoring Him forever.”
No one that I know enjoys speaking out on this subject, and I believe no one should preach on hell and coming judgment without tears. And yet, the mission of Jesus Christ cannot be defined without speaking of why He is the Savior. Saving us from what? What do we mean by mentioning hell? It’s an act of love. What is hell? It is basically a forever banishment from God because of an act of pride that rejected Jesus Christ as the Lord of one’s life and the Savior of one’s soul. Hell is only for those who refused and rejected God’s offer of forgiveness and eternal life. We must say boldly that we dare not neglect to warn of a judgment day to come and the need for everyone to come to Christ for salvation and mercy.